What Manton Learned at Culinary School Today

Discussion in 'Social Life, Food & Drink, Travel' started by Manton, Jan 4, 2009.

  1. GQgeek

    GQgeek Senior member

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    Yo. What up?

    They raised the security level today. Manton's hiding in his bunker. [​IMG]
     
  2. Manton

    Manton RINO Dubiously Honored

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    The good news: I finally remembered my camera. The bad news: I broke my ceramic honing rod when I accidentally knocked it off my station cleaning up. The not-so-bad news: it only cost $20, so it could be worse.

    Anyway, today was "preserves" day. It was sort of an odd class, one that did not follow obviously from the prior one, as they all have so far. I admit I was not that excited about it.

    But it turned out to be more fun than I thought. Right off the bat, I have to say that the title was mildly misleading. Yes, we learned about preserves. The lecture was devoted to explaining the various methods. But we did not actually make any preserves of any kind. Instead, we made three recipes that used preserves that were already made. Which is just as well. I don't foresee myself making preserves any time soon, if ever. My parents used to have a big party once a year, at which some family and friends would come and they would all jar green peppers all day, then the jars would go in our garage for ... I don't remember how long, but a long time. I really disliked this project and usually found a way to weasel out of it. The day was always preceded by complex negotiations among the participants about how many jars of the finished product each would get. Inventory was taken as if the jars were the warheads counted by the START Treaty. People seemed to think that my dad might be the cause of some "leakage." So all the jars were strictly accounted for. The process was long and brutal, and the worst job by far was peeling a million cloves of garlic (they went into the jars whole but peeled). Well, little we morons knew how easy that could be. You take two metal bows, or two metal pots of equal size, put the cloves in one, cover with the other, and shake, ramming the garlic repeatedly against the interior surfaces. The skin pops right off. Easy. But we did them all by hand, one by one. An FCI education could have spared us that.

    Anyway, Chef X. is big into preserves. He makes a lot of preserves at home, using all the methods, and every type of food. Once again, I benefited from arriving early. Chef spontaneously started to discourse on curing, and then asked, "Do you wanna go see my prosciutto?"

    At this point, it was just me and another student, the manager of a prominent Midtown steakhouse. He is a business guy, not a chef, but since he is in the food business, he wants to get more familiar with the business of cooking. I wish at this point that I had not named Restaurant Guy Restaurant Guy, because in reality there are two. Restaurant Guy is really Line Cook Guy, and the other one is Manager Guy. Anyway, it's too late to change the first name.

    Manager Guy, Chef X. and me went down to a large kitchen on the second floor. As it happens, this was where one of the "Essentials of Fine Cooking," the 8 week classes, was being held. It was a huge kitchen - there must have been 40 stations - and there were a lot of students. We weren't there long, but I felt very fortunate to be in the class I was in. With so many fewer students, and a smaller kitchen all to ourselves, and a teacher of the caliber of Chef X., well, it seemed like a great deal. And I am convinced that it is.

    Anyway, Chef X. led us through the chaos of that class (just beginning) to a closet. The intended purpose of that closet is to house huge tanks of fire retardant liquid that feed the extinguisher nozzles that point down from the ceilings over every station in the school. But there are also pipes in that closet, and from those pipes hang varies items curing.

    "The school, they had a test that called for whole pork - you know, a full pig - and they had these legs left over. They said "˜We don't know what to do with them.' I am from the South of France, near Spain, so I know what to do. I said, "˜Give them to me.' And I make prosciutto. I use a dry rub - salt and spices - and then wrap in a cheese cloth. And hang here."

    "What spices?"

    "Ah, that is a family secret. It has to cure for a long time. 24 months is best. These legs have been here since November, a long way to go."

    And, indeed, there were two pork legs wrapped in cheesecloth hanging from the pipes. Hooves and all.

    "I leave the bone in. Some people, they de-bone before they cure. That makes it much easier to cut later, but it weakens the flavor. I used to do this at home, but this room is perfect. The pipes give off just the right amount of humidity, and the temperature is always 45 degrees. Any colder, and it will not cure; nothing will happen inside the mean. Any warmer and it will rot.

