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CIA Boot Camp: Day 5

October 3, 2008

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 liรฉ, 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!

15 Comments leave one →
  1. October 3, 2008 6:18 pm

    It is unreal how beautiful all the food looks! I would imagine it tastes twice as great! Congrats on making it through your CIA boot camp week!

  2. October 3, 2008 7:42 pm

    It sounds like you had a wonderful week at the CIA. I look forward to seeing the inspiration from your week reflected in your future posts!

  3. October 4, 2008 7:35 am

    Congrats on a successful week! The Friday pics look great – esp. the quail. Looking forward to new recipes and maple desserts!

  4. October 4, 2008 8:12 am

    Wow, you are so lucky! The CIA Bootcamp is on my life’s “To Do” list. I can’t wait to see what you come up with after that experience!

  5. October 4, 2008 7:29 pm

    I have LOVED reading about your week…what a total blast. Thank you for sharing with us in such great detail.


  6. October 5, 2008 12:02 pm

    Wow. My boyfriend sat over my shoulder and read all about your week with me… guess what I asked him to get me for my birthday ๐Ÿ™‚

    Your posts were beautiful!!

  7. October 5, 2008 3:57 pm

    Don’t worry, I think the caul fat is pretty cool too ๐Ÿ˜€

  8. October 6, 2008 8:51 am

    ooh, this totally sounds like what i want for xmas ๐Ÿ™‚ lol, but i’ll pass on the caul fat…

  9. Anne permalink
    October 6, 2008 2:24 pm

    [still trying to cut potatos into seven-sided shapes…]

  10. Janet permalink
    October 6, 2008 4:30 pm

    Thanks for writing about your experience. This sounds like something great to try.

  11. October 7, 2008 7:25 pm

    Piper – thanks! ๐Ÿ™‚

    Tiffany – it was a wonderful week, indeed. I’ll do my best to bring what I learned to the blog!

    sue bette – thanks! The quail was a real standout.

    Andrea – I highly recommend the program; it was such a great experience. I hope you can go sometime!

    Lauren – oh, you’re so welcome! It was fun for me, too. ๐Ÿ™‚

    Josie – I hope you get to go; it was so much fun!

    Marianne – oh good! Glad it’s not just me.

    ttfn300 – that’s okay. ๐Ÿ™‚ Hope you get a chance to go!

    Anne – it took us a looong time to get the hang of it, and ours still were not perfect!

    Janet – my pleasure; glad you enjoyed!

  12. rhodeygirltests permalink
    October 9, 2008 11:11 am

    wow this sounds like it was lots of fun! and a csa dinner?!?!?1 soooo uppp my alley!

  13. October 10, 2008 12:45 pm

    How fun! Is monkfish a very FISHY fish?

  14. January 18, 2009 3:18 am

    I found you through Tammy at Food on the Food (she linked to your Maple-Black Pepper pork chops on Blog Her, and I SO BOOKMARKED THEM). And then I meandered around a bit.

    I just read through this CIA thing and I wanted to thank you. I would love to go, but not currently being able to, I was grateful that some of the tips and lessons you dropped in through out the writing were as useful as they were. I will keep some of them in mind in the future – particularly searing, then oven; not drying bacon on paper towels; beads on the fish; simmering not boiling potatoes). I dig the caul fat thing too, but then again, I also loved anatomy.

    You’re the best for writing all this out! Happy for you that you had such a great time. ๐Ÿ™‚

  15. November 10, 2010 10:40 am

    WOW, What a fabulous experience!! What does Boot Camp cost? If we could swing it, I would love for my husband to give this to me for our 30th anny! My passion is food and creating in the kitchen and it would be a dream come true to experience what you did. Thanks again, for sharing.

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