Goals: My goals for this week are to make sure to watch all the videos before class, to sleep early, and not fall behind. I’d also like to keep my area cleaner and remember to keep washing everything in between cuts.
Expectations: I expect the coming week to be a lot harder. We’re going to be working on stocks, sauces, and soups, all of which are a lot more complicated than cutting fruits and vegetables. I feel like if I don’t prepare more, I’m going to make a ton of mistakes and fall behind. It’ll be really important to stay on top of everything, both with prepping before class and executing things during class.
Reflection of Experiences:
Friday was pretty hectic. A lot more people came early today, so the kitchen was already humming along when I got in around 6:15. I finished up my parsley and garlic from yesterday; I was glad to finish that before the demo at 7. Then, the onions, celery, and carrot went pretty well. I had to make some corrections pointed out by Chef Leake, but now I have a good idea of how all the cuts need to turn out. Then things got really crazy when the chickens came out. There wasn’t that much time, and I only had watched the trussing video, not the deconstructing one. I’m definitely going to try not to do that again. It was pretty hard remembering all the steps correctly. I didn’t do a good job on the thigh and drumsticks on my first chicken because of that. Anyway, the day was very busy but still a very good day. I’m pretty psyched about learning how to deconstruct the chicken. I will definitely be trying that at home soon.
Tuesday we made chicken stock and veal stock. It was another busy day, with more multi-tasking since we were making both stocks and had to get things cooking so everything would be done in time. The brown stock took more work, since we had to roast the bones, deglaze the pan several times, and caramelize the vegetables. The caramelized vegetables smelled great. Overall, things went well for me, especially since we got to see Ben’s bones correctly roasted and David warned me about burning my tomato puree. Stock making is satisfying. A lot of times, bones just get thrown away, but we were able to draw out the marrow and good flavor to get something that tastes good and can be used to make many other things.
On Wednesday, we spent some time in the herb gardens learning about herbs and how to harvest them. One day I’d like to grow an herb garden. In the kitchen, we worked on thickening water with all-purpose flour, cornstarch, and arrowroot slurries; white, blonde, and brown roux; and vegetable cuts. The first slurry I made had black specks because I didn’t clean my pan well enough. I had to remake that one. That was a good lesson, because it’s a big waste of time and materials if the pan isn’t really clean. I enjoyed making the roux because the aromas are very pleasant. I ended up making my brown roux before the blonde roux because I let it cook too far. It’s neat how you can get such a range of smells from butter and flour. For vegetable cuts, I’m still pretty reliant on my ruler, so I need to work on knowing the measurements better.
On Thursday, we started on sauces – Veloute and Bechamel; we also made Liaison, Monte au Beurre, and Mornay from the Bechamel. It was a very busy day of trying to balance speed and control – heating the milk but not letting it burn, reducing the Veloute and Bechamel without taking the whole day but not letting it burn either, keeping the Liaison, Monte au Beurre, and Mornay warm enough but not too warm, and trying to cut vegetables faster but still have accuracy. Things are starting to get harder, so it’s getting more and more important to stay organized and make sure I gather all the correct ingredients. I also need to start working faster so I don’t fall behind. It feels like things are going to start getting pretty crazy in the kitchen.
This week was a good week for my nose. There were some really good aromas throughout the week, and it was a positive experience learning to identify things by smell, and use my sense of smell as a tool in cooking. First, in the herb garden we got to smell all the herbs. Some of them were new scents to me. Next, when we made stock, the roasted veal bones had that nice roasted smell, and the mirepoix caramelizing smelled delicious. The best day was the day we made roux. It smelled like pie crust, shortbread, nuts, and popcorn, and I was able to tell which roux it was by smell. The roux aromas were also very comforting smells. Then, when we made the sauces, everything just smelled delicious, especially the cheesy Mornay. Normally I don’t use my nose that much in cooking, but now I will be sure to use its powers more.
I thought making stocks was another positive experience. It’s something I enjoyed and would like to learn more about. We learned how to make a white stock and a brown stock, and there are so many possibilities for those if they are made well. Personally, I really like the whole process of slowly simmering bones to extract flavor. I’m not sure why, but I’m very drawn to it.
This week, when I showed Chef my julienned carrots, he said good job, and then he called the whole class over to show us how if you bunch the carrot up and look at the tips, you can see all the imperfections. A bunch of mine were too flat or not square. That was good lesson in being more self critical and more aware of the imperfections. Also, even if chef says good job today, that doesn’t mean you’ve reached the goal. There’s always ways to do better, work faster, and improve. Tomorrow chef will expect even better julienned carrots in half the time! That means more practice and more attention to detail, which isn’t easy.
Another thing that happened was I totally forgot to write the reflection part of my daily reflection. That was just being careless and not paying attention. It was a pretty dumb thing to do. It’s harder to pay attention to everything if you’re tired. I was pretty tired this week. I really need to sleep more and pay attention more. Those are some good goals for next week.
Of the things that I learned this week, I am best prepared to demonstrate to someone else? (list in bullet form)
-white chicken stock
-brown veal stock
-water thickened with slurry
-white, blonde, brown roux
What feedback did I receive from my instructor and how did I use the information to improve my performance?
Chef said my celery cuts were too curvy, so I had to go through and flatten them all with my paring knife. I tried to pay more attention to my vegetable cuts after that. This week we did more celery cuts, so I made sure to work on shaving off the curved parts. I haven’t finished those yet, but hopefully they turn out better than last week.
Chef said my veal stock was over-reduced, so when we made sauces I paid more attention to the liquid level. Today I estimated 1 quart pretty well. I don’t know if that was luck or if I’m improving. Either way, now I know to just measure the liquid if I’m not sure.
Then, when I was making the liaison, chef said my heat was too high. Good thing it didn’t burn. That would have been terrible. Anyway, for the Monte de Beurre and the Mornay, I kept an eye on the flame level. I have to remember to keep it low when there’s milk involved.