Sunday, October 31, 2010

Block 6: Week 2 - Egg and Pasta

I am officially half way done school. Five and a half months over. Already. Time is flying by so fast.

I was on the egg and pasta station this week. It's actually a fun station because we do the a la carte specials. A couple of the dishes served in the cafeteria are actually cooked to order - so the customer will order, someone from the line comes back to the classroom to tell us, and then we prepare the dish and bring it out to the customer. This week, the specials were a spinach and pesto calzone, penne with tomato sauce and chorizo and garlic toast, and a denver omelette. We also make a vegeterian entree, which was eggplant rouleden stuffed with ricotta and sundried tomatoes. Unfortunately, I didn't get to do the a la carte cooking much because I had to work on the cafeteria line to replace someone who was absent. I still had a pretty fun week though.

At the hotel, I was alone on Monday. Working alone isn't much fun. I sliced duck, baked tart shells, seared chicken skewers, and spent the rest of the time making mushroom ravioli. I stayed late to try to finish the ravioli so one of the cooks offered me steak and mashed potatoes for dinner, which was delicious. Thursday started off pretty boring, chopping herbs and peeling potatoes, but towards the end, we helped to plate two banquets. I also got to go to one of the banquets to sauce the plate just before they were served. Pretty fun.

On Saturday, I helped out with a Team Canada fundraising event. I worked with the chef making the appetizers, so I just helped plate the canapes. Afterwards, we were watching the entrees being plating, and I noticed that one plate was being sent out missing the sauce on the ravioli. Bruno Marti was very happy that I caught that, and I think that's why Chef JC later invited me to check out the junior Team Canada fundraising lunch on Tuesday.

The best day this week was Wednesday, walking to Noodle Box, having Starbucks, and hanging out in the park by the Burrard Street bridge.

Next week - meat station.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Block 6: Week 1 - Fish

Block 6 is definitely not my favourite block. We are cooking lunch in the cafeteria, so it is basically the exact same as Block 4, but we make more portions because lunch is a lot busier than dinner. The food just isn't very exciting. The recipes are better than Block 4 though, which is good. Our chef, who we will have for the first two weeks, is pretty nice, and he actually gives me constructive feedback, which I definitely like.

I started off in the fish station. This week, I made poached salmon with white wine sauce and sauteed vegetable julienne, pan fried trout with almonds and brown butter sauce, fish cakes with dijon hollandaise, and fish brochettes with an orange ginger glaze. I was also on the lunch line this week, so I was serving lunch to the customers. I had a lot more fun than when we served at dinner because lunch is so much busier, and I kinda like interacting with all the people.

I miss my group from last block. My new group is definitely not as strong. I'm getting to work with a couple of people I've never worked with before, which is good, but it can be frustrating at times working with people who need their hands held more.

At the hotel, I was alone this week on Thursday. It was busy because they had a couple of banquets that night. I sliced smoked duck breast for a canape, prepared a fruit display, and made rosti potatoes to be used in another canape - it was a rosti sandwich with smoked salmon in the middle, which would later be seared and then served with a creme fraiche. Painstaking to make, and I stayed an hour late to finish them, but they would probably look really good finished, and probably pretty tasty too.

I got to participate in a couple of cool events this week as well. On Monday, I helped out a practice event for the junior culinary Team Canada. Basically, they were practicing plating their dishes and we were there to write out their recipes. I helped out the team preparing the appetizer, and it was an insane dish. So many components. I probably can't even remember them all - a pheasant consomme gel with mushrooms and chervil, ravioli with a lobster cream foam, microgreen salad with prawn and scallop ceviche and citrus vinaigrette, and sous vide pheasant breast and lobster. Pretty crazy. And yesterday, I was asked to help out with a Chaine competition being held at school. It was a young chefs competition, and it was black box. I was only there for the end, when competitors were plating their dishes, and I helped transport the finished dishes to the judges. It was pretty intense, watching them get their plates together in the allotted time, and watching them being judged on their every move in the kitchen. A lot of chefs from different hotels and restaurants were there as judges, which was cool. I learned a lot just being there, even for a short time. They all seemed like very talented young chefs.

Next week - egg and pasta station.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Caramelized Onion and Goat Cheese Ravioli with Mushroom Cream Sauce

I have been wanting to make ravioli since I got the pasta maker a few months ago and I finally made a batch today. I was at a culinary Team Canada practice event on Monday and there was a ravioli component on the appetizer plate, and I found out the recipe was from the French Laundry, so I had to try it myself. The dough was a lot nicer to work with than the one I previously posted. And while I didn't try the old dough with ravioli, it seems pretty tasty. I'm excited to try it with regular pasta noodles like spaghetti to compare.

I filled my ravioli with caramelized onions and goat cheese and ate it with a mushroom cream sauce. Pretty tasty.

Pasta Dough (French Laundry)
From The French Laundry Cookbook by Thomas Keller
Yield: 40 ravioli
Print recipe

8oz flour
6 egg yolks
1 whole egg
1 tbsp milk
1 tbsp olive oil
  1. In a bowl, add the flour and make a well in the center.

  2. Add the egg yolks, egg, milk, and olive oil to the center of the well.

  3. Gently break up the eggs with your fingers.

  4. Begin turning the egg mixture in a circular motion, gradually pulling in flour from the sides of the well. Continue mixing until all the flour has been incorporated and a sticky paste has formed.

