CIA Boot Camp: Day 5
Day 5 of CIA Boot Camp arrived, and though I was a little sad to be leaving, I was also (a) exhausted, (b) very full, and (c) ready to go back home to my own kitchen to try out what I’d learned. Our morning lecture time was replaced by a rousing game of Culinary Jeopardy…they even had real buzzers for us to use (helpful for avoiding any culinary-knowledge-fueled rumbles!)
classroom set up for Culinary Jeopardy, electric buzzers and all!
Each team had been working earlier in the week to develop a menu based on the two proteins assigned: for our team, we had monkfish assigned for a first course and beef tenderloin for a main course. We also had to cook at least two vegetables and a starch. We went with a fall-inspired menu, and chose to make:
- monkfish tenderloin wrapped in prosciutto, sliced and served over a butternut squash puree
- roasted beef tenderloin with red wine jus lié, served with three-cheese polenta, braised kale, and cider-glazed carrot and parsnip batonnets.
We got into the kitchen earlier than usual that morning, and all teams got down to work. One of the teams made dried fruit and nut-stuffed quail, and Chef demoed how to stuff and prep the quail.
Chef demoing how to stuff the quail.
cute little quail
crossing their legs.
If I can find some good-quality quail around here, I’m definitely going to make this dish — the fruit and nut stuffing was a perfect match with the quail, and their backbones had been removed, which made them a breeze to eat, too.
When my team was developing our menu, we knew we wanted to wrap the monkfish in some type of pork product (bacon, pancetta, prosciutto, etc.) before roasting it. Chef had suggested prosciutto, and suggested that we use caul fat to wrap around and secure the prosciutto-wrapped monkfish so that the prosciutto didn’t dry out and develop a tough texture (the caul fat would render out in the oven around the prosciutto). Seeing caul fat for the first time was pretty awesome — I suppose if you tend towards being weaker-stomached, it’s not particularly appealing, but I’ve always been fascinated by this kind of stuff (I was, after all, a biology major and did enjoy my anatomy classes.) Oh, I suppose I should tell you what caul fat is, if you don’t know: it’s the sac that encases all the organs of some animals (sometimes called the omentum.) Okay, so it’s not very appetizing…but, it’s such a cool structure! The interstices of the net-like webbing of fat are connected by a strong, clear membrane.
caul fat spread out – pretty cool
layering on prosciutto, cilantro and monkfish fillet
rolling up the caul fat around the prosciutto-wrapped monkfish; here you can see how the clear membrane connects the webbing of fat.
As I mentioned before, we were into the kitchen earlier than usual, so prep work settled into a calm, quiet rhythm. However, just like every other day that week, about 45 minutes before service things kicked into high gear, with everyone scurrying around to finish their dishes and plate everything up in time. Everything worked out well in the end, though, and all the teams made interesting and varied dishes.
One of my favorite dishes another team made: the dried fruit and nut-stuffed quail glazed with pomegranate molasses. Our beef tenderloin is in the back.
more finished dishes
potstickers, some dipping sauces, roasted red pepper veal meatballs, and an heirloom tomato and arugula salad.
our beef tenderloin with red wine pan sauce, served over three-cheese polenta, braised kale and cider-glazed carrots and parsnips.
our prosciutto-wrapped monkfish fillet, served over a butternut squash puree.
it came out pretty well, and the butternut squash puree was so silky.
beef tenderloin, three cheese polenta, braised kale and cider-glazed carrots & parsnips
everyone did a great job!
what a spread!
So I have to say, all in all, I had a really wonderful, fun, and inspirational week. Even though I wasn’t a novice cook going into it, learning some of the tips and instruction behind cooking fundamentals was interesting and useful, and I’m already finding that I’m doing things slightly differently than I would have before. I think the course really encourages you to start thinking about what kind of finished dish you want to have first, and then backing up and deciding what cooking methods will get you to that finished product…and I imagine this to be more how a professional chef thinks. To not be bound by recipes is to be free in the kitchen, right?
So next week we’ll be back to our regularly scheduled programming; I have (yet another) maple dessert that I may post, and I’ll certainly be bringing some of the ideas that I learned in Boot Camp to this blog over time! In the meantime, enjoy your weekend — I myself am looking forward to the Harvest Dinner that we’re attending for our CSA! The dinner is going to be right out in the farm fields, prepared by a local chef with produce from the farm and wines from a local winery. With the gorgeous autumn leaves and brisk air around us, it should be delightful!