Cooking School Week 8
Fall in San Francisco is just beautiful, and I can’t get enough of the scenery. There’s so much energy in the City, and I find myself missing the old days when I worked there for 11 years. It seems like a lifetime ago sometimes, but it also feels like it was just yesterday. I’m very grateful to be in this beautiful city every day while I’m in school, although I wish I had more time to carouse and check things out. Ya can’t have everything. 😉
Week 8 started off with a bang. We walked in last Monday morning knowing that it was EXAM DAY, which entailed making an appetizer, entree, and dessert from recipes we’d never seen before, but using techniques that we had used previously. The clincher? We had 3 hours to prep our recipes and get our appetizer out, our entree 30 minutes after that, and our dessert 30 minutes after that. The recipes were as follows:
Cream of Spinach Soup with Croutons
Pan Fried Red Snapper with Tarragon Beurre Blanc Sauce, Rice Pilaf, and Julienned Zucchini and Carrots
Profiteroles filled with Pastry Cream, topped with Chocolate Sauce
These recipes all had multiple components, which added up to so much to think about! We had half an hour to plan, and there wasn’t a minute to spare. Did I mention that we were being judged by 3 people, including our instructor? We were.
Unfortunately, there were so many dirty pans, that there weren’t many available when you needed one. I couldn’t get my beurre blanc started because there were no pans — the poor dishwasher couldn’t keep up! This meant that I had to filet my whole red snapper, make rice pilaf, beurre blanc, and cook my veggies in 30 minutes. Yup, and I was 5 minutes late getting my entree out. It was like an episode of Chopped, except this time it was me running so behind that I didn’t have time to season and taste. Ugh. My rice pilaf was cooked in a lopsided sauté pan, also, so it was the first time it was undercooked in class. It figures! Everything else was timely and overall I was happy with my B grade. Next time I will season whether my plate is late or not, because I got docked more for the lack of seasoning than I did for being late! 🙂
Tuesday we made many lovely dishes, and it was much more laid back than the day before!
Oysters with Pomegranate Granita
Fresh Linguine with Clams and Chorizo
Veal Chops with Chanterelle Mushrooms and Spinach Timbale
Bread pudding with Dried Fruit and Caramel Sauce, which I made. It was nothing short of heaven. 🙂
Wednesday was duck and rabbit day. Our teacher had shown us the afternoon before how to breakdown a duck and rabbit, and we were each expected to break down a whole duck, cook the duck breast, make stock from the carcass, make a sauce from the stock, and serve it for lunch. Oh yes, and we had to bake a Genoise cake prior to our duck, which is a temperamental cake. Mine turned out great, but I was once again running behind because of it. I was teamed up with a classmate that has years of restaurant experience luckily, so she had our duck stock going for our sauce already.
Duck in Port Sauce with Kabocha and Yukon Gold Mash. Now, I’m not a duck fan, but this sauce was out of this world. The mash was my favorite part, however. 🙂
Wednesday we had a demo on Italian cooking again, and the food was delicious as usual!
Lamb and Mushroom Stew
Roasted whole onions, which were delicious just on their own! They can be chopped and stored in the fridge for quesadillas, sandwiches, etc.
Homemade Cannolli with Pistachios and Chocolate Chips
Thursday we had lunch guests, so we prepared a number of tasty dishes!
I prepared this Chestnut-Celery Root Soup with Pickled Quince, which I really enjoyed. It had an earthy, nutty flavor, and the pickled quince just made it pop! I just loved that quince. 🙂
Salt baked Red Snapper, which is a whole fish, gutted and cleaned, encased in salt. The fish is not salty, as the salt remains only on the outside. The fish was so moist.
The finished dish….Salt baked red snapper with tomato vinaigrette and fingerling potatoes.
Bittersweet Chocolate Pecan Pie was for dessert. I know you’re drooling. 😉
Friday was cake decorating day. We each used the Genoise cakes that we made during the week, split it into two layers, made lemon curd for the filling, and an Italian meringue buttercream for the frosting. It was fun, and as you can see, my decorations were on the simple side:
I took the cake home on the train (again!) and took it with me to book club. The girls and I enjoyed it!
Tips of the week:
* When sautéing wild mushrooms like chanterelles, start off by dry sautéing until the mushrooms release their moisture, then add the oil or butter in the pan to sauté. Chanterelles should be cleaned gently with a wet pastry brush.
* Shitake mushrooms need to steam in water first, then the fat should be added after that. Since they’re dried mushrooms, they would just soak up all the fat if they aren’t steamed first.
* The best way to cook duck legs is long and slow in a braise as they’re tough — the skin can be crisped at the end.
* The skin on the duck breast must be scored (not through the meat) and cooked over low heat on the skin side until the breast has plumped up and the fat has rendered. Once the fat has rendered, it can be cooked like a steak.
* Next time you have a recipe that calls for room temperature eggs and your eggs are cold, heat up some water in a pot, then turn it off. Crack the eggs into a heatproof bowl and place it in the warm water. The eggs will be room temp in minutes!
I didn’t get too many tips last week, so that’s it until next time! Have a great Thanksgiving everyone. 🙂