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Diary: September 22, 2002

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#1 Malawry

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Posted 22 September 2002 - 05:28 PM

Thursday, September 19

When I arrive at school, I normally proceed directly to my usual seat in the demo classroom and unload my notebooks before going to my locker to retrieve my knives. Today, Chef Peter was writing the menu on the whiteboard in the demo kitchen when I arrived. As soon as he saw me, he said, “I have a bone to pick with you.” “About what?” “Your damn diary. I couldn’t stop reading it last night. I kept saying to myself, ‘just one more entry.’” Heh heh.

Several students overheard our exchange, so those who hadn’t yet learned about the diary got the URL from me for eGullet. Greetings to any new readers that have come here as a result.

I stayed after school with Zoe and Brett to go over information for the midterm tomorrow. We went over our notes together for about an hour and asked each other questions. I’m still lagging on the meat information; Zoe and Brett were not only able to rattle off the primal cuts, they knew where each cut comes from on the animal’s body. I tried to cover up for my lack of knowledge by teasing them that they’ll be patting themselves up during tomorrow’s test if they can’t remember everything.

One thing I’ve forgotten to mention: my class has shrunk yet again. Chris G. had to leave, apparently due to family concerns with relatives in Kansas where he lived before coming to school. Chris was one of the quieter members of the class. He’s passionate about animals and has raised wolves in the past. He’s kind, but he doesn’t take crap. (He is the student who expressed concern when I cut myself twice in one day early on: click to see) I will miss him quite a bit.

We were on three-person teams all this week since we are now down to 15. We go down to 2-person teams soon, maybe as early as Monday. I’m eager. There’s almost too little work for 3 people; if we didn’t have to make stock and so on there would be a lot of idle time some days.

Friday, September 20

Today was our midterm. I was part of the “early” group this time, meaning I started my practical at 8am and took the written test in the early afternoon. I was mentally prepared for today’s test and was verging on eager to have at it. When the menu went up at 7:50 I had staked out my table and was all ready to go. Here is what appeared on the test:

Puff pastry rectangle filled with asparagus and hollandaise
Flounder in vin blanc sauce
Glazed julienned carrots
Chateau (tourneed) potatoes
Floating islands with ladyfingers

We all immediately went into the pastry kitchen to start making puff pastry at 8am sharp. My practice last weekend with Chefette definitely paid off; my puff came together quickly and looked quite even. My classmates agreed together to do ladyfingers next. I’d picked up all the materials needed for all pastry items in advance, which helped me save a few minutes. I never made ladyfingers in class; I never was the one in the pastry kitchen when they were on the menu, and I didn’t feel unsure of my ability to produce them properly so I didn’t practice them on my own. Indeed, the cookies came together properly and quickly, and after they were baked they were perfectly dry and golden. I set some meringue mixing and whipped out crème anglaise while the meringue was going, and then poached quenelles of meringue. I finished in the pastry kitchen at a little after 9am, with only one double turn of my puff pastry left to do.

I zipped back to my spot in the main kitchen and looked over my list. Chin handed me some extra asparagus while I collected my thoughts. I made a quick agreement with Amy, who was sharing my table, to share the flounder she was working with (we each got half a fish to use for our entrees). Then I went to the walk-in with a half-sheet pan to collect all my vegetables and fresh herbs for my menu. While I was in there, Zoe walked in looking for a piece of fruit (she was part of the “late” group, so she wasn’t working on her test yet). I was humming as I collected lemons, parsley, and carrots, and she commented on how unharried I looked. I told her that it wasn’t a bad test, and I actually was enjoying myself. I felt organized and together and focused, and it was fun to be in charge of a full and challenging menu.

I don’t remember much of the next hour and a half. I wasn’t ever thinking about what I was doing in the moment, I was thinking about the coordination and the different jobs I needed to keep an eye on as I worked. My potato tournees and carrot juliennes were quite good and didn’t take me a lot of time. The puff pastry rose on schedule, and was appropriately cooked in the center.

The only bad moment was about 10 minutes before I was ready to serve, when I grabbed the handle of my pot of clarified butter and burned myself badly. The pot had been sitting on the stove off of the eyes, keeping warm. I’d instinctively grabbed it using a side towel (I always grab items off the stove with one) and placed it on my table. When my egg yolks reached the sabayon stage I touched the body of the pot briefly and found it warm but not too hot. So I grasped the handle and immediately burned myself; the handle had been over a rather hot bain-marie and had gotten scaldingly hot as a result. I had no time to tend to my thumb and pinky, which got the brunt of the heat and which ended up blistering. I had to finish with my test, so I tried not to think about it and kept going. At least it was my left hand (I’m right-handed).

I had everything plated and ready only a few minutes after the 11am deadline. (Some students took a good 15 to 20 minutes after 11am to finish. I was the first one without much kitchen experience to finish in my group.) There were a few minor issues with the food, but overall I’m pleased with how quickly and efficiently I put everything together. This is the first time I felt really good after a test.

Once I finished cleaning up my station, I started icing down my left hand and took a break. Marta and I went together to the nearby bagel shop to grab lunch (nobody wanted to eat their test food, which usually seems to be the case) and we hung out with those who finished the written test comparing notes for a few minutes.

