Sunday, 14 June 2009

The beginning of the end

Its a little scary to think that we only have 3 weeks left of school, the last 5 months have passed by at warp-like speed.

We had our last traiteur class on Monday, class attendance inched up a little compared to last time to a whopping 50%! Not that I'm complaining having a smaller class but I do feel a little sorry for chef Alain - like all the other chefs we have had teach us at ESCF, he is also an expert in his field and is certain to add to our culinary knowledge, even for those people who have had experience in the kitchen.....oh wellos, tant pis! We spent the morning making salmon coulibiac and pizza. Salmon coulibiac is a dish involving a large amount of mise-en-place which is then used to build a tidy package consisting of salmon fillet layered with spinach, mushroom duxelle, pilaff rice, mashed egg and parsley-flavoured crepes. All of this is then enveloped with brioche dough before being put into the oven to bake until ready. It was really funny seeing numerous other chefs pop in and out of our lab to see when the coulibiac was going to be ready, it felt like that they all have a gift of sniffing out where the good food was being made, probably developed from years of practice, methinks :) The coulibiac weighed almost the same as a newborn baby and we could barely shift our bundles onto a baking sheet - the funniest was seeing one of our classmates with his coulibiac - he used up all his ingredients so it looked like a mini monster!! The final dish was actually very tasty and lighter than imagined - I was actually amazed at how tasty you can make basmati rice with just some onion and a single bay leave!!

The pizza was fairly straightforward to make - essentially a simple dough topped with tomatoes, onions and cheese. Taste-wise, it didn't reach the heights of its Italian roots but it was still pretty nice for a snack. 

The bulk of this week was then centred on preparing for and doing our last restaurant service. As before, it wasn't as hectic as we did not have to prepare any mignardises and mise-en-place so a lot of floating around. I didn't manage to help with preparations on Tuesday as I had to finish my pastillage painting, which as usual, took a lot longer than I had anticipated. I also made the mistake of showing chef when I was done and he told me to go and finish it.......TWICE!! By the 3rd time, I wised up and decided to just leave the plaque on the rack deciding myself that it was finished! In fairness, chef's suggestions for tidying up some things were good and did make the painting look better :)

Like last time, we made 3 desserts for restaurant service; Crêpe soufflé with exotic fruit salad, croustillant de crème à l'anis (crème brûlée parcels wrapped in filo and served with red fruit compote) and rhubarb & apple compote served with coriander tuile and fromage blanc ice cream. Each dessert had a component which was "à la minute" (lit. cooked to order) which made things a little more complicated. Luckily, I was working on the croustillant with a classmate who's had ample experience in the kitchen so our desserts went out pretty much like clockwork. I think the crêpe soufflés were probably the hardest to do and serve on time but we didn't do too badly once a few more people pitched in to help that post. A good service overall and we also said our final goodbyes to our art teacher, Monsieur Niau who had come for dinner with his family, je vous remercie de m'enseigner comment oser :)

I also got the chance to my cigarettes petits fours for Thursday's lunch service - I was feeling a little apprehensive right after I had volunteered to make them since all I could remember from the last time was chef shouting at my classmate about hurrying up! In the end, she helped me out and it wasn't as frantic as I had imagined.....need to grow some Teflon fingers for it tho! :)

We finished off the week with ice sculptures which I was a little worried about since my styrofoam practice version wasn't even 30% finished! Chef then said that we could actually make whatever we wanted so I decided to chicken out and go for a simpler shape.....a shamrock! Sculpting out ice turned out to be much easier than styrofoam but we soon realised that we were fighting against time as our blocks started melting and disappearing before our very eyes!! After some initial chipping away, chef decided to accelerate the shaping of my piece by attacking it with a chain-saw (or saw-chain as he likes to call it!). Later, I decided that I needed more sawing so he just told me to take it myself - kinda scary at first holding a chainsaw but it turned out to be a lot of fun after a few gos! Special mention had to go to our goofy protection -binliner dresses, we looked like something out of Star Wars....only the light sabres were missing.....szung! szung! :)  

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