Just Say No.

So yesterday and today, we’ve been working on perfecting the art of sauté.  Very important in the culinary world, as it is the most frequently used technique.  This has also been our first technique that made me kind of realize – woaaah, this isn’t home cooking anymore.  Things like reductions, deglazing, pan sauces – things I don’t do in my kitchen at home.  Ever.

So this was new territory for me.  Yesterday was my first stab at it, and I was really hesitant and nervous, and didn’t feel like any of my practice dishes really came out how they should.  I know it’s a learning experience, but I still hate messing things up.  So today we got to try again, before tomorrow’s practical (where we are tested on our skills, eeek!), and it went much better.  I went into it armed with knowledge from my studying and lecture notes, and most importantly – confidence.  All my sautéed dishes turned out great, and I feel totally comfortable about tomorrow’s skill test.

So what are we sautéing, you ask?  We’ve definitely upped the ante from fried cuts of cube steak.  Here are some pictures, and today’s menu…

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When we practice our sautés, we rotate around stations that are set up like this, with individual burners and a mis en place of ingredients.  This was my first go-round with chicken marsala.  I hear it was delicious! :)

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While my marsala cream sauce reduced, the Chef checked out Jessica and Varnay’s finished product (and I snuck a picture!).  He samples every single thing we bring him, no matter what it is, or what time of day it is – so crazy.  Lamb in demi-glace red wine reduction at 10am – I guess you get used to it! 

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The final spread.  From our six sauté stations, we produced:  Chicken Marsala and Mashed Potatoes, Shrimp in Sun Dried Tomato Cream Sauce and Bowtie Pasta with Broccoli, Sautéed Lamb with Rosemary and Red Wine Demi Glace, Sautéed Asian Pork with Steamed Rice, Bowtie Pasta with White Clam Sauce, and Assorted Omelets (still practicing breakfast foods in our free time).

Now can you see what I mean about the temptation to over-indulge?  I think my culinary school food philosophy is kind of like how I feel about eating on vacation.  The first few days I usually go totally overboard, eat way too much, and eat things I would never even consider eating on a normal day at home.  Each day I promise not to do it again tomorrow, and then repeat the cycle.  This usually lasts three days, and then I’m over the food, over the guilt, and back to being my normal, healthy self.

Days one and two, I obviously didn’t eat meat, but I still ate the seafood and pasta and breakfast foods – things I would not normally eat for lunch, especially prepared with all that butter and cream.  My body is used to a lunch of Greek yogurt and fruit, or soup and salads!  So I felt like crap, had tremendous guilt, and vowed to not do it anymore.  And I am proud to say that starting this week, I haven’t touched it. 

I bring a reasonable snack with me to eat while everyone else eats their lunch, to tide me over until I can make myself a “normal” lunch at home, and to give me something to do during the lunch break so that I’m not just sitting there watching them eat.  I am definitely the class weirdo, but I don’t care.  At first I got questions about why I wasn’t eating, or why I brought something else, but we’re such a small group that by now my classmates are used to it and don’t care.  And even if they did, my health is more important to me than being the cool kid in class – I’ll be the healthy kid in class – fine with me!  Here is what I snacked on today, while everyone else filled up their plates with sautéed goodies.

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If you thought the food we made sounded good, here’s the other piece I deal with every day.  Towards the end of each class, the baking and pastry students come upstairs with what they have been making all day long, free to anyone who wants it with lunch, or you can even bag it and take it home.  Every day is different – today was pear strudel and chocolate cream pie, and yesterday was this assortment of crème brulee and frozen white chocolate ice cream cakes.

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I am majoring in Culinary Arts, but mastering in temptation resistance!

Sauté practical test tomorrow – off to get some rest!