  5. Remove dough from bowl and knead on a lightly floured surface until dough is smooth and bounces back slightly when pressed with a finger.

  6. Wrap dough in plastic wrap and refrigerate until ready to use.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Block 5: Week 4 - Breakdown

The four-day week went by pretty fast. Breakdown station is basically like the first week of this Block again, but instead of chef demonstrating, we are actually doing the butchering. Tuesday and Wednesday we worked on the front and hind quarters of the beef. I did the shoulder and the flank. Thursday we butchered the whole veal - I worked on the loin. Friday we cut a pig into the primal cuts, and then we each deboned a pork loin and Frenched some chops. W also bought a whole lamb, so we helped him break it down into the cuts he wanted.

I had a great month. I'm pretty sad to be leaving my group.

At the hotel, I was actually working across the street at the Marriott. Most of the other students working at the hotel have worked at the Marriott and have told me that it is so much better, so I was really looking forward to it. The kitchen is definitely a lot nicer and newer, the team is a lot younger and more energetic, and things just seem a lot more organized. They also gave me a lot of responsibility without a lot of instruction. I peeled 900 asparagus, which was painful, but then I prepped a cauliflower puree and actually got to make a bacon risotto. It was a lot of fun.

Thanksgiving weekend at work was pretty busy, especially Sunday brunch. Saturday and Monday were actually nice and quiet for brunch, but I worked the hockey games both nights. 40 hours of work in one weekend is a bit insane.

A was in Ottawa again this week, but I didn't have much to do after school, so I had some fun evenings out - got stood up from a movie, but went out afterwards, had a yummy burger at Raglan's, and had a few martinis on Friday with people in Block 10.

Next week - Block 6 - lunch in the cafeteria.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Thanksgiving Dinner

The day A was coming home from Ottawa, I spent the afternoon making Thanksgiving dinner. I bought a turkey breast and roasted it in the oven. Made some gravy with the pan drippings. Blanched some asparagus and made cranberry sauce with local organic cranberries. The highlight though was the bacon, sage, and candied cranberry risotto with asiago cheese and homemade chicken stock. Delicious.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Block 5: Week 3 - Fish and Poultry

This was a really fun week, and I learned so much. The whole week, we practiced filleting fish and cutting chicken. Each day, we scaled and filleted a whole salmon. It was cool to see how much we improved from the first day to the last. On Monday, we also broke down whole chickens and we also learned how to debone the chicken without breaking the skin, like for a galantine or turducken. On Tuesday, we worked with trout - we filleted them and also deboned them whole to be stuffed. On Wednesday, we filleted rockfish and sole. Rockfish came in whole, head and guts and all, so it was different from the salmon in that we had to use a J-cut to get around the innards. Sole is actually a pretty gross fish. It's a flat fish, so it already looks ugly, with the two eyes on the top of its head, but the worst part was that it was covered in a thick slime. Filleting it wasn't too bad, but the challenge is not cutting into the guts because it has a pretty foul odour. It was not the most pleasant fish to work with at all. Thursday we didn't do anything new, but on Friday, chef brought in a whole halibut, so we saw how to fillet that. Halibut is a flat fish like sole, so it was exactly the same method, just a lot bigger.

At the hotel this week, on Monday, I helped out with pastry for a bit. Basically, I shaped donuts for a few hours in the pasty shop by myself. I got shown the herb garden, and did some prep for a soup. Thursday was pretty slow. There wasn't too much to do. We made butternut squash soup, and I seared some skewers and made a potato gratin (basically a scalloped potato dish). F was working the line for a bit and somehow managed to get us a steak to share for dinner. Yum.

At Canuck Place, the cook I usually work with was away, so I was there all by myself. It was pretty easy since most of the food was already cooked - I just had to put it out and clean it up. But a couple of people came in with special requests, like a vegetarian, and two kids needed their food ground up. Overall, it was a fun night though. And they were very thankful that I was there to help out, so that made it all worthwhile.

A was in Ottawa this week, which was tiring for me, so I didn't go out much. I did however secure my partner for Block 7 (pastry), so I'm happy I won't get stuck with someone I don't like for the whole month.

Next week - breakdown station.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Block 5: Week 2 - Lamb and Production

I had a fun week. First of all, my group this month is amazing. It's almost the group I would put together if I could pick my own group. Most of the time, we are joking around and laughing. It's great. Slightly less good is that I have been sick for about a week now, probably because I don't have any time to rest and get better. I'm almost back to healthy now though, finally.

This week, we were on the lamb station. So on Monday, we deboned a lamb shoulder and a lamb leg. On Tuesday, we deboned the lamb loin and Frenched a rack of lamb. On Thursday, we took apart the whole lamb just like chef did last week in the demo. It wasn't too hard, so I'm excited to buy large pieces of lamb from the butcher and debone them myself at home now.

My group was also responsible for daily production. So every morning, we took all the leftovers from lunch and dinner the day before in the cafeteria and package them up to be sold in the store. We also packaged any extra meat that we butchered in class that doesn't get used in any other class at school, and we also cook food from the extra meat, such as sausage patties, flank steak roulade, and chicken wings. Chef lets us taste a lot of the things we cook, which is great.

At the hotel this week, the highlights were getting to skin and portion fish on Monday, and then working at the pasta action station at a function on Thursday.

This morning, a couple of people from school and A came by the restaurant for brunch. Matty sent them an appetizer and a couple of desserts on the house. It was fun having them there.

Next week - fish and poultry station.