Jan 22, 2009

i make perfect chicken stock, and my chicken butchering skills are perfect. it's true. i'm not being cocky. chef brian told me so.

class tuesday went well, obviously. we started learning about proteins, and learned to turn a perfectly good whole chicken into 8 little pieces. i have to admit, i have never butchered a raw chicken. i have disassembled plenty of roasted chickens, but have never done anything to a whole chicken but season and throw it in a roasting pan or dutch oven. guess what? it's EASY! you just follow the curve of the bones and lines of fat and the connections of the joints and then you have boneless skinless chicken breasts and deboned thighs and a carcass ready to make chicken stock!

speaking of stock...after we were all done butchering our chickens and ducks (we're making confit out of the drumsticks next week! i can't wait!), we threw all of the bones into the gigantic stock pot in the corner of the kitchen. i was asking chef brian (the assistant chef instructor to chef pierre) about my homemade stock, how i felt like it was a little bit too gelatinous after it cooled, and he tells me "that is a sign that the stock is very well made. it means you got everything out of the bones. you make very good stock." well ok, then! that is what i like to hear. craig, however, reinterprets my story as follows:

me: "hey, chef? i have a question. when i make perfect delicious well made stock, is that a problem? i mean, when my stock is finished, it is just absolutely ideal in every way, shape, and form. is that ok?"

chef: "yes. that is ok."

every single one of my classmates: (rolling eyes) "bitch."

so, my spirits continue to be high, and my uniform continues to be too big, and my knife skills are improving. i bought three chickens yesterday. guess what we're having for dinner all weekend?

i'll be posting some photos soon - i let a classmate use my iphone during class this week to document for HER blog, which has given me the idea to start taking photos myself. i did take one: chef pierre showing us an fancy pants (and economical!) chicken dish. i'm totally making this next time we have dinner guests.

Jan 15, 2009

we finally cooked this week! tomato a la portuguese. simple enough. we also got to taste some food prepared by the mediterranean class next door - lamb with a vegetable relish of some sort, and a chick pea, shrimp, black olive dish with harissa. it was nice to finally be able to eat something between the hours of 6 and 11. my stationmates and i also ate about half a raw rutabega - which was quite tasty - as we practiced our dice.

i also finally ate in the cafeteria for the first time this week - i get one meal a day included in my tuition and i haven't made it to school in time to take advantage of it until this week. it is a good time to chat with my classmates, and a good opportunity to see what the students in the full time programs are making (and see some of our fancy cut potatos and rutabegas and carrots in there), but i'll give it a few more dinners before i start analyzing the food options here.

i had a nightmare this morning that i used to have in undergrad - that graduation day comes around and i realize i had skipped an entire quarter of one crucial class so i can't graduate. i think i'm having some anxiety around what i'm going to do with my life when i'm done here, am i really going to be able to make a living off of my culinary skills? not to mention pay back the loans i'm about to take out to pay for it all? only time will tell, i guess. and in the meantime i'll just keep eating rutabaga scraps and having fun learning more about my hobby.

Jan 12, 2009

so i spent all weekend reading about 6 chapters in my textbook, including a 30 page chapter on flavorings - from basil to tawny port. it still feels unreal reading about things that 1) i already know a good bit about, and 2) that i actually enjoy learning. i will likely get over this sooner than later, but i'm still feeling oddly guilty.

hubb and i stayed in almost all weekend, watching movies and studying and napping. we finally watched ratatouille and now i wish i was going to be home tonight to cook something tomatoey and warm. we also manged to fit in a bacon tasting brunch (5 types of bacon - my house still smells like pork), and i made a yummy hard cider braised chicken with parsnips and brussel sprouts with heavy cream. it was a saucy dinner and it was delicious. (thanks, erielle for the brussel sprout tip!) (and for feeding us tagliatelle and letting me play with your wonderful baby.)

i keep meaning to photograph my uniform and i keep forgetting. maybe one of these days i'll remember to put it on and pose in front of a mirror for an unflattering self portrait. chefs uniforms are not meant for 5 foot tall curvy people. i purchased the smallest sizes available and i still feel like i'm swimming in my jacket, not to mention the 4" thick elastic wasteband of my pants coming nearly to my armpits. but i'm not in culinary school to be sexy, or to meet a boyfriend. i'm there to learn, to cook. and at least my pants won't fall down while i'm doing it.

