April 2010

Oh that’s fantastic I just typed out a super long entry and then it fails to publish and gets deleted, here’s a short version.  The first workshop is over. We had 6 hours to do an entree and plat principal from a page of ingredients, some of which had to be used. Here is what I did for the entree. Pureed dill and raw egg yolk and piped it into a ball of salmon. It could have gone better, the chef said to use a mold next time, maybe he thought I baked the salmon or something.  The second part was a sauteed zucchini cake with candied lime zest. Pretty and good, though it got a little cold while I was waiting in line for the chef to grade me.  The third was a shrimp stuffing in a roasted bell pepper petal.  I had to keep it simple since I couldn’t taste it myself. Luckily Sjoerd helped me out, here’s his site from which I took the above picture: http://sjoerdcordonbleusuperiorcuisine.blogspot.com/, hilarious and descriptive.  My classmates really liked the stuffing (eggplant, tomato, cheese, shrimp, and a little spicy), the chef said it was overcooked, which I must have done reheating it so many times when I was waiting for my grading turn.  So disappointing.  I made a dill mayonnaise to go with the plate since it went well with all three and that came out great.  The main dish went much better than the entree and I hope Sjuard posts those pics soon I ‘m pretty sure he got one of mine.  I made a Squab breast cooked rose and perfect. I’m so relieved I cooked it right.  The chef said next time to use the leg on the plate not in the jus. I didn’t want to cause it’s supposed to be served with the middle toe and disgusting nail on, and when the chef in the Chef Invite (guest speaker) said he prefers not to use it, I thought it might be okay. I guess so do a bunch of people because the chef made an announcement at the end that we have to serve the leg.  For the sides: caramelized pearl onions (chef said ours were all a tad crunchy in the middle and that we should go back to basic), a little cake of pureed peas and potatoes with a toasted pine nut crust. Really happy with it almost overall.  The chef said more butter. Also I know I should have used a spatula to make the side more even. It tasted great though. The mushroom two ways tart was a layer of polenta, cheese, duxelles, cheese, and mushrooms sauteed with time.  Came out good too, but the chef said no polenta and potatoes on the same plate, too much starch.  I should have thought that through better.  All in all I learned a lot and it went pretty well. Have some good ideas for the next one on Thursday I think. Tuesday we have off so I’ll be practicing up a storm then.  Been scouring the internet for ideas: Thomas Keller’s menu, El Bulli, Wylie Dufresne.  Some silly stuff I want to try even if the chefs don’t approve they’ll just have to tell me if it tastes good.  A couple toys I’ve been wanting to get: mainly a syphon to try out some savory foams. But waiting on that, must get a chocolate thermometer for the upcoming practicals, and a sweet mold for this workshop. Getting excited about graduation and whatever comes after that.


It was a weekend unparalelled. We had a 3 day weekend, and so I rented my very first car, with some objection from the credit card company, and we drove the 200 some km to Bruxelles with a carful of salty and sweet snacks.  The drive was full of rain, but once it died down once we got into the city.  We had to stop at numerous gas stations to get directions, but after not too many problems we found the hotel.  We went out for beer number one (I HAD A GUEUZE, A GLORIOUS GUEUZE!) and our first meal in Bruxelles.  Afterwards we of course wanted to go promptly to sleep, but then ended up napping until after midnight.  We did what people do, go out find fries, find more beer, and return to the hotel to watch Nightmare Before Christmas.

Day 2: we went for a beer with Mathieu and Richard midday. They wanted to go to this nearby comic book expo, which turned out to be amazing.  Afterwards I guess they weren’t sick of us yet so they volunteered to take us to the premier ice cream store and chocolate shop in Paris where we loaded up. I’m just about to enjoy a leftover wasabi chocolate.  We went for another beer, and then Mathieu decided we were so fun he had to get out of work for the night.  We hit up the grocery store, and went nuts: cod, tuna, squab and more.  Although initially we volunteered to help Richard really took over the cooking, and we were happy to eat it since he used to work as a chef.  And it seems soon he will be resuming those duties in Bruxelles.  We capped off the night with a lot of very fine beer and a near overdose on girl talk.

Day 3: Around noon we finally woke up.  Checked out, loaded up the car, and went on a search for a million chocolates.  It was fruitful to say the least.  We bought enough beer, cookies, waffles, and chocolates for Bruxelles to live forever in our memories.  Nearly into Paris we stopped for gas to leave the tank full.  Someone at the station noticed our tire was flat, which we never would have noticed alone.  This meant a two and a half hour detour as we were stuck in the station waiting for help to arrive. Of course, nobody at the gas station would fix a flat tire, nonsensical French people at their best.  We attempted, Meredith mostly, the fix the thing ourselves.  We used Meredith’s knowledge from having watched someone do it once. As it turns out we had the right idea going and perhaps would have pulled it off except that the darn thing was rusted on.  Only two guys tried to help us, the first one was super helpful.  He made all these calls for us in French when he couldn’t remove it, and helped us get the tow guy to come.  Luckily we had plenty of beer and chocolate to lavish on him in a thank you.  When the tow truck guy finally arrived (after two hours of us scarfing gas station chips and Belgian chocolates) he used a can of WD-40 and a hammer to get the wheel off.  I thought he would certainly break the car.  Upon returning the car we learned we’d have to pay for the tire if it couldn’t be refurbished.  Wonderful.  We made it home just in time to fall asleep and get 8 hours of class for the next morning.

Monday I went to the demonstration for a pan-fried sea bream, and squid stuffed with langoustine risotto. I willfully skipped the practical, so frustrating since I wouldn’t be able to taste the sauce or anything, and would have to wear gloves the whole time. Ugh. Soon we have a workshop coming up.  A four hour class in which we have to prepare an entree and main dish of our own design.  We get an ingredient list a page long with certain ingredients we have to use, for this one: squab, salmon, shrimp, peas, mushrooms, pearl onions, fingerling potatoes, and bell peppers. Cannot wait!

Yes! It’s true! I have survived yet another shellfish practical!  And think I’m getting better at handling lobsters than I was at least.  In this one we had to stuff the trussing needle right up the lobster’s ass so that it will cook straight.  Boiled it for ten minutes then assembled it in this kinda gross looking medley.  We cooked daikon radish and carrots and cut them into little rectangles, with which we lined a circular mold.  At the base we put sauteed leeks, and then layered the lobster with caramelized lemon and orange zest, and a whiting fish that had been beaten with egg whites and cream.  It was like a little lobster cupcake.  And looked very cool when unmolded.  The chef said my rectangles could have been more regular.  But at least I managed to get the claws out whole, which I definitely did not do last time.  I added way too much thickener to the sauce, but the chef said it tasted really good otherwise.  I was pleased cause I threw some cayenne pepper in there, but it turned out okay. Not that I tasted it.

This afternoon we’re making some chocolate pistachio cake thing that was actually pretty tasty in demo yesterday.  So close to having this weekend trip to Brussels pan out, and I really hope it does.