Sep 28 2010
Today for lunch I had Tomato and Spinach Croustades, Tarragon Chicken, Garlic Roasted Potatoes and Haricots Verts, rounded out with a dessert of Chocolate Mousse. What about you?
I’m only bragging because I’m giddy from my second day as a culinary student, which was much more comfortable and fun than my first. The nerves must be calming. On Tuesdays and Thursdays we have menu classes, meaning we prepare a multi-course meal for lunch, and each student is in charge of a different course (appetizer, entrée, sides or dessert).
I was initially disappointed today when I was not assigned to any of the lunch courses, but instead put in charge of making a dark beef stock. After all, I actually wanted to serve something I cooked!
I spent all morning roasting beef bones and shanks and browning vegetables. Then I deglazed the roasting pan to preserve the juices, covered every last bone and veggie with water, and allowed the mixture to simmer on the stove throughout the entire afternoon. In the end, I couldn’t have been happier: Not only did I get to take charge of a complicated process and see it through ALL DAY to the end, I also experienced the hands-on version of yesterday’s demonstration, which was very satisfying. I feel like I can check one major building block off my list already.
And tomorrow we’ll be using all that savory stock to make bubbling French Onion Soup Gratinée, complete with broth-soaked baguette and broiled gruyère cheese. Needless to say, I’m pretty excited.
The afternoon was spent watching my instructor giving a presentation on four different kinds of soups: French Onion, Garlic (puréed with potato and leeks), Roasted Butternut Squash (actually Kabocha squash) and Cream of Lettuce Soup. Yes, Cream of Lettuce — the French use it just as we use greens like spinach and chard. And I can now attest the flavor is actually quite delicate and surprisingly delicious.
Tante Marie’s teaches students to cook in quantities suitable for home cooks, but I love that my instructor always gives us tips on presentation as if we were serving dishes in a restaurant. Check out the garnishes — this one is actually a savory whipped cream. Genius.
Soups should always be served in heated bowls with a plate underneath, and the garnish should represent or complement what’s actually in the soup. That means chives work with a potato-based soup, a cream of mushroom soup should be garnished with chopped mushrooms, and so on.
I have to take a second and admire these dishes after my instructor finishes plating them. Maybe it’s the Southerner in me; in Mississippi we know food tastes better on a well-set table.