Thursday, June 30, 2011

A short break

Tonight was our last night of class until next Wednesday.  Can't say I'm really disappointed, it'll be nice to have the break.  They gave us Saturday off and then Monday, of course, is the 4th of July.  We do have to make up Monday's class, so I will be in school Wednesday, Thursday, Friday and Saturday next week.  That's ok, though.

Our last night before the break was also a break.  We had a Master of Wine come in tonight and do a wine explanation and wine tasting with us.  It's the first of 3 times he will be with us, the last time being a food and wine pairing where we will cook (I think) and then pair it with the wines.  There are only 21 Masters of Wine in the US and he is one of them - he's so interesting.

We were done early, so we cooked and ate some duck confit and had some bread to go with it.  Then we had 1:1's with the chef if we wanted them.  I talked to him about my externship and I think I'm going to look at hotels to extern at, rather than a restaurant.  Since I've worked in corporate America for so long, it seemed like a natural transition for me.  The chef was agreeable to that - he said this area has a lot of really big name chefs in hotels here.  So now the fun starts - looking for a job!

Have a great 4th of July, everyone!  I'll try and get some pictures up of things I cook this weekend.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Duck Gizzards

I'm back!  I'm in my second week of Phase 2 of my classes.  What does this mean?  We're building on the techniques that we learned in Phase 1, making our dishes more refined and elegant and continuing to learn. My Phase 1 exam was challenging (putting it mildly), so it'll be interesting to see what Phase 2 holds.

Also, I have to start looking for an interviewing for externships.  My original plan was to do hotels - a little more structured, but the more I think about it the more I realize that I will never learn in a hotel what I will learn in a fine dining place.  Even if I don't do restaurant after graduation, the experience will be invaluable.  So, I'm sort of starting from scratch, researching chefs, restaurants, etc.  It's been a long time since I applied for a job and having to do a whole new resume highlighting my culinary "experience" was interesting.  Luckily I have my personal chef stuff, although even that is pretty slim.

So, what does this have to do with the title of my post?  Nothing much.  However, in starting to think like restaurant chefs, we are starting to think about using everything in the restaurant - it's called utilization.  So, last week we butchered down ducklings, taking out the offals, the liver, gizzards, etc.  Don't throw them out - they can be used.  The original application that we made was seared duck breast with a sweet and sour sauce.  I think I've mentioned before that I'm not really a fan of duck.  It was ok - a bit chewy for my liking.

Last night then, we did utilization - we made a frisee salad using duck livers and gizzards that had been confited.  To confit is to cook something in it's own fat, so if you're in a French restaurant and get duck confit, you are getting a duck that has been submerged and cooked for several hours in the oven in it's own fat.  A delicacy, I guess.  We cooked the livers and gizzards in duck fat last night and then served them on a salad of frisee, watercress and radishes.  It's then served with a warm vinaigrette.  Not as bad as I thought, but I'd never order it in a restaurant (not that I've even seen it).

I'm sorry I didn't get a picture, but we were rushed at service time, so I didn't think about it.

Til next time!

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

First stretch is almost done

I'm in my final week of Phase 1 of my classes.  Now the fun really begins!!  Class will get harder, I need to start looking for, applying for and interviewing for externships.  How can I look when I'm not really sure what I want to be when I grow up??  The externship advisor talked to us last night and gave us a list of restaurants in the area that we can look at - it's about 12 pages of single-spaced places!  Wow, who knew?

I've been forgetting to take pictures of the dishes that we've made, but I did have a couple from a few weeks ago that I haven't put on.

The first dish we made was braised rabbit.  Yes, you read that right.  Rabbit!  We had to butcher them down, and you really could tell they were rabbits.  A little creepy, but I guess it's really no different than butchering down a chicken.  That's what I told myself.

So, we used the legs for the braise with mushrooms, tomatoes and stock.  It was ok - as I've said before, I wouldn't order it in a restaurant.  We served it on top of polenta.

Along with the rabbit, we also made "brain cake".  Ha!  Not really - it's called Charlotte Royale - made with jelly roll and bavarian cream.  It's done in a bowl, so it's kind of a fun presentation, but it does look like brain cake.  What do you think?

Some non-class pictures coming soon.