Monday, January 31, 2011

Forgive me if I repeat myself...

But I am truly having a blast this semester -- 2nd year classes are proving to be much more of what I expected out of culinary school. Students take them a little more seriously, thank goodness, and the expectations of instructors are a little higher. Challenging, yes -- rewarding, YES!!

My first week of World Cuisine we started with French cuisine, which is has been the focus of our training style -- but not so much the cuisine. We learned the basic sauces, cooking methods (sauteing, braising, stewing, etc.), brigade system, and much more from the French basically because they have everything recorded in books. Most other countries do not have the documentation of their cooking methods, so this is why most cooking schools teach the French method.

My first contribution was the poulet saute a la hongroise -- sauteed chicken with onions, tomatoes, and cream. At first I thought it was pretty bland, but once the onions catch into the cream it tasted wonderful. My lab partners made celeriac remoulade and garlic and saffron soup. The remoulade was interesting yet tasty, I have not had celeriac raw before. I did not get a chance to try the garlic soup since I was so interested in the stuffed onions and French onion soup from one of the other groups!! The FOS was FANTASTIC and I can't wait to try this recipe at home!!

The next class I made a blue cheese souffle while my lab partners made coquilles St Jacques, and glazed parsnips. The souffle texture was fantastic -- I was very proud since I had never made a souffle before! The blue cheese we used was quite creamy and got lost in the eggs. Another group used a Spanish blue cheese and it tasted better. It was still too rich to eat more than two bites!! I love scallops, so of course I enjoyed the traditional coquilles St Jacques -- it is prepared with a heavy sauce with the French favorites: heavy cream, butter, egg yolks, mushrooms, etc. My lab partner, R, was not paying attention and burned the parsnips. She likes to socialize and it gets really annoying. I just want to cook, learn, and have good time. She just wants to talk about herself, lol, yea she's 18. Anyway, I also tried escargot with herbs and garlic butter and even though they look disgusting, they taste pretty good!

We are now working with Spanish cuisine! I am learning so much about the culture and the land -- it's amazing how much I really didn't know about these countries! BOTH of my lab partners were MIA on Thursday. I find that in poor taste, but I actually had more room to work and I made two dishes: squid with caramelized onions and veal casserole with broad beans. The squid was "ok" -- I have not worked with it before and I think I may have slightly overcooked it. Chef also told me that it was because the squid was so large (he said he wished we would have received smaller and more tender squid) and I do mean LARGE: the rings looked like Livestrong bracelets!!! The veal casserole was basically browned and stewed veal with onions, sherry and of course the beans. The sauce was excellent, but the veal needed to stew a bit longer. When you cook meat, the muscle contracts and gets tougher -- when stewing, the meat then begins to relax again making it more tender. We didn't have the time in class to get it to the proper tenderness, but Chef complimented me on the sauce.

I also tried romesco sauce, tortilla espanola (basically and egg and potato pancake), gazpacho soup and last but CERTAINLY not least, orange blossom beignets!! YUM!!

We are finishing up Spain tomorrow and can't wait to see what is in store for us! Next week we will be working on the country/region we are assigned to for our big dinner coming up at the end of February -- my group is featuring Middle Eastern cuisine, I can't wait!!

It's time to make the desserts!! Today we start working on items for the bakery case in our teaching restaurant -- I can't wait to start the fun!


Monday, January 24, 2011

Time to make the chocolates!

I should be studying for my chocolate quiz today, but I thought I'd take a homework break this morning. Classes started last week and are going quite fantastic, which is not surprising to me at all.

