Today there is no lesson but rather the first assessment of our cooking skills which will run over six hours. There is no assistance provided by Chef throughout the assessment period, everything is up to us to appropriately time our preparation and cooking so as to have a completed dish at the required time. As a team we prepare the trays of the ingredients we will need for the three dishes. Chef brings us together to ensure we are clear on the expectations of task and timings; Penne Puttanesca, at 12 noon, Steak, Sautéed Potatoes and Buttered Beans, at 12.30 pm and Apple Crumble Tarts with Creme Anglaise and Chantilly Cream at 1pm. Chef will taste and assess every dish and will also observe how individuals work during their preparation & service.
Preparation for today’s assessment started prior to walking into the kitchen. We knew what the three assessment dishes would be and we’d made them previously, we needed to have a copy of the recipes and also prepared run/work flow sheet. If this was done ahead of time everyone should know what equipment and utensils were required and what tasks were to be done in what order to ensure each dish was plated at the right time. In addition to this, I also had given some thought to how I would like to plate each dish & had reviewed photos of the dishes cooked in prior weeks.
Even though the tart was the last dish to be served today, the pastry needed to be rested for at least an hour before rolling, so that was where I started. This is the second time I have made this pastry and again I was impressed with how it came together (recipe below). I mentioned last week that when I rest pastry I ensure it is in a flattened ball shape as it makes it much easier to roll.
Pastry in the fridge, I put the water on for the tomatoes, and whilst coming to the boil chopped the ingredients for the Puttanesca sauce (recipe below). When making tomato concasse, ensure you don’t over cook the tomatoes; remove the core, mark an x with your knife on the base of the fruit & lower them into boiling water. Watch closely and remove & place into an ice bath when you notice the skin lifting at the base. If you overcook them they will collapse and not hold any shape in the finished dish. Using the same water, I cooked the beans & then refreshed them in an ice bath whilst also cooking the potato (skin on) in preparation for later sautéing. I then moved on to make the apple and the crumble mixtures. Before the break I also made the Creme Anglaise, using the double boiler method, rolled the pastry, lined the pastry cases and assembled the tarts ready for baking. Finally my mis en place was done.
Back from break I took my Sirloin out of the fridge so it could come up room temperature. The Penne Puttanesca was due in 30 mins so I started the sauce. I reheated some of the pasta water which I’d retained when I cooked the pasta earlier… a little pasta water added to the sauce when you add the pasta to warm through makes a more ‘silky’ sauce. One by one we presented our completed plates to Chef. I enjoyed the way everyone wanted good comments for everyone else. I was happy with mine; the pasta was al dente, and the garnish of fried basil, shaved parmesan and anchovy looked good. I got a pleasing ‘very nice’ from Chef.
The French grill was heating and the peeled, sliced potatoes were sautéing. I melted the butter for the beans. It was 12.10pm and where as chef had set the ovens for baking the tarts earlier, he hadn’t mentioned anything about putting them in the oven. As they take around 45 mins I put our tray (shared between a few students) in the oven….others followed suit. One of the teachers aides mentioned that, ‘warm food needed to be served on a warm plate’…. I put my serving plate into the oven set on low to warm. The oiled and seasoned steaks cooked whilst being carefully watched and were taken off to rest after 2 mins on either side. The potatoes were cooked, seasoned and herbed & placed in the oven and the beans were added to the heated butter. It was time to plate. Earlier in the day I went to the TAFE kitchen garden and picked some thyme for the main dish and some herb flowers (rosemary and tarragon) for the desert. I was worried by the time Chef got to taste test my steak, which was meant to be medium rare, it may be over done…. it wasn’t, it was medium rare as per the brief.
Finally it was desert time. The tarts were not browning as much as needed so we turned the oven up from 185 C to 210 C for 10 mins. Whilst waiting for the tarts to finish baking I made the Chantilly Cream and got ready to plate. In preparation for the plating of the desert I had brought with me a small white sake cup… I didn’t know how long my tart would be sitting waiting to be tasted and if it sat a pool of Creme Anglaise the results would be a ‘soggy bottom’, so I put the Creme Anglaise in the cup. I was very pleased with the finished plate; the herb flowers gave it a colourful lift. I was doubly pleased when Chef stated that Bree and I had the best pastry and tarts of the day.
Overall Chef was very pleased with all of us, which says as much about his skill as a teacher as it does about the class and how engaged and driven we are to learn. I am passionate about learning and moving on but will be sad to move on from Chef at the end of the 1st semester which is quickly approaching. Next week we start on preparation and presentation of appetisers, salads and sandwiches…stay tuned!
Kathryn 👩🍳 💙
Penne Puttanesca (2 servings)
Penne – 200g, Olive oil -40 ml, Garlic – 2 cloves chopped, Bird’s eye Chilli – 1 chopped (seeds removed if you want to reduce the heat), Tomatoes – 2 skin and seeds removed and chopped to 1cm dice, Kalamata Olives – 100g seeded and roughly chopped, Anchovies – 20g chopped, Capers – 30g, Flat leaf Parsley – 5 sprigs stem removed and roughly chopped, Basil – 3 sprigs stem removed and roughly chopped.
Cook pasta, retain approximately 40mls of the cooking water and set aside. Heat the oil and add the garlic, chilli, tomato, olives, capers, anchovies and herbs. Add the retained pasta water to the sauce and then the cooked pasta – warm through and serve with shaving of parmesan.
Sweet Pastry (makes 4 x 9cm or 3.5 inch mini tart cases)
Plain flour – 100g sifted, Salt – 1g, Caster sugar – 5g, Unsalted butter – 50g, Water -10ml chilled, Vanilla extract – 2ml
Add salt and sugar to the sifted flour. Rub in the butter using your finger tips (see last lesson for tips) until the mixture resembles breadcrumbs. Add the water and vanilla. Slowly bring the mixture together and knead gently only until it is a cohesive ball. Wrap in plastic and rest in the fridge for at least an hour before rolling out between bakers paper.
Very nice, indeed! It takes a special person to go through a professional cooking school, so my hat is off to you!