I arrived early and right away I was put to work making a warm potato salad. I honestly wasn’t too excited to start off because I really don’t like potato salad. I think it’s because of two things: I’m not a fan of cold, savory salads, and I’m definitely not a fan of mayonnaise. I was willing to try this recipe, but still skeptical. In the beginning of the process, one of my classmates helped me out. They put all the ingredients in the pot that needed to be boiled while I cut the potatoes. In the pot needed to be some vinegar. Not just any vinegar though – white wine vinegar. I saw this student ask one of my instructors a question, then right after grabbed the vinegar – I assumed the question was about the vinegar and didn’t question when they just brought over the “regular” distilled vinegar. Well, it turns out that I definitely should have stopped them from doing that. When we tasted my end product, it was super harsh because of the vinegar. We put some sugar on it to make it better, but then it was time for me to learn my lesson! My instructor had me get 2 little cups and taste the difference between the two vinegars. White wine vinegar is a lot more mild and sweet – which would have been perfect for the salad. Let me tell you: plain vinegar is DISGUSTING. Never do it.
Then we were given the assignment to make our own dish – anything we wanted, but it had to include carrots. The carrots were straight from the garden, so they were a bit sweeter than normal carrots. I didn’t have as much time as everyone else because I was still working on the potato salad. Because my time was short, and I didn’t have time to look up any inspiration, I had to just make something up. Stir fry. That’s the first thing that came to my mind, so I did it.
I went through the fridge and pantry and found all of the vegetables that might work. It could have been better if I had some of the more unique veggies (like mini corn on the cobs, or water chestnuts), but I worked with what I had just fine. I used carrots, broccoli, red peppers, sugar snap peas, zucchini, and cabbage. I put on the veggies a spicy asian sauce that I found in the fridge, as well as some sesame seeds and red pepper flakes.
We gathered together and tasted and talked about each others carrot dishes. Other students made: carrot cake, roasted carrots, a cold raisin and carrot salad, and a cold pasta salad with carrots. I really (really!) liked my dish quite a bit. A couple people said that it was a bit too spicy, but I thought it was perfect. I also really enjoyed the roasted carrots. The pasta dish was OK, but could have been a bit more seasoned, and the raisin and carrot salad I didn’t really like at all (that might just be me though).
The only thing that I did really wrong was that I had my timeline off. We were asked to have the dishes done by 10:45. At one point I heard 10:30, so I started to hurry. Well, I finished at 10:20, and the finish time really was 10:45. I had more than 20 minutes before my dish was to be served, so I definitely missed the peak time. Otherwise I think my dish was great.
Today we had two goals: make french bread, and make a mirepoix (a base for a soup made of carrots, celery, and onions). The french bread we did in stages throughout the day because it had to rest multiple times. The biggest thing that I learned from this is what dough should really feel like as opposed to the bread dough that I make at home. I frequently make homemade bread, but my dough is always super tough compared to the dough I felt here, so that certainly needs to be fixed. I am likely adding too much flour.
We also had to make THREE pounds of mirepoix. Now…three pounds of veggies isn’t too much, but when you have to cut them into a small dice (1/4″ cubes), it’s a lot! It took me a very long time to cut them all up (probably too long) because I was being a perfectionist. My results did look really good though. My instructor told me that I would improve and get faster over time.
French fries. I hate french fries. I think that once I became old enough to become a logical, analytical human being, and I knew what french fries actually were, I stopped liking them. I’m definitely not a huge fan of anything that is fried. Except maybe doughnuts, but I feel like those don’t count. I hate biting into something and hearing/feeling the crunch when it’s fried. Yeah, I know I’m not normal… but I feel like it’s a good thing (health wise) that I don’t like it…
Anyway, today we were given the assignment to make some french fries. We were told the dimensions and the amount, but we weren’t told how to cook them. I was a little worried because the only experience that I have frying something is when I helped my dad this last Super Bowl fry the chicken wings. I really didn’t know anything.
I looked up on the internet how to do them, and I found some legit looking instructions that I thought sounded good. They said to rinse the cut fries in cold water until the water runs clear. Then, refrigerate for 30 minutes, fry for 6-8 minutes, refrigerate another 15 minutes, and finalize by frying another 1-2 minutes. I tried this, and just had to shorten my refrigeration times a bit because I didn’t have an hour to make my fries.
