Friday, September 26, 2008

Terrines (Out with a Whimper)

Today was basically the last day of class -- we are off next Monday through Wednesday; Thursday is strictly prep for graduation buffet; and Friday is an all-day affair of cookin' n' drinkin' with all the friends, family, and peeps of of the class.

The last few days have been dedicated to terrines (aristocratic meatloaf) which will be present when people come in. They are served cold or at room temperature, and are accompanied by slices of baguette and smooth mustard.

Squarehead and Dora the Explorer went off and did this scary gallentine, which is a foie gras and chicken fine grind wrapped in a whole chicken skin....served cold! Eeeee! I made a Mediterranean Seafood terrine. Took a bunch of clean shrimp and sea scallops, diced them, mixed them with salt, white pepper, egg white, and a large jigger of heavy cream that I infused with golden saffron. All this went through the grinder to make a runny white and yellow paste. To this, I added chunks of shrimp and scallop, as well as minced basil and parsley. This went into the terrine pan, which went into a hot water bath, and all into the oven to reach an internal temp of 140. Cooled on ice, wrapped in foil, and stashed in the fridge to come together next Friday. Shellfish-loaf, not something I'll be making at home too often.

Everyone finished with their terrines by 10am, and we went ahead and whipped up rustic mashed potatoes (i.e. mashed with a spoon instead of a masher or a food mill) and Dirty Kim made some suave fried chicken. Chef Al reviewed the platter situation, locked in our food order, gave us a pep talk, and we were off. Class dismissed.

That's it for classwork. This blog is going to go dark from tomorrow to next Wednesday, then I'll return in full force with the good stuff about prep and the pomp of the Grand Buffet.

I have a trail at another Brooklyn Italian/Pizza place on Tuesday. Have decided to continue on with management classes in February. Should I continue this blog throughout my externship? Working as a kitchen slave, trying to learn how it REALLY is, as opposed to being in school where one learns how it's SUPPOSED to be.

Went to a pizza class in the evening, a continuing ed class about how to make it at home. It was a lot of fun, reminded me what I love about pizza, and the fact that not everyone can make pizza, he he.

BREAKFAST: 6:30am, organic chex with good milk, .5 bowl, hunger 4/5

LUNCH pt 1: 11am, 1 piece fried chicken, small portion of mashed potatoes, water, .75 bowl, hunger 4/5

LUNCH pt 2: 12:15pm, ceasar salad, vanilla ice cream, 1 beer, water, 1 bowl, hunger 4/5
A private celebratory moment with the wifey.

DINNER: 9:30pm, lots of different bits of pizza, 2 beers, 2 bowls, hunger 4/5

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Sick (Mental Health Day)

I didn't get to bed until midnight, still buzzing from the time I had at the restaurant -- being shown how to stoke a wood-burning brick pizza oven was fantastic, watching these people I was working and chilling with all afternoon make world-class pies before my eyes, damn cool. Woke up feeling not so hot in the middle of the night, revenge of the sausages perhaps? After 6 months in c-school, this may be my first gastric disturbance of note, which is a pretty good record.

When my alarm went off at 6am, I thought of the moussilines we were to make today (fish sausage, a moussier texture to ground meat, yuck) and the drama of Dora the Explorer freaking out on Chef Al because, well, because she's as utterly lost today as she was the first week of class, and knowing that I was allowed one more absence to graduate with honors, I knew the couch was the place for me today.

BREAKFAST: 9:30am, organic cheerios with good milk, .5 bowl, hunger 4/5

AM SNACK: 11am, flax-sesame tortilla chips, .5 bowls, hunger 4/5
A random purchase from WF, surprisingly tasty despite being 'healthy'.

LUNCH: 1pm, falafel sandwich, spinach pie, 1.25 bowl, hunger 4/5
Healthy comfort food.

PM SNACK: 1:45pm, cherry Italian ice, .25 bowl

PM WATERING: 4pm, 1 quart

DINNER: 8:30pm, spoonful of peanutbutter, good yogurt with honey, cashews, vanilla, 1 bowl,hunger 4/5
Not much to eat in the house. Breakfast for dinner!

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Terrines (Aristocratic Meatloaf)

Not much to say about today's work, other than that it was just sausage again, with different flavoring and without of the casing.

