Fundamentals of cooking, the final two weeks

These last two weeks of class covered a wide range of topics from hollandaise, to duck a l’orange to French onion soup. I liked the hollandaise the least, and would say the duck was my favorite. I think I’ve only had duck a l’orange once in my life before, but what I made in class was sooooooooo good. I would actually consider making this again just for myself someday.

On hollandaise night, the chef broke my sauce on purpose, just so we could show the class how to save it. If you find yourself in this situation, toss another egg yolk over the heat (using a ban marie or a stainless steel bowl over a boiling pot of water) and then slowly mix the broken sauce into the fresh yolk. That should take care of it.

Over the course of the last 10 weeks, I’ve learned to debone and break down a chicken, glove bone a Cornish hen, fillet flat and round fish, pan sear duck (nearly to perfection!); I’ve made each of the five mother sauces, I’ve honed my knife skills (although, I don’t think tourneed potatoes will be making a regular appearance in my kitchen), made a variety of stocks and soups, and I’ve learned lots of industry secrets that I will keep to myself.

I cannot call myself a vegetarian anymore. I’ve made (and enjoyed) many dishes that are non-vegetarian. I will take the next 6 months as a hiatus from this dietary preference and decide what to do when I’m done with the program.

When I go to a restaurant now, I study the menu a little more closely, not just for its contents but also for the placement of the items they’re selling. There is a whole science behind menu layouts and how they are read by the end user. Using this research, restaurants often know to place the $45.00 item in proximity to other items with a lower cost that they really want to sell, so they look cheaper by comparison.  It’s actually pretty fascinating stuff – you can read up on one popular study that breaks down the famous New York restaurant Balthazar’s menu.

As I’m sitting here this Saturday I’m both happy to have a break but bummed to not be going to class on Monday. This quarter ended at a perfect time though – right before the holiday season. With lots of parties and time off, I am looking forward to more opportunities to practice what I’ve learned.

Thanks to all of you who humor me and listen while I ramble on about how such and such dish turned out when probably a simple “great” was all you were looking for. Thanks to all of my friends and family who continue to support me in the endeavor – it makes it so much more rewarding!

Duck a l'orange - oooh la la!
Duck a l’orange – oooh la la!

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