Thursday, June 4, 2009

Fine Cooking 1: Week 1

When I arrived for my first session of Fine Cooking I at the Institute for Culinary Education (ICE), I wasn't really sure what to expect; I was just nervous and excited (nothing rare about that though). I made it just in time, slipped into my seat at the long table, applied my name tag and marked my name in my binder.

Soon after Chef Jane launched into the lecture portion of the class... She went over rules and procedures, recommended kitchen implements, food safety and a myriad of other topics before reaching what we would cover in lesson 1: knife skills, blanching and refreshing vegetables, sauteing, theory of protein cooking, simple salads, sauce vinaigrette, compound butters and macerating. The first class has the longest lecture - it was around 2 hours?

Then the 14 of us were divided into 3 groups to cook. The major difference between class at ICE and class at the Bowery Culinary Center is that you cook in teams. You may not get to do each thing in class, although you'll hear about the technique and at least watch someone do it. This confused me at first, but then I realized that is because they follow their model for teaching students to work in kitchens professionally. I had to adjust to the concept but I've found it enjoyable. The menu for Lesson 1 and pictures are below.

Chilled Gazpacho Soup
Spicy Hot Vegetable Soup
My group did the hot soup. I helped dice the veggies. The soup wasn't actually that spicy but it was a good vegetable soup.
Sauteed Lamb Chops with Herb Butter
Sauteed Broccoli
Diced Sauteed Potatoes with Persillade
Every group did all aspects of the main course. I made the compound butter, which was easy enough. You mix room temperature butter with ingredients, then make a log on parchment paper and chill until firm. I also cut a lot of herbs for the butter and persillade (a 50/50 mix of finely minced garlic and parsley). Discovering that sauteing involves using your arm to move the food in the pan rather than using a spatula was a big lesson for me.
Simple Salad with a Vinaigrette
Simple salads involve 3 or less ingredients, so this was easy enough to put together. I didn't personally make the vinaigrette this week but it looked hard. You have to whip together the oil and fats enough to emulsify them together. Most of the prepared vinaigrette's broke (separated).
Macerated Fruit: Sliced Oranges with Grand Marnier, Blueberries with Maple Cream and Strawberries Romanoff with Fresh Whipped Cream
Each group made a recipe. My group was assigned the strawberries and I helped whip the cream by hand! I learned that I needed more endurance in my arm, that each motion with the whisk should hit the side of the bowl and that you need to use a large bowl to ensure the proper volume (if the bowl is too small not enough air will be added). The blueberries were my favorite macerated fruit recipe.

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