I teamed with Second Language Girl to produce a Country-Style Terrine. We cubed up up some pork shoulder, veal shoulder and fatback. Sliced shallots and garlic were browned to soft in butter, then deglazed with sherry to sec. Chilled, they were mixed into the meat with paté spice, salt, pepper, and tinted curing mix; then the whole mixture went through a large grind, then half through a medium. Once ground, an egg, heavy cream, more salt, and freshly processed white bread crumbs were mixed in. Some smoked ham was finely diced, more fatback too, and raisins were plumped in wine and almonds were sliced and toasted. Parsley and chives were chopped up, and everything got thrown into the mix.

Boiled some water and spooned a few teaspoons in to cook. Tasted fine, kind of foofy foofy. A terrine pan was lined with plastic, the meat goop pushed in, covered in plastic then covered. Water was boiled, poured into a hotal pan, the terrine set in it, then the whole thing went into the over till the temp got to 150 internal. Straight into an ice bath, then into the fridge.

Tomorrow, mousseline sand stove-top smoking.

Had a trail at one of my favorite pizza restaurants this afternoon. It went really well, it was a good feeling to be prepping food for dishes people were going to actually buy and eat rather then endlessly pretending. The chef was a great guy who was interested in explaining what went into the dishes and the logic behind everything we were doing. The team was clearly well-integrated and happy to be there. Hopefully, I'll know in a few weeks if they have space for me.

BREAKFAST: 6:30am, granola with good milk, .5 bowl, hunger 3/5

AM TASTING: 9:30am, 1 little country-style boiled meatball

LUNCH: 11:45am, 4 different kinds of sausage, fried potatoes, water, 1 bowl

PM TASTINGS: 1-4pm, a lima bean here, a piece of Jerusalem artichoke there, pickled carrot, .25 bowl

LUNCH 2: 4pm, pasta with ham, toasted bread with roast garlic, cooked string beans, romaine salad, hunger 3/5, 1 bowl
Family meal at the restaurant.

DINNER: 7pm, clam pizza pie, hunger 4/5, 1 bowl
They comped me a pie before I split. Very different than a Frank Pepe pie, whole clams in a clam juice reduction, no garlic or wine.

EVENING WATERING: 8pm, 1 quart

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Sausage Preparation (Grinding the Day Away)

Ah, sausage. It seems like a simple thing -- grind up some meat and spices, jam it into a casing. It is a simple thing, but like the best simple things, the more you look at it, the more varied and complex it becomes. I guess that is why the so-called simple things in life are so satisfying.

Sausage traditionally uses the tougher cuts of meat -- it ain't so tough once it's ground, but you still get all the extra meat flavor you don't get with the milder tender cuts.

Once ground, meat becomes 'forcemeat', as it is forced through a rotating blade and then a die of varying-sized holes. Grinding meat comes in different styles of texture, from country-style (once through a large-holed die for a coarse texture) to a progressive grind (sending the meat through several times, each time with a progressively smaller die-hole for a finer texture).

Simply sending the meat through a grind results in a basic grind sausage. Emulsion forcemeat has a formula of 5 parts trimmed meat, 4 parts fat, and 3 parts water in the form of ice. As these elements are combined in the grinding, the temperature is lowered from 50 degrees to 30. This results in a very fine and even texture, like the American hot dog.

Our group got two sausages to make, a Szechuan-style and a Braunschweiger. The first is all pork and a basic grind, while the latter is an emulsion forcemeat primarily of pork liver— liverwurst. Dora the Explorer and 2LG took on the liver, while Squarehead and I went to Szechuan.

Simply put, you must cube the meat to less than a 1" square. I had 15 pounds of pork butt (shoulder, silly!) to cube, and being that the shoulder ain't no tenderloin, it was full of gristle and silverskin and other stuff that got caught in the rotating blade and jammed up the space between the blade and the die in the Kitchen Aid mixer. Once cubed, all the seasonings were added: salt, prague powder (a pink salt curing agent, frightening stuff), sugar, chili powder, white pepper, Chinese five-spice powder, Szechuan peppercorn, soy sauce, and a healthy shot of vodka.

