Culinary Arts Program – Weeks 7 & 8

I have been so very busy the last couple of weeks. I am trying to keep up with school, work, and taking some time to build a new routine. So, I am doing a brief summary of what happened over the past couple weeks at culinary arts school.

Week seven started off with flavors class, taught by Chef Kevin O’Donnell, who taught us the pasta class. Chef Kevin had us prepare a few dishes that truly exemplify the concept of flavor profiles.

We made a scrumptious chicken mole. Many of my classmates found the sauce to be too spicy, but I loved it. This was not the most traditional mole. We braised the chicken for about an hour and then blended our sauce. Mole is typically developed over a long time with some ingredients we did not use. Regardless, this was a flavorful sauce, and I couldn’t get enough. I took my extra sauce home and ate it over vegetables.

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We also made a salsa verde rice to eat with the chicken. The rice had a combination of herbs that brought another dimension to this composed dish. We also sprinkled cotija cheese over the dish for a final pop. I was enamored by this dish.

Finally, we made a rather scientific chocolate mouse. This mousse has two ingredients: chocolate and water. You have to handle the ingredients just right to get the desired consistency; otherwise, you have either chocolate soup or a lump of grainy seized chocolate. Oh, and the chocolate mousse and I got in a huge fight. I would say the chocolate won based on the look of my apron.

 

 

After flavors class, we spent two days continuing to talk about flavor profiles while we worked with vegetables under the instruction of Chef Jody Adams. We had vegetables in every corner of the kitchen. Tuesday was mostly a prep day, though we did present individualized eggplant dishes and a shaved vegetable salad.

 

 

By the end of Wednesday, we had so many vegetable dishes to eat. We kept piling more food on the presentation table. I never imagined I’d be so full from vegetables.

 

 

The dish I was most excited to prepare on vegetable day was the lasagna. Our lasagna had bechamel, squash puree, parsnip puree, sautéed mushrooms with creme fraiche, braised leeks, parmesan cheese, and freshly made pasta sheets. After pasta class, I really wanted to make a lasagna with handmade pasta, and I got my chance. This lasagna is perfect for fall and perfectly satisfied my lasagna craving.

 

 

I got my fill of vegetables, so we moved onto to sustainability day. We had a fascinating conversation about sustainable food systems. This is a subject that I hope to explore even further in my graduate classes, but this was a good chance to discuss how this concept intercepts with the culinary arts world.

Chef Michael Leviton was leading this class, and he had three dishes to highlight sustainability. We made beer battered dogfish with green papaya salad, peppered peanuts and a jalapeno curry tartare sauce. We also made a carrot salad (with carrots prepared three ways) and a mussel seaweed soup.

 

That was the end of another week, the halfway mark in the program. Week 8 then brought some more fun times and also some struggles.

Monday was pate a choux day. I was looking forward to this day since I signed up for this class. Choux pastry was something that I was too afraid to tackle on my own. I was shocked to find out how easy pate a choux is! I had so much fun, as we made profiteroles, savory pate choux, and even a roulade cake from pate a choux.

 

This was our first time making pastry cream. We made a vanilla bean pastry cream with gelatin and a chocolate pastry cream without gelatin. I absolutely loved the vanilla pastry cream, which went perfectly in the profiteroles. Our first attempt at choux pastry went so well!

Tuesday was a rough day for me. We had technique review. I made some decent finished plates, but I was not pleased with my sauce work. I had a few mishaps in the kitchen that pulled me off my game. The good thing is that this is still practice, so I have time to work out the kinks. I just need to get out of my own head.

Then, we had a fun day filled with fish. A graduate of the program, who runs a wholesale fish market, came to the kitchen with boxes upon boxes of seafood. Max even made us some delicious New England fish chowder for lunch.

Throughout the day, we were tasked with preparing various seafood. We made crudo plates, which included some bluefin tuna. We cooked a variety of fish and were given the freedom to do what we want with them. This was my first time working with certain fish, like monkfish and skate. With our skate wing filet, my teammate and I made a fish omelet with brown butter sauce. It was so good! I also had my first experience with cooking lobster. It was an awesome day.

Last, but certainly not least, we had bread day! What a way to end the past couple of weeks. Bread day was on Halloween, and we made some seasonal bread, like rosemary pumpkin dinner rolls. These rolls were so good that I immediately knew I must make them for Thanksgiving.

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We also got to work with French bread dough, which the chef had made ahead of time due to time constraints. The fermented dough looked like a big spider web, perfect for Halloween. We turned this into baguettes and pain d’Epi. We also folded some bacon and thyme into the French bread dough to make fougasse.

Finally, we made chewy New York bagels. Never had I imagined that I would be making bagels, but here I am with homemade bagels that taste like I walked straight out of a bakery. This was one of those moments where I am so amazed by what we are learning to do.

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Well, with a bunch of bread stocked in my freezer, week 8 came to a close, and so does my briefish summary of the past two weeks. I plan to have a regular summary of week nine this coming weekend. Stay tuned!

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