intermediate cookery: salad and pasta station

this module i’m taking intermediate cookery with chef eddie. we get to work at the 220 grille, which is open for lunch from 11-1 on tuesdays through fridays. it’s very different from fundamentals because we work in teams, prep for service, and make things as customers order them. the first couple weeks we learned the recipes and did some practice. this week was our first week of service, and my team was on the salad and pasta station. i learned a lot and had a lot of fun. every week we rotate to a different station.

salads is probably the easiest station. this week we just had two salads, watercress salad for the steak sandwich, and paninis. station setup:

1. Chicken Salad with Mustard Vinaigrette (rotisserie chicken with napa cabbage, baby romaine lettuce, snow peas, red grape tomato, English cucumber, pine nuts, oranges, garnished with toasted sesame seeds) – a yummy salad. the dressing has a little bit of pickled ginger – secret ingredient! one time i forgot to put in the chicken so now i will never hear the end of it… haha all in good fun.

2. Mesclun Greens with Pomegranate Vinaigrette (served with granny smith apples, toasted spicy sweet pecans, blue cheese, english cucumber and yellow grape tomato) – now it’s served with whole leaves of various lettuces grown on Maui (red oak, green oak, red leaf, green leaf, etc.). another yummy salad.

3. watercress salad for steak sandwich. this is a delicious sandwich. very good with the watercress salad.

4. Roasted Vegetable Panini Sandwich on Focaccia Bread fire roasted zucchini, yellow squash, eggplant, red bell peppers, sweet Maui Onions with smoked mozzarella cheese, sweet basil, and Asian Pesto – this is also delicious. i really like all the roasted vegetables in this one. i kind of want a panini machine now.

the pasta station is a lot busier. it covers the two pastas, risotto, and the snapper. during the practice week i messed up a few of the dishes, but i learned what i was doing wrong and did a better job during service. i also got some good tips on flipping things in the pan from one of my teammates, so i’ve been working on that and getting a lot better at it. the hardest thing is keeping all the orders straight. our team is still working on that. setup for the past side:

setup for the risotto/snapper side:

1. Wild Mushroom Pasta honshimeji mushrooms, cremini mushroom, shiitake mushrooms, broccolini with garlic butter, white wine, parmesan cheese served  on a bed of fettuccine noodles served with focaccia garlic cheese bread – the key to this pasta is lots of garlic butter. it needs a lot because the mushroom absorb a bunch, and you want enough so the noodles look kinda creamy. this pasta is growing on me. quite yummy. pictured is basil, but that was replaced by broccolini. very popular dish. bread not pictured.

2. Mini Penne Pasta with Italian Sausage and Mint sauteed with hon shimeji mushroom, roasted red bell pepper, garlic, capers, and parmesan cheese served with focaccia garlic cheese bread – i’ve never had mint in a pasta, so that is kind of different. pretty good, but not my favorite.

3. Risotto with Wild Mushrooms and Bay Scallops Scallops sauteed with hon shemiji, cremini, and shiitake mushrooms, sweet basil leaves served with Spicy tomato broth – very good with the three types of mushrooms, scallops, and spicy marinara sauce. we pre-cook a big batch of the risotto, and then cook the rest to order. quite a popular dish.

4. Red Snapper  7 oz. snapper fillet braised with green onion ginger oil and miso vinaigrette, baby bok choy, shiitake mushrooms and roasted corn stir fry and steamed white rice – my personal favorite dish. everything in it is delicious and works well together; i also like that it comes with some vegetables.

next week we are helping in the cafeteria, so we won’t get to work at 220 grille. but the week after is dessert station!

boeuf bourguignon

MISE EN PLACE:
Rubber mat
Cutting board
Pie tins
Saucepot
Saucepan
Rubber spatula
Round mesh strainer
Tongs

INGREDIENTS:
Bacon, batonnet cut
Olive oil
Lean stewing beef, tri tip beef, cut into 2” cubes
Carrots, medium in size, oblique cut
Onions, 1” dice
Garlic
Kosher salt
White pepper
Flour
Red wine
Brown Stock or beef Bouillon
Tomato Paste
Thyme leaves, fresh
Cilantro
Bay leaf
Pearl onions, small
Truffle salt

Step 1: This is a long recipe, and there’s a long time needed to cook the beef in the oven. So, first focus on getting everything ready to get the beef in the oven; work on the garnish (pearl onions and mushrooms) afterwards. If you don’t have fresh spices, you can substitute dry spices in a sachet.

