Mickey Mouse, and the Shape of Things to Come – Charcuterie: Day 48

TODAY’S TIDBITS

  • Lean meat is often encased in dough (eg. Paté en Croute, or Beef Wellington) to preserve the flavor and moisture. I fluked out and nailed my first beef wellington this summer at the cottage, and you could literally cut the meat with a fork it was so tender.
  • Apparently, hundreds of cats get released at Disney World every night to catch mice. (This is a random fact that Alton mentioned at the party tonight and everyone said it has to be on the blog, so here it is).
  • Club 33 – Apparently this is a club you can join (for $10k), and is the only place at Disney World where you can get a cocktail. (Johnny Depp and Elton are members).

Today was our last day producing ‘family meal’. As a recap, ‘family meal’ is the term used in restaurants referring to the meal that the the staff get fed. At large restaurants there is a chef entirely dedicated to producing the meal for the staff – at smaller restaurants, ‘someone’ prepares ‘something’.

Alton trying his best at making our polenta look amazing
Alton trying his best at making our polenta look amazing
Luis and the inspiring charcuterie display
Luis and the inspiring charcuterie display

I wished we could have ended family meal on high note, but it wasn’t to be. Alton and I were tasked with Chef Ben’s recommended fried polenta. I prepared our prep list and showed it to Chef Karen, our new chef. She said ‘ok’, but I could tell in her eyes she didn’t really believe we could pull it off. She recommended trying it out in a small batch before trying to do it for 200. Alton and I had decided to sauté the polenta and then serve it with a wine mushroom veal stock sauce. In principal this sounded great, but the execution was not so good. In a small sauté pan I managed to sauté the polenta, but when we started trying to do it in the massive tilt skillet, it was a disaster. For the first time ever at culinary school, I thought we were not going to be able to complete the dish. Chef Karen came to the rescue, and said to put the polenta in a very hot oven and brown it there. This worked, and we managed to get it done within 5 minutes of the deadline.

Stew working some dough for the upcoming 'en croute' dishes
Stew working some dough for the upcoming ‘en croute’ dishes
Fois gras, and ....all those other fancy things
Fois gras, and ….all those other fancy things

The highlight of the day, however, was the charcuterie display. Half the class has been divided off producing all sorts of charcuterie, and today they put it on display for all to eat. There was pate en croute, all sorts of cured meats and terrines, chutney, head cheese (we all remember Vitor kissing the head of the pig), and a totally cool gin-and-beet cured fish. Gin and beet? It tasted amazing. We start charcuterie tomorrow – originally I wasn’t all that excited about it, but after seeing the displays, I can’t wait to do it.

Stewart doing quality control on the champagne infused chocolates
Stewart and Ray doing quality control on the champagne infused chocolates
Ray and Jacques at the 'chocolate factory'
Ray and Jacques at the ‘chocolate factory’

The highlight of the weekend was working a 12 hour shift at Jacques Torres’ chocolate factory. Literally a factory in the middle of Brooklyn somewhere. We spent the day packing boxes, packaging chocolate, decorating santas, doing quality control, wrapping chocolate bars, measuring ‘bark’, etc…. Jacques was there with us the whole time. His personality kept us entertained the whole time, whether it was riding around the giant warehouse on his motorized scooter, or telling us stories about how he got the business started, it couldn’t have been a better way to spend a Sunday – and we got chocolate presents to boot!!!!!

The highlight of this evening was our class party. Joanne and Miyako organized a class party at Joanne’s Dad’s restaurant (Monte’s) , which was lots of fun. We got to taste incredible authentic Italian food, lots of reasonably priced wine, and hear some amazing voices sing some amazing songs. I only wished there was a piano there so I could be part of the incredible talent – I can only vaguely remember the beer pong and dancing afterwards. Maybe someone can fill me in.

For the next two weeks our half of the class is now on charcuterie, so I’ve got to write out my recipes for bacon, Paté on croute, Foie Gras, and duck terrine – sounds yummy.

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