Whew, It’s over. We’re finished, at least with the stressful pieces. Today we completed the three course practical exam: five hours to prepare the the prescribed appetizer, entree, and dessert featuring an amalgamation of the of techniques exposed over the course of the past 3 1/2 weeks: knife cuts (yikes), wet and dry heat cooking, tempering chocolates, and a bunch of other techniques- some of which were mentioned in the previous post. (If you’ve got questions, leave them in the comments; I’d be glad to answer.) That chocolate is a beast! I’m still trying to figure it out.
Did I learn a whole lot? I don’t think I learned a whole lot of new techniques or ingredients for the first time. It’s possible, but at the moment, my mind is too exhausted (perhaps prideful) to acknowledge it. I will say I’ve been afforded the opportunity to get better at plenty of the things I did know- many of which are often not acknowledged when you look at the plate, like time management and working/staying clean.
I don’t have the greatest pictures to show you, but here are the three courses (the app and entree shown weren’t plated by me):
The appetizer course was a crab, mascarpone, and pea-stuffed agnolotti, with what I’d call a shallow poached lobster on top a pea puree; and finished with a lobster beurre blanc (a reduction of lobster stock with a bit of white wine and “mounted” with cold butter).
For the entree we prepared a filet mignon, au jus, b a s t e d in a garlic-thyme-shallot butter, along side a pont neuf potato (prepared in what I think is a pretty unconventional manner) topped with tomato jam, braised mustard greens and glazed carrots.
The final course was a dessert vanilla bavarios (in un-culinary terms, that dome below, made of a custard suspended with gelatin) with a strawberry coulis and a cardamom doughnut.
All plates out, we could finally breathe again, even though we now had a kitchen to clean. Making our way to the deep sinks in the back, congratulations and chatter of plate critiques rose to the surface comparing each other’s dishes or even to the earlier versions we’ve prepared. Practice of our classical French culinary vocabulary, mostly laden with the thickest American accents. Jokes and playful criticisms that had to be let out- especially about that ol’ Master Sergeant, ha. He’s our class leader, a country boy from Mississippi who’s former active duty Army and now National Guard. To sum him up, I’ll say he’s got a story for everything. This will be a good one for him to tell.