Preheat the oven to 450 F.

Boil enough water to blanch the bacon. Add in the bacon when the water is at a full boil. Let it cook for a couple minutes, and then strain it. You may want to pat the bacon dry so it doesn’t have too much water.

Step 2: Find a saucepot that will be large enough to hold all the ingredients. Heat it with enough oil to cover the bottom of the pan. Pat the beef dry with paper towels. If the beef is wet, it will splatter a lot and may steam instead of searing. The oil shouldn’t be smoking. Test the heat by putting in the tip of a piece of beef. It should sizzle. Add the beef in a single layer with space between the pieces so they don’t steam. Don’t move the beef until it has browned well. Use your tongs to check on the brownness of the beef. Once it reaches a dark brown color, shake the pan and use your tongs to move the beef around so the other sides can also be browned. Remove the nicely browned seared beef. If the pan has a lot of fond on the bottom, you may want to deglaze so it doesn’t burn when you sear the rest of the beef. After deglazing, add some more oil and repeat the same process until all the beef has been seared. Deglaze at the end.

beef1

Step 3: Add the bacon to the saucepot and heat it up. If your bacon is not very fatty, add some oil. Watch the heat and cook until “breakfast brown and crisp.” Put the bacon on the side, and keep the bacon fat in the pan.

Step 4: Add the carrots and onion to the hot bacon fat. Move the pan, stir occasionally, and monitor the heat. You want to get deep caramelization on the vegetables. Once the onions and carrots are nicely caramelized, add in the garlic and sauté for 30-60 seconds. Remove the vegetables.

Step 5: Turn off the heat. Add the seared beef to the pan. Sprinkle in the salt and pepper. Mix the meat with your spatula to distribute the seasonings. Then, add the flour in, and mix that in with the meat. If the meat still looks wet, you can add some more flour and mix it in. Put the pot in the oven for 4-5 minutes. This will cook the roux. Take the pot out of the oven, toss the meat around again with your spatula, and put it in for another 4-5 minutes. The roux should brown, so if you still smell raw flour, put it back in the oven. Lower the oven temperature to 325 F.

roux

Step 6: Heat the saucepot over low-medium heat. Stir in the cilantro, tomato paste, crisped bacon, wine, and beef stock. Bring the mixture to a boil, then shut the heat off. Add in the vegetables from step 4 and stir them in. Cover tightly with tin foil. Make sure to crimp all around the edges so not too much moisture will escape as it cooks in the oven. Place into the oven. Braise for 2-3 hours. Let it cook for at least an hour, then take it out, stir it, and check on the meat. At the end, a plastic spoon should glide through it, and the meat should tear apart easily.

oven

Step 7: While the beef cooks, prepare the pearl onions and mushrooms. Boil some salted water, enough to cover the onions. Use your paring knife to take off the root and stem ends of the onions. Once the water is boiling, add the onions. Boil them until you see the skins starting to pop off. Strain the onions and rinse with cold water until they are cool enough to handle with your hands. Pop the onions out of their skins by squeezing one end of the onion. Heat some oil in a sauté pan. Test the heat by putting in one onion to see if it sizzles and browns right away. Add in the onions and sauté them until they are lightly browned. Move the pan and your spatula. Sprinkle on a little sugar to get nicer color. Lightly season with truffle salt. Remove the onions.

