Day 21: Cake Day

Today – a sweet day from start to finish. (And could you possibly believe that there was no chocolate involved?)

With sunlight streaming down my back and soft, spring-is-coming breeze tugging on my hair, I skipped to school. Today being February 29th, or “leap day,” I had dedicated some time this morning to leaping into full-arm balance with two legs and working on buoyant drop-backs without letting my heels lift off of the floor. The exhilaration of my morning practice along with this good weather brought about a lightness in my step. I also noticed that some of the Hubway station bikes were being re-installed around town – what great news!  Passing by the fish market on Harvard St. and peering in the window to see if they were open, I met my reflection in glass. I just looked…utterly content. At that moment, I wished I could freeze the pane of glass that held my feeling of joy forever…perhaps I could Instagram it?

NOT TO MENTION, TODAY WAS CAKE DAY. I was truly looking forward to class.

Chef Janine, our wonderful baking instructor, was here with us today to teach us all about cakes. She wanted us to experience a wide variety of cake and buttercream preparations – we discussed high fat cakes, such as a pound cake and Victoria sponge, to low fat cakes, such as a chiffon and angel food. We compared mixing methods – all-in-one, creaming, sponge, etc., and what effects that these methods had on the overall crumb of the cake. Of course, we had our customary lecture on “gluten,” this time in regards to cakes – Chef Janine loves gluten and her lectures would not be complete without including a few more tidbits about the fascinating stuff.

What did we make…

Jordan Marsh Blueberry Muffins.

FullSizeRender_7
Jordan Marsh Blueberry Muffins

Before the days of Macy’s, apparently there was a large department store called Jordan Marsh, which in addition to carrying all department store type things, sold the most amazing blueberry muffins (Today is my first time hearing of this, but I find the story interesting). This recipe is a replica of these iconic muffins. They were made using the “quick bread” method, leavened by chemical agents, aka b.powda, rather than yeast. A perfect morning treat.

Financiers.

FullSizeRender_5
Pistachio Almond Financiers

These were invented as a snack for the people working in the Financial district of France. Traditionally these are made in long bar shapes to look like gold bars. Today, Chef made them in mini muffin tins. With browned butter, almonds, and pistachios, these were rich, nutty, and delicious.

Oatmeal Maple Scones.

FullSizeRender_6
Oatmeal Maple Scones

With whole-wheat flour, oatmeal, maple syrup, and a whole lot of butter, these were hearty scones! We made these using a similar technique to that used when making biscuits. Chef Janine showed us how to handle the dough as little as possible, to prevent the famous gluten from forming too much. She also pointed out that the butter should be left in pea size chunks to get nice flaky textures.

Angel Food Cake.

FullSizeRender_3
Angelic Food Cake

A cake without any fat at all, could it be? Whipped egg whites, sugar, and flour folded in gently makes this cake so light, airy, and angelic. We flavored it with orange and lemon zest, and when it came out of the oven, it smelled exactly like fruit loops. We let it hang out upside down so that it would not lose any air. Honestly, while our cake came out beautifully, I have never been a huge fan of angel food – I’d rather have something more buttery.

White Cupcakes with Swiss Buttercream.

FullSizeRender_1
Vanilla Cupcakes, Swiss Buttercream, Caramel Shards.

A very classic vanilla cupcake and a light, butter frosting that we made from whipping up egg whites with sugar, butter, and more sugar. We had fun playing around with piping the icing in different ways. Chef Janine also wanted us practice our caramel making technique, as last week, most of us failed miserably – the caramel made beautiful decorations!

Victoria’s Sandwich.

FullSizeRender_2
Victoria’s Sandwich

FullSizeRender

The cake I have been waiting to make! After listening to GBBO’s Mary Berry speak so highly of this dainty cake in her matter-of-fact British accent (as she spoons generous mouthfuls of the jam and cream), I have been often imagining what this cake must be like in real life. Queen Victoria, the brilliant lady who invented tea time, enjoyed this cake as a “sandwich” –  two layers of rich vanilla cake spread with a thin layer of buttercream and raspberry jam. My team was rather generous with the filling…and it was delicious!

