CIA Boot Camp: Day 3
Boot Camp Day 3! By now I was getting into the swing of things. Today was a fun day because we did a campus tour in the afternoon; kind of a “behind the scenes at the CIA.” Lots of pictures below, but first, morning lecture.
Our topics for Day 3 were sautéing, deep-frying, stir-frying, and pan-frying. Much of the day, for me, was reinforcing the essentials for sautéing: basically, always have your mise en place ready (things go quickly!), heat the pan first, add a small amount of your fat, add the seasoned main item, sear and turn once, put the whole pan in the oven if to finish cooking (this I did not always do previously but what a great tip — prevents the burning that sometimes occurs if you keep cooking it on the hot stovetop), and lastly: always, always, always make a pan sauce from the fond that develops in the pan. Some other useful tips learned:
- you can dredge an item like chicken with the skin on or fish in flour first; the flour prevents an item from sticking and helps with browning (because you sear these items at a lower temperature than red meat.)
- when boiling potatoes, start them in cold water. And, you can prevent the pot from boiling over by taking some oil on a paper towel and just rubbing it around the top and inside of the pot rim. This won’t help forever, but it can give you enough time to catch the pot before it comes to a disastrous boil (oh, and: potatoes should never, EVER be boiled. Always simmered.)
- I kind of already knew this, but am guilty of not following it at times: perfect mise en place is pretty important to helping things run smoothly in the kitchen. You don’t want to be starting to make your pan sauce with the fond and find out you haven’t chopped your mirepoix — the fond will burn while you’re racing to dice it up.
We also learned a few more things that will send us to culinary hell:
- never, ever, EVER waste the fond or pan drippings. Make a sauce with them.
- never, ever drain fried foods on paper towels. Why do people do this? The fried items just sit in their oil on the towel and get soggy. Drain them on a wire rack above a paper towel or sheet pan instead.
- boiling potatoes is a big no-no (see above.) Start them in cold, seasoned water and bring them just to a simmer.
After lecture, into the kitchen we went. Chef began with a demo of sauteéd chicken breast and pan-fried pork cutlet with a beurre blanc sauce. I wish I had pictures of these, but I was too busy gulping down the tastes of each that we had…SO delicious! The beurre blanc sauce alone over the crispy pork cutlet was heavenly, but then again, that was something else we were learning this week: butter makes anything better.
Today the teams also made soups, and our team was assigned chicken consommé. I was excited to learn how to make this, because part of the technique involves creating a “raft” of egg whites, ground chicken, and aromatics — the raft coagulates at the top of the hot chicken stock that you use to start the consommé, and the impurities that bubble up when you bring the stock to a simmer will stick to the raft.
Chef whipping egg whites for the raft.
Mixing up the raft (mix it quite a bit!)
Chef also demoed how to make spaetzle! Yum!
The batter is pretty loose.
grating the spaetzle into boiling water; serve tossed with some butter.
Our team had to make stir fried beef with jasmine rice and chicken consomme. A pretty easy day, overall — we had all done stir fries before, and the important thing for us was just getting proper mise en place before starting the stir fry. We also learned that you can start rice on the stovetop and stick it in a 350 degree F oven to finish cooking — which is helpful when you need to free up a burner!
Day 2 dishes.
Pan-fried pork loin with spaetzle.
deep-fried flounder with tomato coulis, boiled potatoes with parsley.
stir-fried rainbow beef with jasmine rice.
chicken breast provencal with sauteed zucchini.
the soups! onion soup gratinee, shrimp bisque, cream of mushroom (the BEST I have ever eaten!), chicken consomme, and the large pot has a petite marmite soup that the student helpers made.
Chef hamming it up before service.
the demo plates.
After lunch, Chef led a tour for our class around the CIA campus. This was so much fun; I loved seeing the different classrooms and some areas I hadn’t seen before when I’d been to the CIA just to eat in their restaurants.
heading up to Roth Hall, through the rear plaza that overlooks the Hudson River.
in the kitchen at Caterina de Medici, the student-run Italian restaurant on campus.
a lecture hall (they were learning about types of cabbage.)
one of the classroom kitchens for Baking and Pastry Arts.
Baking and Pastry Arts classroom kitchen.
Skills I kitchen – the students start here; they make stocks for the entire school to use.
Cuisines of the Mediterranean kitchen.
Skills II (or was it III?) kitchen.
Cuisines of Asia kitchen – they were learning about an Indian dish.
entering the storeroom – this was a pretty cool place to see.
tons of dry goods.
some items like beans, rice, etc. are individually wrapped in packets.
inside the cold storage part of the storeroom, where produce and stocks are kept (Chef is holding up a bag of stock.)
lots of neat vegetables (he’s holding up Chinese long beans and horseradish root.)
container after container of fresh herbs.
they had beautiful micro greens.
inside the meat fabrication classroom!
the students were learning how to butcher a whole lamb that day.
forcemeats hanging to dry.
inside one of Roth Hall’s hallways…it really does show its roots as a Jesuit seminary.
the campus library – so many cookbooks!
a fountain in the center courtyard of Roth Hall.
now I finally got to go inside Apple Pie Bakery — gorgeous, gorgeous desserts.
look at the little mochi in bamboo steamer baskets!
these desserts looked so adorable and delicious — I love anything served in a little jar (or, look at those chocolate pot de cremes in eggshells!)
Dinner Wednesday evening was at the Italian restaurant on campus, Caterina de Medici. This was one of my favorite meals that we had there — the atmosphere was great, it was somewhat more relaxed than the formal French service of Escoffier Room the previous night, and — most of all — the food was delicious.
herb gardens outside the restaurant
inside the restaurant.
Venetian glass chandelier…I was fascinated by it; it’s so ornate and pretty, I suppose, by itself – but didn’t go so well with the warm terracottas and creams of the rest of the room…
- goat cheese ravioli with zucchini mint puree, topped with fried julienned zucchini (I tried someone else’s veal tonnato, too, which was amazing, as well as some prosciutto with melon that had us all moaning over the prosciutto’s silkiness)
- roasted veal medallions with a pan sauce, mushrooms, and parmesan roasted leeks
- the pretty panna cotta below to finish — served with grape must and strawberries in a cookie cup.
Up tomorrow: moist-heat and combination cooking methods (plus, the most colorful food yet!)