day nine - eggs, fish en papillote and poached pears

Note: For six weeks, July 5 - August 11, I will be enrolled in the culinary arts cooking and pastry/baking certificate programs at Boston University. Cooking is Monday and Tuesday, baking is Wednesday and Thursday. We have to keep a daily journal of the experience, so I'll be blogging about the class every day.

"Therefore, eggs are the only ingredient that transcend the cooking-baking bridge." - Kitty Farmer

Last night we made Grand Marnier souffles in cooking. WHAT? You can't make no souffles in cooking! That's for baking. Au contraire mon petit squelette (that means, "Stop being so wrong, my little skeleton." Roughly).

First of all, Kitty Farmer is wrong. There are lots of ingredients that transcend the cooking-baking bridge, which is not even a thing. Like flour. You can put it in a beurre manie to thicken your sauce or you can make a cake with it. So we made souffles because there are many times when egg whites must be used in cooking, so it's a good skill to have. So is knot-making. They should teach that in high school. Anyway, there are certainly savory souffles with cheese and herbs, so it makes perfect sense to make them in cooking.

Anyway, have we decided if souffles are easy or hard yet? For a long time they were supposedly the hardest thing in the kitchen and nobody wanted to make them and yours will probably deflate because it didn't like the color spoon you used. And then it was like, "No no! Souffles are easy! Stop being so intimidated!" So which is it?

After making them last night, I'm in the latter camp. Souffles are perfectly easy things to make. We buttered and sugared our dishes and wiped off a rim around the top so the souffle would have something to climb on (no collars for us). We made the base, folded in the egg whites, baked it and bing, souffles are done. Sprinkle with powdered sugar and serve immediately. It's probably just that I'm in this class so I'm basically an expert in cooking and nothing is difficult for me anymore. That's what it is.

We started class with arctic char en papillote, which translates to "Fish cooked in a heart-shaped piece of parchment paper." Roughly. So, you have a heart-shaped piece of parchment, which you butter, sprinkle half with chopped shallots, put your fish on, top with julienned carrot, celery and leek that has been sauteed in butter, season with salt and white pepper, sprinkle with white wine, fold one half of the heart over the other, fold the edges and bake at 400-425 degrees for about 10-12 minutes. The demo we tasted was at 12 minutes and a bit overdone, so we went down to 10 for the others. I also added more salt to mine because I thought the demo was bland. I think some butter or olive oil would be tasty on top, as well, with a sprinkling of lemon when you open it up.

The majority of class was given over to omelettes and poached eggs. Chef Madden said we should be perfectly comfortable making omelettes and poached eggs by the end of class, particularly because omelettes are kind of a chef test. Sometimes, these chefs, I tell you. Anyway, there are eight million videos online about how to make the perfect omelette. Basically, heat some butter, pour in a ladle of whisked eggs, let the bottom just set, use your spatula to scramble up the bottom quickly by moving the pan around, swirl the pan around the distribute the eggs evenly, get the eggs to just before set, start rolling one edge, move the pan over a plate, slide the eggs off and over and then you can make a slit down the center and fill with your favorite filling if you feel like it. Just don't let them brown at any point! I don't know. Just watch some videos and practice. It's too confusing to explain.

Then we poached eggs. We went through a LOT of eggs last night. A bit of vinegar and water just before the boil and slowly slide your eggs from a small cup directly into the water. Let the white set, flip the egg over, let it cook for just a while longer (ABOUT 3 minutes in total, but just watch them) and remove to an ice bath if you are holding them for a while (you can slip them back in boiling water for a bit to heat them up again) or directly to your plate. We had them as eggs benedict. 

Honestly, the best thing is just to practice a lot. Our lab fee means we have hundreds of eggs at our disposal and we can keep practicing until we get it right. But buy a few dozen eggs and practice. After a while you'll get the feel for it.

Finally, poached pears. I love poached pears. They are so delicious and elegant. The only thing is they made me sad because they look like fall and fall is the best and when is it going to be fall? We cooked our pears in white wine (we could choose white or red) until tender (for the most part) with some sugar, lemon peel and clove, removed the pears, cooked the wine until it is a thin sauce (like a good quality syrup), poured the sauce over the top and served with whipped cream (although the sauce was still too warm for the whipped cream, but oh well). They were very excellent.

Tonight: sausage and charcuterie.