Not a Turkey    

August 27 1998
Lotsa cool demos
and jokes lost on the Japanese

The task of the day:

Hot and Cold Buffet

Today we did more production for tomorrow's buffet. We think our group is pretty set now, as we've done all of the measuring and prep for all of the dishes. I'm going to attempt to run off an additional dish with some chanterelles and the extra fois gras.

Today we made a savory tart out of smoked duck. We arranged orange slices, pistascios, and slices of the duck breast on top. Then we coated it with a glaze formed by reducing smoked duck stock down to a syrup with orange juice and some herbs. It looks and tastes yummy so far. Hopefully when all together it will really rock.

* * *

I was in charge of reducing the stocks and skimming them. Plus, I made a galantine of fois gras. A galantine is a roll made from some kind of terrine like meat, stuffed into a skin (chicken, pheasant, etc) and rolled in plastic wrap. The result is poached, cooled, and sliced. For a fois gras galantine, you don't use any skin, and poaching is pretty quick. This is because the fat in fois melts out very quickly. When you cool the result in an ice bath, it solidifies into a firm mass that can be sliced into rounds.

* * *

Someone asked how to make farmer's cheese (hi John!), so I thought I'd let you all know.

  • 1 quart fresh milk
  • 1/4 cup white wine (or rice wine) vinegar
You bring the milk to 160 degrees farenheight. Then you turn off the heat, and pour in the vinegar. Stir very slowly as the curds form. Then you ladle the result through two layers of cheesecloth, and bundle up the top. Leave hanging over a bowl or pot overnight suspended from something (I tied it to a large wooden spoon). In the morning, additional whey will have drained out, and the cheese will be a firm ball, about like cream cheese. It's fairly mild in flavor, so you'll probably flavor and salt at this point. You can also salt before hanging overnight. Yield is about a cup or so per quart.

* * *

We've had some great demos this week. They've been lost on some of the more inexperienced members of the class. We found out that the Japanese members of our class are mostly managers of a large baking company. I guess this explains alot. Yesterday, a demo of boning out a turkey skin was hilarious as Chef reacted to the frozen neck by declaring "Oh my God! An alien in here!" But the bakers (who originally handed the Chef a Cornish Game Hen for a demo that called for a Turkey) I think missed the humor there.

The Pâté en Croute (A high class meatloaf baked in a crust) demo was really excellent. The class made four of these, and so far they all look very good. We also learned some very interesting things. We're making these in the "modern style." How modern? Try 1980.

In the "olden days" (read: 1970, when meriko was still in, what, kindergarten?) a Pâté en Croute was cooked off and then allowed to cool. As this happened, the meat inside shrank. To fill the void between the meat and the crust, aspic was poured in. I'm sure you've all seen this, with the large expanse of unappetizing aspic at the top.

In 1980, during practice sessions for the Culinary Olympics (yes, there is such a thing, and it's a really Big Deal) the US team stumbled upon a trick. If you pour the aspic in as the meat is cooling, the meat absorbs the aspic and expands back to fill the crust. The result is still strong (in fact, stronger) and can be sliced very thin without breaking. Plus, the aspic is almost invisible to the customer.

The US also discovered that if you coat the garnish or inlays of meat that one sometimes puts into these Pâtés with a combination of powdered egg whites and gelatin, you keep the items firmly locked into place during slicing.

As a result of this, the Pâté en Croute went from something with very little visible garnish and a large expanse of aspic sliced thick in order to hold together, into a thin sliced wonder with large visible chunks that could occupy up to 70% of the contents and still not fall out, plus no icky aspic! The US blew away the world (including the French) who were left scratching their heads.

Whoda thunk that in 1980 in international competition, the United States (land of the burger force crammed from window to stomach) would beat out the French with their own cuisine? This is now The Right Way to make a Pâté en Croute and the old way is considered The Wrong Way.

One of the groups of baker's decided to give their crust a bit more life. They pressed some chopped herbs into it, and washed the dough in saffron. Chef was very nice in the criticism. "You might want to mix the herbs in with the dry ingredients before forming the dough. You might want to think about infusing the saffron into the liquid before forming the dough." I actually thought that the tie-dyed look of the brushed saffron was kinda cool. It'll be interesting to see if when sliced all of that is lost (I suspect it will be). Still, makes a nice addition to the gross piece.

* * *

Slowly getting to know other members of the class. Larry is from Michigan. He's gotten the nickname "Rabbit" because he was using my smoker to cook off some rabbit loins the other day. It was early in the week, and I didn't know his name, so when I saw that the loins were probably done I called out "Hey Rabbit Boy!"

The kitchen is usually pretty quiet but bustling. Calls like "Hey Rabbit Boy" or "Who's got the salt?" or "Behind you, hot pot!" are generally the only raised voices you hear. There is lots of steam and heat in the air, and the slams of the reach-in doors. You tend to focus on your own group's activities, but there is a fair amount of cross group discussion, especially when there's similar skill levels.

* * *

My burn from the other day is healing well. I've only got two blisters out of it, which are shrinking slowly. I should be back in top form in time to burn myself next week on a baking oven.

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Copyright 1998 Tom Dowdy