Some children dream of becoming astronauts. Others aspire to being ballerinas. I had loftier ambitions: to de-bone a chicken. When I began culinary school I thought – wrongly – that removing every single bone from a chicken while leaving it whole would be part of Basic Cookery 101. Crestfallen, I set my book aside and came to the conclusion that de-boning was perhaps an art reserved only for the most masterful of chefs, a process that was only known to a small, exclusive circle. I had resigned myself to live in a world where only bony chickens were served.
And then, one day, the rain cloud that loomed over my bowed head parted and a ray of sunshine broke through: my beloved chef instructor announced that he was going to teach us the coveted procedure. If anything, this one bit of learning has made culinary school worth it.
Doesn’t it look grand?
I also made whole-wheat dinner rolls…one of my Thanksgiving trial runs.
Hooray! It’s fall, at long last! It’s been unseasonably and uncomfortably warm around these parts but last night the fever finally broke and gave way to a gloriously crisp, gusty evening. I love fall. It makes me think of spiced apple cider, fresh baked cookies, and Charlie Brown. But I love it most of all because in just a few short weeks I can start playing Christmas carols and nothing puts me in a better mood than carols – but more on that later.
Speaking of holidays, Thanksgiving is fast approaching, and even though I am not American, it’s been a part of my calendar for years now. As such, preparing the menu for said evening is a portentous event in and of itself. Everyone’s appetite needs to be satiated, everyone’s palate engaged, and of course, all of the staple Turkey Day items represented at the table. In recent years we’ve been moving away from The Bird, though, because let’s face facts: even when properly cooked, turkey is nothing but a Brobdingnagian chicken that serves as nothing but a bed for gravy. Pilgrims, fresh off the Mayflower in 1621, were, I believe, responsible for the McDonald’s super-size me mentality. In short, why do we need Big Bird when there are a variety of daintier, more flavorful versions of poultry that would serve just as well? I am proposing little Cornish hens this year – I shall report back on how the suggestion is greeted.
Also, in deciding to push turkey aside, we’ve been able to welcome large roasts of beef and lamb to the Thanksgiving table, and both have been wildly successful. Big celebratory banquets are the only times you can indulge in these bigger cuts because they are expensive and yield too much for two or three people to eat. I’d like to revisit rib roast this November – succulent, rich, meaty. Need I say more?
Please check in during the coming weeks – I’ll be doing a few Thanksgiving item trial runs.
I made an apple tart on Thursday and I felt a whole lot better about everything. Apple tarts are very soothing. They should change that well-known saying to “An apple tart a day keeps the doctor way.” Also, I’ve been interning at a catering company and worked my first event on Saturday night – all went smoothly and I have thus regained some confidence. Perfect timing, too, as I was swimming much too close to the deep end.
In other news, some of my classmates’ true colors have begun to shine through and they are not very flattering hues. Stereotypical tempestuous chefs in the making! Beware! Part of today’s assignment was to make fresh noodles certain pasta machines weren’t cooperating. One guy took this inanimate object’s offense quite personally and he became quite violent with it. One second the thing was attached to the counter and the next it was on the floor while its crank was in the hand of the raging perpetrator. Dismembered kitchen appliances. Oh the horror!
Speaking of horrors… The fish du jour was flounder and there were a couple extra leftover at the end of class so my partner was charged with filleting one of them. I was standing by and the gutting was going on as normal when all of a sudden a rather outsized “gut” was pulled out. It was quite unusual – larger than an egg sac and firmer. Filled with morbid curiosity, I asked my partner to “Just cut the thing open! Let’s see what’s inside!” It was the fish’s final repast! It was an actual whole fish inside the flounder! Like a man condemned to death, it had devoured one last meal! It was grotesque, now that I think about it. Too bad I didn’t have my camera today. I would have loved to share the gore with you.
Yes, dear readers, I have forsaken you. Few and far between though you are, I have left you hanging. The truth is, I’ve been in a rut. I’ve been cranky, tired, and every other day or so, having mini-breakdowns over this, my latest career move. My brain shorts out, my palms get sweaty, and I go into panic-attack mode. What possessed me to leave my – in the eyes of many, enviable, I should note – job and take out an absurdly large loan to become a cook? A COOK? I have no answer for this. Maybe I got a hunger pang and mistook it for a gut feeling. Next time you get a gut feeling, please, have a sandwich or a Snickers and rethink whatever it is you were convinced about doing. Decisions are made much more rationally on a full stomach.
Despite everything, however, I continue to cook. On Saturday I made gnocchi (from scratch!) with brown butter, sage, and toasted hazelnuts. Also, pork tenderloin stuffed with wine-poached pears and cranberries, bacon, and mushrooms with a plum glaze.
And on Sunday I made strawberry cornmeal muffins.