Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Cooking School is Not For Sissies

My Fabulous Team: Patti, Susan and Max

Another class complete, another set of lessons learned. Nutrition & Sensory Analysis was by far my favorite class so far. And I swear to you, that is not because our instructing chef was… well, let’s call a spade a spade. He was a full on, 5 alarm hottie. I’ve never seen so many women in chef’s caps drooling on stainless steel tables before.
Ahem. I love you, John!
But like I said; my enjoyment of this class was not based on visual appeal alone. Chef Hottie-Pants was the most laid back chef I’ve encountered so far. We cooked big breakfasts for ourselves after lectures, we listened to music while we worked, we joked and laughed. We weren’t a production class, so we weren’t under the same time constraints as I’ve grown accustomed to in my other classes. The atmosphere in the Sensory Analysis kitchen more closely approximated the way I’m used to cooking in my own kitchen. More after the jump...
Fresh Halibut

And I loved learning how to identify the function of an ingredient so that you can replace it with a healthier alternative. I roasted garlic in olive oil with salt, pepper and bay on Day 2. I thin pureed the garlic and used it as a thickener for a sauce instead of a butter and flour roux. And that leftover garlicky oil? Well, I went to town on that with a hunk of crusty bread, and it was unbelievable.
Mise en Place

For our main project, each of our groups was assigned an ethnic flavor profile. Our team was assigned Africa. We were given a list of some of the flavor elements that make up that profile: nuts, raisins, apricot nectar, orange, mint, cumin, clove, cinnamon, banana, etc. We were assigned a protein, a grain and a vegetable. We were to poach the protein in a court bouillon of our own creation, dress the grain using the flavor profile, steam the vegetable and include a flavorful sauce.
Our dish was a citrus and spice poached halibut with steamed minted snap peas; raisin and peanut cous cous and a roasted tomato and pepper relish. Here:
Final Plate

Our dish turned out delicious and nicely balanced in terms of flavors. But my god, my Everest is plate presentation. It is remarkable to me that the arrangement of the plate is so challenging for me, given my graphic design background. And yet, it is what I’ve received the most criticism for so far. Friends, the next time you come for dinner, notice your plate. I’ll be practicing on you!

Next up: Food Service Fundamentals.

1 comment:

elizabeth said...

Plating is really tricky, but in any event, your dish looks awesome!