Culinary School Here I Come (37) Week 12, Latin Influence, Caesar Salad and Salt….The Musical

So the story goes: A young woman was fishing on the western shore of Kaua’i. The sea had been generous, too generous, and she caught more fish than her family could possibly eat in one day. Distresses at the prospect of wasting the sea’s gifts, the woman began to weep. The fire goddess, Pele, hear her cries and took pity. She told the young woman to follow a rainbow from the mountain to the sea, where she would find shallow pools filled with glistening white crystals. If she rubbed the crystals on the fish, her catch would be preserved. This is how Pele taught the ancient Hawaiians to use sea salt, or pa’akai – literally, “to solidify the sea.”

I see a whole musical based on this story! Anyway, a few interesting facts about Hawaiian sea salt: The unique red salt called ‘alaea salt, is only produced on the island of Kaua’i. When harvested, it’s quartz white but red volcanic soil is added during the drying process to give it its unique color. True Hawaiian salt cannot be sold. It can only be gifted from the families producing the salt. The red salt is believed to have medicinal properties and mana, or spiritual power.

Salt was a very important commodity for the early Hawaiian civilization. Visiting sailing ships needed the salt to preserve the fish that it carried as a food source. As a result, the famous “Hawaiian” dish known as Lomi Salmon doesn’t have as deep Hawaiian roots as we may think. Salmon was exchanged for salt from ships arriving from the Pacific Northwest which lead to the creation of this dish. Lomi means to massage, which is what the Hawaiians did to the salmon with salt.

Thanks to Chef Kyle for providing the information about the history of Hawaiian salt. Who knew that such a simple seasoning could have such a rich cultural heritage.

OMG, I’m watching Sam Choy’s Kitchen and he’s going to make Captain Crunch Chicken. I gotta see what that’s all about. Aw nuts! Bet that will show up for dinner next week.

This past week was our Latin Influence Menu. As I mentioned before, we choose our stations through a very complicated method of pulling a card from the deck and voila, that is your station! So, fate chose the Caesar Salad for me. So here is the anatomy of a Caesar Salad.

Aren’t they cute! I’ve never seen baby Romaine before. Usually romaine hearts. They needed to be cored, soaked and spun.

Getting my Parmesan crisps ready to go into the oven.

Molding and cooling the Parmesan crisps. They look like napkin rings. The tossed whole leaves were nestled within the crisp, creating a neat package.

The finished product. The lettuce, and croutons were tossed with a classic Caesar dressing, served with marinated cherry and plum tomatoes and finished with cracked fresh pepper. (I think I need a better camera.)

That was but one of the many items on our Latin Influence Menu. The meal began with a Spicy Corn Fritter as our Amouse Bouche. The appetizer was a Thai-Basil Sea Salt Grilled Shrimp in a martini glass with a roasted kula corn and jicama slaw.

Our soup offering was a Sopa de Frijol Negro (black bean soup, roasted cherry tomatoes, fresh avocado and toasted cumin crema). Of course, the salad was the most wonderful and simply awesome Baby Romaine Caesar Salad. Our Entree choices were Cumin Seared Pacific Salmon or Maui Cattle Company Flank Steak with Argentinian Chimichurri Sauce.

Rex & Jhun, hard at work creating our entrees.

Christian grilling the Flank Steak.

Our Vegetarian option was a Wild Rice and Goat Cheese Tamale with a Hamakua Mushroom Medley. Our desserts come from the bake shop so unless you are assigned to desserts, you really don’t know what it is…so if and when I’m assigned to desserts, you’ll get the scoop. Which leads me to Baking. Yippee, I’ve decided to take Beginning Baking over the Summer break. Yeah, it’s a bummer that I won’t have a real vacation but the only way I can take the complete Advanced Baking course and be done with the program in 2 years is to take Baking over the summer…so be it.

I forgot our Intermezzo course. Kaui made some Pina Colada Sorbet with Candied Mint. Yum! We love Fridays as you can see. The gang taking an Intermezzo break.

After a good week of service, the gang gets some feedback from Chef Kyle. Another week down.

Chef Kyle brought in his $300 Japanese Carbon Steel knife that can cut an onion by itself. Well, almost. It was like slicing though butter.

I was able to get paper thin onion slices using that knife. If I ever decide to become a screen writer, I’d write a movie about a deranged Chef who would serve his victims as a Carpaccio Salad.

I know it’s time to get going when I start talking about cannibalism….so, next week get ready for Pacific Rim (please, please, please, not the dish pit)

About tinfoilduck

I had this wacky idea to go to culinary school, while maintaining another full time career. I will be blogging about the program and how it affects me as I try to manage my daily life and how I try to keep everything together.
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