Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Mayo Clinic

The recipes we prepare for the Family Meal buffet have been outlined for us in our binders. The object is to prepare large quantities of food that is consistent, delicious and appealing. Before I started culinary school I wondered if I would get a dinner break during our five-hour class and how that would work. Happily, FCI does feed us, and now I have the chance to be a part of making that happen. It’s funny, when we were served Family Meal in our first level classes we would criticize it and wonder who was making this food?! Sometimes it was good and sometimes it was so-so. Only once I opted not to eat the main entrĂ©e and had salad instead.

Now I know the secrets behind Family Meal, it is entirely made by Level IV students and some of those students are good and some are so-so hence the quality of food. Luckily, my team is fantastic and overall our class is very good. It’s our turn to make a better and more appetizing dinner for the 150 students and staff each night. Better yet, we are working under an energetic, fireball of a Chef – Chef Wanda!

Chef Wanda has jet fuel coursing through her veins, she is fast, organized, speaks quickly also sometimes in Spanish and moves at the speed of light. She is wonderful to work with and gives us freedom and power to make the given recipes better and more creative.

Our first class, the main dish for the night was BBQ roasted chicken, with an old-fashioned potato salad and grilled vegetables. The six of us were split into three groups, protein, starch and veggie. I worked on the potato salad with Spencer at my side.

Looking at the recipe I realized the dressing required a gallon of mayonnaise – and thought I could probably get some commercial grade mayo from the storeroom. Chef quickly informed me I would be making my own hand-made mayonnaise unless the Garde Manger Kitchen had some leftover from service. Well, that wasn’t the case and I fetched the largest stainless steel bowl I could find which was probably at least four feet wide. I was perplexed trying to figure out how many egg yolks, vinegar, oil and Dijon mustard to use to make a whole gallon of mayonnaise. Chef told me to eyeball it and go for it – so I did.

I took out my trusty ballon whisk and laughed at how ridiculous it looked next to that giant bowl. I used about two pints of pasteurized egg yolks and about ½ cup of mustard, a heavy dash of salt and pepper and about a cup (or two) of white wine vinegar. Next the blended canola oil – I needed an extra pair of hands to help drizzle the oil in as I whisked it to begin the emulsion. Slowly but surely, the Dijon and egg yolks worked together to incorporate the oil with the aid of strong strokes of my whisk. I used almost a gallon of oil to get the quantity that I needed. Finally after about 30 minutes of work and breaking a sweat my mayonnaise came together beautifully, I tasted it and seasoned, tasted, seasoned, and tasted and seasoned some more until I felt it was just right. This (what I thought) monumental task was now something I would never fear and a sense of accomplishment washed over me. After that I completed the dressing with sour cream, fresh herbs and some more Dijon. As for potato salads go, I thought it was pretty damn good!

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