Thursday, December 10, 2009

The Black Box- Pro Cookery Final

Old fashioned Vegetable Beef Barley Soup

Roast Rack of Lamb with Corn and Tomato Risotto, roasted Zucchini and Beurre Blanc Sauce

If you watch Food Network (As far as I am concerned it is the only channel that exists, except for when Heroes or Grey's Anatomy is on) -then you are familiar with the show "Chopped" by chance. For those of you unfamiliar with this show I will give you a quick recap. Four different chefs complete for $10,000 by being presented with a black box- In the #1 round they find 3-5 mystery ingredients inside the box that they have 20 minutes to make an appetizer out of to be judged. Four chefs get Chopped down to three and Round #2 presents a second black box with another set of mystery ingredients and 30 minutes to create an entree to be judged. Once again a chef is chopped if their dish doesn't compare to the other competitors. Finally, the Final two chefs compete in a dessert round- 30 minutes- new Black Box and then they are judged to determine a winner based on all three of their dishes from the competition. Its a really fun show- my whole family loves it!

So in Professional Cookery we have a Lab practical that has a similar idea, except there is only one judge "The Chef Instructor" and you have a total of three hours to present a plated soup and entree from your mystery tray -"Black Box" The menu we have to create from all the tray ingredients must be presented to the Chef in the first 30 minutes after start time, so he can know what to expect. Then the soup must be presented two hours after the start time, and the entree an hour later. You can expect to have two different proteins (I was hopeful for Tofu or tempeh, but no luck) various vegetables, a starch, and things like butter, or a list with vinegar or white wine on it. The Chef has a certain expectation of what you might make with these ingredients but you are not deducted in points if you come up with something totally different. The major criteria is that you have a soup properly plated and garnished, and an entree that includes a protein, starch, vegetable and sauce properly and pleasingly plated.

Make sense???

So In my Black Box I had :
-Flank Steak
- Rack of Lamb
-sweet corn fresh
-a leek
-a pound of butter
-arborio rice
-white vinegar and white wine.

What I made was:
~~ A Old Fashioned Vegetable Beef with Barley Soup with the Flank Steak

~~ A Thyme and Cumin Crusted Roast Rack of Lamb with a Fresh Corn and Tomato Parmesan Risotto, Roasted Zucchini Moons and a Red Pepper Beurre Blanc (Butter) Sauce.

Whew- that was the fasted and most focused three hours in that kitchen all semester. Everything I did came together on time, and with the help of my classmates (who already did their black boxes on Monday) as food runners, I was able to successfully create the dishes that made sense to me with those ingredients for that moment. When I presented to the Chef, there were some good points to my dishes and some constructive criticism too- he acknowledged some of the timing issues with cooking the flank steak long enough to draw out maximum flavor which I struggled with for my soup. The Rack of Lamb dish came out pretty nice, though he said I may have overloaded the plate a little too much and added too much sauce- I knew he would say that- but he also said some restaurants do their plates like that and the clients love it- more bang for the buck for the customer, but as a chef you have to watch food cost and portion control. Good learning lessons.

The best part of the whole experience was that overall the Chef was very pleased with my work and it made me cry! No worries- it was a Happy, Relieved cry. It may have been all the emotion of not feeling well the day before and just being so worked up about doing well for this test, either way I am just happy to have made it through this first semester in Culinary school successfully. It is such a life blessing to know I am exactly where I should be right now. The shoe fits beautifully and I thank God and my family and friends daily for all your love and support. I couldn't do this without it. The daily encouragements, the hugs from my kids, Tod asking me about my day at school- all of it just energizes me and pushes me to do the best that I can. Yesterday worked out because of all these connections and the love and friendship in my life. Thanks again to everyone who sent encouragements yesterday, the phone calls and the hugs and love from my family.

Bring on the next Black Box- I am not afraid- and I am ready for the next challenge!!!