Cooking School Week 2
Have you ever cooked in somebody else’s kitchen? You’re kind of fumbling around looking for things….where’s a mixing bowl, where’s the flour, where’s a baking dish? That’s what cooking school has been like for me. I feel like I’m working at a snail’s pace because I’ve been so out of my element in the kitchens there. There are two kitchens, front and back, so one day we’re in one, and the next day we’re in the other. Everything is in different places in both, so remembering has been hard for me. It’s definitely gotten better, but I look forward to the day when I walk in and feel comfortable in both kitchens. Now, aside from not knowing where things are, pretend that somebody is telling you to change the way you chop, separate eggs, which pots to use for certain things, which utensils are good for only certain things, AND you have a time constraint to get everything done.. I will tell you right now, I would NEVER make it in a restaurant. 🙂
While cooking school is hard work, don’t get me wrong, I’m enjoying it very much. It’s good for me to do something out of the house. I mean, I’ve been out of the work force for what feels like a billion years, and frankly, I need to sharpen the old brain a bit. 🙂 This is great for that, and it’s getting me out of my comfort zone, which is good too. The important things in life are learning, adapting to new environments, and working hard, whether it’s fitness, education, or work. It’s all good.
Each week our teacher hands us a stack of recipes, which we’ll be cooking during the week. When I say a stack, I mean a stack. There are 45-50 recipes each week, and that doesn’t count the 4-5 more we receive from our guest chefs that come in and do demonstrations on Asian cooking for us. All of this equals an obscene amount of food to eat/taste. My goal is to still fit into my pants at the end of the 6 months. So far, so good. 🙂
This week was pretty exciting. We tackled preserving, which included jams, jellies, pickled vegetables, apple butter, chutneys, pickles, and conserves, which are in the first photo. I was in heaven, and we got to take home what we made, plus we had a giveaway where we got to pick the other canned goodies the other students were assigned. I ended up with a large jar of my plum and raisin conserve, spicy apple chutney, blood orange marmalade, and bread and butter pickles. We also made poached pears in port, Russian tea cakes, and chocolate roll leontyne, which one classmate dubbed a giant Ho-Ho. No offense to Hostess, but this cake was much better. 🙂
We also tackled bread making, which I was very excited about at first. I quickly became anxious about it hoping that my bread wasn’t a huge flop. It didn’t flop, and it was quite good, but my bread (photo in the bottom right) was the same recipe assigned to someone else and it looked much different. The photo on the top right corner below shows mine next to the other one. Mine is on the left. Tell me right now you wouldn’t want a slice of the one on the left over mine! It’s fluffier and more golden. For a novice, I thought I did ok. Practice, practice, practice.
There were also so many delicious entrees, including trout with almonds, roast leg of lamb with garlic sauce served with ratatouille and potatoes baked in a cream sauce with gruyere cheese, and filets of sole meuniere, or fish in butter-lemon sauce. We learned to how to de-bone a fish fillet, which was like magic!
The last 2 days we spent a lot of time with custards, ice cream, and caramels. I enjoyed tasting all of it, but have to say that the homemade ice cream with caramel sauce and Maldon sea salt was downright exceptional. I had dreams about it last night, I think. We also made creme caramel, meringues in custard sauce (snow eggs), and I was assigned creme brûlée, which was a lot of fun. I plan to make that for my husband very soon. 🙂
Below are some tips for every day cooking:
- Separate eggs when they’re cold, but beat egg whites when they’re room temperature.
- Keep oils that don’t keep as long in the refrigerator, such as sesame, walnut, or peanut oil. This will keep them from going rancid sooner.
- When baking bread, if milk is added instead of water, bread will keep longer because the fat from the milk acts as a preservative.
- When making a roux for a sauce, if the roux is cold, the liquid must be hot; if roux is warm, the liquid should be cold.
- It’s best not to wash chicken before cooking as it cooks more evenly when it’s thoroughly dry, and the bacteria will be cooked out anyway. It’s been found that washing chicken gets more bacteria all over the kitchen area, so it’s not worth it!
- If you ever over salt something, just add a little lemon juice.
- Never overcrowd a pan — food will just steam instead of roast or fry.
- To pit an olive, place the olive on a counter, whack it with the side of a knife, and the pit can be removed easily.
That my friends, wasn’t even the half of Week 2, but I have to stop somewhere. I can’t wait to bring a recipe to you soon, which I’ve received express permission from the school to do so. Bon Appetit!