Things that I learned today:

  • Crumb is formed by the way you mix the batter.
  • Do not grease the pan for angel food cake. The egg whites need a rock wall to climb up in order to rise and butter will just make it slip down.
  • Chiffon cake is like an angel food cake except with egg yolks.
  • Brushing the top of dough with a wash adds a nice color. Egg yolks will create the darkest color. You can also use egg whites, whole eggs, milk, buttermilk, or cream.
  • Buttering your pans with butter gives the best flavor. Obviously…
  • Once you add the flour to batter, you start to enter the realm of gluten.  Less mixing mean more tenderness. MIX AT YOUR OWN RISK.
  • Making caramel is tricky. You must be patient, not leave it unattended, and must not stir! It gets super hot and can burn you, so no touching until it is cooled. FullSizeRender_4

Overall, Chef Janine was impressed by the consistency of our bakes – we had all around success in the kitchen! Not to mention, our teamwork game was strong today – my chef family took care of each other, working swiftly and cleaning up along the way so that things weren’t piled up at the end of the night, when we were sugar crashing.

Ah cake. What a joy. Happy and a bit tired. Off to deliver Victoria sandwiches, do my inversions, and find some vegetables. And then perhaps a bit of chocolate.

No day is complete without chocolate.

sonia

Day 20: The Art of Plating

Today in the kitchen was Chef Rich Morin, here to teach us all about plating and presentation. Chef Rich currently serves as the executive sous chef for the Harvard Business School. Before that, he ran kitchens at many incredible restaurants around Boston.

Coming into today, I was both excited and intimidated – presenting food in an artful way does not come naturally to me yet.

For some reason, I was under this funny impression that our “plating” teacher would be some fashionably, artsy fellow in tailored clothes and cutting-edge hair, who talked in a soft slanting voice. So I was quite relieved to walk in and meet the robust, cheery-faced Chef Rich. He looked like…a chef! And an approachable, kind human being.

With a friendly growl, Chef got us moving quickly in the kitchen, preparing various items for our plating lessons. We each had our own tasks – mine was slicing and toasting almonds and making pistachio paste. We also cut and roasted carrots in all different shapes, sliced radishes in unique ways, made different purees and sauces for texture, and cooked vegetables in papillote.

Finally, it was time to begin.

Chef called us up front for a lesson on sauce smearing.

IMG_4644
Chef’s Smearing Lesson
FullSizeRender_5
The Bamboo Forest smear.

He showed us the Nike swoosh, the splatter, the spread across, and his own signature “Bamboo forest” design among many many others.

“It’s like finger painting. Just using a different medium,” remarked Chef.

Chef Rich emphasized that there are no rules in presentation. This is YOUR expression about how YOU feel about food.

And we were off!

“TEN MINUTES!”

“FIVE MINUTES!”

“EVERYONE UP!!” bellowed Chef.

We then got a chance to present our dishes to the group – explain what we liked about them, what we didn’t, and the thought that we put into them. It was so rewarding to share within the safe, learning environment of my team. This simple exercise that we did 3-4 times really got my brain working in another dimension.

FullSizeRender_4
Christina’s Beet Plate
FullSizeRender_3
My Halibut in the Garden.
FullSizeRender_1
Rachael’s Burning Man
FullSizeRender
Metiga’s Beet Plate
FullSizeRender_2
My Salad Goes For A Walk.

Things I learned:

  • Odd numbers are more visually appealing than even numbers.
  • It is challenging to make large quantities of food look good. Buffets are challenging.
  • Good ingredients sing on their own.
  • Cooking in a papillote: Make an envelope of foil and place your seasoned items inside, close the parcel, and place in the oven. The foil sears the food.
  • When plating, be flexible, assess your environment, and work from the heart. Sometimes a specific idea can limit you and make you stuck.

Besides experimenting with fun ways to finger paint with sauces, the most important thing I gained from today was confidence in my plating. None of this is hard. I can make a beautiful plate. It just requires some imagination, personality, and heart.