Jan 8, 2009

i'm a week late, but better late than never. i'm taking a different approach to my resolutions this year, they are more high level than usual, leaning more towards me being happy than participating in activities or having some new experience. since last year's resolutions i've started doing yoga, am planning for a half-marathon, have sold paintings, started culinary school and been to south america. looking back at last year's resolutions, i feel pretty good. except for the photos thing. my camera is still getting dusty.

i'm turning 30 this year, which means so many different things to me, none of which i'll go into right now, except that i am looking forward to it. it's making me think about what i'm doing, where i'm going, and how i deal with it. so, here it is.

1. be sure of myself. i question my actions, words and emotions way too often, and it shows. i need to be more confident.

2. follow through more. i tend to overcommit myself, make grand plans that i never fully complete. i need to be more reliable, if only to myself.

3. be more flexible. i get stuck on the rules, the agenda, the "way" and i can't keep getting all out of sorts when things don't go the way i expect them to. i need to let things happen. they'll happen anyway sooner or later, good or bad, and i need to accept it.

4. enjoy life more. this one encompases the other three, really. don't get me wrong, i have a great life and i'm grateful for it. i have a good job, a wonderful husband, loving and supportive friends and family, and the opportunity to pursue my dreams. i let all kinds of other things get in the way of enjoying it, though. i need to learn to relax and have more fun.

i'm already feeling good about where this is taking me.

Jan 7, 2009

by special request i'll be blogging my way through my experience in culinary school, documenting, commenting, and analyzing my experiences for those of you who are interested. culinary school confidential. secrets of a culinary student. culinary student rant. whatever you want to call it.

i'm just taking one class this quarter to kick everything off - intro to professional cookery. i have class two days a week for 5 hours each, consisting of a short lecture followed by 3-4 hours of kitchen time. i'll have this basic techniques class for 5 weeks, then we'll switch to the soups, stocks and sauces class with the same instructor for the next 5 weeks.

so, week one. my program is geared towards working professionals, and my fellow students consist of about 23 people from all different backgrounds who are all there for very different reasons. we have people like me who just love to cook and want to make a career out of it, retirees, a flavor scientist, dog hotel owner, hair salon owner, lots of finance people, a journalist, personal trainer and a slew of others. most of this week consisted of introductions, getting acquainted with the facilities and equipment we'll be working with, culinary history, and basic knife cuts. we've done julienne, brunoise, battonet, small and medium dice, rondelles, pommes frites, and tourne, to celery, onion, leeks, potato and carrots. i am learning knife skills that i will likely never duplicate in real life (a tourne is the most useless thing you can do to a potato, in my opinion, not to mention there are machines that produce a much more consistent cut than i ever could), but i'm glad i'm learning them. and i've proven to be pretty consistent with my knife, producing "beautiful" dices and rondelles, according to our assistant chef. and although i've gotten the knife motion down, the tourne needs some practice. anyone want to come over for a potato dinner anytime soon?

my french chef instructor, chef pierre, has started off a little easy on us, but i'm sure he's going to become more of a hard ass as the quarter moves on. he's got a great sense of humor and really seems passionate about our education. he is also passionate about recycling and being environmentally conscious, having us recycle every peel of potato for compost, every imperfect cut of vegetable for stock, and all of the more consistent cuts for use in the cafeteria. i am pleased to know that none of our practice is going to waste.

so i have survived my first week of class. i was anxious about how i would fit in, if wondered if i would know immediately if i was doing the right thing or not. well, i do fit in, and after one week i know i'm doing exactly the right thing for me. i already have the rudimentary skills, passion, determination and discipline, and i am eager and excited about everything, no matter now basic it seems, that i am learning. my right shoulder hurts and i've only cut myself once, sliding my knife into my kit. but everthing is perfect.