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Diary: October 20, 2002

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Friday, October 18

Test four today. I was in the “late group” again today, so I showed up in time to take the written test at 10am and then we started off in the kitchen at noon for the practical exam. By this point the tests are old hat; I knew what to expect and felt reasonably well-prepared. The written test was short...only 100 questions, so each of them counted more than on previous tests. I missed a few questions, but thanks to Dana I got the question on Grande Veneur sauce correct. Yesh!

Here is the menu for the practical:

Gnocchi parisienne with mornay sauce

Rockfish meuniere

Glazed carrots

Fresh noodles

Roulade with meringue

I’d gotten the menu when I came in for the written test (there’s no way those who are in the late group can be prevented from figuring out the menu) so I’d spent the downtime between tests organizing a detailed list of ingredients, equipment, and sequences. I marked the relevant recipes in my notebooks with paper clips and was ready to start when we were allowed to get going at noon. This time, I needed my recipes very little. I used the recipe for the roulade and the recipe for the pate a chou used for the gnocchi, but other than that I barely glanced at the paperclipped pages. I knew what I was doing and how to do it.

This menu was difficult only in that everything had to be ready at the same time…and everything had to be done a la minute. The dessert could be finished in advance, but everything else has to be cooked and then served immediately to avoid deterioration. Planning was obviously key.

Everybody started in the pastry kitchen. I started out by bringing some eggs to room temperature by putting them into some warm tap water, and then I got all my mise en place together for the pasta, the roulade and the pate a chou. It took me a little over an hour to have the roulade (which is a jelly roll; we’ve filled them with lemon curd in the past but today we just used a commercially prepared raspberry filling) baked and filled, a meringue piped on top, the meringue browned with the torch, the pasta dough resting, and a firm pate a chou in a pastry bag ready to be piped.

I zipped into the main kitchen and resisted the urge to take care of taking apart the rockfish right away. Normally, when we have any fabrication to do for a daily menu, somebody on each team starts out by getting the butchery out of the way immediately. This way we can clean down the table where we did the dirty work before clean things for other projects get contaminated. I resisted today because I didn’t think breaking down the fish first was the best approach. I wanted to have my carrots cut and in a pot, my gnocchis blanched, and my pasta at least in sheet form before getting going on the fish.

I managed to keep ahead of the time curve by a narrow margin. I tried to pace myself and remain focused on the work at hand. Nothing fell apart before the deadline. I was worried that my roulade was underbaked, but the slightly underdone cake actually rolled more tightly and made for a more attractive finished product. My julienned carrots looked okay, and the pasta and gnocchi-making were uneventful. I was having fun by the time I got to the fish; I can take apart a fish rather quickly by now, and I lost very little flesh in the process of filleting.

Chef Peter had asked us to get to a certain point and then tell him before finishing our food. He wanted the roulade completed, the pasta cut and ready to boil, the fish filleted, the fish sauce components prepared, the carrots ready to go, and the gnocchi covered with sauce and cheese ready to go under the salamander. When we got to this point, we were instructed to write our names on the whiteboard in the main kitchen with the exact time. I put my name on the board at 2:55pm, 5 minutes shy of the 3pm deadline. Phew!

I fired my food on command from Chef Peter. The fish developed a nice browned look from the flour I’d used to dredge it, but it was nowhere near cooked in the middle. I dropped the filet on a sizzle plate and popped it in the oven to finish while I coordinated the rest of my dishes. Chef Peter told me that he was waiting on me (which I misinterpreted as meaning he needed me to go right away) and so I hurried on the finishing of my food. As a result, the fish was obviously underdone, and despite the miscommunication I’m sure I was docked serious points on the fish. Which really sucks, since I knew what the problem was and I thought I was being forced to plate unnecessarily early.

Other issues: the carrots were way oversalted. I turned out perfect carrots for the first test, but since then there’s been a problem every single damn time. I’ve vowed that for the next test (which will surely also include glazed carrots; why stop after four tests?) I will focus a lot of attention on the carrots from beginning to end so they’re perfect. The fish sauce was a little underseasoned. The gnocchi needed more sauce but was otherwise good. The noodles tasted good but were a touch too thick; I hadn’t taken them to the thinnest possible setting on the machine because I thought they were thin enough on the next to last setting. The roulade was absolutely perfect, though. Chin told me later that Chef Peter had told him to look at mine if he wanted to see what a textbook roulade looks like. It’s good to get something right.

Sunday, October 20

I just spent the weekend with my parents and some old friends (it was my high school reunion). My folks have been avidly reading this diary, and we talked about both school and the diary a lot over the past couple of days. Dad’s big criticism was that as a non-foodie, he didn’t understand a lot of the terms I used in my entries. To that end, here is a brief glossary of terms used in this post:

Mornay sauce: A bechamel with the addition of cheese.