Happy Weekend.
sonia

Day 19: Custard, Mousse, Meringue

Tell me this.

What happens when someone who does not eat sugar (me) plays with sweet nectar, irresistible caramelization, melted chocolate, and Muscato wine?

Sugar high!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Sugar? We’re going down…

Crash.

Burn.

Today has been a delicious blast. I love making desserts. It is relaxing for me. Chef Janine is awesome and has given us a treasure of amazing recipes and techniques for custards, mousse, and meringue. A few, like the chocolate malt panna cotta and the burnt caramel custard could even go as far as to be labeled “LIquid Gold.”

However, I apologize in advance for the short and rather incoherent post. Chocolate mousse and butterscotch type of puddings are my weakness.I’m crashing quickly. Too much sugar for me today.

I cannot even spell “meringue” properly – thank goodness for spell check.

Hope you enjoy these miscellaneous notes. The pictures will speak for themselves.

Clafouti – from Northwest France. Like a pancake except layered with whole cherries with their pits. Cherry pits add almond flavor. It is probably not a good idea to serve it like this at a restaurant due to someone biting on a cherry seed. Sub raspberries.

FullSizeRender
Clafouti

Gelatin sheets are odorless and make the best gingerbread house windows. Powdered gelatin smells like pork. Truth.

FullSizeRender-40
Gelatin Sheets

Custards should not be cooked more than 185 degrees F or the egg will curdle. Adding sugar makes custards less firm. Adding egg makes custards more set.

FullSizeRender_1
Burnt Caramel Custard
FullSizeRender_4
Burnt Caramel Custard and Chocolate Mousse – aka Liquid Gold recipes
FullSizeRender_3
Cheesecakes with Lemon Curd
IMG_4631
Pavlova – a sweet meringue named after a ballerina, the Whit Swan from New Zealand.

Not pictured: Sabayon, a custard made with various dessert wines, such as Muscato, Sauternes, Spatlese Reislings, and Marsala.

Team California, Valencia and I, did an awesome job. We high-fived a lot and that was fun.

So many dirty dishes today. I think we were all a bit loopy by the end.

I have already donated a pint of caramel custard to one of my grateful yoga students. I have lots of other treats to deliver too.

Now off to find a vegetable. And my pillow. Custard dreams.

sonia

Day 18: Principles of Vegetables 2

Today I got off to an early start.

Anthony, Valencia, and I met up for coffee at the Japonaise Bakery down the road. We sat around the small table amidst the smell of baking bread as we discussed our favorite food shows and our foodie dreams. 10 am sharp, it was time to leave the reverie, and so we stood up and exited out into the crisp yet sunshining day. Our fifteen minute walk over the bridge past the Green Monster (Fenway Park) to Eastern Standard went by in a flash.

Today we were meeting with Garret Hawker, Boston’s well-known restaurateur.

Upon entering the restaurant, we were ushered to a private room where we were met with an array of freshly baked pastries and hot (more) coffee. Soft music along with lingering breakfast conversation played in the backdrop as we settled into our comfortable chairs, greeting the rest of our classmates as they trickled in. At 10:30, an extraordinarily tall man dressed fashionably, in a well-tailored suit with a head of classy white hair came in to greet us. This was Mr. Garret Hawker.

Mr. Hawker gave us a wealth of information about Eastern Standard, it’s history, it’s architecture, the origin of each piece of artwork, and the purpose of the restaurant in itself. Eleven year old, Eastern Standard was named after a railroad company, a traveler’s stop.

FullSizeRender_8
Eastern Standard

Then, he spun about and took off in long strides, with a quick, “Follow me!”

Valencia and I raced to keep up with his long legs as he led us through the back of house, down corridors, up staircases, down more corridors, through a locker room, down some more stairs, and finally, to the most alluring space – the Hawthorne Bar and Lounge. With gray walls, fascinating artwork, and just an overall cool vibe, I was in a trance. I cannot believe that I walk by this hidden gem almost every week. I must come here sometime.

