Lesson 93: Contemporary Modern Chefs--Mario Batali

Monday, April 12, 2010

Goodbye pastry, hello Mod 5!! We were back to cooking today and I realized just how much I missed it. I love pastry, mostly due to our amazing chef-instructor, but my passion truly is cooking.

We were instructed to arrive to school at 12:30 and were put right to work as soon as we entered the kitchen. Chef Chris means business and clearly instructed us as to how he wants the kitchen to run. I have never seen our class act so disciplined as we did today. We are always really good at cleaning up and attending to the chef's demands, but today was on a whole new level. "Yes Chef!" was being screamed by one or all of the students in response to Chef Chris's comments, demands and questions throughout the afternoon.

I know that the next 3 weeks will be extremely challenging, yet also rewarding and exciting. Chef Chris will whip our butts into shape and transform us into real chefs that are prepared for whatever comes our way. He will also help us make our graduation day successful and unforgettable.

Once we set up the kitchen and went over the recipes for the day, each table was ready to tackle Mario Batali's recipes. Every day this week we are preparing recipes from Master Chefs. Chef Chris instructed how to best approach each recipe and made some necessary changes to make the final product tasty and presentable.

My first task during prepping was to clean monkfish. Not the most glamorous job, but it was challenging for me and I'm glad I got through it. Monkfish is a really ugly fish that has silverskin and is shaped like a beef tenderloin. It's difficult to get that layer of skin off plus all of the red chunks, while keeping the fish as neat as possible. I cut the fish into appropriate sized peices for our dish and reserved it until we were ready to start cooking.

For the rest of class, I helped prep the other dishes that my team was working on. I also prepared the sauce that went with the Monkfish. The sauce contained white wine, lemon juice, tumeric, lemon segments, preserved lemons, and caperberries. The result was a very sour sauce. Chef knew that this result was likely to happen, as the sauce is supposed to be sour (but definitely not that sour). I mellowed out the sourness a bit by adding butter (of course) and some chicken stock. The sauce went very well with the mild, white fish. Here is our final plating of the monkfish, along with the 2 other dishes my group prepared:

(Monkfish Piccata with Caperberries and Preserved Lemons)

(Two Minute Calamari Sicilian Lifeguard Style: Sauteed calamari in a spicy tomato sauce with Israeli cous cous-- My favorite dish of the day!)

(Brussel Sprouts with Pancetta)

These are the rest of the items that the other 2 teams prepared. Everything was delicious!
(Mint & Parsley Fettuccini with a Lamb and Olive Ragu)

(Sauteed Skate and Shrimp in a Saffron Sweet Clam Citronette)

(Scallion Barlotto-- A barley risotto with a scallion & parsley puree)

(Spinach & Goat Cheese Gnocchi with Sun-Dried Tomatoes, Pine Nuts, and Lemon)

(Fennel-Dusted Sweetbreads with Bacon & Onions-- My 3rd time eating sweetbreads... and I loved it!)

(Roasted Beet Farrotto -- I love beets..and farro. This was an amazing dish.. Plus it's pink!)

It was a great first day back to cooking. Every day is going to get harder and harder as we tackle more difficult recipes and start creating our own ideas while experimenting with different ingredients!


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