Day 41 – Tuesday, Specialty and National Soups

I HATE SCHOOL! Well, maybe not school, but I do hate my new partner. Ugh, so hate is too strong a word… how about “annoyed.” That’ll work – I’m ANNOYED with my new partner at school. Since I have some rude things to say about him (and remember, this is only my opinion), I need to come up with a name for him. So far, “Pothead” is the best thing I can come up with although there is no evidence that he’s ever used pot. But he looks like someone who does, and he’s not all up there in the cranium most of the time… it’s almost like he’s not attending the same class as I am, but is somehow there anyway. Here’s an example: Chef EL told us that you never put baking soda in with green veggies because although it makes them bright green, it also makes them mushy (breaks the fibers down). This is not new information because we learned it in the previous class and even had it on the final exam. So she mentions it again and tells us a story about how she had to teach one of her bosses not to do it, and five minutes later, Pothead is asking if we’re supposed to add baking soda to the green beans. This was not an isolated incident.

When we started working on the soups, I discovered that our notes didn’t match on the amounts for the ingredients. He had some weird numbers that were never mentioned in the demonstrations, and I’m not sure how he come up with them. And his interpretation of some of the measurements were also interesting…using a pound of onions was equivalent to 1/2 an onion (no, you need approximately 1 and 1/2 onions for a pound), and a whole head of garlic somehow translated down to one head minus three cloves. What?

My other issues have to do with his inability to do more than one thing at a time, which slowed us down; his wanting to take his time doing everything because he didn’t like to be rushed (he actually said this), which REALLY slowed us down. So we made French Onion Soup Gratinee, Minestrone, and Roasted Garlic Soup with Black Olive Crostini… three crappy soups on a thoroughly crappy day. At least tomorrow is a full demo day and we won’t have to work together again until Thursday.

Day 40 – Friday, Bisques and Chowders

We finally did it! We not only drew perfect 20’s for taste on all of our soups today, but we also managed it while being well ahead of every single deadline. After two weeks, Jazz and I are now truly a team. And sadly enough–now that we worked it all out–we’re going to be changing partners every Monday…thanks to Lily (not that anyone’s admitting to WHY we’re switching around, but it wasn’t difficult to figure out).

Today we started with Shrimp Bisque. Since in the old days in France, bisques were thickened using white rice – that’s how we got to do it. Rice worked nicely, so I’ll be trying it for some other soup experiments at home soon. Next was Potato Chowder, that was very nice and also Jazz’s favorite. The last was Corn and Crab Chowder with Basil. And it was even better better than the bisque. In fact, it was so good that I packed up some for after class. Too bad we can’t take food off of campus…I had to sit by the outside steps and eat it all before I could go home (yeah, that’s it…).

Being Friday, we got to do some deep-cleaning of the vents before going home. Fun, fun, fun.

Day 39 – Thursday, Puree Soups (or baby-food soups)

The “baby-food soup” comment came from Chef D… obviously he doesn’t care for pureed soups. And after making Puree of Green Pea Soup with Mint Cream, and Potage Cressoniere (Watercress Soup) – I can’t say I blame him. They both look great, but it’s nasty stuff. The only good soup today was the Butternut Squash Soup with Caramelized Apple Croutons and I made sure that there were plenty of extra apple croutons for us to snack on while working on the other soups.

Our pea soup and squash soup were a little thin, but the watercress was the perfect consistancy. We’re getting better with our timing, but still not the perfect team. The one thing we’ve finally gotten down is how to season properly… that took longer than I expected to figure out. We’re all looking forward to tomorrow with bisques and chowders.

Day 38 – Wednesday, Cream of Veggie Something-or-Other

Learned more about Lily today. This is going to be her third degree and she used to sell computers. She’s also the oldest person in class, but I’m not going to post her age. And she’s still driving me nuts. Today she started ragging on her partner about something (I was busy and didn’t have time to listen in) and she just went on and on about it…loudly. After class I found out that she’s been reassigned to a new partner. That’s going to be entertaining since it’s PsychoBoy – and he doesn’t put up with much crap (he isn’t a psycho or a boy, but the name’s based on something he said to another classmate).

Today was day one of “Thick Soups,” and we started with cream. Cream of Celery, Cream of Broccoli, and Cream of Mushroom. Each one was based on a different method of building cream soups, and Chef EL pointed out why each one worked well with different types of vegetables (the demonstrations went smoother today). Cream of Celery was the biggest surprise because I didn’t think you could make celery taste good on it’s own. Cream of Broccoli came out a bit milky, so we cut milk out completely from the Cream of Mushroom and added two additional pinches of salt after the point we thought it was perfect. It was a perfect 20. Yes! We ran short on time again today, but we didn’t go beyond the deadlines.

Stopped by the library to finish up the fliers for the Summer Culinary Olymics and ran into PsychoBoy. We talked for a while and on our way out of school, we found out that the school was doing a demo on making Sushi for potential new students… so we invited ourselves in (with the permission of one of the admissions reps). Chef Stork did the demo (he used to work at a sushi restaurant) and while he was showing how to make different kinds of sushi, he also talked about the background of each type he made. The rice was packed a little tighter than I usually like it – but the saki (or salmon) was so lovely… with a texture that was like biting through soft butter. My husband is going to be so jealous when he finds out what he missed. We picked up some good pointers and found out where to buy sushi-grade fish in Austin. This is one thing that I’m willing to spend a lot of money on for an experiment…and I’ve decided that I’m going to treat myself to a decent sushi knife as a present when I graduate. What a great way to end an already pretty good day.

Day 37 – Tuesday, Clear Soups

Today was a tasty day. We learned to make Chicken Consomme Celestine (celestine is a garnish of thin strips of savory crepes, which we also had to make), Clear Vegetable Soup and Mushroom Barley Soup. We were told that it would get easier now that we had left the sauces and were now making soups, but Jazz and I were still running into timing issues. It probably didn’t help that both of us were running slow and that I cut myself while prepping the parsley (straight through the nail too…ouch!). Consomme is a lot of work for a little amount of soup, as well as a waste of ingredients – but I have to admit that it tastes excellent. My crepes were a disaster (not enough flour), and we turned it in after the deadline, so the grade was crappy. The veggie soup was average and not something I’d bother with making at home, but the mushroom barley soup was fantastic. We got a pretty good grade and Jazz and I ate as much as we could before dumping it out. Tomorrow we make cream soups. Can you imagine Cream of Celery Soup? Yuck!