    "After 18 months I will take these home. I save the ash from my fireplace all year. When they are ready, I will put them in a wine barrel and bury them in ash for the last six months."

    "What does that do?"

    "Helps them completely dry out and adds a smoky flavor. You know, prosciutto this good, cured this long, is rare. I can sell one of these legs for six or seven hundred dollars. I won't, though. I will keep some and give the rest to the school and the students."
    Also In the closet were other chefs' prosciutto - already boned, the lazy bastards - and some pancetta. "Pancetta takes much less time, four or six months at most."

    Manager Guy wanted to know if he could use the dry aging locker at his restaurant to cure meats.

    "What's the temperature?"

    "35."

    "No, too cold. Nothing will happen. The meat won't cure."

    Chef brought three jars from home of preserves he had prepared himself. One was green beans, one was tomato sauce, the other was pâtÃ[​IMG]. What he does is, once the food is prepared and jarred, he submerges the jar in a pot of water, brings the water up to 180°, then "cooks" the jar, depending on its size, for 30 to 90 minutes. That kills whatever pathogen might be in there, but also gently depletes the oxygen. Then - he insisted that this is very important - when the cooking time is over, you take the pot off the heat, but you DON'T take the jar out of the pot. You wait for the water to cool. It has to be slow. If you shock the jar with a sudden temperature change, you will not get a perfect seal. To demonstrate the latter, he used one of those jars with a central disk and a threaded rim that are separate. He unscrewed the rim and removed it, leaving only that central disk, held in place only by the vacuum seal He tipped the jar upside down and shook it. Despite having no physical anchor, the disk did not budge.
    "That is a tight, tight seal. It will last forever. There is nothing inside that can react with the food, so it will stay safe. You know, sometimes I see people do this in restaurants, which is good. But then I see them open a jar, and not use all of it, say, a sauce. Now, it will keep in the fridge for maybe three or four days. Longer if you boil it. If you boil a sauce every three days, it will keep for a long time, though of course you always lose a little. But sometimes I see people get lazy. They preserve their sauce, then open it when they need it but they don't use all of it. And they don't boil it. Instead, when they see the mold start to grow at the top, they just scoop that out. When I see that, I can't believe it. When there is mold anywhere the WHOLE THING is contaminated. You cannot serve it. You will make people sick. Seriously."

    I am not going to list all the methods he described. I'd rather just get to the actual work.

    We made three recipes:
    "¢\tPotage St. Germain (a/k/a split pea soup; using dried preserved peas)
    "¢\tSalad Niçoise (using tuna and anchovies preserved in brine)
    "¢\tBrandade de morue (using cod salted on the fishing boat to preserve the meat)

    I had never heard of this last recipe before. It sounded dreadful, but was not bad.

    I am also not much of a fancy salad eater. Simple greens with a vinaigrette is good enough for me. So the Salad Niçoise was not that appetizing, but it was interesting to make.

    Chef paired Restaurant guy and me today on two grounds: first, we didn't have enough ingredients for us to work alone. Second, he said there was no way that we could get everything done on time if we had to do it all individually. We would still each plate our own salad, bowl of soup, and plate of Brandade, but we would prep everything as a team.

    First we got the soup ready. Small mirepoix of carrot and onion, emancer of leeks, lardon of bacon, a little butter, some smashed garlic, chicken stock and a lot of dried peas. I was a bit more precise about getting everything in place, but RG was lightning quick about getting stuff done. At one point I reached for the leek, only to find that he had already trimmed and washed it and was motoring through the emancer like a pro. Which, I suppose, he is.

    Then you melt the butter over low heat, sweat the bacon, then the veggies. "No color! I don't want to see any color. If you brown your vegetables, you will have brown soup, and pea soup should be green, not brown."

