Tuesday, September 8, 2009

The First Lesson


I've survived my first day of culinary school. My toes hurt, but otherwise I'm feeling pretty good! At first I wasn't sure if my brain had gone to mush over the past four years, but alas, I'm still as big a nerd as ever! I raised my hand a million times with answers to all kinds of questions, to the point that eventually the chef had to ask the other students to answer some questions since it would have been bad I guess to have me answer all of them. It's okay. I can share the spotlight :) Also, we have a "chef of the day" each day randomly assigned from each group, and the chef was selecting someone from my group for tomorrow. I, of course, volunteered immediately, but she suggested that I might want to wait to be "chef of the day" until one of our later class days so I can have more responsibility. I love that she could sense my desire from our very first meeting! I'm thrilled to save my "chef of the day" day until next week!

Now, a few notes on my first course: It's called Traditional European Cuisine, and I will be taking it for nine somewhat consecutive days (minus Fridays and weekends) for six hours at a time, starting VERY early in the morning. Each course focuses on two or three major cooking techniques. In this case, braising and stewing with a highlight on European cuisines and also focusing on rices and pastas. We'll be braising everything from meats and fishes to vegetables, making fresh pasta and risottos, offering up our plates for service in one of Johnson & Wales's dining rooms, and then sampling all of our own dishes in addition to those created by the other groups in the class. Although we had a demonstration on some vegetable cuts today, we will not begin cooking until tomorrow. On the menu: Braised Chicken Legs with Rice Pilaf, and Pork Stew with Risotto! Can't wait to start braising and stewing :) There's nothing like a comforting dish of braised or stewed meat on a cool autumn day...

Here's a few fun factoids I learned today...
- Searing does NOT lock in juices (so whenever you hear someone on the Food Network or elsewhere make that claim, you'll know they're a big, fat liar!). What it DOES do is add taste, texture and color to the dish.
- Hollywood lips are not the only place to find collagen. Collagen is abundant in the connective tissues of meats. The more collagen, the moister your meat will be after braising or stewing. The collagen turns to gelatin when cooked, giving these meats a really rich texture. Tough cuts and mature birds are best for braising and stewing for this very reason among others.

Victoria's Word of the Day...
Depouillage: The process of removing fat and impurities from the surface of liquid during cooking (this same process is used to clarify butter as well).

What fun, what fun! Stay tuned for more of my culinary school adventures!

**Author's Note: Although I may look like Chef Mario Batali in the above photograph, I'd like to point out that chef jackets are not the most flattering. They are puffy, shapeless, big, and WHITE. Also, this photo was taken at 6am :) Thank you, and have a nice day**

4 comments :

RhodeyGirl said...

glad to hear day 1 was successful! good luck tomorrow~

Mom said...

I think this class is going to be just perfect for you. Good luck today, tomorrow and every day...

Anonymous said...

I congratulate you for discovering your passion in life and taking the risk to pursue it! It seems you have true talent, and I have no doubt that your enthusiasm and skills will make you a very successful chef. However, I wonder if you would consider cooking more vegetarian/vegan/raw foods dishes. Food and cooking are wonderful parts of life, but I wonder if we could engage in them in a more ethical/environmentally friendly way. I admit that I became a little queasy when I read about the collagen and gelatin.

Victoria K. said...

I do cook vegetables, don't get me wrong, but a big part of learning about food is trying everything and that includes cooking all kinds of meats and seafood. I admit, I'm a bit of a carnivore and that will never change. I'm completely fine with my collagen/gelatin intake :) One of my group mates in a vegetarian and she's cooking these meats because it's part of the requirement. We will be braising vegetables as well so stay tuned!

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