Today was too much fun. Why? Hmm. Well, I was so busy cooking the meat that we had prepared the day before in the most interesting ways that I hardly have any notes to share.
I think I will explain my day today with photos.
I cannot believe that nine hours flew by without me checking my watch once. I made things I have never ever made before and they turned out pretty decent, if not above average. Chef Douglass was amused that I had never cooked chicken before and complimented my dishes multiple times. Wow. I was really pleased with myself.
Besides cooking new things, what made today all the more exciting?
The environment of the kitchen. The sense of urgency. The fire-in-the-belly feeling. The camaraderie.
Chef explained that when you plate something, you want to all dishes to come up within seconds of each other, so that things stay hot and do not cool unevenly. He also emphasized the importance of warming the plate if you are serving a hot dish. So today, it was not just about our individual efforts of cooking, but a team effort of presenting the food together, as if we were working in a restaurant.
Hey are you ready?! Yelled station 1.
Hey five minutes! Yelled station 3.
Hey my chicken is not cooked yet, hold up! Yelled station 4.
Hey, I need a clean plate!
Rather than worrying only about the outcome of our own dishes, we worried about taking care of each other. If I had a free moment while things were in the oven, I went to the dish pit and washed dishes. When I was stuck in the back basting the chicken wings, my teammates cleaned my work space. My partner stirred my sauce, while I ran to get our plates warm. It was this rapid fire, cohesive momentum that kept everything moving at an excitingly functional pace.
So you must be wondering…what did we make?
Let me tell you about our feast.
Spicy Chicken Tacos with Fresh Corn Tortillas
Shredded chicken thighs in a spicy tomato chipotle sauce, wrapped in freshly pressed homemade tortillas and topped with lettuce, pickled onions, cilantro, chives, and crema fresca. Tasted it. I approve.
Pan Roasted Statler Breast with Tomato and Rosemary
We each made our own dish and raced up to plate together, with warm plates of course. A statler breast is a chicken breast, with the drummette still attached. We “frenched” the bone for a nice presentation. I did not taste this one, but it looked beautiful and Chef said mine was cooked well.
Chicken Wings and Drumsticks
This was my first time making these and I must say, it was so simple and so delicious. Rachael, our wing pro, showed me the ropes. We coated the chicken wings in rice flour, baked them in the oven, smothered them in a spicy sriracha guava sauce that we had reduced, and then finished off for a few more minutes in the oven with toasted sesame seeds. Tasted these. Delicious. The leg and wing meat was super tender.
Chicken Breasts in Mushroom Cream Sauce
We cooked our skinless chicken breast and then made a mushroom cream sauce from the fond or chicken residue left behind in the pan. I am not a mushroom fan, so I did not taste this one, but Chef really liked my sauce and said the chicken was cooked well.
Pan Roasted Duck Breast with Apples
We seared the duck quickly and then used the same pan to caramelize apples and scallions. I did not taste this one but I think we all were successful in getting our duck cooked a little too well.
Chef also made Duck Liver Pate, a very buttery mousse made from sauteed duck livers, Duck Confit, salted and roasted duck, and a Whole Roast Duck.
By the end of class, we sure had a feast.
Some things I learned:
- 160 degrees F is the magic number to know when your poultry is cooked.
- Don’t put sauce on top of poultry skin. You want the browned skin to be shown.
- Skin can cook longer than meat. Let the skin get brown and crispy.
- Cook the side of meat you wish to present first.
- Cook with all your senses. Ears to hear the cracking. Eyes to see the maillard reaction. Nose to smell the doneness. Taste to know if it is tender or overcooked.
- Preheat the pan on the fire before you add anything. This way, the oil does not burn.
- Always assume a pan is hot. Touch it gingerly.
- Maseca – corn flour with the mineral lyme. It is used to make tortillas.
- Add your brandy/liquor when the pan is not on the flame as it likes to jump up at you.
- True colors come out in the heat of the kitchen. Stay present. Stay focused.
- Teamwork is what makes everything possible.
Today was a reminder of why I love kitchens, why I am fascinated by the food environment, and why I am here.
Now going out to celebrate a successful week with my foodie family.