bechamel and boogaloo

Wow so the promise for no more monster posts sure fell through. since we last spoke, i’ve been through 2 more sections–Stocks, Sauces, and Soups and New World Cuisine.  Yesterday was the first day of Introduction to Dining Room–I get to wear my hair down and makeup (yay!) but also have to wear the dreaded Cintas uniform pants. Atleast these bad boys aren’t 100% polyester like my last encounter with uniforms.

I think everyone in my class feel like we’re starting to hit our stride.  Much like any restaurant I’ve worked in, everyone finds their groove.  You may not be best friends with each person, but you find a way to work as a group to get things done.  Rumor has it the professors have been talking about us–rumor has it we’re the rockstars. We’re smart, fast, and look out for each other. I mean, really, who’s surprised. 😉

I have zero pictures from Soups, Stocks and Sauces.  Bechamel and hollandaise do not photograph well. The class was amazing though–the professor was great and we focused a ton on knife skills and cooking techniques.  It was the perfect warm-up to New World Cuisine, where we were thrown Day 1 into producing massive amounts of food.  I can’t imagine starting in a production class with having to learn the fundamentals as you go.

Pictures seem to be the fan favorites around here, so let’s break down the rest that way.

Steam table shots–all the hot food we made each day went into this here steam table. On another table were salads and the carving station.  There were 5 groups, and everyone made anywhere from 2-5 dishes a day.  so. much. food. some of it was standard roasting or blanching of vegetables, rice pilaf, french fries, and some of it was fun things like fried green tomatoes with shrimp remoulade (lower left corner), grilled ribeyes with homemade steak sauce (lower right, sauce made by yours truly), and oyster po’boys (no picture. they didn’t last long.).


Here are some close ups of the dishes I made with my own two hands:

top row (left to right): buttermilk-soaked fried okra (slimy little buggers), herb roasted carrots and parsnips, quinoa with roasted peppers.

middle: herb-seasoned french fries, jicama and orange salad, grilled shrimp, corn, and black bean salad

bottom: grilled pineapple salsa with habaneros, adobo chicken wings, peruvian chicken salad.

And the best part–action shots! each day a different class came to eat all the delicious things slaved over for hours (literally) and we served them.  Scooping rice, slicing prime rib, assembling tacos, whatever was needed. I was excused from this task for most of the class thanks to the awesome hacking cough and persistent sniffles that came to hang out for the last couple weeks.

top: steam table calm before the storm

left column: turkey roulade with chorizo stuffing, prime rib.

right column: steak fajitas and pork loin

bottom: fish tacos!

center: culinary geniuses–sliders topped with mashed potatoes, grilled shrimp, and onion rings (part of the special reserve tasting menu known as family meal)

It was a TON of work, and a TON of fun.  Finally working to produce food for people who were counting on you, and having them compliment it was a great experience, and only the beginning.  Reflecting on the last 9 days today with some friends, we all felt a renewed sense of purpose. It was hot and stressful and exhausting. And we want more.  Never once have I resented my 6:30am commute, even when I worked until midnight the night before.  How many people can say that?

Enough with the mushy stuff–Thursday we started Essentials of Dining Room. I’m spending the next two weeks learning to be a server…right. We had to fill out an index card with our front of house experience. Mine took 2.  I was long ago pegged by my classmates as a strong personality (shocking, i know) and today the teenagers were awed by my ability to carry a tray with 4 (empty) entrée plates down a hallway.

Everyone was in a pretty goofy mood after the stress of finals the day before, which led to my group creating the following team name, logo, and slogan.

Yes, that’s crayon. Crayola crayon. You’ve just been SERVED.

you could be in pictures!

EXTRA EXTRA read all about it! DTMS has gone…local.  Yours truly is the newest Easy Meals writer for examiner.com! Super exciting (and a super kick in the pants to keep up with you all more regularly 🙂 )

Here’s  my first column–I went with a DTMS classic, the infamous steak salad. Click on the picture below to go to the full article!

silent steak.

You know those meals where everyone is completely silent while eating, save a few, low “Mmmmmm”s? This is one of those.

About 2/3rds of the way though, I said to Manfriend, “We haven’t had this in a long time, huh?” “Far, FAR too long.”

Resume silence.

This hits all the right notes of a fantastic weeknight meal: Easy. Fast. Few Ingredients. No Oven. HUGE flavor. Filling. Satsifying. Quick Clean Up.

There’s not much more to say. It’s the epitome of simple, happy food. The glaze and butter are the stars of the show, so I’m sure you could adapt this quite well with chicken or tofu (if you roll that way). Not fish…with this glaze? Gross.

Back to it. We enjoyed this with some nice cold Boddington’s (Manfriend’s ‘surprise present’ for me. Can you say bowling ball?) after two very long days in the office and it was just what we needed to bring us back to life.  Enjoy 🙂

Steak with Parmesean Butter, Balsamic Glaze, and Arugula
Bon Appetit
Serves 2

Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese plus Parmesan cheese shavings
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons butter, room temperature
  • 1 12-ounce rib-eye steak
  • 1 teaspoon olive oil
  • 1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped shallots
  • 1/2 teaspoon (packed) dark brown sugar
  • 4 cups (lightly packed) arugula
  • 2 large lemon wedges

Method

(First, get your mis-en-place together…this all comes together very quickly so do yourself a favor and get your prep right:

DSCN4166

chop your shallots. two choops in, i had a minor medical situation, but Manfriend bandaged me up quickly and we proceeded. (don't worry mom, its just a little cut on my thumb.)

DSCN4172

grate your cheese. if you have grazers around like I usually do, grate 50% more.

DSCN4187

wash and prep your lettuce. there was no arugula to be found, so I subbed some big ole' greens

Now we’re ready to rock.

  • Mix grated cheese and butter in small bowl. Season generously with salt and pepper; set aside.
DSCN4178

my little camera was running on almost no juice, so I couldnt' take a full memory card of pics... (what? i didnt do that for the chicken. what are you talking about?)

  • Sprinkle steak generously with salt and pepper.
DSCN4184

my salt application was much improved from the tilapia. Also, i only do one side until it goes in the pan. Then while the seasoned side is cooking, s&p the other side. makes less mess.

  • Heat oil in medium skillet over medium-high heat. Add steak; cook to desired doneness, about 4 minutes per side for medium-rare.
DSCN4200

so nicely seasoned. how do you know when your pan is hot enough? the oil runs looser around the pan, and if you put your had a few inches above, it should be too hot to stand by the time you count to 5.

  • Transfer to plate.
DSCN4224

A+ for me! How do you know when its cooked through? There's a highly-refined poking technique...lets do dinner and i'll give you a tutorial.

  • Add vinegar, shallots, and sugar to skillet; boil until reduced to glaze, stirring constantly, about 1 minute.
DSCN4220

get these guys all ready and close at hand. I go shallots, sugar, vinegar into the pan. Have that wooden spoon ready too!

DSCN4226

this is about when Manfriend started lurking. "Is it ready yet???"

DSCN4227

DONE. Conveniently, your meat is also done resting too!

  • Divide arugula and Parmesan shavings between 2 plates. Squeeze lemon over.
DSCN4218

you should really do this while your steak is cooking. after the glaze, the name of the game is speed to get everything on the table as hot as possible.

  • Slice steak; place atop arugula.
DSCN4231

photo credit: Manfriend

  • Top steak with Parmesan butter. Drizzle lightly with glaze.
DSCN4235

queue angels singing.

  • DEVOUR.