After almost 6 months of learning all aspects of cooking and baking, it was time for us to see if anything actually sunk in. We were nervous wrecks for the last few weeks. There were so many techniques and possible course combinations, we didn’t know what to expect. According to May, the first week of testing consisted of getting the ingredients for 3 courses. Acting like private chefs, we had to what to cook when in order for everything to be presented like a real meal-with a 10-15 minute break in between course servings.
We all showed up at the appointed time, 6:30pm. Every student was standing by their station, knives at the ready as she handed out the single sheets of paper. We had to present everything to her by 9pm. No exceptions.
This is exactly what was on the sheet:
1 tablespoon clarified butter
½ onion, diced
1 cup mushrooms
2 cups chicken stock
1 tablespoon vermouth
1 sprig thyme
¼ cup cream
Green Salad with French Vinaigrette
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
1 teaspoon minced shallot
½ teaspoon Dijon mustard
3 tablespoons olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste
1 big handful mixed salad greens
Macerate the shallot in the vinegar for 5 minutes. Stir in mustard, then olive oil and season with salt and pepper to taste. Add greens, toss and serve.
That was the whole thing. Obviously, we needed to start with the chicken, since making everything else could be done while the chicken was cooking. Everyone grabbed the whole chickens. We actually had to share them, being that the recipe only called for a half. But, not only was she looking for how well the dish came out, but if we knew how to cut up a chicken the proper way. I was lucky enough to get to chop the chicken in half. I was SO glad it’s something I do very often. I cut off the wings and the legs, sliced down the back, took the backbone off, split the breasts and I was done. I even went a step further and cut the larger breast portions in two, to make sure it all looked even.
All through this process, May browsed around checking on what we were doing. I browned the chicken, then cooked the leeks in some leftover fat from the skin, deglazed the pan, then added the rest of the ingredients, except for the tarragon, which I would put in later. In the convection oven it went at 325 degrees to cook for about an hour or so.
Next it was time for me to gather all the salad ingredients. Some of the students started on the soup, but I wanted to make sure the salad and dressing were prepared, so all I had to do was toss everything together while May was sampling the soup. If I had to gather all the ingredients after serving May the soup, there wouldn’t have been enough time, since the shallots had to marinate for a few minutes. So, I chose this way.
The mushroom Veloute was a challenge for everyone, so we learned afterwards. See, May gave us a clue in her pre-test instructions. She made us aware of where all the equipment was and even said, “And the blenders are down here on the shelf.” Well, there was a Cuisinart food processor in the area where the supplies were laid out. So, we all used that instead of a blender to puree the soup. WRONG! It seems the blender makes a lovely, thick puree. The Cuisinart? Not so much. We strained the pieces out and the soup was watery for all of us. Serves us right for being lemmings, huh?
Luckily, for most of us, that was all that we got wrong. I found out I needed to brown my chicken just a little longer. Cathy needed a bit more salt in something. Someone else’s white meat was overdone because they didn’t take it out first to let the dark meat cook a bit longer (another technique trick they were testing for!). I’m happy to say that everyone passed. We celebrated with drinks afterwards and talked about next week’s adventure. That will be the real challenge for us-there are no recipes. May just tells us what to make and we have to make it. Oh goody, I can’t wait.
Here’s Cathy’s take on the testing...Cathy’s Blog.