March 01, 2012

My adventures in culinary class

It's time for another update on my weekly culinary class at George Brown College. I can't believe there are only a few classes left of the course. How is it March already? Time flies when you're having fun cooking (and eating!)

Week 4 was one night I was definitely looking forward to: Lasagna night. One thing I have learned from taking a culinary class is to basically unlearn everything I was doing before. Another thing I have learned is to not eat a large dinner before class. This is why:


We started by making a bolognese sauce for the lasagna. We browned the meat (a few minutes on each side without poking and prodding it), then added onions and green pepper, let it cook for a few minutes and added garlic and mushrooms. We then let that cook for a few minutes and added pureed canned tomatoes, a bit of tomato paste and spices.

You don't even really need a lot of tomato paste, or any, depending on how long you let the sauce thicken. A bolognese sauce can also include veal, pork, wine, beef stock and anything else you want to add. This was actually the best sauce I had ever made and I would have eaten it by itself if we didn't have to smother it with cheese and noodles for our lasagna (life is tough). Chef demoed how to make the lasagna, as well as how to make compound butter (basically butter mixed with herbs that can be sliced or made into garlic bread), garlic bread and a basic vinaigrette.


I am still amazed at the amount of butter we use in the recipes, but most of the time the food tastes so good that I just don't care. Pardon my messy cutting board:


We then cooked the noodles for the lasagna and layered sauce, noodles, a ricotta mixture, more sauce, noodles and cheese until we reached the top. We used full-fat ricotta, mozzarella and parmesan cheese, so this was definitely not a low-fat lasagna. I also learned that you should criss-cross the noodles when layering them for the lasagna (i.e. have the first layer go one way and the second layer another way), so the lasagna stays together better when serving. I was really happy with my lasagna even though I don't actually like mushrooms or peppers. 

Week 5 was not one of my favourite weeks unfortunately. My confidence has been getting a little better each week with getting a feel for the kitchen, preparing my ingredients and finding equipment, but for some reason this week I got a little discouraged. The dish we were making was Poached Trout in a Riesling Wine Sauce with Grapes.  

First of all, I'm not really a fan of heavy cream sauces, so I knew I wouldn't like it from the start. Secondly, it was definitely outside of my comfort zone and normal cooking style, but obviously the point of this course is to learn recipes and techniques I don't know, so I'm glad I made this dish in the end. This was the chef's beautifully presented version along with some piped Marquis Potatoes:


And then there was my version. We learned how to properly clean and prepare the fish for cooking. Descaling, boning and filleting the fish was a lot more difficult than I thought. Then we placed it in a pan with shallots and butter and put a piece of parchment paper on top, then added the liquids (stock and wine) to cover the fish, so it could poach. When I tried to remove my fish from the pan it completely fell apart in my container. We then made the cream sauce with the juices from the pan and when I poured the sauce over the fish it ended up looking like a creamy, fishy mess, which is gross, I know. The other pile of food is leftover potatoes in case you were wondering:


I left that class a little discouraged and for a minute questioned why on earth I was even trying to master more complex culinary techniques like poaching fish and making fancy sauces. But then I realized that the point is after all to "learn." So no, I probably won't make the perfect "Ontario Lake Trout Vin Blanc" on the first try, but I did "try."

Luckily, week 6 was definitely more my style. We learned how to make a beautiful Crabmeat Quiche from scratch. Here is my previously atrocious quiche recipe: throw some stuff, plus eggs, into a frozen pie shell and bake. The chef demoed how to make pie pastry from scratch and although I have made it before, this was the most amazing pastry I have ever made. (I keep saying that about everything I make in this class, but it really does make a difference to actually learn the proper techniques). We blind baked the pastry for about 20 minutes. Then we added butter to a pan and cooked the onions and crabmeat for a few minutes. 

Before, I would just beat the eggs with some milk and pour it straight into the pastry, but the proper technique involves "scalding" the milk with a bit of nutmeg, then slowly pouring it into the egg mixture while stirring continuously. Then you place some cheese on the bottom of the pastry, the "garnish" (onions and crab), the eggs and sprinkle with chopped herbs and bake for approximately 20 minutes. 


I was extremely pleased with how my pastry and quiche turned out and it was delicious. We even learned how to crimp the edges of the pastry for a nice presentation. The chef then demoed how to make french omelettes and hollandaise sauce. I am so glad I saw the proper way to make an omelette, as most of time, my omelettes turn into scrambled eggs. I never thought I liked hollandaise sauce, as I said before, I think creamy sauces ruin things most of the time (like eggs benedict), but this sauce was life-changing. 


He poured the sauce over cooked asparagus and broiled it for a few minutes. This was one of those times I really didn't care how much butter was in the recipe. The sauce was so good, I wanted to bathe in it. Although I don't foresee myself making it at home anytime soon, I am now a hollandaise convert. Next time I go for brunch I may reconsider its glorious partnership with eggs benedict. 

My freezer has been filling up with meals from class and the leftover ingredients. I'm glad I have been trying some new thing even if it is a challenge sometimes. But that's life I suppose; it's all worth it in the end. 

3 comments:

  1. I LOVED my GB Culinary I and II classes - so much fun. Byt, yes, so much food :) And yes, unlearning was definitely the lesson I learned!

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  2. I love hollandaise! And getting to see what your classes are like. That quiche has my name written all over it. I wish I could take this course, I have heard nothing but good things about it although all that butter... Great post!

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  3. The course is great. I would highly recommend it and with the basic course you are then eligible to take some of the other culinary courses I believe. It is definitely a challenge sometimes (I guess I'm not as advanced a cook as I thought!)

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