FullSizeRender_7
The Hawthorne

Our last stop was a much shorter walk, to another one of his restaurants next door, Island Creek Oyster Bar. This was another entirely unique setting, with boat seating booths, walls made out of oyster shells, and a mural of oyster harvesting flipped upside down. Mr. Hawker pointed out the tightly positioned chairs at the bar – this was done purposely to create an intimate, cozy, and bustling atmosphere, one that you want to convey at an oyster bar.

FullSizeRender_6
Island Creek Oyster Bar’s upside-down mural.

Listening to Mr. Hawker’s stories of how he decided to open restaurants, his successes, his difficulties, his fears, and amazing breakthroughs that were born out of acting in the moment were so entrancing. I felt like I was watching an episode of Chef’s Table or reading a novel on the life of a restaurateur.

While leaving and thanking Mr. Hawker, he shook my hand and said to me kindly: “Follow your heart and it will take you in the right places.”

Wow, what an amazing morning. My mind bubbled with ideas all the way back to the kitchen.

After lunching on yesterday’s delicious leftovers and changing into my whites, I snapped out of my romantic restaurant fairy-tale. Time to focus. Chef Cara was back in the kitchen with us for another round of deliciously magical vegetable cookery. How exciting.

FullSizeRender
Chef and the little chefs.

It was a blanching and shocking day for me.

I filled a huge stockpot, the size of a small child, with water and salted it. “Salt it like the ocean!” explained Chef Cara. I tasted the water to make sure it tasted salty enough after it was bubbling. That way, the salt had been fully mixed throughout. Then I tossed some kale in, gave it a few nice plunges and swirls until its chlorophyll sang the most beautiful melody – aka until it turned bright green, – then quickly pulled it out and shocked it in a bowl of ice water. Joseph and I planned to saute it up with some garlic later.

Now blanching cabbage was quite a different story. One at a time, I tossed in each cabbage whole and pulled it out every 10-15 seconds, when the outermost layer started to separate from the rest of the head, creating little shells.

FullSizeRender_3
Cabbage patch kids.

These were my little cabbage patch kids that kept wanting to peel off their winter layers because, as we know, spring is coming! Hehe.

Actually, these guys burned my fingertips intensely and the red cabbage left my hands quite blue. Those naughty children.

We stuffed the leaves later with a delicious mixture of rice, walnuts, herbs, and currants, and rolled them into dolmas before baking them in the oven.

FullSizeRender_1
Cabbage dolmas.

 

Things that I learned:

  • Don’t store vegetables in plastic. They are still living things. They need oxygen. NEVER store mushrooms in plastic. Chef was adamant about this.
  • A quick pickle can be made with salt, white wine vinegar, and lemon.
  • Braising is good for meaty vegetables.
  • Why blanch, I wonder? Well for one thing, it sure does make the vegetable look more beautiful. With blanching, the vegetables stay much more fresh, as you end up cooking them for a less amount of time, preserving nutrients, flavor, and color. This was an interesting experiment for me. I might start blanching more often…even if it means I have to wash extra dishes and use up all my ice in the freezer.

Another feast, another delicious day.

All of us, including Chef Cara left with bundles of roasted vegetables, braised turnips, cabbage dolmas, chickpea salad…and I almost forgot, CICIK!

My absolute favorite thing we made was CICIK, pronounced “Je-jeek”, which translates to: “everything green.” This is a yogurt based salad, composed of labneh, garlic, lemon juice, and a shock of blanched, finely chopped vegetables: spinach, chard, green beans, bell peppers, parsley, and even grated brussels! SO refreshing. I think if there was only one thing I could ever eat again, it would be CICIK!

FullSizeRender_2
Chef makes Cicik.

I cannot wait to have Chef Cara back again in a few weeks. In the meantime, I will be working on the pint of baba ganoush that now resides in my fridge.

sonia

Day 17: Principles of Vegetables 1

“Actually, vegetables require more technique and knowledge than meat does,” claimed Chef Cara in a calm confidence. “Cooking them properly is hard work.”

