Flavors of the Mediterranean
Allrighty, here we go on a new class. Every three weeks, we start a new class, for four total classes in one Mod (semester).
Next up: Flavors of the Mediterranean. This is a class I was looking forward to. In our restaurant on Main Street, there is an upstairs restaurant (casual fine dining), and also a downstairs bar, called “The Cellar”.
Our class is the class that cooks the food for The Cellar. It’s a tapas-style menu with dishes from the Mediterranean (not all Spanish). Here’s our menu this spring. The concept of this class is to make students familiar with the culinary history and culture of the Mediterranean and learn more about eating culture, cooking techniques, major flavoring ingredients (and their origins), and the characteristics that represent a common theme of many Mediterranean countries and regions.
While we focus mostly on Italy, Spain, Southern France, and Northern Africa, we sometimes include dishes that are from other Mediterranean countries (Greece, Turkey, Israel, Egypt, Lebanon, etc). We do mostly “small plates”, also known as tapas, mezze, and antipasti (depending on the country or region).
On my first three days, I worked on my first hot station: saute! I was so excited and nervous, and I’m sure it showed. Chef had to give me a lot of tips, but I did okay, considering it was my first time running a hot station. The other two days were MUCH better. I also benefitted from the fact that since we started class, service has been slightly slow.
Some things to remember: check all your ingredients EVERY DAY. Take really good care of your proteins (meat, poultry, fish, seafood) at the end of the night, prepare fresh vegetables every three to four days, and always always taste, smell, look, and touch everything. Set up your station with all the equipment you need for service (sizzle plates, tongs, spatula, oil, salt, pepper, saute pans, paper towels, knives, plates, tasting spoons). Try to make as few trips as possible to the walk-in coolers, dry storage, and so on.
So much to learn! Despite the fact that we work a new station every two to three days, We still manage to put out delicious food for our customers. Of course, the chef instructor is always there to oversee and check everything.
Here are some of the items I cooked on the saute station.
This is seared monkfish on ratatouille with a tomato-fennel sauce. It was my first time cooking monkfish, and it’s a little different from cooking other kinds of fish. The texture is more spongy and less flaky, kind of like lobster or shrimp texture. When you cook it, you need to make sure to touch it a lot to feel when it’s done. While it’s cooking, you heat up the ratatouille and the sauce.
Huevoes con peiperade: sunny-side up egg on top of a white bean, chorizo, and peiperade mixture. Peiperade is a braise of peppers and onions (slightly spicy).
Pato a la plancha: duck breast on top of cannelini beans, with an orange-olive demi-glace and orange segment. It was pretty hard to get the duck breast to a medium-rare temperature. For me, the problem was figuring out how hot to have the pan in the beginning, and when to flip it over, and then put it in the oven to finish cooking. The surprise comes when you slice it open: is it right? And then when it is: such satisfaction!
Trucha truchana: serrano-wrapped trout with blanched asparagus and pequillo pepper confit. This was my favorite to make on this station because it looks pretty, and it was pretty easy to cook the trout. The trout filet was pretty thin, so it only took 2-3 minutes to cook. During the time, you can heat up the asparagus in a different pan, and the entire plate is ready in about 3 minutes. Plus, fish and ham is tasty!
I learned so much on this station. Plus, I got to “clean” fish, including the monkfish and the trout. The monkfish is SO UGLY!!! Haha. The trout was fun to clean. We get in the whole fish, gutted and boned. I learned how to cut off the heads, the tails, remove the spine, the extra belly meat, and then pick out the rest of the bones with tweezers. It was actually kind of great to remove the bones from the filets, even though it was tedious work. But you get to make something prickly smooth and nice.
Next post: my special!