    Just like last week with the chasseur sauce, my veg began to get a little brown. I panicked. Before I did anything though, RG was standing next to me with a clean Russe saying "Change pots, change pots!" That we did, and it saved the day. I showed Chef the veg and asked if they were OK. "Yes, they are fine. [Restaurant Guy] saved you in the nick of time."

    Whew!

    When the onions are translucent, you add the peas and coat with the fat for a few minutes. After that, you add the stock. At the station behind us, Waitress Girl and her partner asked us, "Is it time to put in the peas yet?"

    We looked. Their stock was already in the pot. "Yeah, go ahead," I said. RG and I exchanged a knowing look.

    Then you bring to a boil, add a cartouche, then add the metal lid, and put the pot in a 350 oven. "If you cook on the stove, your starch is gonna sink, stick and burn. You have to stir constantly. Even then you might burn it. In the oven, the heat is not just from below, it's from all around. The soup cooks more evenly."

    While that cooked, it was on to the salad. First we had to hard boil some eggs. Just start the eggs in cold water, boil the water, let the eggs boil for 10 minutes, take them out and put them in cold water. Well, I made the mistake of timing my eggs on a stopped clock. By the time I figured out it was stopped I had no idea how long they had been in there, but had to guess. My second mistake was to put the cooked eggs into an ice bath, not just cold water. "You don't want to do that. Because if the egg is a little undercooked anywhere, it will still cook in the water. But the ice will shock it, and stop that last little bit of cooking."

    Then we had to cook green beans a l'Anglais, boil some red potatoes, and peel some tomatoes. Now, at this point, Chef had pulled down the view screen for Chef TV, covering the dry erase board on which was written the day's recipes. So when RG asked me if we were peeling the potatoes, I guessed. And guessed wrong.

    "Why are you peeling those potatoes? Do you see me peeling my potatoes?"

    No, because I didn't have time to watch what you were doing. Of course, I didn't say that. The ladies behind us were in worse shape because they had peeled all of theirs, whereas we still had several unpeeled left.

    Another element of the salad is green peppers. These had to peeled - a first for me - then cored, then cut into segments along the natural grooves, then peeled again on those spots that the peeler missed the first time because of those grooves, then seeded and trimmed of all the white parts. I did all that. RG then cut them into perfect macedoine.

    Tomato peeling was something we learned in Knife Skills. You cut a little x at the base, and remove the stem base with your paring knife. Drop in boiling water for 15-30 seconds. Shock. The skin comes right off.

    Then we cut them into "petals." That is, you quarter the tomatoes and use the paring knife to shave off the ribs inside. You also need to get all the seeds out.

    When the beans are done cooking, shock them, pull the root ends off, then cut them into equal lengths.

    Also, wash some Boston lettuce, dry, and trim out the rib.

    Pit some olives.

    Chop some parsley.

    Use the back of your paring knife to debone the anchovies.

    Make vinaigrette. RG did this. He used some smashed garlic cloves to flavor it. Other people chopped theirs. "No, no, no. You just want a little flavor from the garlic. You don't want any pieces in the salad. When you chop it you can't avoid that."

    RG and I went back and forth tasting it. We were like two chemists. "Needs salt. You?"

    "Yeah. A little more. One half turn of the pepper grinder, too."

    Say what you will, we jointly seasoned every dish we made, and we got it right every time. No other team could claim that.

    When the potatoes were cooked, we put cold water on top of the hot water and then let them rest in the same pot. After a few minutes, dry them, peel them and slice them. It was very hard to slice cooked potatoes consistently without breaking the slices, and I lost a few.
    Peel your eggs, another delicate operation. Tap it lightly on your cutting board, when you have a crack, roll the egg with slight pressure at its equator. Then peel. Not so easy, as the shell breaks into a million little parts.

    So, a lot of prep.

    Finally, it was time to plate the salad. "There are three kinds of salads: simple, mixed, and composÃ[​IMG]. Simple salads have one ingredient. Mixed have several, but they are all mixed together and dressed together. ComposÃ[​IMG] means that all the parts are kept separate on the plate and dressed individually. First we are gonna dress the potatoes and let them marinate. Every time you dress, make sure you whisk your vinaigrette. Remember, vinegar sinks, oil floats, so it's not mixed if you let it rest."

