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Diary: December 11, 2002

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Monday, December 9

We’ve missed market baskets the past few weeks, due to weather and scheduling conflicts. Chef Peter scheduled a market basket today to make up for it, and told us simply to use shrimp, snapper, and whatever we could find in the walk-in that was not earmarked for Chef Francois. He didn’t even bother to shuffle the class cards, probably because four people were absent. He placed me with Marta because we both sit in the front row.

We agreed to make a salad with cornbread croutons, leftover roasted tomatoes, and Old Bay spiced grilled shrimp for our first course, followed by sauteed red snapper with a pineapple-red onion relish and black beans as an entrée. Dessert was to be filo cups with coconut ice cream and a strawberry-mango compote. I didn’t realize that much of this menu was influenced by sunny climes until later, when the two visitors assigned to be our guests showed up. The two women asked where Marta and I would be externing, and when I mentioned Ortanique one of them asked me if the menu we’d set was influenced by the tropical-fusion cuisine at the restaurant where I will be working. I was a bit embarrassed to admit that not only was the menu not influenced by my externship location, but I don’t consider myself to especially into “cuisine of the sun” in general. I like the food and its spicy-sweet-hot flavors, but I know very little about it and am not a seasoned diner at Caribbean and Jamaican type places. All the more to learn over the coming months.

Tuesday, December 10

Chef Peter mentioned recently that we’d make lobster the last week of class, and today was our lucky day. Lobster with a citrus beurre blanc was our entrée. The lobsters we had were very active; I waved back at one of them during the morning demo. Chef Peter showed us how to parcook them, split the bodies in half, and serve the lobster meat in half the shell. I felt pretty good about my ability to handle them after learning how to do them after the last test, so I asked Chin to do them while I handled our starter. Zoe made our dessert, a repeat of pithiviers (a cake made with puff pastry filled with frangipane). Apparently, there will be no dessert demos this week. I think the only dessert Chef Peter ever demoed for us was crème brulee, early on.

Chef Francois is hosting another Christmas Great luncheon on Thursday, so he needed plenty of assistance on food prep from our class. We were assigned to three-person teams to free up enough time for us to assist him, and we did not take a post-lunch break. I brunoised what felt like a million sweet peppers and cut the heads and winglets off of semifrozen squab.

Wednesday, December 11

There was freezing rain last night into this morning, and so school opened at 11am instead of 8am as it usually does. I celebrated by sleeping in (finally getting a good amount of rest) and then taking my time getting to school. We kicked off our morning with a demo on buche de noel, or yule logs. This is probably our last dessert demo, and it was presented by Chef Theresa, who is the assistant instructor for the pastry program.

Buche de noel is made of roulade, filled and frosted with buttercream and garnished with marzipan leaves and berries and meringue mushrooms. Chef Theresa whizzed through the demo a little too quickly at times (we’ve made roulade and buttercream before, but she gave us a new recipe for roulade and we could barely keep up with it). I think I learned more about roulade and buttercream from her short demo than I did from the lengthier, repeated demos with Chef Somchet. I hadn’t known how to freeze and reconstitute buttercream, or that roulade could be much thinner than we’ve baked it and still be sturdy.

I was inspired by Chef Theresa’s demo, so I was pleased to be one of three people assigned to make three cakes. I tried out Chef Theresa’s roulade recipe with Drew’s help. Unfortunately, I overbaked the cakes a little bit, and we ended up having to trim some split pieces off of the thinnest cake. The resulting rolled up log was small since we’d lost so much to trimming; Em started referring to it as a twig instead of a log. Decorating the cakes was fairly easy and fun, and I liked making candles out of marzipan with almond chips as wicks. You can actually light the almonds; they burn for 15 seconds or so and look quite festive.

We didn’t eat lunch until almost 2:30pm due to the late start, and there was barely time to clean up before departing. I’m glad I slept in this morning, but I’m sorry that we missed so much of the day today when there are so few school days left. We have a family meal and holiday celebration for ourselves tomorrow, another market basket on Friday, and then tests on Monday and Tuesday. Not much left!

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Maybe you know more than you realize about "cuisine of the sun." No: strike the "maybe" -- you've internalized a lot already. :biggrin:

Loved the idea of "twig" de Noel. :laugh: That kind of cake takes a lot of practice, mainly because it's so thin. Won't it be terrible if you keep practicing, making it over again? :wink:

Could you share the hints about freezing and reconstituting buttercream? Pretty please??