All this was done over a salted ice bath -- in sausage making, EVERYTHING must be kept as cold as possible, as solid fat will result in a better grind, fat distribution (thus flavor distribution), and easier handling. But the Kitchen Aide kept jamming, despite going over the meat again to make it into smaller cubes. Norbert, somewhat experienced in sausage-making, jumped in and put our remaining 13 pounds through the Hobart. This is basically an industrial mixer, with an industrial grinding attachment -- literally 5x the size of the Kitchen Aide. We sent it through twice, first through the big die then the small, and it tore through the meat cubes like it was slush.

The ground flavored meat mix was again on ice, and I chilled the Hobart bowl and mixing paddle. I mixed the meat mush for about a minute until the consistency of the ground meat became a bit sticky and bound to itself. Now, casing.

We had long ropes of pig intestine to work with -- natural casing. First run through with water, because, well, it's intestine, then delicately spooled onto a hollow plastic tube with a flanged end. Once loaded, this tube is secured to a cylindrical tub with a plunger on top that is forced slowly down by a turning motion. Loaded up with the meat mush, the meat comes out in an even tube while you pull the casing. Every 6 inches or so, the tube is twisted to make links. Getting the rhythm down with the 2nd person was a bit tricky, creating bulbous shaped sausages and a few burst links. Air pockets would form, which would be pricked gingerly. Eventually we got through the fifteen pounds, getting 6 links in a string without a burst. This style of sausage is to be hung and air-dried for three days, but since the school doesn't have the facilities for this sort of thing, these Asian porky tubes went into the fridge to age.

At the end of class, we quickly reviewed what hors d'oeuvres everyone will be cooking up. My two ideas passed initial muster, so this is what looks will be my final swan song in c-school:
  • Indian Vegetable Pakora fritters with tamarind dipping sauce

  • Mini Margarita Pizzas with Fresh Tomato, Fresh Moz, House Made Italian Sausage and basil chiffonade
The first we made just last Friday, and on top of being the best pakora I've ever eaten (here and the UK) with real flavor of the vegetables, it's also vegan. Vegan without tofu, mock-meat, or the feeling of absence.

The pizza will be a bit challenging -- tonight I am assembling an experimental run to see how long topped round of dough can sit in the fridge before hitting the hot oven.

Tomorrow, we go on with forcemeat and replace intestine with aspic -- terrines.

After class, I attended a chocolate tasting of new and emerging brands from South America and Africa (though a solid half of them were from Ecuador.) It was a bit like a wine tasting, with all the chocolate dark and around 70% cocoa. The first chocolate was used as a standard barer, to judge the rest against, which was the French Valrhona. It was really good, maybe an 8 out of 10. All the other chocolate varied wildly, and all were pretty inferior, going from mild and innocuous to burnt, artificial tasting and unpleasantly bitter. Funny, I was expecting something fine, but the hype around being organic and socially just just does not add up to a more pleasurable chocolate. Once Wholefoods and the like starts stocking all these chocolates, it'll probably be the ones with the best marketing and packaging that'll survive -- it's just too much very a consumer to try everyone. Of the brands, the best one was the Grenada Chocolate Company, but the lecturer warned due to the super small batches that are made and the undependable supply of beans, the quality of the chocolate varies greatly from bar to bar.

BREAKFAST: 6:45am, good yogurt with raw cashews, honey, vanilla, .25 bowl, hunger 2/5
Again not very hungry at all, but didn't want to feel ill with the dirt pill.

AM TASTING: 11:45am, 4 different small sausage patties (including a chicken vegetable, Italian, and green chile, pommes Parisian, 1 bowl, hunger 4/5
As today was prep and not cooking, some of the extra meat mush was fried up in patties and served with golden cubes of buttery taters. NOT a low sodium meal.

PM TASTING: 1-3:30pm, a variety of South American and African chocolate, .5 bowl, hunger 3/5
Full of sausage and chocolate, somehow lusting after salad.

DINNER: 8pm, pizza with fresh moz and fresh tomato, large green salad, half a pint of ben & jerrys, 2 bowl, hunger 4/5
Double 00 crust came out perfectly, nice and thin, crisp, nice wheaty taste. Made a round of 1.5" pizzas, stuck them in the fridge till B got home.

