Monday, July 21, 2008

Les Menus for the week of July 19, 2008

Our first full week of cooking and the Saturday before (the 12th)... I GOT TO DO MY FIRST ASSISTING PROJECT AT THE FRENCH EMBASSY FOR BASTILLE DAY! First the food, then the embassy.

Le Menu for July 15, 2008

This is the one I got to serve. I don't eat runny eggs so I made mine fully cooked. Bryan laughed because one green bean is out of place in the shot. NEXT TIME!!! I can now make a mean Hollandaise sauce though. There have been two exciting thing about taking this course I hadn't exactly expected. Well, take that back. One I did, the other I didn't. My list of foods I like is growing. I'd never had quiche until we made it that first week. And now I'm a huge fan of the stuff. I'd never tasted Hollandaise sauce until I made it for the Eggs Benedict and think it's marvelous now. Still not getting down the runny eggs but that's fine by me. The other thing I've discovered is that there are so many things I can do for myself in the kitchen, the lost art of cooking, that I wish I could show everyone what they're missing.


This little bugger is going to be on my first exam and I have to get it right. It's a dough called PATE A CHOU where the issue is the amount of eggs to put in. It's not the same every time. It depends on the wind, the moon the stars, and a good eye to know when the dough has had enough. Too much and you get a runny dough that wont pipe correctly. These above are pretty darn good but I made them too small so they're more gumball size than jawbreaker size. They're thin filled with my old friend... pastry cream. Not bad but still not right.

Le Menu for July 16, 2008

I can roast a chicken with the best of them now! OK, maybe not the best but I can do it all by myself and with great results. I can also make a very good rice pilaf just don't go by the giant mound shown on this plate as to how it should be plated. I was serving to someone who really likes rice and requested a larger serving than originally called for. Worked for me since I love rice too and made a huge helping on my plate (this one) as well. I under estimated the amount of spinach to cook which I shouldn't have since I cook Swiss chard at home and it shrinks in a similar fashion. I gave the proper amount to my "customer" so I only ended up with the little amount here. And yes, this is my plate since it's got the drops of sauce and out of place rice on it. Can't serve a messy plate, now can I? =)



OK, this is the best one of the bunch and I'm not going to blame anyone on the results. I can't tell if I did something wrong or the oven we used was at the wrong temperature. The little holes you see along the edge are from bubbles made while the custard was cooking. It cooked too fast rather than nice and slow. I'm not a fan of this dessert but I will make it again for practice purposes.

Le Menu for July 17, 2008
No pictures because I forgot to grab my camera before it got sent out. It looked really, really good and tasted even better. The leg meat from the previous day's chicken, sauteed mushrooms, a sauce made of chicken stock and roux all rolled into savory crepes, covered in more sauce thickened with a bit of cream and topped with Gruyere cheese (my uber-favorite cheese of the moment). This is then all put under the broiler to brown and then... DEVOURED! Though I don't need a crepe pan, maybe I might treat myself to one anyway. That and I definitely want to add some gratin dishes to my arsenal.

No pictures of this dish because I was terribly disappointed in it. I fillet the flounder just fine but I can only think I overcooked it because it completely fell apart while trying to plate it. That and my team never got to making the little potatoes (I'm getting ready to practice those once I finish this post because that particular cut is on the exam) so there really wasn't much to look at.

These are little meringue-like cookies that are delicious. We didn't get to use the prettier molds so they look like little corn muffins at first but they taste delicious. These will definitely be made at home. No pictures because I want them of how they're suppose to look. Just trust me, they're good!

Le Menu for July 18, 2008

OK, ignore the combination of items since I didn't pick the menu. I need to work on folding my omelet in the pan, it's definitely not easy, but it tasted great. Again, I cooked mine completely because I just don't do runny eggs. Making the pasta and the sauce was really amazing and dare I saw... DELICIOUS! Buying pasta in the store will have to do until I get my own pasta machine because this was fabulous. We'll be learning how to incorporate veggies and stuff in it at a later time to get colored pastas. As for the sauce, I need a food mill! Or be content with a chunky sauce. Either way, this was a great experience. Oh, and a neat little thing you can do with your own pasta. When boiling the water, throw in some garlic cloves, thyme, and bay leaves when you add the salt and olive oil. Right before you cook the pasta, skim that stuff out. It will add extra flavor to the pasta and I can't think of anyone who wouldn't want that!



