Tuesday, August 19, 2008

A Pea in the Pod

Guess how many pea pods are in a 5 lb. box – A LOT! Especially when you have to pick through them to remove the not so fresh ones, then remove the stringy filament from each and every pod. I was zoning out as I tackled the box of pea pods that sat in front of me – it seemed like hours were passing by as I trimmed the ends and cleaned the hundreds and hundreds of pea pods – at one point I thought they were magically multiplying since the pile never seemed to go down. The pea pods were one ingredient for a spicy coleslaw. Somehow I made it through, but boy was I cranky! Every little thing in the kitchen last night was annoying me, from people blocking the way when I had heavy trays of dirty bowls or the constant drone of idle nonsensical chatter. I was not having any of it – and I was barking at fellow students left and right. On my dinner break I went outside to get some fresh air and get it together.

Next week we move into the L’École kitchen and begin our Level V training. Time is rushing by and I’m amazed at how fast this current section went from Buffet to Production to Family Meal. Very soon I need to gear up to start an at home project consisting of menu design, food preparation, costing, research and plating techniques – the project is due the third week of Level V – more on this soon.

Last week, Chef Janet took some time after class to show me how to preserve lemons. Preserved lemons are a wonderful addition to a dish such as a roast lamb or chicken with Moroccan spices. I wanted to learn how to make these lemons for my upcoming project and it was very easy to do.

Preserved Lemons – we took two clean quart containers and about a dozen lemons. I washed the lemons in warm water to remove any waxy coating. We sliced almost all the way through the lemon lengthwise keeping one end in tact and then fit as many as we could in the quart containers. The addition of fresh thyme, basil and peppercorns will add a subtle aromatic flavor. A large quantity of Kosher salt filled the containers of lemons to help cure and draw out juices. Lastly, we added lemon juice using Chef Janet’s ratio. With 5 whole lemons in the container we added the juice of 5 additional lemons and some more salt to top it off. The containers were sealed and double wrapped in heavy duty plastic wrap and I was sent home with these instructions. Place the containers in the refrigerator and once a week turn them around and place them upside down to distribute the curing liquid. In about four weeks my lemons will be ready to use and will keep in the refrigerator indefinitely. The lemons will be ready in time for my big culinary project and time is ticking away for me to compose a theme, decide on courses and execute the plan. My mind is simmering with ideas!

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