Thursday, November 5, 2009

Creme Anglaise and "The Surgeon"

After spending the first half of class finishing the last three chapters of our giant food safety book (the exam is on Tuesday), the class headed to the kitchen to observe Chef Todd's culinary skills.

Creme Anglaise (pictured)

Chef began by showing us how to make a Creme Anglaise (French for English cream), which is a vanilla sauce that you can use as a base or pour on top of pastry or fruit (pictured). The ingredient list — eggs, milk, sugar and vanilla beans — makes the recipe seem deceivingly simple, but it is extremely temperature sensitive. If you overheat the mixture or lapse in stirring then it is very easy to end up with scrambled eggs instead of a creamy souffle topping. The final product looks a bit like eggnog and has a similar consistency to it as well. Chef Todd ended up with a little bit of scrambled egg when he got carried away explaining the procedure and forgot to stir for a moment. It was just a small amount though, so he strained it and still had plenty of tasty sauce to use. Sauce Anglaise is often called the "mother sauce" because it is the base of many recipes such as creme brulee and ice cream.

Candied Orange Rind and My Mad Surgery Skills

The next thing that Chef wanted to show us was how to make candied orange rind. You can use any citrus fruit such as lemon or lime (grapefruit isn't recommended because of bitterness), but orange is what we had on hand. He had each of us take a turn in prepping the rind by taking a paring knife and removing the bitter white part of the rind.

When it was my turn with the knife, my OCD kicked in and I became very intently focused on meticulously removing every inch of the white of the rind. I hadn't realized that a group of my classmates were watching my overly-precise handiwork until one commented, "She's so intense when she does it. It's like watching a surgery". I can't help it! I tend to be slow in a kitchen because I'm not a sloppy chopper and I like things to be balanced, clean and even. I told her that's why I want to be a cake decorator, because I can easily direct all of my focus into perfecting small details. With more knife practice, I can eventually get the same result but much faster. All in due time!

Once the rinds were ready, we put them in a boiling salt water to simmer and soften. Then you put in water with corn syrup and a bit of sugar and boil it again. Once that is done, we have to let them dry overnight. On Monday, we will dip the dried candied rinds into chocolate and our treat will be complete.

Caramel and Cleaning
With the remaining time, Chef Todd made a caramel sauce using heavy whipping cream, sugar, a splash of corn syrup and a squeeze of lemon juice to prevent crystallization. He even let us take some home! We ended the day with our first kitchen clean-up. We divided into teams and were shown how to clean everything from wiping down the tables to sanitizing and towel-drying the mop bucket. The chefs like things cleaned and put away with military precision. Not my favorite activity, but it all gets done in about 15 minutes with teams (30 minutes for a deep clean).

1 comment:

  1. I have the same exact OCD personality! It has definitely hindered my career, as my jobs have been about getting it done as fast as possible, and only as good as absolutely necessary. I would definitely do better in a job where perfection and balance are rewarded.

    - Kelli



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