Chef Cara Chigazola, Chef de Cuisine at Oleana, one of Boston’s best restaurants, was here today in the kitchen to teach us all about vegetables. “Now, I am by no means a vegetarian,” admitted Chef, “but I love finding ways to make vegetables the star of the show. How can we make people choose a carrot over a steak?”

“Vegetables are the future of our generation. Consider the vegetable,” boldly stated Chef Cara.

FullSizeRender-32
Grilled Red Bell Peppers

Originally from California, Chef carried about this wave of peaceful, laid back energy, as well as an incredibly funny sense of humor. I could not help but focus intently on whatever she said because she spoke softly with comfort and confidence. Within her was creativity, experience, and so much magic.

Chef Cara shared with us that she has been working in professional kitchens since age 17, and that every job along the way had taught her something new, including the one where she made sandwiches at 2am for college kids out partying – “Now that job….that job taught me to be quick.”

Her cooking style and knowledge was a welcomed, refreshing change in my opinion. Not only were we working with vegetables (hurray!), but we were embracing Mediterranean flavors and recipes, similar to the cuisine served at Oleana. Chef prefaced, “I do not follow the traditional French cooking, so I might tell you things that you haven’t been taught, and perhaps you will learn another way.”

I was excited to play with olive oil, lemons, garlic, lentils, and nigella seeds.

We blanched, we braised, we roasted, we boiled, we pureed, we grilled, we fried, and we sauted a whole boatload of veggies. We also learned how to clean the ever-time consuming artichokes.

IMG_4410
Chef cleans artichokes.

Chef did not give us recipes to work from – instead, she just made the game plan up as we went along. She quickly delegated specific tasks to each of us on the fly, such as zesting and juicing lemons, or dicing up mushrooms. We all quickly got to work, not quite certain as to how our efforts would come together in the end.

Let me tell you, they came together indeed. Didn’t I tell you that Chef Cara was magical?

What did we make…

Roasted carrots, brussels, butternut squash, cauliflower.

FullSizeRender-38
Carrots and Butternuts
FullSizeRender-34
Brussels and Cauliflowers

Portobello mushrooms stuffed with roasted red peppers and lentils, topped with Halloumi cheese

Braised leeks with apricots and walnuts.

FullSizeRender-36
Leeks with Walnuts and Apricots

Grilled radicchio and eggplant.

FullSizeRender-37
Grilled Ones.

Blanched and sauteed kale and broccoli rabe.

FullSizeRender-33
Blanched and sauteed greens.

Sweet potato fries and regular fries.

Homemade Baba Ganoush.

Celery root pancakes with an herbed creme fraiche sauce.

We ate ravenously. Even Chef was impressed by how much food we got into our bellies. It was all just too delicious to not keep eating.

Things I learned:

  • People are have many allergies to brassicas, nightshades, and alliums. Alliums can cause acid reflux.
  • Fruit vs. Vegetable? Fruit grows from the seed inside. I already know about avocados and tomatoes. But I was not aware of some others: Cucumbers are fruits. Bell peppers are fruits.
  • Nightshades: only the vegetables can be eaten. The plant itself is toxic. (Tomatoes)
  • Mangos and cashews are related – fascinating as these are both Indian staples.
  • Orange is not the true color of carrots. We made them like that. Truly they are white and brown.
  • A fresh vegetable does not need more than a bit of olive oil and salt.
  • Haloumi a twice cooked cheese which can be grilled and hold up in structure. It is a delicious discovery for me.
  • Chef also spent time discussing why eating seasonally is ideal. Not only do you get the freshest produce, but the seasons work to provide produce that serves our human bodies as we adapt to the climate. For instance, winter brings vitamin C packed citrus and grounding root vegetables which protect us from the cold. Summer serves up lighter greens and cooler flavors such as cucumbers, berries, and stone fruits. Late summer is harvest.