Monday and Wednesdays I start at noon with Advanced Baking with Chef M, who likes to be called just "chef". In this class, we will be making all the breads, desserts, chocolates, and retail bakery items for our teaching restaurant. We are getting the opportunity to experience real production baking. Perfect! This class is exactly what I want to learn about and Chef is just the guy. He has been a pastry chef for years and then went into teaching. He gives us awesome advice on running a bakery -- from not wasting product to customer relations. Last week we made chocolates, oh darn, and they were fabulous! My group made orange flavored ganache made with grand marnier and oj concentrate. YUM!! Another group made peanut butter, but it had coconut oil in it -- yuk. I don't think those two flavors mesh well, but that is just my taste. We have 8 different ganache recipes to choose from and we will be making 6 of them throughout the semester -- our choice. I am most looking forward to the dulce de leche.....mmmmmm.

Monday nights I have Purchasing which is completely boring to me. Since I have worked with purchasing departments so closely, a lot of this is not new. I know that it is different for a food service operation, so I am still going to have to pay attention. The good thing is that the instructor is hilarious and laid back -- and he knows the topic is dry. He does all the purchasing for the culinary institute and the college -- from food to equipment to everything else!!

Last, but not least, is my World Cuisine class on Tuesdays and Thursdays. I have Chef S again from my intro to professional cookery last semester. Talk about fun -- we have 2 big projects this semester that I am SUPER excited to participate in, and we get to learn about several countries and their cuisines. It's not just about the food, but understanding the regions, people, topography, and what is readily available to cook. We have these 4 page documents we have to fill out for each country we are studying, it really is thorough. Another fun thing about this class is the paper we will be writing. We will be writing about our own family heritage and what foods that our families traditionally cook. This will be pretty easy because most of my family is really into our heritage and we have been digging up old recipes that Grandma used to make.

I think the best part about this semester is that the expectations of us as students has increased. These are not introductory courses like last semester, and the chefs have said that many people are weeded out from those classes. I can already name a few students from last semester that are not back -- and not because they failed. They are not back because they have an attitude of thinking they already know everything and don't think they need school. Well, I tell you what -- if you don't humble yourself, you will not be wanted in a kitchen. You can't run your own kitchen until you work your way up to that privilege. It's just that simple.

If I could pick the one thing that I have done right so far in this adventure is to put all my pride and other experience aside. I walked into my first kitchen job and told the chef, "teach me as though I know nothing about cooking". I put myself in that position and have stayed there. I started classes with the mindset of a child who is just learning for the first time. I have appreciated every moment I have in those classes and value each and every exercise, even if it's just practicing knife cuts. It's been a very humbling and rewarding experience.

If you know that you are not the best at what you do and promise yourself to keep learning from those who know more -- you will have a more rewarding career than you ever thought you could.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

2011 is going to be awesome because...

I hereby announce that the year 2011 is going to be awesome for everyone (including you) and I will not take "no" for an answer!

After having a great holiday break, I am back in the swing of things trying to get my life in order (as we all are, lol, it's the new year!) I don't like to have resolutions, as many of you know, but I'd like to list the cool things I want to do this year and other fun stuff.

1. Get married! Yes, it's #1 on my list because hey, I am marrying the love I've been waiting for my whole life! :)

2. Get my dog back in shape and eating right (yea, I really mean me -- but if I bring the dog into it, it sounds much more exciting)

3. Internship! I will be going on a summer internship somewhere in these United States -- probably North Carolina. Yay! :)

4. Tasters Guild Dinner - my World Cuisine class helps put on the dinner that will fund scholarships for culinary students. I am also going to be applying for the scholarship!

5. Trip to LA - Hopefully this will be Memorial Day Weekend, but J and I are planning on visiting his brother so I can meet him. :)

6. Trip to San Antonio - A trip for my sis to celebrate her milestone bday w my cousins!

7. My nephew and 2 of my cousins are starting their new lives in another state: CO, MT, and AZ!

8. Get a job - Even though I really enjoy being a poor college student, J does not. LOL.

9. There are some babies in the near future for a few of my friends!

10. ???? Whatever else comes my way!!!

I also want to read more, cook more, paint more, sew more and drink more... lol. What I really meant was spend more time with my friends. :)

Here's to a fabulous new year!!