Well, they turned out brown! I didn’t know why since I followed the instructions! My instructor said that it was because they were cold when I cooked them. Um. Hello! That website I read was totally wrong!! I was so irked! Oh well. So, I had to cut up just one more potato and try it again. I was told to rinse them in hot water and then fry them. This time though I was too scared of making them brown, so I didn’t cook them all the way. They were super firm and not fry-like at all. Failure both time! Sheesh.
We also had to make a sauce to serve with our fries. Well, if I were to ever actually maybe eat a fry, I would put it in ketchup if anything. But putting ketchup in a dish isn’t legit for culinary school! I decided to make a fancied up fry sauce – since I know that fry sauce is popular. I mixed together some ketchup, mayonnaise, some pickle relish, and some sweet and spicy seasoning. I don’t like fry sauce, but this sauce was GOOD! It was definitely the favorite too, so I was proud of that! Bad fries + good sauce.
Today we were given the assignment to cook some pearl onions. We weren’t told how to do it – we had to figure out how. I read up on it and they seemed pretty simple: first, cut off the ends of the onions, then put them in boiling water for 30 seconds. Next, take a paring knife and take off the outside layer or two of skin. That’s it! That was all really simple and I didn’t have any problems at all with that part.
But honestly. Who wants to eat their pearl onions plain!? Maybe it’s a thing, but I’m definitely not on that bandwagon.
So I tried to make them yummier. I found a recipe online for creamed pearl onions. It sounded really (really) good, so I gave it a shot. I followed the recipe to a T, but oh my goodness…it was one of the most intense dishes I have ever had. There was too much salt, too much garlic, and too much of a flavor overload. If I were to do this again, I would do a combination of two thing: not reduce the cream so much, and not season it as much.
Next, we were told about our “Friday Challenge” that we would be having tomorrow. We were to prepare soft boiled eggs, fresh potato hashbrowns, toast, a garnish, and a drink. Two identical plates were to be served at 10:45.
Sounds easy, right?? Yeah…no.
For the rest of the day we were left to practice anything we needed to for tomorrow.
I chose to just practice my eggs. Soft boiled eggs are similar to the more well-known hard boiled eggs, but the yolk is still liquid. Solid whites, liquid yolk. Okay – got this.
I read online how to do it, and most websites recommended a 3 minute cooking time using a light simmer. Test egg one: cracked upon entering the pot. Test egg two: warm liquid everything.
I’m starting to get the idea that not everything I read online is right. It’s just so hard to tell!!
Next egg I tried 3 minutes but with a rolling boil. Test egg three: (warmer) liquid everything.
So then I thought that I would try 3 min 30 sec (since what I read said that a 4 minute egg would produce a more solid yolk). Test egg four: mostly liquid, but more solid around the shell.
I was determined to get this. Next try: a 5 minute egg. I thought this would for sure start to hard boil it. Test egg five: perfect! However, I totally butchered the egg when I opened it since I didn’t think it would work! So, test egg six: cooked perfectly and opened perfectly! I guess five minutes was they key.
Today –> challenge day! I was thinking about it all night last night. The hard part about this challenge is that everything has to be done at the same time, and they are all items that can’t be cooked ahead. I was pretty nervous. Yeah, yeah…I do this at home all the time (it’s called cooking dinner every night), but I think it was just all the pressure I was under to perform perfectly that made me so nervous.
The very first thing that I did was create a timeline:
I left myself 10 minutes of buffer space between finishing and serving just because I knew that something would take longer than planned and the plating time would be pushed back anyway. I just really didn’t want to serve late!
On my timeline I listed every single thing that I needed to do – including such things as “find toaster”. That seems silly, but when you’re new to a kitchen, you don’t have time to search for the toaster 3 minutes before serving time. I had a lot of things that needed to be done, but not at a specific time (such as grate potatoes), so that’s what I spent the couple of hours doing before cooking time.
