Saturday, February 16, 2013

Week 2. Italian menu done!

Well, that was intense.

I probably filleted an entire case of branzino (European sea bass) by myself. In total our class processed about five or six cases.

To cleanly fillet a round fish takes practice, or you end up with tattered rags of fish instead of beautiful little fillets. Angle your knife down, just behind the pectoral fin, cutting down to the bone. Turn your blade to face the tail, then cut along the spine, one hand over the fish to secure it in place. When you pass the rib section, slide the knife through until the tip comes out just above the ventral fin. Slice back toward the tail along the vertebral column to free the tail. Return to your cuts along the head and slice the fillet from the rib section, keeping the blade against bone at all times. Separate the fillet. Turn the piece over, and make a cut at the tail end, turning the blade horizontal when you hit the skin. Grab the skin and work the blade horizontally up toward the head end, removing the skin in one thin, intact piece. Done!

Aside from that, everything was pretty much routine. Gallons of peperonata, trying to slice topologically twisted peppers into more or less uniform squares. Making bean and farro soup, heating carefully to avoid scorching it and ruining that day's soup. Sautéing all kinds of fancy mushrooms then reducing everything down for a ragù that went over some pasta kerchiefs made in house.

The kitchen really is constant, mostly controlled chaos. Everyone runs around trying to complete their task, sometimes getting pulled off to complete something else, fetch an ingredient, find a piece of equipment, ask for a clarification on a recipe.

At this point, we've only cooked together during the practice day (yeah, that's not a good reference). The difference is that there is a room full of paying customers outside the swinging door waiting to be thrilled by our culinary artistry. Yes, we've taken two cooking classes and two baking classes. Some of us have taken more cooking classes as electives, like Mediterranean cooking, garde-manger, American regional, catering... We supposedly know sanitation - at least, we're certified by ServSafe. There's still quite a distance between preparing something for a class where deadlines are (somewhat) flexible and jamming it out at restaurant speed with a team of fifteen people instead of six.

All in all, the lunch went well. The food went out, pretty much on time. We heard great things about the fish and the mushrooms.

Next week, Cuban food.

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