AM Line – Saute Station
Today, I’d like to talk a little bit about the saute station. This is probably the easiest station on the line in that I only have to make three different dishes: Spanish Omelet, Egg au Plat, and Chicken Paillard.
This is the station where we learn about egg cookery. An important part about becoming a cook is learning how to cook eggs properly. In fact,the chefs hat or toque was designed to distinguish the chef from cooks in the kitchen, to help to ventilate heat from the chef’s head, and the folds were to be representative of cumulative skills. The classic hat is said to include 100 folds representing 100 ways to cook an egg.
The egg au plat is basically two eggs sunny side up on top of a piece of focaccia, which roasted red pepper and pea shoots. It wasn’t a very popular item on the menu, but I did end up making it a couple of times. During prep, I learned how to make roasted red pepper, and even like it a little bit. I used to hate roasted red pepper, but I find that through preparing fresh foods myself and trying them, I am coming to like more and more foods that I previously disliked.
To make the roasted red peppers, you can put the pepper directly onto the flame from the gas burners. The goal is to char the skin of the red pepper, then put it in a plastic bag, or a tightly sealed container. The steam will make the skin very easy to be pulled off.
The key to frying eggs sunny side up is to keep the heat really low. You don’t want to brown the bottom at all, and yet you want the whites to fully cook before serving. So in reality, it takes a while to cook eggs this way. Once I had figured them out, I felt so proud of myself, like some magical part of egg cookery had been unlocked for me. The mystery of cooking dissolves once you are taught proper methods. It’s so EASY to make good food when you know how.
Here’s what the egg au plat looks like when it’s finished:
The next dish I want to talk about the is the Spanish omelet. This is a basic omelet, made with three eggs that are whisked together with a fork. You want to make sure to whisk long enough to really combine the whites with the yolks, so there are no longer any “snot” looking things swimming around in the bowl. In this setting, I was told to add salt and pepper, although a different chef once told me that salting the eggs before cooking them will make them rubbery. As it happens a lot in my career so far at this school, different chefs have differing opinions on what works and what doesn’t. So I need to adjust to whoever the chef on duty is.
The Spanish omelet is made with fingerling potatoes and roasted red peppers, and comes with a side of salsa and herb salad on top. I heat up the roasted red pepper and potatoes (pre-cooked) in a saute pan, and when they’re warm/hot, I add the eggs. Again, the key is to have a pan that is not too hot, otherwise you will get browning on the omelet (which is not desired). Instead of flipping the omelet once the curds start to settle, we put it under the salamander, pan and all. The salamander is a piece of kitchen equipment that radiates heat from above. You can use it to broil and make foods hot on the top (rather than just heating from the bottom). Sometimes they are used over grills to cook meat faster, i.e. from the top and bottom at the same time.
This omelet is not quite perfect because the eggs weren’t mixed well enough. You can still see tome white “snots” where the egg whites weren’t mixed into the yolks.
The last item on this station is the Chicken Paillard. Paillard basically means it’s a piece of meat that has been pounded. Pounding meat is so much fun! I love using my hands and arms and whole body in this new part of my life. It’s just want I wanted and needed.
The chicken breast is pounded and then sauteed in a pan. In a separate pan, you warm up pre-cooked fingerling potatoes and thinly sliced green and yellow squash. The squash has been marinated in its own juices with salt and pepper. The drizzle you can see on the plate is a kind of pesto, which I love! And then it’s topped with an herb salad. A refreshing summer dish. This one is pretty straight forward to make, but tastes yummy!
Overall, the saute station was pretty fun, although it could be a little boring when no one wanted eggs. In the down times, I helped others on their stations.