pearl onions

Step 8: Right before you are ready to cook, wash the mushrooms in bowl with salt water. Use your hands to scoop out the mushrooms. Repeat the washing until the leftover water is mostly clear. Put the mushrooms in a towel to dry them before searing. Heat a sauté pan, and put enough oil to coat the bottom of the pan. Test the heat using one mushroom to see if it sizzles. Add the mushrooms in a single layer. Don’t move them. Use your tongs to check on the browning. Once they are very brown on one side, shake the pan and you’re your spatula to stir them around to get browning on the other sides. Lightly season with truffle salt. Remove the mushrooms once they are nice and brown from the searing. Repeat the process for the rest of your mushrooms. Remember to only put in a single layer of mushrooms each time.

mushrooms

Step 9: Once the beef is done cooking, put the pan on the stove and heat it up to temperature. Adjust the heat so it is at a slow simmer. Use a ladle to skim off any excess fat. If the sauce is thin, let it reduce until it thickens to the desired consistency. The sauce should lightly coat the beef. Taste the sauce. Adjust the seasoning as necessary. Take out the sachet if you have one.

If the garnishes have cooled, you’ll need to re-heat them in a sauté pan. Add enough oil to coat the bottom of the pan, and quickly re-heat the garnishes without overcooking them. Normally these are served on top of the Boeuf Bourguignon. Sometimes they are mixed into the stew itself.

mix

final

Reflection: Most of the components and steps of this recipe were not new to us, but the recipe seemed hard because there were so many parts and it was hard to plan and time things well. Also, there wasn’t a demo, so we were trying to follow the written instructions from the website, but Chef said we could sear the beef first before we caramelized the vegetables, so that changed the timeline. Meanwhile, we were also working on the Navarin of lamb. It was just a really hectic day, and it was easy to get a little confused on which recipe we were prepping for, what needed to get done first, and things like that. I think if we did this again, it would go a lot smoother because I’d have a better idea of what the dependencies are and how long the various steps take. I didn’t really have time to taste this dish much except the sauce. It had a nice sweetness from the carrots. I think I will have to make this again just so I can sit down and eat it. One good thing was my searing on the beef came out pretty well today.

fundamentals of cookery: week 8 reflection

Goals: It’s the last week of class. I just need to survive a few more days of class and the final. I’m tired, but hopefully I can finish strong and not bomb the final.

Expectations: I think Ho’okipa will be fun, but breakfast will be hard. I already saw how hard poaching eggs was last week. Also, the final is going to be hard. I think it’ll be hard to balance doing a good job on vegetable cuts and everything else with time management.

Reflection of Experiences:
Friday was Ho’okipa. It was an easy and fun day. We had already prepped the day before, so a lot of the time we just relaxed and watched other students work. We had some team drama trying to decide on a plan for the night, but in the end things worked out, and we were all able to work together. Making the lobster cups wasn’t hard. It seems like most people liked the dish. Talking to the guests wasn’t my favorite part, but it went pretty well. Some cups went missing and re-appeared later, which threw us off a little, so some cups were missing ingredients. Overall, things went well and people were happy with the lobster.

Tuesday was a pretty hard day. I had to poach eggs again, which took me several more tries. Poaching seems simple, but I have a lot of trouble with it. After almost ten eggs, I finally got it right. Then, we worked on potato pancakes. I didn’t add enough oil, so a lot of them had little pockets where they didn’t brown. It’s hard getting the right amount of oil. Too little and you get those pockets. Too much and they soak up too much oil or get deep fried. Then we switched to doing fish again. It was actually a lot easier this second time to clean and fillet the fish. I had some trouble on one side of the fillet, but the other one came out pretty well. I almost sautéed the fish fillet on the wrong side, but I flipped it over early on, and it ended up being okay. I think I was on my way to burning the brown butter sauce, but Chef said to quickly take it off the heat and swirl a lot. It ended up being just right. Finally, we did hash browns and home fries. My first hash brown fell apart when I flipped it. My first home fries almost burned. Luckily, the second batches came out pretty well, but I should have moved the home fries around more.