Some funny words from Chef:

  • “Artichokes are weeds. HOW ON EARTH did someone figure out how to peel them, how to cook them, how we could eat them? It is unbelievable.”
  • “How to discern some brassicas from leafy greens? Well it’s not the nicest way to put it, but basically, brassicas are the ones that cause gas,” said Chef Cara as a smile broke across her face.
  • Sweet potato greens are edible, healthy, and delicious, but no one eats them here. I am starting a sweet potato greens movement.”
  • Shiny food looks better. That is what makes meat so beautiful. “Make your veggies shiny.”
  • “If you live in California, you don’t really understand what seasons are because it is always pleasant, everything is always available, and you live this sunshine-head-in-the-clouds life. And I mean that in the nicest way possible,” said Chef, who is also from California. This made me smile.
FullSizeRender-31
Chef Cara and our feast.

I realized today, while cooking these simple, but absolutely extraordinary dishes, that I have gotten stuck in a vegetable rut. As a mostly non-meat eater, I eat a lot of vegetables!. Yet recently, I have been buying the same ones and cooking them repeatedly in the same way over and over again.

Today I missed India, I missed experimenting with new produce, I missed lentils. WHY HAVE I NOT MADE LENTILS IN AGES? Chef opened my eyes to the vast amounts of possibilities available and also reminded me of vegetables that I had forgotten about.

Let the experiments begin.

Fully belly. Happy heart.

sonia

Day 16: The Principles of Fish 1

What she order? Fish Fillet. We will get back to this soon.

Today started off with an interesting lecture on cooking techniques by Chef Christine Merlo, a writer, a sommelier, a graduate of our program, a Chef instructor at Le Cordon Bleu, and an animated speaker, among other things. I enjoyed how Chef Christine did not just speak to us with words, but rather with actions – she often acted out the picture she was trying to convey. It was fun listening.

What I enjoyed most about the morning was the introduction time. While the ten of us have presented our stories at least seven times if not more to different instructors in the program – enough times so that I can tell Metiga’s story and Joseph can tell my story and so on – today was different.

I usually don’t like being on the spot and get a little very anxious thinking of what to say and how I will include my entire life in a few short sentences…but this time, it was easy. I was able to speak calmly and sincerely to the little chef family that surrounded me, and I found it much more fulfilling of an experience. Also, because we are no longer just beginning in our program, the little taste we have had in the kitchen has started to evolve our story, at least that is my thought. I am starting to hear glimmers of new ideas and personalities coming out from my colleagues. Chef Christine was an admirable mentor and discussion leader. She really listened to each one of us, she put herself in our shoes, and provided uplifting feedback. I could not help but get excited about the future.

After that, we embraced Fish Day One.

I was worried that I might not be ready for the intensity of fish, as I was rather sleepy overall from the week. But as soon as I walked into the kitchen and put some water to boil in the tea kettle, I relaxed. The warm kitchen is such a comforting place.

FullSizeRender-24
Our stuffed Branzino.

Chef Fran was in the kitchen today. He was a young, upbeat chef that had grown up in Boston and in Brookline (where I currently live) and attended Boston University’s hospitality school. After working his way through many of Boston’s top restaurants, he now serves as the Executive Chef at Row 34.

FullSizeRender-30
Chef makes us some salmon carpaccio.

I found Chef Fran’s teaching style so effective. Why? He came down to our level and sent us straight into the fire of the subject. Perhaps because he was close to our age (or at least he looks like it) and perhaps because he had himself spent time in this very same kitchen, he did not seem intimidating. I felt at ease with his down to earth, familiar, and fun nature.

FullSizeRender-29
The clams are being stubborn!

Chef skipped the formal introductions and just began addressing us by name at the get-go, giving us immediate responsibility. “Hey Christina can you get me a sheet pan?”, “Hey Anthony, we need some clean plates”, “Hey Sonia do we have any cubed butter?”

YES CHEF!” we replied as we scurried to fulfill our task.

I butchered a nice little trout. I was so happy that I was not afraid of touching the fish heads or eyes – I conquered that fear on Day 2 Stocks remember? I also felt more like a biologist in the lab rather than a chef in the kitchen. Perhaps it was the sea-smell that reminded me of 7th grade frog dissections with Mr. Brummage. After cutting out the spine of my trout, I had to use tweezers to carefully pull out all those pesky pin bones that are not enjoyable when found in a bite of fish. This was a tedious task.