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Rochelle, do you think that the instructors' interest might wane as a class matures?

"I've caught you Richardson, stuffing spit-backs in your vile maw. 'Let tomorrow's omelets go empty,' is that your fucking attitude?" -E. B. Farnum

"Behold, I teach you the ubermunch. The ubermunch is the meaning of the earth. Let your will say: the ubermunch shall be the meaning of the earth!" -Fritzy N.

"It's okay to like celery more than yogurt, but it's not okay to think that batter is yogurt."

Serving fine and fresh gratuitous comments since Oct 5 2001, 09:53 PM

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Jaybee, do you know how to make a beurre blanc? It's a very similar process. I will type up the recipe this wkd for my notebook and will share it then, but if you know how to make a beurre blanc then you just use lemon, lime, grapefruit and orange juices in lieu of wine and vinegar in the reduction, and garnish the finished dish with blanched julienned zests of the same fruits. Hang on for something more complete, coming soon. :cool:

Suzanne F, there's not much to freezing and reconstituting buttercream. At school, the pastry students make huge batches in the big industrial standing mixer. They then dollop it onto plastic wrap, seal it into a rectangular block, and triple-wrap it. It gets labeled and put in the freezer. To reconstitute, defrost at low power in the microwave until thawed or warm carefully over a bain-marie until it's no longer frozen but still cold. Then start working it in a mixer with a whisk attachment until it's smooth. It looks grainy/clumpy for quite a while and may take several minutes of working. It helps if you occasionnally scrape the bowl.

Jinmyo, I have felt for a few weeks that Chef Peter has told us most of what he has to tell us. The demos have been short, which contributes to this sense I've had. I don't know that Chef Peter and Chef Somchet have lost interest, but I don't know that they're fully engaged at the end of the course either.

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Here is my recipe for lobster with citrus beurre blanc:

Lobster with Citrus Beurre Blanc

Whole live lobsters

Sea salt

White wine vinegar

Finely minced shallot

Grapefruit, orange, lemon and lime juices, jewels and zests


White wine


White pepper

Whole butter

Parcook lobsters in boiling water with salt and vinegar. Shock. Split in half and remove meat. Reserve and wash half of the split shells. Reduce juices, shallot, wine, ginger a sec. Add cream. Season. Work in butter. Finish cooking lobster in butter sauce. Triple-blanch julienned zests. Serve lobster meat and sauce in warmed, cleaned half shells. Garnish with zests and jewels of fruits.

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Malawry, I just read something that made my hair stand up on end. Did you say you whip up reconstituted buttercream with a whisk? If that's what they taught you, I'm sorry to say it's wrong. You always reconstitute buttercream -- room temp, refrigerated, or frozen -- with the paddle attachment. With the whisk you incorporate too much air, which ruins the consistency. You should also be using a blow torch when mixing.

What kind of buttercream is this? Meringue-based, pate a bombe-based (yolks), or fondant-based?

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Hm. My understanding of buttercream is that it can take a lot of mixing abuse. When we have made it fresh in the mixer, the whisk is working it for a looooooong time while we wait for it to cool. I've only made buttercream using Italian meringue with the hot syrup. The buttercream I was using for the buches de noel happened to be a whole egg buttercream prepared by the pastry students. Yes, I used a whisk, but I honestly don't remember if Chef Theresa showed us to use the whisk attachment or a paddle attachment. I don't remember any explanation of which to use, which is probably why I don't remember which one she herself used.

I may have gone against what she told us to do, or I might have done exactly as she instructed. Nevertheless, the buttercream I used did not turn grainy, and there was definitely no blowtorch involved. (I am CERTAIN I'd remember if the blowtorch was brought out during the demo.)

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If your buttercream wasn't originally grainy, it shouldn't be grainy when reconstituted. You should actually be melting about 1/4 of the mass of buttercream, then beating it on high speed for a long time with the paddle to reach the right consistency. The French call this consistency "pommade" like face cream. With a whisk, you'll never achieve a pommade consistency. It's just too fluffy, and fluffy icing doesn't work well for icing. Try the paddle next time and see what you think. :smile:

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