Tuesday, November 4, 2008


This past week has been somewhat of a challenge in the kitchen. I’ve been terribly distracted with other things on my mind and I’m having a hard time focusing on my work. In the Garde Manger kitchen we prep stocks, consommé, and most everything for our next class as well as prepare fresh pasta every night and sauté fresh squab and the daily task list goes on. As part of our prep time I started working on the clarification mixture to make consommé from beef stock commonly know as marmite.

When I started culinary school consommé was a mystery to me. When using marmite the stock is cloudy and a little flavorless this is completely normal. By preparing a clarification mixture of egg whites, lean ground beef and aromatics the marmite transforms into a sparkling clear broth that obtains added flavor from the aromatics. The mixture draws out all the impurities in the marmite and attaches to the proteins in the egg whites and beef as it simmers for an hour.

I started by heating up 2 gallons of marmite in two separate stock pots just to make it manageable and then added the clarification mixture. The process is to bring the liquid to a simmer, stirring constantly to help form a “meat raft” – yes, that’s what we call it.

Here comes distraction – hungry – so I leave the stove and go to the family meal kitchen to get some grub. While I’m there I start chatting with Chef Laura and completely forget what I was doing – not good. After some time, like a lightning bolt striking the ground I realize my stupidity and race back to Garde Manger. Chef Wanda had saved my consommé – the meat raft wasn’t forming and started to stick to the bottom of the pot. Chef replaced the pots and scolded me in a nice way. Apparently my brain left me for a period of time and I was on auto-pilot. My near miss almost cost me an additional 2 to 3 hours of work starting from scratch. I felt like an idiot and apologized for my lack of focus.

That evening I finally realized what I did to create the pasta disaster from the night before. I used the wrong flour to make the dough. The recipe calls for “00” flour which is like talcum powder. My brain once again on auto-pilot used all-purpose flour that resulted in a dry, unworkable dough. Another “ahuh” moment.

The evening did end on a funny note, a Level IV student came in and asked if we were “guarding monger” we figured she wanted to know if she was in the Garde Manger kitchen – we all had a good laugh – I thanked Mon Dieu that I studied French for so many years!

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