At 12:30 we took the written test. I’d heard there were 100 questions on the midterm test, but it turns out there were 170 or so. (Some of them were along the lines of “list the ingredients in pate a chou” and counted as multiple questions, but still.) I think I did fairly well, and only totally missed it on one question (a meat question, of course). I finished in a little over an hour, reread my responses, and turned the test in. I left tired and happy.


8 egg yolks
3oz sugar
2 tsp warm water
Lemon zest
French meringue: 8 egg whites and 4oz sugar
7oz all purpose flour

Combine yolks and sugar. Whisk over bain marie until lukewarm. Mix in mixer with whisk attachment on high speed. Prepare French meringue. Sift flour. When yolks are creamy and pale, fold meringue in, alternating with flour. Add zest and vanilla and fold. Fill pastry bag with large round tip with dough and pipe fingers. Sprinkle twice with 10x sugar and bake at 375 degrees until golden.

#2 WednesdayGirl

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Posted 22 September 2002 - 07:45 PM

Hey girl! Great post. I'm looking forward to hearing what your classmates have to say about your diary, once they've had a chance to read it.

Glad to hear that your midterm went well, and that you feel good about it. SO sorry, though, to hear about your burn. I hope your hand heals quickly.

Drop me a line when you get a chance and fill me on what's going on in your non-school life.


#3 Fat Guy

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Posted 22 September 2002 - 07:56 PM

Don't be shy, Chef Peter.

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#4 KateW

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Posted 23 September 2002 - 06:22 AM

(collective sucking in of breath during the burn part)
A couple kids in my class have done that too. :sad:
Do they tell you to pop the blister or leave it alone? My chef says there are a couple schools of thought on that one.

#5 sandra

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Posted 23 September 2002 - 10:20 AM

OUCH! I can't tell you how many times I burnt myself like that! When you take the pan out of the oven, you remeber to grab it with towel - after you set it down, you forget when you go to grab it again a few minutes later...

The big blisters on your plam will heal, I can tell you that!

I'm heading back to school myself in two weeks to start the Patisserie portion of the course, not really looking forward to it, but must be done!

Congrats on the midterm!

#6 Lesley C

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Posted 23 September 2002 - 10:29 AM

Malawry, your recipe for ladyfingers looks like the classic but I've never seen the yolks and sugar heated before being beaten (as in a genoise).
You might try another method I learned in France, which doesn't seem to fall as quickly as the classic and is much faster.
Beat the whites into a stiff meringue with all the sugar. Meanwhile in a small bowl, whisk the yolks to liquify. When the meringue is ready, add the beaten yolks, continue to beat about five seconds, then turn off the machine. Fold in the flour and pipe as usual.
Try it, you'll like it.

#7 maggiethecat

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Posted 23 September 2002 - 10:40 AM

Isn't it great to walk away from an exam feeling confident? Good for you! Funny...next thing on my to do list for today is puff pastry. Chicken pot pie for dinner.

Go ahead and pop that blister with a sterilized pinhead. If you don't do it, it'll happen anyway, and likely in a messier, more painful manner.

Margaret McArthur

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#8 Dana

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Posted 23 September 2002 - 04:21 PM

If your're going to pop those blisters, be sure to put some antibiotic ointment on them along with a bandaid. (aren't you glad you have so many parents looking after you?!haha) Make sure you leave that flap of skin on as long as possible so that the skin underneath has time to heal. Your posts are still teriffic. Congrats on your test success!!!
Stop Family Violence

#9 col klink

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Posted 23 September 2002 - 04:31 PM

Mmmmm, popped blisters. Oh wait, mmmmm, lady fingers.

So what are the floating islands of Floating islands with ladyfingers?

#10 Malawry

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Posted 23 September 2002 - 06:17 PM

The blisters on my thumb and pinky all but disappeared by Sunday. I think my hands are hardening up a little. Chef Peter advised me to not pop the blister. I probably would have popped it because I'm like that if it had stuck around through the weekend. There was no blister on my palm, fortunately. I spent the whole written test with my left hand in a deli cup of ice while I wrote with my right hand and I think this may have helped my rapid recovery.

The floating islands are quenelles of gently poached French (cold) meringue atop a pool of creme anglaise. When we learned the dessert we topped it with toasted almonds and then made a hard caramel to pour over the top. This time we did the ladyfingers instead of the caramel. I was a little disappointed since I had fun playing with caramel earlier in the week, including trying my hand at spinning the sugar for the first time. It looks like hair, woo!

Thanks for the suggestion, Lesley, perhaps I will try it the next time we do ladyfingers for a charlotte or some such. Then I can do a side-by-side comparison with my classmates' fingers which will use the recipe I gave.

#11 Lesley C

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Posted 23 September 2002 - 08:30 PM

That recipe is great when you have to pipe out kilos of the stuff when making bands for Charlottes. If you do get a chance to do them again, let me know what you think. :smile:

#12 Nick

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Posted 27 September 2002 - 02:27 PM

Burns - If you get burned on your fingers or hand and have cold water available, immediately plunge the hand into the cold water or hold it under cold running water. This has to be done nearly immediately (5-10 seconds or less), otherwise it will make the burn worse. I've never timed this so 10 seconds may even be too long. Immediately is the key word. This from nearly thirty years of working steel, often hot, and occasionally losing track of what I'm doing. It's always from moving too fast without thinking.

Great writing and stories Malawry. I read Michael Ruhlman's, "The Making of a Chef" and am enjoying this just as much.