Thursday, July 30, 2009

and another set of skills

I haven't had time to write in a while, though there hasn't been a shortage of exciting things happening. This week we started back at the Culinary and my third skills class, which is the first production kitchen we start in. While in the other two skills classes we learned the foundations of cooking and made 1-2 portions of each recipe, this is the first kitchen where we make around 40 portions of all the menu items in teams of 4-5 for lunch service at 11am. This means my day starts at 5 when I wake up and have tons of coffee, and am in the kitchen by 6:15 prepping for the day. 

We just finished up day 3, and I finally faced my fear today. While I am a good enough cook, I have never worked for a long period of time on the hot line of a kitchen. These are the stations that cook the dishes to order, typically having 5 or 6 saute pans cooking at once, making plates. The speed of this has always scared me and prevented me from trying it. I got thrown on the saute today and while the beginning was a little rough, once I got going it was such a rush. Before I knew it, I looked up and lunch service was over. For a long time, I sort of idolized the cooks on the saute station for their sheer speed and never thought I could do it. It is very stressful but rewarding at the end of service.

It was hard to get back into the school mindset after such a relaxing and fun break, but I think I am at full steam ahead. Though our chef takes the cooking and everything else quite seriously, he doesn't rule by intimidation and seems to enjoy teaching us. I can tell I will learn a lot from him. Some of my skills 2 classmates got split up into the other skills 3 class which doesn't have as much foot traffic as our kitchen (we usually sell out in 20-30 mins). And we lost 3 members on our team so we were down to 4 people doing the same amount as the groups with 7. I think both of these restrictions will only help me learn to be more efficient and be able to see more in each of the stations. 

Tomorrow we're making sauteed chicken supreme breasts with fresh pasta, veggies, and fines herbes sauce. It should be a good day. :-D

Monday, July 13, 2009

persian parties

As I have been on vacation, nothing quite newsworthy has happened, though maybe since I am home, I just have less time to take pictures of it all. 

Last night, one of my aunts from Iran finally got a visa to come to the US. It was great news after years of trying (its impossible for anyone to visit from there) so we had a huge party to celebrate, and had tons of family and food. I had a great time playing with some adorable kids and watching my aunt reunite with family that she hadnt seen (in some case for over 20 years.)

Just a few light appetizers since we were having an early dinner (8 is early for us...)

A staple at any mehmooni (party) is lots of tea:

One of my aunts is superstitious, so we burned some esfand, the smoke is said to ward off bad spirits:

I guess it had been a long day, my cousins daughter Skyler got a bit tired:

Some of the dishes at dinner, whole salmon (as I was cutting it I was teaching one of my friends about the adipose fin that lets you identify it as salmon/trout family :)

Koobideh Chicken Kabob:

This is an Iranian rice that is sweet with orange peel, carrots, and currants which is eaten with chicken kabob:
White rice is a must, with some of it mixed with saffron on top:

Here is the whole table:

And onto dessert, I made a few fruit platters:

Persians love their fruit cake, so my sister picked this one up:

Some type of mocha cake:
I made this traditional Iranian ice cream with rosewater, saffron, and pistachios

Bon appetit

Saturday, July 4, 2009

monkey bread

Last night my mom and I made banana chocolate chip monkey bread. our baker counterparts made this dough by hand, but since I'm not baking inclined, I bought the mix for my mom as a souvenir. So here we are making the dough, rolling the balls in sugar, and baking it off.

We needed a comforting breakfast today, so I made a garden omelet/frittata, filled with tons of herbs & veggies.

Here's the monkey bread dough mix:

Making tablespoon sized balls and rolling it in brown sugar:

Press all the sugar coated balls into a baking dish

Baked and ready to go

And the eggs from today:

Friday, July 3, 2009

free and easy down the road i go

I woke up around 5 this morning, not with an alarm, but because I have become so accustomed to that wake up call. I got packed and headed out for my 6 hour drive back to virginia for a week or so for part of my summer break. It won't really be a break as I will spend it prepping for externship, the practical exam, and skills 3, but I will focus more on those during the last 2 weeks. I'm going back to NY early so I can focus my energy on the future. 

The drive was supposed to be very congested and lengthy since it was the day before fourth of july, and though it was fairly crowded, everything went according to schedule and I was back home before I knew it.

This is the pretty scenery of the drive through upstate New York:

The first state I drove through was New Jersey... a loong drive:

Then I went through Delaware from the Delaware Memorial Bridge:

Then through the tunnel and into Baltimore, Maryland:

And finally Virginia!! (aww I miss that Great Falls Village sign):

Thursday, July 2, 2009

skills 2 completeee

Another set of skills down. Today was the last day of Skills 2, so we had our knife skills practical, written exam, and costing exam, along with our regular lesson for the day. It was also the last day of the semester, so now we have 3 weeks of summer break, and it should prove to be an amazing one :-D

On the lesson plan today was beef tenderloin medallions with chasseur sauce, broccoli rabe, potatoes au gratin, and onion rings. It was pretty simple today, and my speed in plate up and coordination is getting better, which is important since starting in Skills 3, we actually sell plates of food to people. And our Skills 3 chef is known to be a hardass, for a lack of better word, so we need to be on our A game at all times.

Here is Chef's demo plate:

Here are my trays for knife skills and production today:

We sliced our potatoes on a mandolin, very sharp edges that cut my thumb nicely, but did give me some evenly sliced potatoes. Here they are simmering in heavy cream and milk for a few minutes before being layered with cheese to go into the oven.

Here it is all layered & topped with cheese, ready to go into the oven

Here is my broccoli rabe. We boil it for a few minutes in water, then, as shown here, shock it in ice to stop it from cooking and to keep the color. 

After that and when its time for plate up, I sauteed it with some olive oil, shallots, garlic, and red pepper flakes

Here is the sauce, made in the saute pan I sauteed the beef tenderloin in. It has shallots, garlic, then is deglazed with some white wine, mushrooms, and demi glace (one of the derivatives of the mother sauces made from brown veal stock)
Here is the making of our beer batter for the onion rings.. first you need beer
Mixed into flour with egg yolk and baking powder

Then we whisk the egg white that we separated to stiff peaks (that means when you flip the bowl over it doesnt spill out) and fold it into the batter to make it lighter.

Here is my completed (with a perfect score!) plate

I'll miss K4 (kitchen 4), and am excited to move upstairs to K9 in three weeks!

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

steak frites

We practiced our knife skills practical today and then went on to make grilled steak, veggies, and french fries. What was funny is that the potatoes we cut for our knife skills were what we fried up, perfectly squared ends and all uniform. I doubt anyone in the industry actually makes perfectly squared french fries that don't utilize the entire potato. My camera was running out of battery, so I didn't have that many pictures.

Here is my tray:

The demo wasn't too exciting today, but here is Chef making compound butter for the top of the steaks:

Grilling the veggies for provencal style grilled vegetables:

Roasting the bell peppers to get the skin off:

After they were roasted and grilled, we diced them up and reheated them through with some provencal herbs (thyme, rosemary, and basil) and finished with a touch of balsamic vinegar:

To make the fries, we first blanched them in a lower degree oil until they looked like this, then fried them again to make them super crispy:

Here is my steak marinating in some olive oil, rosemary, thyme, garlic and crushed peppercorns:

We grilled our steaks to medium rare, which was nerve wracking for me because you can never quite tell how hot the grill is, and I was striving for perfect cross hatch grill marks. Here is my final plate, the steak grilled to medium rare, topped with compound butter, and served with french fries and grilled vegetables provencal style.