One of our requirements was to create a drink. Orange juice is my favorite breakfast drink, but there weren’t any oranges available to juice. I found some frozen OJ concentrate in the freezer later, but I figured that would be a quick way out, so I didn’t use it. Instead, I used my favorite fruits to create a smoothie. I found some beautiful raspberries and blackberries in the freezer, perfectly ready for a smoothie! I could spend my summers eating just those two berries and die totally happy. I also found some strawberries and added those in so it wouldn’t be so tart. I blended the smoothie with those ingredients, as well as some of the yogurt we had made the previous day, some milk, and some sugar. It turned out nearly perfect! My instructor suggested that I make it not as thick since it went with a meal, but otherwise it was good.
I started my hash brown process pretty early. I just shredded them by hand since there weren’t too many. Then I rinsed them multiple times to get all the starch off. Next I laid them out to dry a bit – no one likes soggy hashbrowns. I then mixed the dry hashbrowns with some parmesan cheese, garlic, salt and pepper. Come cooking time, I majorly screwed up. First mistake = cast iron pan. Second mistake = too much oil. Third mistake = high heat. The high heat on the pan, with all of the oil and the melting cheese (fourth mistake = mixing in the cheese in the beginning) created a burning mess. I started realizing this in the middle of cooking time, and tried to keep all the burning to one side of the pan, and hasbrowns to the other. This was probably the best thing I could have done to salvage them at this point. They still turned out pretty soggy with oil, and with a hint of burning taste. Oh well….lesson(s) learned.
My eggs turned out fabulous cooking wise – they were cooked just right (hallelujah!). My mistake with the eggs comes with the creation of my timeline. I cooked them too early, so by the time they were served they were just warm (almost cool). I should have cooked my eggs very last.
My toast had no problems. I just cooked it in a toaster and then cut it into strips. The toast was the very last thing I did, because I wanted it to stay crispy, but I should have done it before the eggs.
I ended up following my timeline pretty well. There was no single thing that took me longer like I thought, but rather, everything took me just a couple more minutes than planned, so I ended up at the correct time anyway.
My finished plate, I thought, looked really good. The idea was to dip the toast strips into the runny yolk. I also really liked the tomato garnish because it served not only as a garnish, but as a tasty part of the meal.
One thing that went wrong though is that there were no spoons set at the table. While I was doing things in the kitchen earlier, one of my classmates set the table and told us to not worry about it…so I didn’t. Well, lesson learned a second time this week (first time was with the vinegar): double check what others do for you, or else it may not be right. I should have checked the table settings for everything I needed, but I didn’t.
Here are some photos of my classmates dishes:
The day after, my husband and I had some guest over for dinner, and I decided to make a pretty fancy dinner for it. There were four different elements that needed to be cooked for this dinner, and all I could do was think about a timeline! I didn’t actually draw one out, but I was definitely more conscious of the time that I have ever been before!
Today we learned how to use the broiler (it’s similar to a BBQ grill), and how to do a tournee cut.
We cut some potatoes into 1/2″ planks to grill on the broiler. The tricky thing about the broiler for me was the hot spots/cool spots. Some of my potatoes cooked faster than others. Part of the exercise was to get the diamond grill marks on the potatoes. I feel like I did pretty well with this, but could have been better. I was on a hot spot on the grill, so I flipped my potatoes relatively fast. If I would have been on a cooler spot, I think that my potatoes would have cooked more evenly, with better lines, even though it would take a bit longer.
We learned a tournee cut, which is a seven sided cut that resembles a football. We practiced this on a whole box of potatoes.
The actual cutting of this wasn’t hard to me, but what was really hard though was getting consistent sized potatoes. I ended up with some super small ones and some pretty big ones. I will definitely need to practice my consistency more.
Near the end of cutting my potatoes, I started feeling kind of sick to my stomach. I thought it wasn’t too bad, and I would just endure through it, but it started getting A LOT worse. I had to leave to go home half way through class. Remember how I live half an hour away? Yeah. Today that was the longest drive of my life! And let’s just say that I barely made it home in time. Sorry if that was TMI. So much for St. Patrick’s Day fun.
I hope that I will be able to go back tomorrow! Not because I’m scared of missing something and having to make it up but I’m scared of missing something that I want/need to learn! Wish me well!