Wednesday, September 3, 2008

One practical down

I had my first of this weeks two practical exams tonight. It was in my foundations class and it went really well. Individually we had to cut some mirepoix (carrots and celery - the onions were in short supply so I didn't get one), butcher a chicken, saute a chicken breast, saute diced potatoes, and serve the cooked items as a dish with a sauce (veloute or beure blanc - I was assigned beure blanc) to the chef. We also had to collectively make two stocks with the mirepoix and chicken carcasses, and some veal bones from the walk-in. First a brown stock with the chicken bones and then a white stock with the veal bones, which seemed a little backwards but the chef was trying to test us.

I really read up on my stocks and sauces the past few days and made sure everything was straight and fresh in my head. It felt good because a few of the other students were a little lost on the stocks and I was able to kind of direct them and provide information. For instance, they wanted to blanch the chicken bones for the brown stock, which is a horrible thing to do. You want to roast the bones and get them nice and caramelized and browned to add color and flavor to the stock. If you were to blanch them first they would be all wet and so would not brown properly, or at least they would take forever to do so. They also wanted to saute the mirepoix for the white stock, which is another horrible idea. At any rate, we all did well and it felt good to really contribute.

As far as my individual tasks, those went well too. The chef loved my chicken and potatoes. I browned the chicken in a saute pan and just slightly undercooked it so that I could throw it into one of the ovens at low temp and let it finish cooking slowly. This way it didn't dry out and was nice and hot when I was ready to plate. Then I took the potatoes, which were a brunois cut (small cubes) and pan fried them in some butter and oil. I got them just crunchy and golden brown then took them out and seasoned them with S&P, oregano and chili powder while they were still wet with the oil, that way the seasonings get all soaked up into the potatoes. Chef also said that my beure blanc was great, but it is where I lost a couple of points. It was a bit dark in color and beure blanc should be anything but. It should be light colored, shining, and smooth. I figured out later that it was the ground black pepper I used. Instead, I should've used white pepper or whole peppercorns and then strain them out. Oh well, he gave me a 10 out of 10 on everything else. (woot!)

We also lost a few points as a class for a few minor infractions regarding safety and sanitaion. I figure I got anywhere from 92-96%, which is fine by me. As long as I can score an "A" I'm happy. Now I gotta prepare myself for tomorrow nights practical: Italy. This is the World Cuisine class and we will draw dishes at random that will be either fresh pasta and sauce, pizza of some sort, polenta, or risotto. Everything will need to be made completely from scratch and I'm not sure how much time we'll have, which is tricky when your making doughs that will need to rest and things like risotto. But overall I feel pretty ready on this one because of the practice I got over the weekend, so we'll see how it goes.

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