Friday, March 23, 2012

Food, Flowers and a Big Backyard

Has there ever been a prettier spring? I've been keeping busy and surrounding myself with flowers, plants and food. I made my first window box with some pink, yellow and purple things-which-I-cannot-name. It took all of my courage to place it in the window as our window is at the front of our building on the ground level, next door to, what I'm pretty sure is a chop shop and also serves as the stomping grounds for a group of old ex-gang leaders who spend their days playing very lively games of dominoes.  

Level 2 of culinary school has been a blast with a few week spent making pastries. Guys, I was finally on top of my game. Pate Brisee? Bring it! Pate Sucre? I can make that with my eyes closed. We made quiche, puff pastry, a genoise cake with French buttercream. I ate so much of the buttercream that I made myself sick. The other day of self inflected nausea? Cheese day. We made Ricotta, Mozzarella and then tasted a flight of cheeses. You know how you're supposed to spit out wine at a wine tasting? Well they should recommend the same thing for a cheese tasting. Or at least provide some bread.

The rest of my time has been spent dreaming and planning my backyard. Here it is in all its "before" glory:

Apparently the previous tenants had concerts in the backyard and projected movies onto that white box. Well, the stage is gone and the glass bottle pieces, screws and cigarette butts have been picked up so this space will be a yard once more! If only I can figure out how to garden...

I've got seeds, bulbs, the makings of a raised bed and a sort of plan in my head. Fingers crossed!

Maggie's first taste of the backyard

Thursday, March 1, 2012

What I've learned in 10 weeks of culinary school

A random sampling:

How to turn an artichoke, jardiniere a turnip and julienne a potato

No mandoline involved!

How to make a perfect omelette with a "baveuse" center and NO color whatsoever

That you cannot move from VA to NY in 1.5 days flawlessly (never gonna loose the keys to a Budget truck ever again)

That to properly poach an egg you need 30 ml of vinegar per 1 liter of water and your eggs should be COLD

1 Idaho potato into 8 cocottes

How to filet a fish

How to break down a chicken before and after cooking. ("You will forever take out the wishbone first")

To keep liver and kidneys in milk to extract their.... liquids

Veal kidney
Label your shit

Buy a better pepper grinder/ vegetable peeler/ extra pairing knife

The culinary world is small and everyone knows everyone else

Being helpful pays off

Knowing French didn't help me know what any of this was (but I know now): Oeufs Chimay, Goujonettes de Limande, Court Bouillon, Sauce Grenobloise, Sauce Americaine, Pommes Darphin, Pommes Pont-Neuf, manchonner, a l'etuvee, a l'anglaise...

Pommes Darphin

Get a recipe card holder

It is possible to live off of leftovers and bread from the bread making program

Get bread from the 2nd floor bread making class

The front door is locked on Saturdays

You cannot trust the "L" train on Saturdays

Plan for extra tourists on Broadway on Saturdays

In a pinch, you can get just about any kitchen tool in the basement of Pearl River Market across the street
Practicing the for the Level 1 Final Exam
The coffee at the Starbucks across the street is not very good

Make sure to only present food you are proud of. If something's wrong, fix it before you go up.

At home, salt should be in a salt cellar so you know how much you are using every time you season

Season often

Oil should be in a squeeze bottle

Peel your vegetables and buy a composter

Take home everything they give you and try it again at home

Don't waste anything!

Oeuf en Cocotte by Melanie D. 

Being a chef is one of the few professions where people hand you money and then want to thank you

Crack in a cup is some combination of instant espresso powder, milk and sweetened condensed milk over ice.

All about food safety or as I like to call it: "how to avoid chicken blood cheesecake"

Oeufs Chimay

Salt cuts acidity

Clean stainless steel with white vinegar

Don't snap off the ends of green beans before boiling them as you will loose the flavor

Paupiette de Volaille et Legumes Farcis by Melanie D. 

Preserve tomato paste with a thin layer of olive oil on top

Buy the best produce and loose nothing

The theory for cutting a potato into a chain link (need to try this again!)

A cephalopod is an inverted univalve (Thanks Joe!)

Tonight we start playing with sweets- specifically Les Cremes. I am tres excitee! Let's see if I can touch base again before another 10 weeks slip by.