FullSizeRender-25
Chef Fran shows us how to remove the pesky pin bones.

Then it was cooking time. Chef Fran did not inundate us with information; nor did he leave us bored and clueless on what to do next. We had a TEAM BAKE, a TEAM BROIL, and a TEAM SEAR. I was on TEAM SEAR.

After cooking up each fish in all possible ways, we came to the tasting table and feasted on the seafood. It was interesting to taste each fish cooked in a different method. I think baked was my favorite overall. I ate well today. Yum yum.

Here are my notes:

  • SALMON:
    • Best eaten medium rare.
    • Not good for fish stock.
    • Collar is tasty – lots of fat on there.
    • Chef served us carpaccio and it was the most amazing thing.
  • COD
    • Large flake.
    • Similar taste to Pollack.
  •  POLLACK
    • Ivory white.
    • Not smelly.
    • New England’s staple.
  • BRANZINO or MEDITERRANEAN SEA BASS
    • From Greece and sometimes Israel.
    • Cooked whole – I got to stuff this guy with lemon, thyme, and parsley.
  • RAINBOW TROUT
    • Named after its reflective gills.
    • Fatty fish yet small.
  • FLOUNDER
    • Delicate.
    • Super Sweet.
    • Swims sideways as a camouflage to hide.
    • Very easy to catch.
    • Isn’t this Ariel’s fish from the little mermaid?

How do you know if a fish is fresh?

  • It does not smell fishy.
  • The gills are pink.
  • The eyes are clear.
  • It is not slimy.
  • It has no bruises or damages.

Chef’s advice:

  • More butter is always better. Life will change as soon as you learn that.
  • Less is more, especially when you start with good ingredients. Let the ingredient shine in the dish.
  • Chef Fran had a fascinating perspective on “farmed raised”fish – one that I had not heard before. Contrary to what I hear, he said there is nothing wrong with it and that most restaurants serve it. “Farmed fish is the future. How can restaurants actually meet the supply of fish that they must serve if they took from the ocean?” Chef explained that if you get to know your suppliers, you can find some excellent farmed raised fish.
  • Seafood is marketed quite ambiguously – there is not much regulation in this industry and because white fish can have similar flavors, you may not know what you are actually being served, especially if it is masked in sauce.
  • Day Boat means caught that day.
IMG_4360
Mussels in White Wine.
IMG_4304
Raw Alive Clams

WELL, the most memorable part of today for myself was when I realized that…clams, oysters, and mussels are alive when you eat them. ALIVE WHEN YOU EAT THEM.

 

I just cannot wrap my head around that one.

Nope. I just cannot.

sonia

Day 15: Eggs and Breakfast

Corral the simmering, salted liquid and then just introduce the little guy in gently, as if you are coaxing a reluctant child to stick his toes into the ocean for the very first time. Easy does it. Once afloat, a wispy and rather ominous white ghost will parade around the yellow center, but do not be afraid. If you nudge the ghost ever so gently, it finally pulls itself together and clings to surface of the yellow like a delicate ballgown. Carefully, slowly, carry it out of the bath and place it to rest on a soft dry towel. If all has gone according to plan, when you cut into it, the perfect yellow should ooze out in a symphony.

What?

A poached egg.

It took me three attempts to get it right.

FullSizeRender-17

Today was eggs and breakfast day – one of my favorite days thus far. What could be better than learning to make foods you love eating? Chef Douglass was in the kitchen with us today to teach us all about egg technique and other delicious breakfast food preparations.

With Chef, we discussed versatility of the egg.

The egg can be so forgiving, such as an omelet that turns into a scramble. And yet so relentless, like an egg that curdles in your sauce. A little egg can even turn the ordinary leftovers into an extraordinary frittata. Oh the possibilities…

Laughingly, Chef admitted that “brunch” is always the toughest shift to work in a restaurant because every customer has their own interpretation of the perfect egg, perfect cup of coffee, perfect temperature of tea, timing, etc.