EVENING SNACK: 10:30pm, 20 mini pizzas, .75 bowl, hunger 3/5
The experiment worked -- I held the topped pizzas (pizzettes?) in the fridge for 3 hours, did not suffer too much quality wise. The dough didn't rise that much, very cracker-like, but still had that nice pizza chew. Topped with just fresh moz and a single thin round of tomato, the real thing will have a small morsel of sausage to kick up the salt bang, and some basil chiffonade to make it come together.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Hors D'Oeuvres 2 (Blinibonanza!)

Today was the second day of hors d'oeuvres with Chef Al. I took on the Buckwheat Blini with American Caviar alone, and though I intended to do the Goat Cheese Mousse with Beet Quenelles with Squarehead, I ended up doing it myself as well. The blini was straightforward: activated yeast in warm milk with a pinch of sugar, then mixed it into equal portions of buckwheat flour and AP flour and a pinch of salt. After it doubled in an hour, I gently mixed in an egg yolk and a small amount of beer. Separately, I whisked the egg white to soft peaks and folded it in to the batter. On a hot griddle, I ladled on hot clarified butter and squirted batter onto the grill through a pastry bag. As both came off the griddle, 2LG helped me top them with little bits of crème fraiche, black caviar, and a sprinkling of minced chives.

Upon presentation to Chef Al, he said that if he were presenting, he would have placed a hot plate on a cold plate for heating the blini (while keeping the hand cool).

The Goat Cheese Mousse involved simply melting some gelatin sheets in hot cream. Blend goat cheese in a blender with boiled milk, throw in some roasted garlic, crème fraiche, olive oil, cumin, and walnut oil with the melted gelatin. Poul over a mess of freshly-ground walnuts and minced chives, put into an ice bath to set. Roundhead cooked some beets and peeled them, I minced them fine then mixed them with a little olive oil, sherry vinegar and salt. After about 30 minutes to set the mousse, I poured it into shot glasses via a spouted pitcher. I spooned beets over the top with a 1/4 teaspoon measure. Chef Al said it was delicious.

After we cleaned up, Chef Al got into the mechanics of the graduation grand buffet for which we'll be cooking for one week. Everyone is responsible for 2 hors d'oeuveres, which we must decide on tomorrow morning (so we can arrange for placing an order for whatever ingredients we need. Later this week we'll be making terrines and pates, which take a week to ferment or something, so those will be served at the buffet, too. We'll roast some meats for a carving station as well. I think I know what I'll be choosing, but tomorrow we'll be going over the mechanics -- if we end up with 28 deep-fried items, that would cause a we'll see.

When I was a graphic designer, sometimes I would refer to a boring job as 'making sausage'. Tomorrow, I'm making actual sausage.

Yesterday's ride was relaxing, but not particularly challenging because I just didn't push it. After class, went to yoga with my favorite teacher. Was hoping to snickle-snack with the HVS, but when she was a no-show, just went home to do the Monday chores. Kinda forgot to eat enough, which is very not me. Guess the end of school coming up has made me feel a little odd.

BREAKFAST: 6:30am, banana, hunger 2/5
Didn't feel hungry, but when I take my dirtpill (mulitvitamin) without food, I get a bit nauseous.

10-11am, blinis with cream fraiche, chicken skewer, beef skewer, veggie fried thing, salmon crepe, shrimp mush on little tarte thing, water, .5 bowl, hunger 4/5
I put Dora's thing in my mouth, turned, and spit it out.

DINNER: 5:45pm, pasta with shrimp and homemade sauce, Ben & Jerry's Half-Baked ice cream, water 2.5 bowls, hunger 4/5
Made the pasta from the weekend again because it was so damn good. Used a better quality of dry pasta, added cubed fresh moz and again it was pretty damn good, except maybe again I made too much. Despite being really hungry, wasn't able to finish. After 30 minutes, found space for ice cream!

EVENING WATER: 7:30pm, quart

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Weekend Report (Tenderloin Walkin')

On Sunday, I took a train with my bicycle to Garrison, rode to my parents' resting place, then down the Hudson Valley back to the Bronx. On the way, in Putnam Valley, a small front lawn off the street had a bird feeder hosting three cute-as-a-button deer. I stopped, watched them chewing the bird-cud, and wondered how hungry they must have been to expose themselves to traffic and spandex-clad cyclists. Also made me wonder how delicious their tender-loins could be....

