Monday, April 4, 2011

Culinary Update: Fish, Shellfish, Beef, Pork and Veal

It's been a few weeks since I've posted an update on what is happening at culinary school. On the academic front it's been pretty intense. We have completed a couple of research papers and tests and tons of reading assignments that are completed at home during the week. It seems that all I do everyday is study and read and take notes. I'm learning a lot though so no complaints here!

During school we have "knife drills" each day. We work mostly with potatoes and the goal is to cut perfect squares that are exactly 1/2" X 1/2" X 1/2".  All of the squares have to be identical. No rectangles, triangles or trapezoids.  Perfect squares, quickly! We have little plastic models to compare our cut squares to. It's challenging but it's so pretty to see a bowl full of perfectly cut little squares of potatoes.  Eventually we will progress to cutting squares that are 1/4" X 1/4" X 1/4".  Quickly and perfectly.
The last 2 weeks have been jam packed with all things protein. Last weekend we worked with seafood. We learned how to correctly gut and filet a flounder, a striped bass, salmon and a mackerel. We saved the bones of the flounder and bass and added lobster and shrimp shells to make a fish stock. Later, we made a fish stew with the stock.

Dispatching a lobster video.
It's graphic.... so view at your own risk:)

We "dispatched" a lobster with the point of a knife to the head. Evidently this is the more humane way to kill a lobster, rather than dropping them into a pot of boiling water. We also cleaned shrimp, squid, clams, mussels and scallops. All of these were used to prepare the fish stew. It was so yummy that I brought a quart home for Bob's dinner.  He loved it!  I'll post a similar recipe along with preparation pictures in the next few weeks, so stay tuned.

This past weekend we continued to learn about stocks. We made chicken stock and brown veal stock. We will use both of these stocks next week as we learn about the five "mother sauces" and all of their derivative sauces.  I'm very excited to learn the mysteries of sauce making!

We butchered whole chickens and ducks, and learned several alternate techniques to properly fabricate the breast, legs and other parts of these birds.  It was very interesting to learn that the proteins that we know as meat are simply the muscles of the animals, separated by the fat, connective tissue and collagen that are holding them together. These muscles are fabricated into cuts of meat by separating the layers of fat, connective tissue or collagen with the tip of you knife. Once you can see the roadmap of the layers of muscle and connective tissue and fat, it's very simple to know where to cut.

We were given large sections of beef and pork that we fabricated into their smaller marketed forms. We cut beef into prime rib, strip steaks, tenderloin, filets, and other various cuts.

We worked with a whole pork loin and cut all of the various market forms that are derived from it. We took a Boston Butt and divided it up by carefully making our way through all of the various layers of fat, silver skin and collagen. We fabricated a rack of veal and then cut the ribs into veal chops. We pounded out veal scaloppini that we will cook in a future class. We also butchered a lamb and a rabbit.

By the time we worked on the rabbits, which were very small, 2 to 3 pounds each, we completely understood the concept of layers of muscle that are divided by connective tissue and fat and bones. This knowledge will forever change the way I see meat.

Until next time,
The Garlic Rose

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Lori said...

Jenny, Your blog is awesome! I'm so glad you're doing this. Thanks for sharing your experiences, and thanks for the great music, too!

The Garlic Rose said...

Thanks Lori! I'm glad you stopped by!