Goals: My goals for this week are to not get sick and not fall behind. I’m going to work on being faster and more organized.
Expectations: I expect this week to be even harder. Things are getting busier and busier. If I don’t start working faster, I’m going to fall behind. Soups sound a lot more complicated.
Reflection of Experiences:
Friday was a hard day. We worked on Espagnole and Tomato sauce. I felt like I was behind the whole day, and I didn’t even get to finish my onion cuts. I also had some trouble with my espagnole. I didn’t caramelize the vegetables enough, didn’t cook the roux well, and didn’t cook the tomato puree enough. The tomato sauce went pretty well, but I felt like time was against me, so it was kind of stressful. Even though the day had some bumps, it was still a good day. I could have come an hour earlier to finish my vegetable cuts, but I needed the sleep. I made it to Friday without getting sick, so that’s the most important thing. Today a bunch of people were missing, so the kitchen felt a little empty, and cleanup was harder. It’s hard to see people miss class. Hopefully all of us can make it through the rest of the class.
Tuesday was a “slow” day, according to Chef, but it was good for me because I had a chance to catch up. I finally finished my vegetable cuts. I think I’m getting faster, but I need more practice. Then, we worked on Hollandaise. I don’t understand who thought this sauce was a good idea. It’s hard to make, breaks spontaneously, has such specific temperature requirements, and doesn’t taste that great. If it tasted great, I would understand more I think. Maybe everyone else thinks it tastes great. Anyway, the hardest part is whisking the eggs and water over the double boiler. It’s really difficult to do that figure-8 motion. Eventually, I whipped it enough, and then my arms got a serious workout stirring the mixture as I added the clarified butter. Then, just as I finished seasoning, Chef told us to put our sauces away. I tried to keep it in a warm place, but by the time I got back to it, the bottom had cooled too much. I showed Chef, and he added some warm water to it. Amazingly, it came back to life. I guess that gives me hope that this is isn’t an impossible sauce. After that we worked on French Onion Soup. I made sure to pay attention to the caramelization step after last week’s Espagnole, and it paid off. The soup was delicious and had nice color and flavor. It’s nice to do something right and then eat it.
Wednesday was a tiring day. We worked on Cuban Black Bean Soup, Split Pea Soup, and Lentil Ragout, one right after another. I don’t feel like I fell behind today, but the whole time it felt very busy. I wanted to take a short break to drink some soup, but I didn’t want to fall behind, so I just kept going. My split pea soup was initially under-reduced and my lentil ragout was over reduced because it sat around for a while. I simmered my split pea soup longer, and I added some water to the lentil ragout; they turned out okay after those fixes. It’s tricky getting things to the right reduction. I’ve never had a lentil ragout, so that was new; it tasted pretty good. At the end of the day I was tired and hungry. I hope I can work faster on Thursday so I can enjoy a nice bowl of clam chowder.
Thursday was really busy. It’s hard to get the timing right when we’re working on three soups in one day. I was trying to start my New England Clam Chowder before finishing my consommé, but the consommé was done earlier, so I had to take care of that or else it would over-reduce. Then, for the prep, I tried to consolidate prep for common ingredients, but you also have to consider which recipe is being made first. There’s a tricky balance between getting one recipe on first and trying to prep for multiple recipes. Anyway, I was just glad that I finished my three soups in time and didn’t make any major errors. My station got pretty messy though, so I want to keep it cleaner. I don’t like having a messy station. I didn’t have much time to enjoy the clam chowder, but at least I managed to eat a few bites in between all the cooking.
I really enjoyed making the French Onion Soup. I got really good caramelization on it, and that was nice because caramelization is something I’ve been trying to work on. I also enjoyed the smells of this soup a lot. Mostly, I really enjoyed eating it. It felt good to eat something delicious that I made.
Another positive experience was not falling behind on Wednesday. Wednesday was really busy, but I was more organized and faster in gathering and prepping everything. I made sure to check things off as I went and tried to pick up several things in one trip. I think those things helped me in not falling behind like I did last Friday. I felt more in control and less frenzied. I’m glad I made it through the day and finished the three soups.
On Friday, my Espagnole and demi glaze didn’t come out well because I didn’t caramelize well and didn’t cook the roux well. I was bummed out about that because it wasn’t the first time we’d caramelized or cooked roux. Those steps are really important in developing the flavor and achieving the right thickness in the final product.
On Wednesday, When I took my split pea soup up, I thought it was good, but Chef didn’t even need to taste it to know it was not reduced enough. It’s a good lesson to pay more attention to the consistency and appearance of the final product, because my memory for that kind of thing is not that good. I’m going to try to take more notes about that and see if that helps.
Of the things that I learned this week, I am best prepared to demonstrate to someone else? (list in bullet form)
-French Onion Soup
-Cuban Black Bean Soup
-New England Clam Chowder
-Manhattan Clam Chowder
What feedback did I receive from my instructor and how did I use the information to improve my performance?
When we made the split pea soup and lentil ragout, Chef told me the reductions were wrong, so I had to fix them. The split pea I put back on the heat to reduce more so it would be thicker. The lentil ragout I had to add water to because it was too thick. Those changes brought them to the correct consistencies. I’ll try to remember that in the future when my reductions aren’t correct. On Thursday, my reductions seemed better, but it’s still hard to tell how much to reduce things. Chef said we can mark the pan with a pen, so next time I’ll try that. That’s especially a good idea for soups where we scrape the sides of the pan, because then the original liquid level line gets scraped away, and it can be hard to remember where it originally was.