Wednesday, November 2, 2011

The Last Dance at CCA

Gingered Carrot Latkes with Apple Jalapeno Salsa
So it is here, our very last night of class at the California Culinary Academy. Tonight was bittersweet, with many mixed emotions. I am excited and definitely feeling that it is time to move on. But I will certainly miss the school, walking the hallways, the chef instructors and students. There is a positive energy to the place, and I will miss all of it....maybe except for the dish pit in our last class...I really hated that dish pit!

These last few nights were focused on our final competencies, written final, and preparing for our final dishes. We had a competency on tournes, rice pilaf, and a sauce competency on the makings of a hollandaise sauce, beurre blanc, and a demi-based sauce. I had to go back through my notes to remember how each was made, since I haven't made them in some time now. 

We had 30 minutes to complete the three sauces. When chef called time, we all quickly got to work. I started my demi based sauce first, Sauce Robert. And that came together beautifully. I then got to work on my beurre blanc, using a technique taught to us by our former chef Dan, it is much easier than the traditional whisking method. However, I let my sauce get too hot, and it broke. Bummer! By this time, I realized I only had 8 minutes left! So I quickly started my hollandaise sauce, and I whipped that together with no problem....which was kind of a miracle because hollandaise is NOT an easy sauce to make. Once that was done, I quickly started a new beurre blanc, using this time an even newer technique in which I didn't use cubes of butter, but rather used a half pound of butter and simply stirred that around in the pan. The sauce was really coming together wonderfully, but I ran out of time, and had to pull it before it was really thick enough. I did get two points off, one point for my hollandaise not having enough lemon (I disagreed), and one point for my beurre blanc not being thick enough (agreed). So overall I was happy with my sauces, and with my grade. And then it was time to get back to work on preparing for our finals dishes...
Grilled Tofu with Thai Peanut Ginger Sauce and Cucumber Pineapple Salad
African Ginger Cake with Ginger Ice Cream and Caramel Sauce
Our finals dishes was to consist of a three course meal, all using one main ingredient, and each dish was to be centered around a particular cultural region. We were able to chose our main ingredient, and what cultures to focus on. I chose ginger as my main ingredient. I just love ginger, and how it adds a lovely hot and sweet kick to most any dish. After some research and talking with other chefs, I finally decided on my menu. My first course appetizer was to be a Jewish dish of gingered carrot latkes, with an apple jalapeno salsa, and a sour cream dill sauce. My second course entree was a Thai dish of marinated and grilled tofu, with a Thai peanut ginger sauce, and fresh cucumber pineapple salad. And my third course dessert was an African dish of African ginger cake, with ginger ice cream and homemade caramel sauce. 

We had two and a half hours to complete our three course menu, so we had more than enough time to cook off each plate and present them to chef. My menu was simple enough so there were no surprises. The only thing I could have done better was to add some additional flavor to the fresh cucumber and pineapple salad on my entree plate, and to have baked a better version of the African ginger cake, as it came out a little tough. I think I over mixed the dough. And I did get one point off for one of my carrot latkes not being quite hot enough. But overall, chef liked my menu, the creativity in each dish, the flavors and textures. So I was happy. It was a good and fun way to end our time in culinary school. We each shared a shot of sake and said our farewells. 

Next week we are due to start a 6 week externship program, in which we are to complete about 30 hours per week, for a total of 180 hours. I feel incredibly lucky and am very excited to have been selected for my externship at a great little restaurant in Woodside called Station 1. And I am looking forward to many new experiences there!

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