Friday, March 19, 2010

Shrimp Poo

We skipped any lecture to review the recipes quickly then, got straight into it. The first thing was shrimp for the Shrimp Louis. Everyone got a pound or so of jump shrimp, and I showed them the proper way of deshelling -- tail first, trying to preserve the tail meat. Then the rest of the exoskeleton can be pretty much easily removed. Then the back of the shrimp is cut with a pairing knife, about 1/4 inch deep, and the vein a.k.a. the intestine is removes. Most shrimp are starved for a day or two before processing so the intestine is empty, but occasionally you'll get a swollen blue vein full of sand, grit and purple stuff. Mmmm, shrimp poo!

I broke up the class into three at this point, after wiping down everything, washing the boards and washing hands -- you can never be too careful when dealing with raw seafood. One team of 2 made the sauce for Shrimp Louis (based on the herbed mayo we made yesterday), then made 2 large composed platters, with bib lettuce as the base, the shrimp in the middle, and garnishes like sliced hard boiled eggs and olives all around. The second team did a pasta salad, fusilli dressed in our mayo and grated Swiss, with a lot of vegetable mix-ins, also composed on platters. The third team did a simple Cesar with the dressing made yesterday, and cut up a few loaves of bread and tossed them with melted butter and salt before toasting them in a 450 degree oven for a few minutes.

While that was going on, I pulled on student aside who muffed up brownies yesterday. I pulled all the ingredients out for a batch of brownies, and had her make them on her own. I think he confidence might of been bruised yesterday because of distractions from her disorganized team, so letting her do this seemed like the move....and we can always use more good brownies in this world!

The 10 lbs of shrimp were dropped into a large pot of boiling water spiked with the juice of 4 limes, and after 2 minutes were taken out and placed in an ice bath. Not enough can be said to stress the importance of shocking when boiling shrimp. Few things nastier than rubbery overcooked shrimp.

Once the three sets of salad were out, we cleaned and set up for sandwich making. I spoke a bit about the importance of balance, erring on the side of too-little, folding the fillings so it's not too dense, putting oil-based spreads on the bottom to prevent mushiness, etc. Most of the kids never had prosciutto, which freaked them out when I told them it was aged for months and months instead of being cooked.

Sandwiches were banged out, the salads were out, the brownies presented. On a funny note, someone mistook the clumps of unsifted flour in the gluey mint brownies as nuts:

The kids seemed pretty happy, everyone pitched in with the cleaning, and the staff and parents had the kids come out of the kitchen for minute for a round of applause. Next week, sauces, featuring funked-out mac n' cheese...

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Brownie FAIL

Today was the first half of a two-fer: tomorrow is Parent Teacher Conferences, so we cooked in preparation for setting up a buffet tomorrow. It spring instead of fall, so rather than exactly repeating last semester, we're skipping the mac n' cheese in favor of a lighter pasta salad. (Though now that I think about it, I think I'll do mac n' cheese next week to demonstrate sauces.) Today we finished our vegetable soup, made mayonnaise and Cesar salad dressing, then 3 different kinds of brownies. Recipes can be found earlier on the blog here and here.

We started the class with a little lecture about the brigade system, the traditional organization of the kitchen roles, from Executive Chef to commis (trainee), but I could see the kid's eyes glazing. I did a demo of whisking oil and vinegar alone, and watching it separate, then whisking with a little mustard, and watching it stay set -- a simple emmulsion.

The kids set about processing a whole host of vegetables for the stock we made last week to make vegetable soup, including the the blanched, shocked peeled and scooped out tomato concase. We turned over, and I demoed mayonnaise before setting the kids out in teams to make it themselves. Some of the kids are sharper than others, and when I tried to get them to set up their mise-en-place before I demoed, one kid didn't understand the concept of pouring two oils into the same measuring cup, and didn't understand that mise didn't mean dumping everything into one bowl, but grouping stuff together in a way that makes sense -- the oil and everything else must be in two containers, as the method of making mayonnaise involves a lot of whisking while pouring oil slowly into the bowl.

I had two students that I had last semester go nuts on the Cesar salad dressing, making an evil mash of garlic and sardines, before making the emulsion that would be joined with a lot of Parmesan. Both the mayo and the dressing would be held until tomorrow.

We reset and I broke the class into two teams. One would make normal fudge brownies, one would make a batch with macadamias and chocolate chunks. I demoed with a third batch -- mint brownies. I never tried this method before, I just made it up, and I suspected it would fail, though I wasn't sure how. I replaced the 2 cups of sugar with 2 cups of mint simple syrup -- Boil two cups of sugar with one cup of water, then place a bunch of mint and let it steep for about 30 minutes. The problem is you are adding a cup of water. We tried the brownie immediately after and while it tasted good, it had the tough consistency of jello -- despite minimally folding the flour in, the extra water really developed the gluten to make it very non-flaky and weirdly elastic.

I demoed how to make powdered sugar, simply by putting normal sugar in a blender for a few minutes, and added a few drops of food dye to turn it green, green to sprinkle over the mint brownies and green because it was St. Patrick's day. We sat down to eat the soup and the inferior brownies, and we went around the table discussing what was good and what was bad about today's session. Most mentioned the brownies as a highpoint, despite it tasting inferior. Many mentioned that the soup didn't have enough salt, though it tasted salty to me -- it gave me an opportunity to talk about salt -- it's easy to add more, but impossible to take it away without a lot of complexity. That's why you have salt on the table of restaurants -- it's left up to the customer to season to taste.

Tomorrow, we bang out salads and sandwiches....