Weeks Ten & Eleven: Conscience Catch-Up
November 26, 2002

Long time no update. Well, it's holiday time and it's also sweeps AND that Horrible Terrible No Good Very Bad Food Management Project took up far too much of my time. I'm still too annoyed to even write about it yet.

I've gotten to the point where writing out every detail of what I prepare in class each day isn't that interesting to me, so I'm figuring it can't be that interesting to anyone who might be reading this. I think it's because I'm getting into a nice groove with my stuff -- as is everyone else -- and am not feeling so harried. Now I can look around, check on who's doing what, make decided choices on who I DON'T want to work with again because they rush through everything, get far too intense, freak out over inconsequential matters, and, subsequently, ruin part (or all) of the dish. I hate that crap -- it puts the kind of pressure on me that really makes me not play well with others. The dishes that have turned out the best for me has been when I'm partnered with certain students who neither rush nor lollygag. They know what needs to get done and they get it done calmly and carefully; there's no harum-scarum drama about it.

What have I done in the last few weeks?

Well, in Basics Week 10 (November 11th), we did shellfish. Specifically, I worked on the appetizer that is a take-off on Oysters Rockefeller called Oysters with Watercress Puree and Beurre Blanc Sabayon Vanel. The recipe was developed by some chef named "Vanel" in Toulouse, hence the long and not-very-elegant-to-say name. It wasn't too difficult, we just forgot to read the part of the recipe that called for straining the shallots out of the beurre blanc before we napped the beurre blanc/sabayon combo over the warm oysters. The forgotten shallots gave the sauce a winery-lemony taste, which I liked, but was, in fact, wrong. You know I got it wrong because I haven't lived in the region. Heh. One dish I particularly loved this day was the Moules Farcies: mussels stuffed with bacon, breadcrumbs, parsley, Pernod, butter, Parmesan cheese, and red pepper. I'd make it again.

In Baking Week 10 (November 12th), we had a very long lecture on sugar. Very long. Incredibly long. We have to memorize all the sugar stages and their temperatures and what each stage does for baking. In addition to the lecture, Chef Passion demo-ed three extremely difficult cakes for us. These were such fabulous cakes, they defy explanation, so everyone will just have to wait for the photos. After lecture we played with a grotesquely large amount of Crisco and confectioner's sugar -- using our pastry bags -- as we learned to pipe roses, leaves, things with a French name that is escaping me now, and write our names. It was a short class.

Basics Week 11 (November 18th, and my birthday!), we did more shellfish. Oddly enough, I did a paupiette of sole, which is not a shellfish. Hm. A "paupiette" is a thin slice of meat that is rolled up, stuffed, and then cooked. We coiled up the little fillets, wrapped lengths of blanched leek (just the dark green part) around them, secured them with toothpicks, and piped a cheese soufflé on the top. These paupiettes were served on a colorful pile of steamed (and buttered!) carrots, leeks, peas, red pepper, and broccoli. They were nice, light, and tasty and the presentation with the little cheese soufflé hat was pretty impressive. Strawberry Shortcake made a fabulous calamari in which the usual breadcrumbs were combined with crushed almonds. Oh. My. God. Additionally, she made up her own aioli to serve with it. I don't recall all the ingredients but I have to get my hands on that recipe. Even if I never buy a Fryolator and stink up my house with the stench of deep-fat cooking, I want to carry that aioli on me at all times. Use it for everything. Yum! In preparing the calamari, we all got to see squid get de-beaked and de-boned. Yes, they DO have a bone -- a very small one in the middle of their carcass. Looks like a piece of clear plastic, thicker than drinking straw material, but not as thick as the clear plastic on a Bic pen. Apparently, they are starting to make contacts from that material. I'm glad I'm still 20-20.

Baking Week 12 (November 21st), GENOISE! Wow. What a day. Strawberry Shortcake and I made something called "Sambuca Sin." And though we liked the idea of "sin", we didn't like the idea of Sambuca, so we substituted Kahlua. 'Course, then the name gets all screwed up because you can't very well call it "Kahlua Sin." Maybe "Kahlua Kurse" or "Kahlua Krime" or maybe I'm spending too much time on the "24" boards. Mmmm, "Kahlua Kiefer".... ANYWAY! The cake was a separated sponge, which, after baking, was rolled (still hot) lengthwise and covered with a towel to cool. This was to help the cake "remember" the roulade shape. Once the cakes were cooled, we unrolled them, soaked them with a noisette soaking syrup, spread raspberry preserves reduced with the Kahlua, and rolled them back up again. After the roulades set for 30 minutes on the fridge, Strawberry Shortcake carefully sliced each roulade into 1/3-inch rounds and we layered them in the mold with the two different stabilized cream fillings. We chilled it for bit more before up-ending the bowl and unmolding the thing. It was very "brain and brain, what is brain?" Think of a dome that has a bunch of red swirlies all over -- that was our cake. Again, a cake I cannot effectively describe without visual aids. At the end of class, Strawberry Shortcake shooed me out of the room. When I was allowed back in, she had put some candles on our cake and everyone sang "Happy Birthday." Awww!

I'm pretty proud of our achievement, especially since we're now hearing that other students were so stressed out on Genoise Day, a couple of them were in tears. Strawberry Shortcake and I wondered what world we were in when this was all happening around us -- maybe it was all the Kursing.

I'm sure you're all panting for those pictures now.

In other culinary news, my adorable friend Tracy Golightly was up from New York and I had her all to myself for brunch. I got to ply her with a perfectly turned out Quiche Lorraine, garlic en croute, nice little salad with juicy cherry toms, mimosas, and TRUFFLES! Yes, I played with my chocolate like it was Play-Doh. It was a lot of fun. This month, Martha even had an article on making truffles and I read it, but I still had fun. Probably because I ignored most of her advice anyway. The classic way is to only have full-fat cream and chocolate. None of this messing about with corn syrup, butter, and eggs. Plus, Martha's way is to have, like, eighteen different pots of chocolate melting at the same time. Yeah, I'll do that when I get featured on "Ultimate Kitchens". Not in this rabbit hutch of a kitchen. No way. No how.

We packed Tracy Golightly back to NY with the rest of the quiche and the truffles. Our waistlines thank her. She gave me the best birthday present, The Soprano's Family Cookbook! It's awesome. I can't wait to use it for my Creative Practicum Final. I also want to give a big and public "Thank you, Sweetie-Darling-Sweetie!" to Lady Julia Harriet Picket Burnside Viggers Brown who sent me a BlissLabs pedicure set, complete with a bottle of NARS "Jungle Red" nail polish.

"I've had two years to grow claws, Mother -- Jungle Red!"

"Isn't it divine? Jungle Red!"

"Looks like you've been tearing in somebody's throat!"

What a scream! And Lady Julia, etc.? If you'd just stop with the changing of your email addresses, I could email my thanks! How's Bermuda?

So, that's the news from Chez Cheffanie where all the women are wearing clogs, all the men are doing math things, and all the cats need to diet.

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