Saturday, November 28, 2009

More Adventures in Cooking!

Wow I started this blog and then got too busy to here I am, finally putting something on here :)

I finished PCA1 (Professional Culinary Arts 1) the first week of November. I did well on my finals...a lot better with my fried eggs this time around! Not the best, but better. It helped that I went out and bought my own egg pan. The ones we have at school are awful. The fourth day of finals was my birthday and so I made little cupcakes for my class and my friend McKenzie made banana muffins. And at the end of class everyone sang "Happy Birthday" to me. It was pretty fun! I love my class!

Then we had a four-day weekend and started PCA2. The first day in that class we made spicy barbecue chicken served with mashed potatoes. We worked in teams of two to make the barbecue sauce, and so my partner and I made the recipe that was in our book. But it was awful and I've never made barbecue sauce, so I had no idea where to go from there. Luckily my partner was a little more knowledgeable about barbecue sauce and we ended up with a really yummy sauce! So we fabricated a chicken and marinated our breasts and started our potatoes boiling. We had a lot of time to finish this one plate and so I wanted to take my time and get everything right. But a lot of the class put everything together pretty fast and got it up to chef probably a half hour before me. And I should explain that we are graded out of 10 on our food. In PCA1 most of were used to getting 8.5 or higher, especially at the end. So I was getting really nervous when everyone was coming back from chef with 5's and 6's! The second highest grade on day 1 was an 8 and the only thing that student was lacking in her plate was a garnish! So I'm freaking out and listening to every one's feedback from chef trying to figure out exactly what I can do to make my plate better. So finally I bring my plate to chef and he really liked my mashed potatoes, he loved the flavor of my barbecue sauce and my chicken was cooked properly...I got a 9!!! Everyone hated my that day and I loved it!

So that was the start of PCA2 and we really don't focus so much on the grade anymore. It's still a struggle for some of us. But if you think about it, this is the first time we've cooked most of these things and we can't expect ourselves to be perfect the first time. And if chef gave us a higher grade, we wouldn't really push ourselves as much as we are now. He definitely raised the bar for all of us and we're doing way, way better because of that.

Some new things I've learned in PCA2: how to cook duck, souffles, bread pudding, fish, elephant ears, pot pies, tamales, sausages, Israeli and Moroccan cous cous, fajitas, tortillas, and about fifty other things. Another thing we've been introduced to is an amuse bouche, or a single bite-sized hors d'oeuvre. One day when everyone was cleaning up and a few people were still finishing their plates, chef announces that every once in a while he'll throw something at us and then says in groups of 3 we are to make a dessert amuse bouche and we only have 2o minutes! It was pretty crazy...every one stopped whatever they were doing and rushed to do it. It was fun!

The day before Thanksgiving we put together a family meal during class. We all brought something and sat down during the second half of class to have a Thanksgiving dinner together. It was great, but we still had to do our regular cooking, so chef made us come into class an hour earlier which means I was at school at 5am! Luckily we were done before 10 and I didn't have to work, so I went home and took a nap! I love naps :)

Another thing school has done for me is got me to try a lot of new salmon. People have been telling me all my life how great salmon is and I just have this complete aversion to anything from the sea. And whenever we've made fish I never try it. Well we made salmon en papillote (in paper) and it looked and smelled really yummy. So I tried it and...liked it! My dad pretty much said "I told you so!" And my chef found out that that was my first time eating salmon and I feel like from then on he's always making sure I try everything we make. Which I have! And not just in school, but in general I'm trying a lot of new things. School is really fun and really overwhelming sometimes, because we do so much and most of it is new to me. Monday we have our midterm and two projects due next week, and then the following Monday we start finals. So these next two weeks will be really crazy and then we get two weeks off for Christmas! And when we go back in January we start baking and pastries, which I'm really excited for.