Ah yes…Another week of the Culinary Arts Certificate Program at BU has come to an end. On a personal note, I still did not get my bed. Week three of the Culinary Arts program bought me another load of joy and knowledge. We spent the week with three of BU’s core chefs, with breakfast, custards/meringues, and two whole days of meat.
Monday was our breakfast day. I was pumped for this day because of my love affair with brunch. I can thank DC (and especially Chris) for my brunch obsession. Breakfast day was all about eggs and carbs. So, you may think that cooking eggs is simple, but there are a number of egg dishes that require a good deal of technique. This is especially true for the French omelet.
The French Omelet (aka sophisticated scrambled eggs) is a classic French dish that shockingly difficult to master. In class, we each made a handful of French omelets before we were ready to present. My first couple omelet’s were not successful because my heat was too high and browned the butter, therefore browning the omelet. Browning is not supposed to be present on a French omelet. After adjusting the heat, I was able to get the cooking technique down, but I had a hard time with flipping it into thirds like the chef showed us.
I had to go watch videos of Jacque Pepin making his French omelet to get the flip right. I have made a vow to myself that any time I want eggs for the foreseeable future, I am going to practice my French omelet. My first opportunity came when I ate my leftover pancakes for dinner the next night.
We also tried our hand at some other egg dishes, but the main focus of the day was the French omelet and poached eggs. We poached eggs to make eggs benedict, which means we had to make Hollandaise again. We each had to make our own Hollandaise sauce. We groaned in unison, as we still had a disdain for Hollandaise from the hot sauces class. That class had taken away what appreciation I had for that sauce.
During the first Hollandaise experiment, my cooking partner was doing the whisking, so I was somewhat happy to have a shot at making it myself this time. As much as I nearly got sick from all the butter that day, I wanted to make sure I understood how to execute the technique. I came here to learn, after all. The chef gave us a great trick of incorporating air into the egg yolks prior to heating over the double boiler. This worked very well and resulted in a a lighter, more velvety sauce.
When we tried our composed dish, I was reminded that Hollandaise can be good. It is meant to be paired with food, not eaten on its own with a spoon. This sauce works very well with benedicts. This is such a classic brunch dish. I was missing brunch culture in DC and enjoying it with my friends.
Breakfast is not just about eggs. Of course, we had to make some pancakes. What would a good brunch be without a little (or a lot) of carbs to fill up your stomach. We made classic buttermilk pancakes, as well as German apple pancakes (aka Dutch baby pancakes).
I have made Dutch baby pancakes before in a few varieties, including apple, but the ones we made on Monday were next level. I was so pleased with my team’s pancake that I just had to pose with it.
Breakfast day was a lot of fun. When my DC friends come to visit, I can treat them to a gourmet brunch at home, since Boston is still catching onto the brunch trend.
Tuesday was another pastry day. We made custards and meringues. On the menu was: creme brûlée, panna cotta, chocolate mousse, and pavlovas.
Creme brûlée is such a treat, though it is so rich and creamy that I only want it every so often. It was so cool that we got to make it. This is something I probably never would have attempted at home before, mostly because I don’t have the proper equipment. We used vanilla bean to flavor our custards, which added so extra pizazz to this creamy custard.
The process is relatively simple, but the finished product is divine. We even got to use the blow torch to brûlée our custard. This was my first time ever using a blow torch. We were a little trigger shy, so our brûlée was nowhere near as full as the chef’s. Using the blow torch was intimidating because it felt like the flame was so high and hot that we were going to ruin the dish. Learning all of this and mastering it is going to take time. I would say we did great for our first shot at the dish.
We made then made a version of panna cotta with some cream, but also coconut milk and coconut cream. Traditional panna cotta is made with just cream. This dessert is so light and creamy, making it one of my favorite desserts. I used to be so afraid of making custards, but I see myself making some more custards in the future, especially panna cotta. We served it with fresh fruit macerated with a raspberry sauce, but this can be adapted year round using seasonal fruits. I may still have a few of these individual panna cottas in my fridge.
This dish made me wonder if this could be made with just the coconut products, making it vegan. Of course, you’d have to use some vegan gelatin substitute, but this may be a good experiment to conduct.
The chocolate mousse was probably my favorite dish of the day. Not only is it made of chocolate, but it has brewed coffee in it. This gives the mousse a distinct coffee taste, but it also enhances the flavor of the chocolate. Plus, this mousse is so light, creamy, and airy. It is a chocolate/coffee lovers dream. I must make this for my dad.
Finally, we made pavlovas. These meringues, which originated in New Zealand, are like toasty marshmallows. My group’s oven was giving us grief, so ours were not as pillowy as the chef’s, but I am glad to have had the experience. You can even visually tell a huge difference between the chef’s (lower left) and ours (lower right).
We served the pavlovas with homemade whipped cream and more of the fresh berries. Yet, I enjoyed them perfectly on their own. I absolutely want to try making these again soon.
I absolutely loved custards day. These were some of the best treats I have ever made. However, we took a dramatic change in course and went from creamy desserts to two days of the meat sweats. Now, I love meat…really, I love it so much. We ate so much meat, though, that we all felt gross at the end of each day.
We truly learned so much about meat production, butchery, and cooking from Chef Michael over these two days. We even got some helpful charts for understanding meat cuts.
Over the course of these two days, Chef Michael made a number of dishes for us to try, including: 7-bone steak, roasted leg of lamb, roasted pork loin, and deep fried salt and pepper short ribs.
My favorites were the lamb and short ribs. Lamb has long been my favorite meat. I don’t rarely attempt to cook it, but I enjoy eating it. In my mind, there is little better in this world than a perfectly cooked piece of lamb, and I have had many in my life. Chef Michael’s lamb so perfectly seasoned and tender. It was one of the first dishes we tried on day one. I could have easily ate just a plate of that meat, but I showed restraint and just took a bunch of leftovers home.
What I loved about the fried short ribs was that it reminded me of a dish that could be found at my favorite Szechuan restaurant, Q by Peter Chang in Bethesda. It is so good that I have written about it twice on the blog. The short ribs were crispy from the fryer, but they also have such intense flavor from the massive amount of salt and pepper. Again, this is a dish that I could have devoured a heaping pile. I forgot to snag a picture beforehand, but this is what was left after our tasting. I am still in disbelief of the fact that we are training with these amazing chefs and are getting to see them in action.
We (the students) also took a stab at making several meat dishes: red wine pot roast, braised pork shanks with parsnip puree and roasted vegetables, pork chops, steaks, and Korean short ribs. I have such a newfound appreciation for meat cookery. A great deal of effort went into these dishes to get them just right. I learned so much technique that is going to help me with my every day cooking.
Week three has come and gone. We made and ate so much good food, I won’t have to go shopping for awhile. There are some really exciting things coming up for the week ahead, so I hope you’ll stay tuned!