Wednesday was another hard day. We cooked a lot of eggs – scrambled, fried, omelettes. The scrambled eggs and omelettes went pretty well for me, but I had a really hard time working on sunny side up and over easy. I just could not get those right. Either I undercooked the eggs or they were crispy; sometimes the yolks spontaneously broke; a few yolks broke when I tried to flip. It was pretty rough. I left those all to the end, but I couldn’t finish because I was having so much trouble with them. We also worked on pancakes and French toast. I had some issues with heat on both of them, but we made several batches, so some came out well. The pancakes were nice and fluffy with even browning since we used the griddle. It was a very busy day with some successes and many failed eggs. Being a breakfast cook must be really hard.

Thursday was the first day of the final. Overall, things went a lot better than I thought they would. Some things went slower, some faster, and I had to adjust my plan, but I finished a good amount of items and maintained a high enough level of quality. The day started off kind of rough; I was having some trouble trussing the chicken, and then I had to switch chickens because the skin didn’t cover the breast, so that ended up taking a lot longer than I planned. Then, after the chicken was done roasting, I was going to carve it up, but Chef said it was too hot so I had to let it rest longer. Then I realized I should do my pan gravy today, so I worked on that after I finished cutting the onions, celery, and carrots. Pan gravy was one of my favorite recipes, so I was glad to have that as a mystery competency. I was planning on de-boning the other chicken tomorrow, but it was already in my fridge, so I decided to work on that before the end of the day. I got it done in just under ten minutes, which was kind of surprising since last time it took 18 minutes. The plan was very helpful in getting organized and staying focused. What a relief to be done with half the final.

Positive Experiences:

Ho’okipa was a positive experience. We got to go to an event, work in teams, talk to guests, and have a new experience. It was a relaxing day, and we got to have some more fun. We also got to see all the prep involved in coming up with the recipe, portioning ingredients, and packing things for transport to the event.

The first day of the final ended up being a positive experience. I hit some setbacks and had to change my plan, but I worked through it, stayed focused, and had a good day. I had a lot of worries about the final, so it was nice that my plan went pretty well, and there were no disasters.

Humbling Moments:
Poaching eggs was humbling because it took two days and ten eggs. I had a ton of trouble with those eggs. It was a real struggle to get that right. Then, the sunny side up, over easy, over medium, and over hard eggs were even harder. In the end, I only could finish sunny side up. Eggs seem simple to cook, but they’re actually really hard to get right. It’ll take a ton more practice for me to start getting them right.

Of the things that I learned this week, I am best prepared to demonstrate to someone else? (list in bullet form)
-Fish, sauté
-Brown butter sauce
-Hash browns
-Home fries
-Pancakes
-French toast
-Scrambled eggs
-Omelette

What feedback did I receive from my instructor and how did I use the information to improve my performance?
Chef said I had inconsistent cuts a couple weeks ago, so for the final, I made sure to get better consistency. I went slower, but I think it paid off because the cuts came out a lot better and I got all the points.

Chef gave a lot of feedback on all my botched eggs. I learned a lot about what not to do, but I need more practice to improve my execution. No crispy edges, no raw whites, not too much oil, keep the pan moving, no brown spots, no exposed yolk.

fundamentals of cookery: week 7 reflection

Goals: My goals are to not get sick and survive another week of class. I’d like to be more focused too.

Expectations: I think it will be another tough week – finishing salads, Hookipa prep, and breakfast. I heard breakfast is a hard module.

Reflection of Experiences:
Friday was another busy day. We finished up meats – grilled flank steak – and made American potato salad, German potato salad, and whipped potatoes. There was a lot to do, and Chef kept telling us we didn’t have time to be slow, so it was kind of a stressful day. I didn’t cook my bacon enough, so I had raw bacon in my German potato salad. We made the whipped potatoes with a China cap, which I haven’t seen before, and they came out nice and fluffy. My steak went pretty well, and I got better grill marks today; last time when we grilled chicken, it had really weak grill marks. The steak tasted really good with the whipped potatoes. It was a really busy day, and I almost didn’t have time to grill the steak. After class, Chef said we were slow today and need to get it together. It was kind of a rough week, and I was really tired by the end of the day.