Once again I meet my nemesis, PATE A CHOU. Miscalculated the eggs and ended up with too thin dough. What you see should have been two rings on the bottom (one inner, one outer) topped by a third ring that sat on top between the two bottom ones. Instead, I ended up with a doughnut shaped pastry. Tasted fine, looked all wrong. *sigh* I nailed the pastry cream this time, even had no problem adding in the hazelnut cream. I had a team mate make the whip cream and I should have noticed that it wasn't very thick before I added to my pastry cream. So, the mixture ended up too thin and collapsed during piping. GRRR! More practice on my part. And of course, pastry cream and the PATE A CHOU are on the exam coming up.
As for the French Embassy, it was an intense and amazing night. Before we move on to the third phase of our program, we have to perform at least 3 assisting jobs through the school. These can be benefits that the school is asked to provide help for, in the various recreational classes the school offers, or whatever else the school posts as opportunities we can sign-up for. In this case, the French Embassy has been working with the school for some years and apparently we regularly have a series of cooking demonstrations during their Bastille Day festivities. There were also several local restaurants that provide the buffet meal. I was one of 14 students (between the pastry and culinary programs) that were able to attend the event and assist our chefs in the demo plating and passing out samples, assist the other chefs from the restaurants as needed, and talk to the guest about the food as well as our school. It was an amazing night! I met some fanastic people, got to network with some with the other chefs and guests, and see what it might be like in a catering atmosphere. I enjoyed myself thoroughly. It was a long afternoon and night, but it was worth it.
My next assisting project will be this Saturday where I help one of the chefs in an all day Thai Techniques class. The neat thing about assisting in the recreational classes is that we get to learn while we're working. SWEET!

Les Menus for the week of July 12, 2008

OK, so this week was sort of a full week. Only two days of cooking time because Thursday and Friday were sanitation training. I'm pretty confident I passed the exam meaning I now know what to do to hopefully avoid getting anyone sick and to protect myself from false accusations as well (sad how often that happens). I'll not gross anyone out with all the nasty things that could happen in the kitchen but I will say that there are several smart things one can do in their own home kitchens to protect themselves and their families:

- Keep cold food at 41 degrees or lower, keep hot foods at 135 degrees or higher. In between, you need to start worrying about bacteria and what not getting on your food.

- FIFO: First In, First Out. Don't push old products to the back and put new food stuff in front. Use up the older products first.

- Reject any food stuff that isn't in good condition. Whether while in the store or you're about to use it at home. Dented cans, puffy cans, rusted cans. Smelly food, slimy food, fish with sunken or cloudy eyes, meat that's color has turned, etc...

It's fascinating stuff.

OK, on to the fun stuff... THE FOOD!

Le Menu for July 8, 2008


This is a simply and delicious vegetable soup that has a bit of bacon it in for additional flavor. The only mistake I made was that I forgot to skim the soup before serving so it has oily blobs on it. Could have done a last minute blot but was rushing to get my food out on time. Wont make that mistake again.


Currently my (and Bryan's) favorite soup. This is a leek and potato puree soup that has some cooked julienne vegetables on the bottom as garnish and a little surprise. I made it at home and the only thing I had to change was the fact that I don't have a chinoise... yet! I simply pureed the soup as best I could and did not worry that I couldn't strain it. It was still just as delicious.


It was surprising to learn how many different categories salads fell into: tossed, composed, bound, vegetable, and fruit. Composed, the one above, it exactly as it sounds. A bed of greens with the various elements arranged on top and then the dressing. I made an emulsion dressing of Dijon mustard, lemon juice and olive oil. Once you've made your own salad dressings, you'll never buy from the store again!

