There is always comfort in knowing what to expect …week 2 has an ease about it as a result of knowing; how long it takes to get to college and what the traffic is like at that time of the morning, how long it takes me to get dressed in my uniform and get to the kitchen with enough time to wash my hands, put on my apron and set up my bench for the specific lesson/recipes we will be covering during the lesson. Most of us are ready by 8am, with only a few stragglers. The lesson today covers, cutting garlic and ginger, making tomato concasse, preparing & cooking Chicken Yakatori, which involves skinning & boning chicken thighs, 3 more precision cuts (no fingers this time); Julienne, Chiffonade & Brunoise, and the very challenging ‘turning’ technique.
We all assist each other in setting up trays of the produce we’ll use in class…. everybody pitches in. I love this part of working in a kitchen, the camaraderie and working together to jointly produce something good to share with others is one of the attractions of kitchen life. If someone needs something, there is someone ready and willing to help/ share etc, even the cleaning is something everyone just gets on with together.
We started with the chopping of ginger and garlic, which we used in the marinade, and then moved on to the precision cuts. There was a lot of carrot left over from preparing them for precision cuts and rather than this being wasted, Chef put it to good use by making a delicious soup. For the soup he used some of the stock, which was a by-product of the chicken boning practice, as well as some of the chopped ginger, butter, corriander seeds and seasoning. It was simple, velvety and so full of flavour and was appreciatively slurped down by the class after 4 hours of working, whilst we watched Chef demostrate turning potatoes. In addition to the carrot soup, chef made a pickling liquid in which we steeped the julienned carot, leek and celery and used it as an accompaniment to the Chicken Yakatori finished dish.
I faced the brunoise with a degree of trepidation due to the need for the finished product to be such a small and uniform dice. When it came down to it, the only concern was slicing the celery horizontally, where the knife momentarily moves towards ones fingers. I am pleased to say this was approached with due care & there were no injuries 🙂 and the final product was suitably small and uniform. The Julienne & the Chiffonade are very straight forward and very helpful cuts as is the tomato concasse, which I have had experience doing previously.
Next came the boning of the chicken thigh. I am particularly keen to learn this and all other filleting skills & was pleasantly surprised at how straight forward & easy it was in class. I thought maybe beginners luck so on the way home I swung by the butchers and picked up 6 chicken thighs, all of which I filleted without a problem (and without cutting myself…yay!) and cooked in a similar way for dinner. Unhealthy as it may be, the roasted chicken skin was ‘finger licking delicious’, again there was no waste, with the chicken flesh, skin and bones all used to make something wonderful. Threading the marinated chicken onto the sticks, cooking and plating with the pickled julienned vegetables saw our first plated dish of the course 👌
The last technique to tackle prior to cleaning up for the day was the very difficult ‘vegetable turning’. The ‘turning technique’ involves taking a regular sized potato (or turnip), peeling it and using a turning knife (a very scary looking sharp little number) to reduce what was once a largish veg into to a small barrelled shape (or as close as you can get it ). As Chef explained, this technique is no longer as widely used as it once was, not because it is hard (which it is), and needs a very practiced hand (which it does), or because it’s labour intensive (which it is), but because of the enormous waste (which there is) ….but not in this class. Chef gathered all the potato remains with the intention of making a large pot of buttery mashed potato. As to the results, there was varying degrees of success in the class… some of the potatoes were whittled down to tiny ‘barrels’ and we all had a good laugh… Chef roasted our turned potatoes and sprinkled them with salt and vinegar….. they were very tasty.
So, what was the lesson within the lesson? There is no excuse for waste in the production of food…almost everything can be used in one way or another. This reminds me of my Nanna who often said “waste not, want not’. Access to quality food is not something to be taken for granted & whether it’s a commercial kitchen, where wastage represents loss of profit, or a home kitchen, where every dollar saved and stretched may make all the difference to the household, it’s just not that hard to use most, if not everything. It may take a little planning and creativity but it is very doable. I think the only waste of the day is what ended up on my kitchen Whites…or not so Whites 😱
Bon Appietit & happy cooking