He also shared with us that despite the massive amount of cooking he does and the variety of gourmet food available in his restaurants, at the end of a long shift, one of his favorite comfort meals to quench his exhaustion and hunger is a fried egg sandwich on buttered toast with some sriracha. Yum.

After Chef showed us tips and techniques for cracking, separating, and peeling eggs in the easiest way possible, it was onto cooking.

FullSizeRender-23
Chef’s Eggs

We started with our non-egg items: Dutch babies filled with sauteed apples and an order of buttermilk pancakes. These were enjoyable and simple to make. Some of us “went rogue” pulling out the chocolate chips and whipping up a batch of whipped cream. Yum. Our little pancake party definitely started the day off on a happy note…before the technical flipping, folding, failing, and fixing that was to come.

FullSizeRender-21
Dutch Baby Pancake filled with apples.

“Eggs are cheap so have at it today and get your technique down,” said Chef. I think together we went through a box of 200 eggs…

You must be wondering, what on earth did we do with that many eggs?!

All sorts of Fried Eggs. Over easy, sunny side up, over medium, and more.

FullSizeRender-19
Get your fried eggs up!

Classic French Omelet. Agitate the eggs well in the pan. Don’t let the eggs completely set up. Fold it over once. Flip it out of the pan for a nice tri-fold. This should have no color. Creamiest center. Finish with fin herbs.

To me, this was the most exciting task, and I got mine to come together wonderfully – creamy and soft, nicely flipped and neatly folded out of the pan. Sometimes I do not realize how easily I show my emotions – but my good buddy and kitchen partner, Valencia, picked up on it all and kept teasing me as she impersonated me proudly walking up to Chef holding my delicate thing on a pedestal. I will admit, that may have happened…I was too excited!

FullSizeRender-20
My most beautiful French Omelet. This picture does not do it justice.

American Omelet. Less creamy and with more set curds. While making this, I was reminded of the game “Bop It.” This is what I sang in my head (and out loud with Valencia):

Cook it. Flip it. Fill it. Fold it.

Now EAT it. Dun dun dun dun dun dun dun.

FullSizeRender-18
America’s Omelet.

Eggs Benedict. Our finale of a the day. A perfectly poached egg on an English muffin with hollandaise sauce. Meat was optional and I decided to go without it.

Some things I learned:

  • White eggs and brown eggs are the exact same except for the color of their shell. It is the mind that makes you think one is better than the other.
  • Large eggs are the standard size that most baking recipes call for.
  • When cooking eggs in the pan, it is important to have the right size of pan, a hot pan, and plenty of bubbling butter.
  • Boiled eggs are more like simmered eggs.
    • 6 minute egg – soft and runny.
    • 8 minute egg – soft but sightly set up.
    • 10 minute egg – set but still slightly soft.
    • 12 minute egg – hard boiled.
  • Butter marries well with eggs. Other fats stick on the surface of the egg.
  • Separate the Thomas English Muffins with a fork rather than a knife. They are already ready to be pulled apart and the fork leaves nice uneven edges for browning.
  • Fin herbs: classically a mixture of thyme, tarragon, parsley, and chives.
  • I sincerely need to work on flipping things. I flipped all my potatoes onto the floor right when Chef came by to check on me. He swiftly turned around, went to the stock room and handed me a pan of uncooked rice. “Here, practice with this.” Yes Chef.

Our chef family is beginning to work with the sense of urgency – the fire in the belly feeling. It makes things move quickly, as if in a restaurant setting, and flow naturally. I can also sense that we are learning each others’ strengths and weaknesses – not only do we have more confidence in the kitchen, but we have more confidence with each other. It is a warm feeling.

After gobbling up as much as we could, we packed up the rest of the egg attempts in doggy bags to give to Chef’s dogs and some of the other student’s dogs. If Luke were still around, I would have packed one for him too. Luke loved eggs.

Egg day. Delicious day. Fun day.

sonia