Le Menu for July 9, 2008


This one is hard to explain from the picture and I should have taken more angles. The salad is a simple bed of lettuce with oranges and grapefruit wedges on top. The dressing is a vinaigrette using the juice that came from them. In the tomato halves, what is hard to see is a salad of various vegetables we cooked individually to preserve their flavors, then bound in mayonnaise we made ourselves! I so like making my own mayonnaise!

This plate reminds me of something you'd serve at a tea or some other outdoor even where you don't want too much or anything heavy.


Are you drooling? I know I was. This lovely tart made up for the stress I went through trying to make the PATE BRISEE dough (think pie crusts and quiche bottoms). This time we made PATE SUCREE which is a similar dough but sweet. That and I made a fairly good pastry cream. I've since been able to make excellent pastry cream if I do say so myself. I made three of these total. The prettiest one was already taken to a "customer" before I could take a picture.


Let me explain the "customer" comment. It's pretty cool. The food we cook is our lunch, is served to the pastry students 3 of the days I'm in school (their course overlaps ours by one day), the school staff, and anyone who's visiting the school that day. We have to learn to serve it on time, correctly seasoned, plated cleanly, and at the right temperature. The more dramatic plating skills come in phase 2. We're just concentrating on getting food that tastes right out now. We do get feedback from everyone on how the food came out. It becomes more Iron Chef like in phase 2 because we'll get days were we have to turn random ingredients into a meal and area chefs and such will be invited in to taste and critic. EEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEK!

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Les Menus for the week of July 5, 2008

Part of our work at school is to create a "recipe book" based on all the dishes we create at school. We are graded on this book so getting in just right is important. It isn't like a standard cookbook however, most recipes have no measurements and there are no yields. As for the instructions/method, it's very cut down because the assumption is we should be able to, at a glance, know what is expected at certain points. It's actually pretty nifty.

So... here are the menus for the first week of school:

Le Menu July 2, 2008

First day of cooking! We're practicing knife skills so it's onion soup and a crudite plate (chopped raw veggies we dressed with a vinaigrette). It's amazing how easy the soup was to make. It's one of my favorites and I've made it before but it took HOURS. This time, it was quick and delicious and it was mine! My proportions, seasoning determination, everything. YUM!

Le Menu July 3, 2008

This time we made little Quiche Lorraines from scratch, right down to the dough! I had problems with my dough but still finished the meal with it tasting OK. Think a shortbread consistency (TOO FLAKY). I add too much water and let the dough get too warm so the butter was melting on me. I made a whole batch at home over the following weekend, paying more attention to what was going on and TADA! I made wonderful quiche if I say so myself. The hubby and mom were both pleased. We also made two simply salads where the focus was on learning about how certain liquids behave. One dressing was a simply vinaigrette and the other was a mustard based emulsion. Again, paying attention is key but the results are worth it.

All in all, the biggest problem I'm having is timing. 12:30 service (when we serve what we've cooked) comes so quickly! It feels like we have plenty of time and then...

We're learning and they're helping us to understand so I know it's just a matter of time (no pun intended) before we've all got it figured out.

Friday, July 11, 2008

Have Knives And Learning How To Use Them

So what does a chef in training look like?

Don't I just look snappy? We don't wear toques at school. Chef Francois prefers the neckerchief instead. Tying the blasted thing is a learning experience. Like a tie but either with the tails hanging down or tucked in.

It's been an exciting almost two weeks. Last Tuesday was orientation day so we met all the chefs and chef assistants, introduced ourselves to them, had an opening address by Chef Francois (owner of L'Academie de Cuisine), learned all the Do's and Dont's, had a buffet lunch, more discussion on the program, and then... PICKED UP OUR UNIFORMS, BOOKS AND KNIFE KITS! Had to run home and play with everything. =)

We've only been able to cook 4 of the 7 days we've had school so far. Beyond Orientation day, last Friday was a holiday, and yesterday and today were Sanitation training. I now know too much about the good and bad side of what could happen with one's food. *shiver* Finished today by taking an exam so we could get our sanitation certificates to prove when been trained.

I'll try to post weekly from here on in, more often as time allows. I'll be posting twice more to make up for those weekly posts.