Culinary School Here I Come (39) Week 14, French Influence, Oven Burns and a Birthday.

Matching burns, right side on Wednesday, left on Friday

I always thought that there would be a higher risk of cutting myself in the kitchen…well not this week. I haven’t even begun the baking module and this is what my arms look like. More to follow.

Our menu this week was French influenced so lots of butter, cream and confit. Being a tinfoil duck, I kinda have a problem with eating duck but I suppose I can serve it. The menu included such tasty treats as:

Amouse Bouche: Roasted Kabocha Pumpkin Bisque with a Prosciutto Crisp & Creme Fraiche Swirl.

Soup: Soupe de Asperges with Toasted Brioche, Goat Cheese Mouse Infused with Apple Wood Smoke.

Chef Kyle uses the Smoking Gun aka the culinary bong to pipe smoke under a martini dome. The smoke really infuses into the goat cheese in a short time.

Salad: Frisee aux Lardones et Euf Sous Vide. Basically it is frisee lettuce, crumbled bacon, an egg poached in it’s shell and champagne vinaigrette.

Diners play an active part in this salad. The egg is broken and tossed with the frisee and dressing to make an emulsified dressing.

Intermezzo: Rex’s Famous Honeydew Mellon Sorbet with Mellon Brunoise.

Entrees: Island Mahi Mahi a la Meuniere – Local pan seared Mahi with lemon brown butter, herbed rice pilaf and baby spinach with garlic confit.

Confit de Canard – Sous vide of duck leg with dried cherry jus, new potatoes Lyonnaise, fennel & orange salad.

Roasted Upcountry Vegetables and Chevre Crepe – Crepe of roasted corn, peppers and onions, goat cheese, cherry tomato compote, creme fraiche and balsamic glaze. Thanks for the crepe Kaycee, it was good. Catch any houses on fire lately?

Last but certainly not least was our appetizer….Big Island Hamakua Mushroom and Apple Wood Smoked Bacon Vol-au-Vent. I’ve saved this for last because it was my task for the week. So, you will learn how it’s prepared.

Vol-au-Vent is a French term meaning “windblown” to describe it’s lightness. It is a hollowed out puff pastry shell with a lid. The puff pastry shape is easy to achieve but as it requires baking, can present some issues. I never thought that a puff pastry can puff out of control so you actually have to place a rack above it to stop it from puffing too high and tipping over. You also need to brush the top with an egg wash to give it a nice golden crust. Lastly, it involves heat and can cause bodily injury when preparing (see above.)

First, you start with a boat load of mushrooms that all need to be sliced. Tedious, yes, but necessary. We used a combination of button mushrooms and a couple of varieties from the Hamakua Farms on the Big Island. The Alii mushroom or king mushroom and Hon Shimeji, which is a type of mycorrhizal fungus that is difficult to cultivate and packs a lot of umami.

With that aside, it’s time to work on the mushroom sauce.

Nothing but the finest box wine for the “Class Act”, ironic isn’t it?

Heaven in a pot. Bacon, shallots, thyme, garlic, mushrooms, white wine, chicken stock and a lot of heavy cream reduced for a while that makes one amazing sauce. The sauce gets spooned into the shell, topped with the lid and garnished with a sprig of thyme and Voile (that’s French if you didn’t know for “ta dah”).

What is this?

If you guessed an empty walk in freezer with a broken compressor, you are correct. This one went out in between service days but was detected before some major food damage occurred. A couple of lessons here; always check temperatures when you get to and when you are ready to leave the kitchen and try not to overstock in the event of a black out.

I’m in school to learn how to cook better than I do, so I feel that I need to cook as much as I can. So, whenever the opportunity comes up to try a new recipe, I’m there. This recipe was for a simple Chicken Tandoori. I had no chicken available so I decided to make a shrimp version.

I used the yogurt that I make and combined it with garlic, ginger, lemon juice and garam masala to make a quick and easy marinade. I popped it under the broiler and served it with some re purposed (leftover) red rice and steamed broccoli. Done!

Saturday was TFoil’s birthday, so I was taken out to dinner at Monkeypod Kitchen. It’s only been open for a month or so but the place was buzzing. The menu was pretty cool and so was the interior. But will the food live up to the Merriman reputation (not that I know what to compare it so)? I chose a Crispy Rock Shrimp & Calamari with Shaved Maui Onions & Pineapple Jalapeno Vinaigrette as my starter.

The verdict: The light breading, almost a flour dusting, was pretty crispy but a tad on the salty side for me. Tender calamari but a little light on the shrimp. I didn’t see a Pineapple Vinaigrette anywhere on the plates. What was on the plate was some kind of Aoli that needed a splash of some kind of acid. Other than that, it was a winner. Fried Calamari is always a hit.

I’m a sucker for beets so whenever there’s a beet salad, I’m there. Kapalua Farms Roasted Beet & Maui Onions with Arugula, Bacon, Surfing Goat Cheese and Orange Ginger Dressing. The verdict:  I really had to question the fact that the beets were roasted. It almost had the texture of canned. I prefer my beets a little more seasoned. The goat cheese was very mild. Sometimes goat cheese can be overpowering. Again, the dressing needed more acid. I would give this one a try again.

Why a turkey burger you ask? I haven’t had one in forever. After watching the documentary, Food Inc., I try not to eat mass produced meats. So, when I saw a free range turkey burger on the menu, I couldn’t resist.  It was very reasonably prices at $11.95. It was the best dish that I had so far. They served it with Sauteed Onions, Fontina, Vine-Ripened Tomatoes, Housemade Pickles and Handcrafted Bun. The burger was done to perfection. Turkey burgers can get pretty dry but this one was awesome. They even served their housemade ketchup. Extra points for that. My only criticism would be in the plating. I would serve it like this!

More dramatic, don’t ya think? I couldn’t let the opportunity of a photo op slip by so here’s a shot of the line.

I think that is my burger getting ready to be plated. All in all it was a great experience, good food and reasonable prices. They have a happy hour there with reduced appetizer and pizza prices.

So when my word count hits 1,142, it’s time to go. Next week is a light week so I’ll be reporting on the Aipono Awards.

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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