    After that we plated the lettuce. The "plates" we were using were square shaped bowls with sloped sides. We laid a piece of lettuce on the bottom, and then one piece against each corner. The tomato petals came next, in another corner.

    "Where we gonna put the beans and the peppers?"

    No answer.

    "Do we want them next to each other? No, because green next to green looks boring. We want something to be between them. That means they go opposite. And the potatoes go opposite the tomato."

    One egg is quartered and goes between the four other items. Then the tuna in the center. The anchovy just gets dropped on the plate, as do the olives - "Five or six per plate at most."

    Then sprinkle the parsley, and add a leaf in the middle. Voila. Here is mine:

    [​IMG]

    Could have been better. The eggs should form more of an "X".

    "I am not gonna taste your salads, those are for you to eat. But I want to test a green bean, and I want to taste your vinaigrettes."

    Ours was perfect. Some others were not. "Too much oil. You can't taste the acid," he said of one. "Correct seasoning. Not enough salt, not enough pepper," he said of another.

    Several people had undercooked their eggs. It was obvious at a glance. A cooked hard boiled yoke is pale yellow and totally opaque. Not quite cooked is a golden, translucent yellow. "How long did you cook that?"

    "15 minutes."

    "15 minutes? No way. That is not 15 minutes. Maybe 15 minutes from when you turned on the flame, but not 15 minutes from when the water boiled. Remember, you time the cooking from the time when the water starts to boil."

    I didn't want my salad, so I went with Chef and gave it to the ladies in the pastry class next door. They seemed grateful.

    After lunch, we took the pea soup out of the oven and got ready to puree it. You can do this in a food mill or a blender. A blender is less traditional, but results in a smoother soup.

    "Your soup is gonna be too thick. Boil some chicken stock and add it in."

    Then we made croutons. This is another think I had learned in Knife Skills. You take a frozen slice of white bread. Trim the crust. Cut into batonnets, then dice. Melt some butter on medium heat. Add the bread cubes. Toss frequently. This was important.

    "You have to brown them evenly. You can't do that with a spatula or tongs or anything. You have to learn to toss." And Chef demonstrated the time-honored professional wrist flip. Jolt the pan forward and slightly upward, causing the contents to race up the curve of the pan. Then pull the pan back to catch the falling foodstuffs. Happily, I have some experience at this. But RG has much more. I gave the pan a few flips. But RG mostly did the croutons. Chef proclaimed them perfect:

    [​IMG]

    After they are cooked, deposit on a paper towel and salt immediately.

    The soup is pureed in a blender. You start the blender on low and gradually turn it up. "If you start it on high, the soup will shoot out. You can burn yourself. And make a mess. It is VERY IMPORTANT to take out the sachet" - that is, the bouquet garni in the cheesecloth. "If you don't, you will ruin your soup, and much worse, destroy this machine, and maybe hurt yourself."

    I started to blend. "So start on low and gradually crank up, right?"

    "Right." Chef watched patiently. Then a fear gripped him as the hum grew louder and higher. "You took out the sachet, right?!?!" he asked, with genuine horror on his face. Now, I knew that RG had, or at least I thought I knew, so I said, emphatically, "Yes!" But I still furtively looked behind me to make sure it was in the waste bowl. And there it was. Whew!

    After it's blended some, open the top, add some butter and blend again. Put back in a rinsed out Russe and reheat. Season.

    [​IMG]

    Note the color. The correct color looks like this:

    [​IMG]

    Several others ended up with brown soup because they browned their mirepoix rather than sweating it. Also, I was rather proud that RG and I were the only two who got the seasoning right on the first try. We seem to make a good team.