Tuesday we worked on sunomono, creamy coleslaw, salad dressing, and mixed greens. I was kind of worried at the start of the day because last week Chef said we’d only have two hours to finish the two salads. It actually wasn’t that bad since I had julienne carrot sleeves from last week. Some of my carrots ended up too big though. Sometimes I still forget the dimensions for julienne. I should do some more practice on that before the final. When I was making mayonnaise for my coleslaw, my emulsion broke, but I was able to bring it back by starting a new bowl with some water. I still don’t like making these emulsions, but I think I’m getting a little faster at least. The coleslaw was really good actually. Most of the coleslaws I’ve eaten in the past have been soggy with too much dressing. The greens from Maui looked and tasted really good. Next time I will look for those at Costco. Overall, today was an easier day.

On Wednesday, we worked on breakfast meats and some prep for Hookipa. The breakfast meats cooked very quickly in the oven. The main danger was burning, which is what happened to my bacon the first time. You have to really keep an eye on the meats since they cook so quickly. The browning looked nice and tasted good. For Hookipa, first we candied the macadamia nuts on the stove with some sugar and a dash of cayenne and cinnamon. It’s neat seeing sugar melt and brown. The nuts had a real nice flavor. We also boiled the lobsters and chopped up the meat. We had to kill one lobster, which wasn’t that bad. The first cut was straight through his head, so hopefully he didn’t have much pain. It was kind of messy getting all the meat out because of the lobster juices and guts. We also worked on prep for the dressing. I had some trouble with my onion brunoise. It’s hard making such a small cut. The layers of the onion start shifting sometimes. Anyway, it was a pretty busy and tiring day. I’m curious to see how the final Hookipa lobster cup will turn out.

On Thursday we spent most of the day prepping for Hookipa. We finished the dressing, sautéed the lobster, skewered the cherries, portioned things, and packed them. The lobster cooked very quickly and went well with the onions, garlic, capers, lemon, and tomatoes. Most of the prep was pretty easy, but there was some confusion about the cherries, so we ended up recounting a lot of them. It seems like tomorrow will be pretty easy since almost everything is already portioned. We got to try the lobster Manhattan we’ll be serving tomorrow. The cherry is quite strong, so it tastes better eaten separate from the lobster. We also worked on Hollandaise and poached eggs. I didn’t successfully complete either of them though. Hollandaise is so time consuming. For my poached eggs, my water did not want to boil; I felt rushed, and it didn’t go well. One of my eggs had some yolk peeking out. I don’t know how that happened. It doesn’t look like the yolk broke. Anyway, I’ll have to redo all those on Tuesday.

Positive Experiences:
Doing all the Hookipa prep was a positive experience. We got to see some of the process of developing the recipe, and it was interesting to prep, portion, and pack everything for the event. It’s very different from just cooking something and serving it right away. We also got to taste and use a lot of local ingredients. Tasting lobster is always good. I also learned how to candy nuts. Those would make a delicious snack.

Cooking lobster was another positive experience. I love lobster, but I’ve never cooked it. We got to kill one, boil them, remove the meat, and sauté them. I’ll be ready to cook lobster when I can afford to buy it.

Humbling Moments:

My German potato salad had good flavor, but Chef found some raw bacon. Bacon is hard to cook. You have to get it crispy, but it burns pretty easily. One wrong step, and the dish is ruined! The potatoes have to be cooked to the right doneness, the sauce has to be reduced to the right level, things need to be chopped the correct size, and the bacon has to be crispy. It was disappointing because we’ve cooked bacon a bunch of times. I enjoy recipes with bacon, so I’ll continue to work on cooking it properly.

Of the things that I learned this week, I am best prepared to demonstrate to someone else? (list in bullet form)
-American potato salad
-Whipped potatoes
-Sunomono
-Creamy coleslaw
-French dressing
-Lobster, boiled
-Lobster, sautéed
-Breakfast meats
-Hard cooked egg

What feedback did I receive from my instructor and how did I use the information to improve my performance?
Chef has said a few of my recent vegetable cuts have been inconsistent, so I’ve been trying to pay more attention to getting the right size. I spent a while on my brunoise cut for the onion for Hookipa, and it went a lot better. I was slow though, so I need more practice to get faster without sacrificing too much accuracy and consistency.