Fundamentals of cooking, Week 5

Look at that brunoise!
Look at that brunoise!

Week 5 officially marked the mid-way point for the quarter. I’ve barely noticed the time going by, this has been so much fun!

This week we continued working with seafood and made one of my all-time favorite dishes, shrimp scampi. We also started to dig into working with butter, which is why scampi was the best choice possible. We clarified butter and made two types of compound butter. I never understood what the point of clarifying butter was, but you do it to remove the milk solids so you’re left with pure butter. It makes a difference in the end result of the final dish. You can pretty much use clarified butter in any instance you would use regular butter. (Except for baking, I am unsure if that’s an ok substitute.)

We also had an unofficial knife skills test. I use the term “unofficial” because it was a test for which we were evaluated, but this program is not a degree program, so grades don’t count. And boy am I lucky they don’t. The test consisted of trussing then breaking down a chicken into eight pieces, bone on the breast, and various cuts of different vegetables. I was a little intimidated about the chicken because I missed the demonstration class, so, never in my life had I broken down a whole chicken. I figured it couldn’t be that hard, just go for the joints. Turned out I was pretty darn close and did pretty good with my first few cuts.

So much chicken!
So much chicken!

Chef gave me a demo on another chicken and showed me a few tricks on where to cut and pull the joints apart by hand. After the demo, I did another chicken just for extra practice. So I walked out of class with three whole chickens, half of which were pan roasted and baked off in the oven and subsequently became treats for Charlie, the other half went into the freezer uncooked and will go to my sister. She’ll get more use out of them than I will.

Another part of the test was being able to cite measurement conversions from memory. I failed miserably on that. I admit to not really spending time memorizing it because I never expected to be quizzed about it. (That’s what Google is for, right?) It was really embarrassing when I couldn’t answer most of the questions as Chef was quizzing me. He was writing something down on a clipboard that I couldn’t see. It was like that episode of Seinfeld where Elaine goes to the doctor and gets all anxious when she can’t see what’s in her file. Guess I better spend some time going back over that stuff!

Knife cuts.
Knife cuts.

The last part of the test was a knife cut test. We had to julienne celery, small dice an onion, tournet a potato, brunoise a carrot and make pomme frites. At least I did well enough on that part. Still need a lot of work on my tournet skills, but I got the brunoise thing down pretty good.

The past 5 weeks have been so awesome and I’ve had so much fun. I’ve learned a ton of stuff that I can apply right away and I definitely feel like I’m becoming a better cook. I can’t wait for the next 5 weeks!



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