Culinary Arts Program – Week 9

What an exciting but tiring week in the Culinary Arts kitchen! I had a number of first time experiences. (Warning: there are a couple photos of dead, skinned animals below.)

My first new experience was during butchering day. Never have I had the chance to butcher an entire animal. I was expecting to be freaked out, but when they brought out the lamb, I thought it was kind of cool. Sure, the head area is a strange sight, because the shape of the face is so in tact, but I got passed that quickly.

We all took turns using the saw to break the lamb into its primal cuts. We made slightly different primal cuts than usually occur in butcher shops, because we wanted to maintain the rack to get as many chops as possible.

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We all took parts of the primal cuts and worked to debone them. It seemed we were all enjoying removing the flesh from this lamb’s bones. I worked on one of the shoulders. After removing the bones, I got to practice trussing. We didn’t actually cook the shoulder this way, because we were going to cube it for later in the week. We did actually cook out lamb chops (which we trimmed ourselves). Chef Kevin O’Donnell (one of our core instructors) was back to teach us about butchery. He also cooked up some of the meat we butchered, like the super tender neck muscle.

I was so happy that we had a lamb for butchery day. Lamb is my favorite meat. There is not much I love more in this world than a perfectly cooked piece of lamb. I definitely got some wonderful lamb treats on Monday. What I also love is how we are going to use the entire animal. We used some of the meat this week for Restaurant Day. We are also going to be using the rest of the animal next week for our Charcuterie class. The bones will be used for a lamb stock. This animal died to feed us, so we want to treat its body with respect and use every bit of the animal.

On Tuesday, we took a dramatic turn from butchery, as it was cakes day. If anyone knows me, then you probably know how much I love making cakes. I feel so passionate about cake baking. Cake makes people happy. I love making cakes for people and providing the vessel for those happy feelings. I’ve written a few posts about the cakes I’ve made over the past year or so.

Most home bakers primarily make cakes using the creaming method (where you cream butter and sugar, then add eggs, and then your dry ingredients and milk in stages). If someone has ever made a cake from scratch, they probably used that method. When done correctly, you can produce a very tender cake this way. However, it is not the only way to make a cake. I was not aware of how many ways there were to make cakes until I started watching a bunch of baking competitions. Still, I had never tried any of those other cake baking methods…until this week.

We made a roulade cake using the sponge method. We filled the roulade with coffee pastry cream. This pastry cream was my favorite of all the pastry creams we have made in class. Sponge cakes are light in texture, but they are very dry. That is why they are brushed with flavored simple syrups. We could have used to brush more syrup on the cake, but overall I was pleased with our cake. This is one of the potential desserts for the final, so I was glad to see the technique.

We also made two other cake desserts. We made financiers, a classic French dessert. These pistachio mini cakes originate from the Parisian financial district. The browned butter in this dessert give these cakes so much flavor and moisture. I was so impressed with our final product for this dessert. We also made an apple cider donut cake. This cake did was made with the creaming method. We made these wonderfully tender cakes with a tasty cinnamon sugar topping that gave this cake a feeling that you are eating an apple cider donut.

I loved cakes day so much. I felt amazing getting to make cakes with Chef Janine Sciarappa, our core pastry instructor. I got to pick her brain for advice on my cake making. I cannot wait to take what I learned and apply it to my cakes!

Wednesday and Thursday were then focused on Restaurant Day. This is an even where Boston University MET employees can come to our building for a three course meal prepared by the Culinary Arts students. We were led by our chief culinary instructor, Chef Chris Douglass. He created a menu full of fall appropriate dishes.

The day is broken into two day, so we can have a day to do prep work. Since we have a small class, each person was responsible for a different dish. I was assigned the salad lyonnaise. This is a classic French salad with frisee, lardons (bacon), croutons, and a poached egg on top. The poached egg does contribute to the dressing, but the frisee is also dressed with a vinaigrette.

On prep day, I had to wash all my lettuce, make my dressing, and cut my croutons and lardons. I expected my jobs wouldn’t take that long, but I underestimated how long it would take me to wash the lettuce. There was so much dirt in the heads of frisee. I had a sink full of water for washing, which ended up with a pile of dirt at the bottom. I am aware that this took me longer to do than it should have. I was being so meticulous about my lettuce washing. No one was going to have a dirty salad on my behalf.

I was happy to take ownership of my dish. I wanted every element to be just right. However, while I was washing lettuce, I missed much of the action going on with the other dishes. I did get to partake in making the seafood sausage though. This was my first experience using sausage casing and a sausage stuffer. This seafood sausage was a unique dish. I have never seen a seafood sausage before. It was fun to make though.

With a long day of prep done, we were in the kitchen at 8:00 the next day for prep before service. I helped with a few tasks, then I made my croutons and lardons. I also pre-poached my eggs using an induction burner. I poached over 30 eggs and then held them in an ice bath. This meant that when it came time for service, all the components of my dish were done.

During lunch service, all I had to do was take a portion of bacon and re-crisp it in the oven. While the bacon was in the oven, I would dress my frisee with the vinaigrette I made. Then, I popped one of my poached eggs back into the water to reheat for about a minute. To plate, I laid down the dressed frisee and topped it with the croutons, lardons, and finally the poached egg.

I was super proud of my dish. It may seem simple, but there was a lot of work that went into this salad from the lettuce washing down to the plating of the poached egg. I loved getting practice poaching eggs. I got some comments from our patrons about how much they loved my poached eggs. Someone even came back to the kitchen and told me that my eggs were perfectly poached. That made me feel really good. This experience was exhausting. I was running on little sleep and had been running around the kitchen trying to keep my head on straight. It felt so good to have a great finished product.

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Everyone did such a good job with their dishes. We had some very happy customers leaving the BU kitchen. This was such a satisfying day. When we were all done with service, we put our dishes together for family meal, served family style. Family meal was fun. We got to try a bit of everybody’s dishes and enjoy our hard work together.

This was a tiring and rewarding week. We felt more bonded as a team than ever before. We even went out for a celebratory drink after service. We have a rockstar class, and I love spending every day with these people. I can’t believe we only have five more weeks together.

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