Grand Buffet    

July 30 1998
Yet Another Soup
Didn't I do consommé already?

The task of the day:

Stewing and Braising

I'm sitting in the new student center/sports complex as I type this. It opened last week. It's a very nice building. Huge pool, tennis and racketball and basketball and weights and a track. I was hoping to find a place to jack into the Internet here, but so far no luck. I've been using the phones in the library, which work fine, but are somewhat limited in when I can get to them. But failing that, it's still a nice place to hang out.

Tomorrow is graduation day for a block of students. Today is the Grand Buffet, which is a huge spread (covering an entire dining room) produced by the various appetizer and Garde Manger classes. Very out of control and formal, the Grand Buffet is the last gasp of these classes before graduation. Technically, those not involved in producing or consuming the Grand Buffet aren't supposed to be in the room, but you can sneak in and look at it if you ask nicely.

The CIA runs students in "blocks." Blocks start six weeks apart, and rotate through 21 months of classes and 6 months of "externship" at a restaurant. This means there is a new batch of students here every 6 weeks, and a graduation also every 6 weeks. And, of course, hundreds of aspic covered plates at the Grand Buffet every 6 weeks. The school shuts down twice a year, for three weeks each. Other than that, it's a year-round operation. At any given time, there are 2000 students cooking in upwards of 40 kitchens on campus.

Today while walking to class, the smokehouse class was cranking something up. Hard to tell what the product was through all of that smoke, but it sure seemed like bacon to me. I get to take smokehouse in a few more weeks, and am looking forward to it. It's kind of annoying to have the smoke vent near a major walkway, but I guess they can't avoid that. Mmmmm, maple.

I've noted before that this place isn't all that "normal." Can you think of another college campus where you might see a student sitting on the grass honing an enormous meat cleaver? Or where every single meal includes a dissection of the food you are eating? Or where "smoking" could possibly refer to bacon at all?

* * *

I've met two people taking our classes so far who are vegetarian. Well, sort of. You can't take a stock or class that involves cooking of meat without at least tasting it. So, they are "off the wagon" for the week at least. Stephanie says she's only vegetarian on her own time, and an omnivore when on work time. I guess that's one way to look at it.

* * *

Today we prepared:

  • Wild Mushroom Consommé
  • Veal Blanquette
  • Zuchini and Tomato
  • Braised Fennel
  • Spatzle

* * *

I got to prepare the consommé. Other than the addition of some wild mushrooms, it was basically the same as the one I prepared in Soups, Stocks, and Sauces. This time, I did better at some parts, and worse at others. The original clarification proceeded a bit more rough than the first time, but in the end, it did clarify the stock just fine. When staining the soup, however, I wasn't as careful as I should have been. The result was a slight clouding. However, when placed in a soup bowl, it appeared totally clear. I also did a much better job this time at de-greasing the soup. However, I didn't season it correctly, and it still needed salt at the end.

This was stews and braises day. A Veal Blanquette is a stew in which veal is cooked in a chicken velouté until the meat is tender. Then the meat is removed and the sauce thickened with an addition of egg yolks and cream. The warmth causes the egg yolks to slightly cook and provide a smooth texture to the sauce. Lemon is added to cut the heavy cream flavor. It really was excellent, although a little bit goes a long way.

We could tell this was Chef Baumann's favorite day. He loved every dish. He certainly had his hand in a great many of them, helping out, adjusting. Mostly, I think he just wanted to make sure they tasted good enough for him to eat.

To make pennance for all of our meat consumption today, tomorrow is vegg cooking. The recipes are very fiddley, with lots of little bits to cook and assemble. Many many steps, for what looks like a simple dish. I think we are going to be rushed. On top of that, all groups get to add a consommé to their existing list. Chef thinks it important enough to practice. I think I may hand off this duty to another member of my team, or perhaps I'll just practice it again. I'm not sure what the team wants to happen here.

A whole lot of people were going out tonight. I'm just going to stay in and read. I'm too tired to deal with a sports bar right now. I'm normally too tired to deal with that sort of mess anyway.

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Copyright 1998 Tom Dowdy