Saturday, June 21, 2014

What we learned in culinary school this week - Week 23 (The End)

Monday's review was a bit different than the previous ones. Instead of having to make specific dishes, we were given trays with various types of produce, plus a protein to work with. We got different ingredients to work with and had to come up with our own dishes.

For my protein I got Italian Bronzino, which I love. It's small enough to work with easily and I was happy with my results.

Such a pretty fish.

Grilled Bronzino with Salsa Verde.


Tuesday we covered Jam and Canning with Jessica Koslow of Sqirl. A few things I learned:

The lids of canning jars should not be reused due to a loss of suction that could allow mold into subsequent jars of jam. Jars last fifteen months in the pantry and a year in the fridge once opened. If you're using spices in your jam toast them first to get the essential oils. And use a satchel - herbs and dried spices can turn brown when cooked.

I'm not really a jam person, partly again because I don't need to can my produce, but it was an interesting procedure. It was a lot of work, especially if you're doing it on your own. Loved Jessica's big copper jam pot, which reminds me - for canning you don't really use the usual kitchen tools, so if you're getting into this there's going to be a certain investment needed up front.

We got Sqirl jars.

Wednesday Chef did something really different. She had brought in a bunch of packages of varying size, all wrapped in brown paper, none of which we could even begin to guess at what they were. Once we started opening them, we really got a surprise. Unlike the uniformly high quality ingredients we're used to using, these "ingredients" ran the gamut from junk food (a package of hot dogs, a bag of Cool Ranch Doritos) to just plain bizarre - a pack of gum, a package of Hidden Valley Ranch Dressing mix and a small packet of red pepper flakes like you get with pizza deliveries...and that last one is the one I ended up with. Then we were turned loose with the same idea as Monday, except we had to incorporate our "mystery ingredients" into our three courses of dishes. Some of the results were absolutely amazing. Here's what I managed with my red pepper flakes:

My tray.

Greens with Red Pepper Goat Cheese and Vinaigrette.

Red Pepper and Pineapple Stuffed Pork Tenderloin
with Roasted Radishes.

Hot Chocolate Pudding.

Thursday we were rewarded with a mystery field trip. We didn't know where we were going, we were just told to dress comfortably and bring cash. This is where we ended up:

This place is in San Gabriel at the corner of Valley Boulevard and Del Mar. And at the risk of sounding culturally insensitive, it was freaking insane.

Actually, at first it was pretty cool. The cleavers in a box at a child's eye-level should have been a red flag. I just thought some of the signs were hilarious.

And who wouldn't want a good swordfish drink to wash down the sherded coconut?

Chef was leading us around and finally announced we were headed for the seafood section. I was stoked. It started well enough.

Then we got to the tanks. Which were crowded and filthy. And the turtles. Yes, turtles. Live ones, in a box.

We have a big pond at my apartment complex, with koi and turtles. The turtles at my apartment have no idea how good they have it. I wanted to grab these guys and run away with them and turn them loose at home with our resident turtles. Not sure how the management company would feel about that.

After shopping Chef took us to lunch at a nearby Vietnamese restaurant. We had fun, the food was great, and I had a Tiger Beer. Hadn't had one before and I'm not much of a beer person, but I liked it and would have it again.

Friday we graduated and that's for another post. We didn't really want to leave, and I've enjoyed having the weekly schedule/ structure after being off work for so long.

Even though we were assured that

it sure felt like the end of an amazing and wonderfully exhausting journey. But hey, we got another cake out of the deal, so win. And in the words of the master, "Bon Appetit!"

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