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CIA Boot Camp: Day 4

October 2, 2008

So glad everyone seems to be enjoying these Boot Camp posts so far! I’m really enjoying re-telling the week…it serves as a nice way for me to record the memories, too. Thanks to you all for reading!

On to Day 4, where we produced the (in my opinion) most appealing and attractive (and delicious) food so far that week. The topics we covered on Day 4 were moist heat and combination cooking methods — that is, braising, stewing, poaching and steaming. I was excited about this lecture, because I knew we’d learn how to poach fish, and even though I suppose it’s kind of an old-fashioned method I really do love a skillfully poached salmon fillet. Mind you, not that I’m always the one skillfully poaching it (I think I overcook it too often), but I was hoping to learn how to do it better today.

A few interesting things we learned:

  • white beads on the surface of a cooked fish indicates that  you’ve cooked it at too high a temperature (the juices are squeezed out, taking some of the proteins with them.) This happens to me a lot – so now I know to tone it down a bit.
  • steaming over wine doesn’t actually flavor the item (just plain water for steaming is fine, then make a sauce with the white wine.) Apparently classes at the CIA actually do experiments, steaming one item over water and one over wine. When finished cooking, the items are compared in a blind taste test, and don’t taste noticeably different.
  • when braising an item, the liquid level should come 1/3 or 1/2 of the way up the sides of the item so you have the right amount of liquid or sauce left at the end (I didn’t know this before.)
  • and one thing that I keep forgetting to mention, but that it seems we touched upon every day: searing meat does NOT do anything to “lock the juices in!” Myth busted! Searing is done for color, texture, flavor, and to develop the fond on the bottom of the pan.

After lecture, it was into the kitchen for demos and production. Chef began with a demo of pot roast, to demonstrate searing then prepping the item for braising.

Massaging in the salt and pepper. Look at all that great mise en place.

We also watched him do a demo of pasta making! If I can get my act together, I will try to do a post on this — I’ve already tried out his technique once since I’ve been home and the pasta was so much better than any of my previous attempts.

cranking the pasta dough through the machine to thin it out.

After cutting it into noodles.

My team was feeling ambitious after our easy day yesterday of stir fry, so today we tackled extra recipes (no, there was no extra credit, but it was fun to learn the dishes and techniques anyway.) We made fillet of sole with white wine sauce (poached), potatoes with saffron and parsley, carrot flan, veal osso buco, and sauteed colored peppers.

Unfortunately we were super rushed near service to get our fish plated – hence the sloppy presentation.

Poached fillet of sole with white wine cream sauce, carrot flan, potatoes with saffron and parsley.

I was so proud of the tourneed potatoes…and we didn’t overboil them! The carrot flan, too, was delicious – I will post that recipe sometime soon; I’ve already made it since being home.

Our demo plate was much prettier (we snuck some green beans in from another team’s platter)!

polenta, roasted vegetables and the pot roast.

veal blanquette and delicious (and pretty) homemade pasta.

poached chicken breast with tarragon sauce, mashed turnips and potatoes, hot and spicy mixed vegetables, haricots verts.

our osso buco with sauteed colored peppers. another team made porcini risotto, mmm.

osso buco milanese with sauteed colored peppers and porcini risotto. my first time making osso buco.

demo plates.

Day 4 afternoon’s lecture was food and wine pairing…this was actually pretty interesting; we learned some good tips that I’m going to try at home. This lecture was immediately following lunch, though, and we were all bemoaning the fact that we were so stuffed when that gorgeous prosciutto di parma awaited us.

all set up and ready to taste some wine.

Dinner that evening was at the American Bounty restaurant, their regional American restaurant that showcases local Hudson Valley ingredients, in particular. The halibut I had for this meal was one of the best I’ve ever had; it was coated in pulverized chanterelle mushrooms and served over simple haricots verts, corn and grits cakes, and watercress puree, with some baby pattypan squash on the side. It’s gorgeous to look at and was perfectly cooked.

beauty on a plate.

Final Day tomorrow! What did we make for our “final exam?” (Remember, we were assigned monkfish for the first course protein and beef tenderloin for our main course.) More tomorrow!

7 Comments leave one →
  1. October 2, 2008 9:09 am

    I am so enjoying these posts! I would love to do something like this although, as a vegetarian, most of it would be lost on me. I have long thought that the answer for me is to enroll in pastry school and it is one of those “do before I die” things. The CIA in Napa is calling my name. Thanks for such thoughtful writing and great photos.

  2. Carrie permalink
    October 2, 2008 12:53 pm

    This is so awesome! Loving reading what you did… also did you see the next food network star is looking… I think you should send a tape!! You never know… worth a try. You have to get it there by October 20th!

  3. Anne permalink
    October 2, 2008 9:47 pm

    I’m so thrilled you had this chance and thankful you’ve shared it with us through your posting. I’ve learned a lot and I swear,I gain a couple ounces at every photograph.

  4. October 2, 2008 10:57 pm

    Great posts, Amy! I have learned quite a few tricks from you:) Keep your posts coming! Glad you had that experience.

  5. October 5, 2008 3:51 pm

    Did you end up with recipes for everything that you and the other groups made? How awesome!

  6. October 6, 2008 8:46 am

    omg, i love these posts! carrot flan? i’ve been wanting to try my hand at pasta making, so i’ll look forward to those posts 🙂

    GREAT to know about those beads on fish!! who would’ve thunk? don’t want to lose protein 🙂

  7. November 10, 2010 10:14 am

    Great tips all through the week! I always wondered what the white “stuff” was on my fish I sauteed. Do you have the recipes for some of beautiful sauces and especially the Veal Osso buco – That was beautiful!!

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