    Then add some cream. You can do this two ways. The easy way is to just whisk it into the soup. The hard way is to make crème fraÃ[​IMG]che - heavy cream left at room temperature and then whisked heavily - and swirl it into the soup. Or you can do it the hard way.

    You make a little cone out of parchment paper. "You could use a pastry bag, it's easier, but you need to learn this." It took me three tries to get this right. Meanwhile, RG was whipping the hell out of the cream. When it was nice and frothy, we put it into the paper cone, and then folded the opening shut. Then - and only then - do you snip off a little opening at the pointy end. I almost did that after making the cone, but Chef stopped me. "Not now! All the cream will spill out when you fill it!" Anyway, here is our filled cone:

    [​IMG]

    Then we each plated our own soup and made the pattern. You start in the center and make a spiral outward. When that is done you take your paring knife and make little lines. "Spider web pattern," Chef called it. And indeed, that is what it looks like. Still, the terminology should probably not be used in front of diners, who don't want to imagine spiders in their soup.

    Put a little pile of croutons in the center, sprinkle minced parsley, and done:

    [​IMG]

    Last recipe was brandade de morue. I had never heard of this. The rationale, Chef said, was that commercial fishing boats have to stay out for a long time - months - to make a trip profitable. In the old days, there was no refrigeration. So they salted the fish. The preserved it, but also made it unsuitable for cooking as a centerpiece filet. So other ideas were created. This is one of them.

    To prep this dish, Chef had the fish in a ban marie with running cold water overnight. "This is very important. It gets a lot of the salt off. If you don't do this, all you will taste is salt. That's it." By the time we got the fish, that process was over, however.

    "Cut the fish into chunks but make sure to trim away the bloodlines. See that brown? You don't want that." The brown was a thin layer at the top of the fleshy side, in the center. It was tricky to get that off and not waste ant fish, but I did ok.

    Then you poach the fish in water till it flakes. Meanwhile, RG peeled some russets, cut them into chunks, and was boiling them. When fork tender, he drained and mashed them. Then he put some heavy cream in a small sauteuse and boil, off heat when the boiling is achieved.

    Meanwhile, we had to chop garlic. The recipe said 3 cloves, but Chef said to use as many as six. "I am from the South of France, we love garlic. It's hard to use too much. You can, but we are nowhere close."

    He chopped his the simple way: smash with the flat of the knife, then mince. (FCI abhors a garlic press. "Just mashes and bruises the garlic. All the water comes out and dilutes the flavor.) In Knife Skills, I had been taught to ciseler garlic. I asked about that. "You mean like this?" And Chef took his paring knife and whizzed through a clove.

    "Yeah."

    "Sure, if you want. It's a little neater, but it takes more time."

    I am comfortable with that, so that's what I did. One of the ladies behind us looked over my shoulder and said, disconsolately, "That's small!" I looked at her garlic. It was more like small mirepoix, not ciseler.

    The garlic went into a small sauteuse with olive oil, medium low heat. "Guys, cook your garlic slowly, just some bubble sin the oil. As soon as the outer edges start to brown, take it off the flame." Meanwhile, Chef was shaking not pan constantly. Not flipping the garlic; that would just send oil flying everywhere. "Just keep the garlic moving. Prevents burning."

    Then it was time to drain the fish and start mashing it with a fork over low heat. Add the potatoes, combine with a fork. Add the garlic - oil and all - to the mix and keep mashing. Then take off the heat and begin streaming in the cream, slowly. The correct consistency looks like very creamy mashed potatoes. Which, I suppose, is what this is. Season with salt (amazingly, you do need to salt the salt cod) and white pepper.

    [​IMG]

    Chef had us make some ironic croutons. "For Valentine's Day." We cut a piece of bread in two in the diagonal, and then used shears to make a heart shape. Toast that in butter. Drain on a paper towel and salt.

    Plate the brandade by making a little pile, leaning the croutons against the pile, and adding parsley. Here is mine:

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    Taste-wise, I have to say, it didn't suck. I expected to hate it. I didn't. I don't expect to make it myself, ever, but who knows. Seasoning was perfect, again. I had a good day.