Bechamel: A French mother sauce, made of a roux plus milk which has been flavored with onion, bay leaf and clove

Roux: A cooked mixture of equal parts flour and butter, used to thicken sauces and soups. May be cooked to different degrees of color depending on what it’s to be used with. This is called “beurre manie” when it’s totally raw; a basic roux has the butter melted before the flour is added.

Meuniere: This describes a preparation where a piece of fish is dredged with flour and then sauteed in a pan. It is then served with a sauce made of browned butter with lemon juice, salt, pepper, and parsley.

Roulade: Jelly roll, French style

Meringue: Sugar and egg whites whipped into a foam

Pate a chou: A paste-like dough, used for eclairs, cream puffs, parisienne-style gnocchi, and more

Mise en place: Everything in place, getting all your equipment and food together and ready to be cooked/assembled

Fabrication: butchery

Salamander: A very hot industrial-equipment broiler, seen mostly in restaurant kitchens. Used to brown the tops of dishes and to crisp or firm the crust up.

Sizzle plate: An oval metal plate, often used to finish cooking through sauteed or fried foods in the oven

Jeez, Dad. I start providing definitions and then I realize my definitions need definitions! Hopefully this makes my post more readable. Meanwhile, here’s a recipe from the test:


6oz butter, divided

6 egg yolks, room temperature

1oz clarified butter

4oz cake flour

6 egg whites, room temperature


Put egg yolks in one mixer bowl. Add 4oz of the sugar to the yolks. Put bowl on mixer and mix on high speed with whisk attachment. Put egg whites in a second mixer bowl; whisk on high speed on mixer with whisk attachment. Run in remaining sugar and mix until egg whites form soft peaks. Scrape edges of yolk bowl and run until mixture is ribbony. Sift flour and salt together. Fold white mixture into yolk mixture. Sift in and fold flour mixture in two batches. Add melted butter by pouring it over a spatula and fold in. Scrape batter into parchment-covered, greased, floured half-sheet pan. Clean pan sides and bake at 375 degrees for 7 minutes. Cool partially and remove cake from pan by overturning onto sugared parchment. Remove parchment backing and roll with towel. Once cake is cool, unroll, fill, and reroll.

Variation: Roulade with Meringue

Prepare Swiss (warm) meringue. Pipe over finished roulade. Color with blowtorch.

And one more definition:

Bain-marie: A hot water bath. To make one, set a pot of water simmering. Put whatever you need to warm over the bain-marie in a metal bowl and set the bowl over the pot of simmering water. Make sure the water level doesn’t touch the bottom of the bowl.

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Malawry, I'm at odds with your biscuit roulade recipe. :sad:

Why heat the eggs? It's not a génoise.

A trick for the butter: place about a 1/2 cup of your final egg/flour mixture in a small bowl and whisk in the butter, this way the two mixtures will be compatible when you fold them together.

Also, why roll the cake once cooked? It should be moist enough to roll when cool. I never understood that method. Just leave it on the parchment until ready to roll. Keeping on the parchment makes it easier to handle.


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Damn, I knew I should have looked over that recipe before pasting it into the post. My recipe as written is slightly at odds: when the roulade was demoed by Chef Somchet, she had cold eggs. She warmed them over a bain-marie just until they came to room temperature. If the eggs are room temperature, as I wrote in my ingredient list, then warming is not necessary. I will edit the recipe to reflect this.

As for the merits of rolling before cooling or after cooling, I haven't tried it after cooling. I really dislike roulade so I won't be making it on my own, but the next time we do it at school I'll try your method. FWIW I said I'd try your method for ladyfingers, Lesley, but I never did because they haven't appeared since we were tested on them. (Well, they appeared in tiramisu, but we used all the leftovers from the test to make that dessert.)

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Pastry-chef roulades are very thin. I've seen cook's roulades that are thick and may need the hot roll treatment.

The secret to a good roulade is spreading the batter quickly and evenly to maintain the lift in the cake and even cooking so that the sides are just as moist as the middle. I had a chef who said a biscuit roulade (or Joconde) must be spread in 7 strokes with an off-set palate. Close to impossible, but the idea is there. If you fiddle around when spreading these thin cakes, you just kill them.

As for the egg warming, I'd see no problem using eggs straight from the fridge.

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(you may know this already, so if this is the case, disregard this post)

Next time if you choose to list defined terms, consider defining your terms in order of simplicity. By "simplicity", I mean so that the most basic term (in this case, your definition of "roux") comes first, then bechamel, etc.


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  • 1 month later...

First of all, let me say I'm thoroughly enjoying reading your diary...I just recently found this site, and I've been having a blast checking it out. I start Culinary School at the Art Institute of Atlanta next month, so I'm also looking for a little insight and inside info...thanx for the brief glossary in this entry, some of these terms I knew, it was nice to see how things are cumulative...

Thanx again!!

"have a sense of humor about things...you'll need it" A. Bourdain

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