duck salad

i took french in high school.  i then promptly flitted off to madrid, SPAIN for a semester in college, where all that french was not so helpful (except for that one day when our 65-year-old señora had a friend-of-a-friend come stay at the apartment and he only spoke french, so she spoke to me and i “spoke” to him. something about a lightbulb.)

well, mom and dad, my french came in quite helpful in this second go-round in higher education. Classical French Cuisine is the class that gets all the culinary kids shakin’ in their boots. The chef is hard, the material is hard, it’s a lot of work.  QUELLE SUPRISE. it’s the foundation of modern cuisine.

first day–chef is jovial, cracks some bad jokes, makes no mistake we understand his immense qualifications, and lays out the course in very clear terms. i can do this.  different from every other class, each student is solely responsible for one specific dish. it’s a traditional french brigade kitchen, so you do have a loose “team,” but you need to come in every day prepared  and ready to rock–solo.

each day started with lecture. we learned lots of important things about the history of french cuisine.

quite smartly, chef connected everything to a story–the person a dish was named after, a region, culinary lore–which not only made it fun, but being the queen of pneumonic devices, made it infinitely easier to digest the large amount of material.

then, we cooked. on the first day, i made a very distinguished pommes puree. mashed potatoes. which was perfect, because on that particular day i had the bubonic plague. but after i came back from my brush with death, I got to make some delicious venison (bambi) with a peppercorn cream sauce and the only thing i took a terrible picture of–thon provoncale (tuna with olives, tomatoes, and herbs)

that would be a ring of basil oil (most of which ended up on my apron), ratatouille wrapped in a zucchini slice, and grilled tuna topped with olive tapanade

 i had to grill the tuna then flash it to order. seems like a good idea, except that tuna is easy to overcook and overcooked tuna is BAD. so, i used my exceptional poke-it-with-your-finger-and-hope-for-the-best skills, tasted a couple, and said a prayer. After service, the every-charming teacher from the dining room came in, and asked for a tuna for her to eat. huh, she must have thought it looked good.

“this is the first time i’ve had tuna in here that wasn’t GREY!” was what more than a few kids remarked to me. yea!

so each morning even before lecture, we had a quiz on the material from the day before.  10 french words–define them. go. After day 4 or 5, there were an awkward few moments at the end of class where chef called me and another classmate over and asked us a series of strange questions about our assigned recipes for the next few days. we thought we were in trouble. chef comes over and declares, “2 students have gotten 100% on all their quizzes, so I did a tiebreaker, and KAREN, you’re the winner of this beautiful and distinguished Johnson and Wales University baseball hat!” hell yea! (i imagine you understand my excitement was not for the actual hat, but the recognition).

After the requisite jeering from my fellow classmates, a friend who is as southern as they come, comes up to me and says “what did you get for #9? i’d never even seen that word before!”  I said, “oh it’s finely diced mushrooms” She looks at me with sheer confusion and says “but I studied the duck salad with mushrooms, what is this?”

duxelles. pronounced duck-SELL.

something about a lightbulb.

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ch-ch-ch-changes [radio edit remix]

thank you all for the amazing outpouring of love on facebook, twitter, and the colloquial communication like email, text, and phone calls!

it is TRUE. i graduated from culinary school! (still 2 class recaps to come–check back on tuesday!)

turns out they think i’m pretty smart.

it was a little dicey as to whether or not we were actually allowed to participate in the ceremony, but at the last minute, zachary daquiri and i were able to score some sweet threads and crash the party!

then manfriend whisked me away for something we haven’t had in many many moons–a vacation! we spent a fantastic week in savannah, ga and charleston, sc and now [literally, right now. thank you scheduled posts!] we’re moving me BACK to my beloved DC! we’re cohabitating (for shame!) only a few blocks from where i’ll be doing my internship at my favorite kitchen in the city.

stars, please align.

charlotte has been good to me and culinary school was an incredible experience that bestowed on me un-be-lieveable friendships. but, it’s time to go home.

the one where i moved far, far away

so i’m here! tuesday marks two weeks in the queen city. here are the last few weeks in (iphone) pictures.

i was sent off by the girlies in STYLE.

Mad Dog came to town (old town, to be specific) and in between navigating an enormous yellow truck on 495, we managed some lovely evenings.

Chart House

Jackson 20

Mad Dog and Manfriend GRACIOUSLY took the time to drive my self and my stuff all the way down here.

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my poor attempt at documenting our entrance into NC. i took a lot of naps.

we’re heeeeeeeere!

that low building in the front is the NASCAR Hall of Fame. WHO'S YER DRIVER?!

After a looong day of unpacking (I use that word loosely. Mostly men moving my boxes around.), we celebrated the best way 3 Irish Catholics know how.

I think the bartender had a crush on Mad Dog. That’s all scotch.

The next day, Mad Dog used his 6th man-sense to guide us to Big Bird’s final resting spot.

After a delicious $4 lunch (!!), Mad Dog used his 7th sense to seek out….BOOZE.

You can buy beer and wine at gas stations and Target, but for liiiiiicker, you must enter a compound run by un-friendly ex-marine ABC agents.

The kind, patient gentlemen hung my girly curtains while I uncovered tools essential to my culinary education.

but only until the clock struck scotch-thirty.

Mad Dog drove off into the sunset to go visit my tremendously talented cousins in Asheville, and a few days later I said a temporary (but tearful) goodbye to Manfriend…and I was alone and unleashed on the Queen City. First things first: I went to Target and Trader Joe’s (suburbia!!). Then I got in the kitchen, to whip up a creature comfort: granola.

My old oven ran 25-50 degrees cold. This one does NOT.

I hung a picture of my patron saint, Chili Pepper Cat, and hoped next time he would guide me.

And, low and behold, the next venture turned out much better.

forget to buy flour? flourless peanut butter cookies to the rescue! (with TJ mini PB cups to boot)

Chili Pepper Cat also guided me–to a job! I start tomorrow. It’s a super cute (there are twinkle lights involved) restaurant/bar a few blocks from the football stadium.  There is cold beer, turkey legs, and no polyester suits for miles.

Speaking of poultry legs, Manfriend visited again this weekend and we inaugurated the kitchen properly. Balti Chicken, oven-roasted potatoes, and broccoli.

And here we are! I promise monster posts like these won’t become the norm. Especially if y’all come visit!