LA SOUPE A L’OIGNON, better known as Onion Soup, is on the menu for today.
I can already see that it would behoove me to learn some basic French. All of our daily menus will be in the language and a majority of the instructors are French. Official challenge #1.
Creating something, such as this soup, will break us in to developing proper knife skills. One of the first things Chef Jake went over with us is the pinch grip, which is a basic knife technique. He also demonstrated how to place our other hand correctly so that we don’t add more protein to our meal (like a misplaced finger you’ll probably need later down the line). We were instructed on how to sweat, glaze/deglaze, and caramelize amongst other things. For some reason, learning what a bouquet garni is and how it’s use was like an “AHA” moment for me. I love when I have that moment and my brain is flooded with ideas for uses of what I just learned. A bouquet garni is simply some bay leaf, thyme, parsley stems, and whole peppercorns wrapped and tied in cheesecloth (or sachet). It’s then used to give that background flavor in dishes without overpowering what the dish is actually supposed to be. Does that make sense? I hope so… It is now as much a staple in my kitchen as garlic and pork chops. We also learned of a phrase that we will become extremely familiar with. MISE EN PLACE, put simply, means everything in it’s place. Now I know this is meant for the kitchen, but it’s actually a good practice to have for many things. Before you get started on something, gather everything you’ll need so that you’re not running around like a chicken with it’s head cut off after you’ve actually gotten started on your task. Simple enough.
We briefly spoke about the different types of pots/pans and what they are used for. Blue steel vs Cast iron, Stainless steel vs Aluminum, Rondeau vs Sautoir, etc etc…
Instruction was roughly 90 minutes and then we were sent in to the wild (or kitchen if you want to be all technical) to practice our skills and recreate the dish. Not the prettiest dish but that wasn’t the main lesson, anyway. The main lesson was to get comfortable with our knives and use proper technique. With that said, here’s my first bowl of classic French Onion Soup. The flavor was pretty much amazing, if I do say so myself…and I do.
The snacks on the side came from the wonderful students in the pastry class. This relationship will become give and take. That means lots of eating for everybody! Time to get that exercise routine started back up again…whew child!
After eating came the fun part (insert sarcastic face)…cleaning. The kitchen must be scrubbed down from top to bottom, as well as the demo area where the Chefs instruct us. I’m guessing it’ll come second nature, similar to buffing floors and standing watch in the Navy.
Before leaving, I decided to take a walk around the school…alone. Just to get familiar with my surroundings and explore things for myself. I stopped when I got near the break area where the soda machines are. Not for the soda…but for what was proudly displayed on the wall.
While I absolutely wished I was there in her presence, I was happy to know that she saw this institute as a good place to spend her time. I admire a lot of what she has done and her initiatives to get children eating healthier and more knowledgeable about food. Her coming here spoke volumes of the school to me.
Having had the pleasure to meet Ms. Carla Hall a couple of years ago, I was absolutely pleased to find out she started here. My husband and I had the opportunity to be in the audience for the first couple tapings of The Chew. Awesome experience and it was great to see how the chefs act when the cameras aren’t rolling. She is quite the people person and extremely talented.
While I first thought I would feel a tad…out of place in a French Culinary Arts program, I realize more and more everyday that I am in great company. As challenging as it seems right now, I am right where I am supposed to be, right now.
~Keep It Tasteful,