    "Next week you guys are gonna work on your own," Chef said to RG and me. We probably looked rather smug at that point.

    I helped him break everything down again, and when it was finally time to leave he gave me the jar of preserved pâtÃ[​IMG]. Like the reverse of giving an apple to the teacher. Give pâtÃ[​IMG] to the teacher's pet. I'll take it.
     
  3. grimslade

    grimslade Senior member

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    It's just "lardon." Not "lardon of bacon" (or anything else). [​IMG] And it's emincer.
     
  4. greekonomist

    greekonomist Senior member

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    I love salt cod! I wish it was easier to find in the US. Thanks again, Manton.
     
  5. indesertum

    indesertum Senior member

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    pictures! they all look delicious. A Rousse is a type of pot and a russet is a type of potato, correct? awesome post. already looking forward to the next one.
     
  6. Manton

    Manton RINO Dubiously Honored

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    Yes, though the pot is spelled "russe." Just ask Grimslade.
     
  7. kwilkinson

    kwilkinson Having a Ball

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    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]


    You guys get nice pots there. Ours aren't that nice.
     
  8. Manton

    Manton RINO Dubiously Honored

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    Everything in the kitchen is All Clad. Must be 200 pots/pans per kitchen.
     
  9. kwilkinson

    kwilkinson Having a Ball

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    That's awesome. I go into Sur La Table weekly to drool at the All Clad and Shuns.
     
  10. GQgeek

    GQgeek Senior member

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    That's awesome. I go into Sur La Table weekly to drool at the All Clad and Shuns.
    When I move to the ME, it's going to suck buying all my kitchen stuff again. [​IMG] But maybe mauviel or bourgeat will be cheaper there, or i can stop in paris and buy some on the way.
     
  11. kwilkinson

    kwilkinson Having a Ball

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    When I move to the ME, it's going to suck buying all my kitchen stuff again. [​IMG] But maybe mauviel or bourgeat will be cheaper there, or i can stop in paris and buy some on the way.

    Don't you already have some pretty nice stuff? I thought I read in a thread somewhere where your kitchen stuff is pretty damn good. If you have to get rid of it, maybe post a B&S Thread into KWilk's inbox [​IMG]. But seriously, if it's decent stuff, it might be worth the cost to ship it to wherever you end up.
     
  12. GQgeek

    GQgeek Senior member

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    Don't you already have some pretty nice stuff? I thought I read in a thread somewhere where your kitchen stuff is pretty damn good. If you have to get rid of it, maybe post a B&S Thread into KWilk's inbox [​IMG]. But seriously, if it's decent stuff, it might be worth the cost to ship it to wherever you end up.

    Ya. All-clad and shun, plus a whole lot of other shit. A couple years ago I spent a couple k on kitchen stuff. That's not even including my fine bone china and riedel. I guess i'll look in to shipping when the time comes, otherwise my father will inherit a lot of really nice stuff. [​IMG]
     
  13. Etienne

    Etienne Senior member

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    Are you sometimes tempted to drag your host back to the kitchen and show them the right way to do [whatever]? Are you doomed to a lifetime of cooking for yourself?
    You have overlooked a possibility. He will, of course, be doomed to a lifetime of dining only on the finest 3-star restaurants.
    Taste-wise, I have to say, it didn’t suck. I expected to hate it. I didn’t. I don’t expect to make it myself, ever, but who knows. Seasoning was perfect, again. I had a good day.
    I love Brandade de morue, but I fully recognize that it is not a particularly refined dish.
    And it's emincer.
    Ã[​IMG]mincer
     
  14. KJT

    KJT Senior member

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    Plate the brandade by making a little pile, leaning the croutons against the pile, and adding celery. Here is mine:

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]


    Is that celery leaf? How does it alter the taste of a dish if used instead of parsley?
     
  15. Manton

    Manton RINO Dubiously Honored

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    No, it's parsley, it just got a little limp after being out of the fridge too long.
     

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