I made two apple crumb pies on Saturday, one for a get-together with B's friend's that night, the other for a brunch that B hosted on Sunday. I used Chef Al's quick and easy pate brise recipe, which can be remembered by 1.5 + 1.5 = 3: 1.5 cups of AP flour, 1.5 sticks of butter, and 3 tablespoons of ice water, plus salt to taste. Chill flour, cube butter. Place all in food processor for about a minute, make into a powder. Press with fingers (the warmth from fingers should make it ball up). Add two tablespoons of sugar, put into a cylinder, wrap, and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes.

For the filling: 10 green granny smith apples were peeled, cored, and sliced thin (by mixer attachment). In a pan, heat sugar and lemon juice with water and cinnamon. As an experiment, I put in a shot of light corn syrup and one tablespoon of cornstarch dissolved in a little water, just to play with the mouth feel. Once it started boiling, it looked like it thickened, and I put the apples in the pan to heat and coat thoroughly.

Rolled out the dough into two rounds, covered two tins. Piled in the filling, then topped with crumb topping: butter, flour, sugar, and cinnamon blended in the mixer with the whisk attachment until it got Poured over the pies and baked for 60 minutes.

Consistent the crust was not. After laying in the first, the second got really thin to cover. On the thinner one, the crust was somewhat overwhelmed by the filling -- maybe I should have blind baked it? But the thicker one, the crust held up fine and tasted awesomely buttery. Chef Al's recipe worked.

Tomorrow begins the last full week of c-school.


BREAKFAST: 9am, organic cheerios with good milk, .75 bowl, hunger 4/5

LUNCH: 1pm, sauteed shrimp with homemade pasta sauce and wholewheat pasta, organic cherry Italian ice, 1.5 bowl, hunger 4/5
This was perhaps the best pasta dish I ever made at home. The sauce was homemade a week ago and frozen, with shittakes in them to kick it up a notch. For a change, I butterflied the shrimp and dredged them in flour and sea salt before cooking off -- it gave them an interesting snap, and the butterflying made them curl up in a very restaurant kind of way. Once the pasta was boiled off, I put sauce in the pan and cooked the pasta further in the sauce to really grab and bond to it. Tossed in the shrimps, covered the top in freshly grated parm. I cooked up about half the bag of pasta, and when I was putting it into the bowl, I could hear Chef Al deriding me for serving him so much pasta -- only someone as 'large' as me should can eat THAT much pasta. So I left about 1/3 of the pasta behind (after picking it of shrimp and sauce), and it was quite enough. The cherry ice I picked up at Wholefood was only made with 5 ingredients - water, cane sugar, cherry puree, natural flavoring and citric acid. It was really good, looked purple instead of red, had a real nice flavor, but if I were to make it, I'd put in a shot of gelatin to make it just a little bit smoooother.

DINNER: 7pm, cheese and crackers, hummus, tabouli, 2 slices homemade apple pie, 2 glasses white wine, .25 bowls of food, .75 of pie, hunger 3/5
Dinner at A's house with B and two of her friends. Very low key, and not hungry due to great lunch. Lots of compliments, but I thought the pie was a bit disappointing.

BREAKFAST: 4:45am, pancakes and bacon, .75 bowl, hunger 3/5
Wanted to eat strong for the ride, but only ate about 1/2 the amount of pancakes as usual, due to it being so damn early. Put the other half of the batter in the fridge, gonna cook 'em tomorrow to see how the flavor is.

BIKE POWER SNACK #1: 9:45am, small bag of potato chips, small bag of chocolate chip cookies, .5 bowl, hunger 4/5

BIKE POWER SNACK #2: 11am-12pm, 20oz Gatorade, bag of corn chips, 1 bowl, hunger 3/5
Stopped in Ossening hoping for a farmer's market, but it wasn't there. Wasn't hungry enough to finish this small snack, but felt a lightness of head coming on.

BIKE WATERING: 8-3pm, 60oz

PM SNACK:3:15pm, bagel with hummus, water, 1 bowl, hunger 4/5
Left overs from B's girlie brunch while I was gone.

PM SNACK: 4pm, apple pie, .5 bowl, hunger 4/5
Today's pie was much better than yesterday -- the crust was thicker, and held up against the apple goo.

DINNER: 5pm, beef & brocolli with brown rice, shrimp toast, water, 1.5 bowl
Perhaps the most reasonable meal I've had from Chinese takeout ever!