Culinary Sense

Adventures with Food and Life

Art of Cuisine: Quick-Fire Challenge!

Hey Peeps!!

We start another class, yippee!!!! This class is called ‘Art of Cuisine’, and students will learn how to present and plate food in various settings to make it visually appealing to the diner.

On two days of the class, we have lecture and also have to do a quick-fire challenge. A quick-fire challenge is cooking something in a certain period of time without knowing all the details in advance. You know, it’s like on cooking competition shows, where you get a mystery basket and have to cook something.

I was particularly worried about this part of the class because I do better when I am able to plan things, and know what’s coming. On the first day, the challenge is to make an appealing plate – hot and clean – with a protein, starch, vegetable, sauce, and garnish. There were a couple of proteins to choose from: pork, duck, lamb, salmon, and scallops.

Chef tells us to choose something we know how to make, so I choose the pork loin and decide to make roulades. Yum! Reminds me of German food, so I decide to make a German potato salad and an herb salad to go with it, plus a pan sauce.

I surprised myself by finishing in the allotted time, and actually plating something that looked – and tasted – quite nice.

This is a pork roulade stuffed with onions, parsley, cornichons, bacon, and mustard, and cut into three pieces. The sauce is a pan sauce from the liquid in the pot I cooked the roulade in (water, tomato paste, red wine mostly). Behind (you can’t see this) is a REAL German potato salad, topped with an herb salad. And two cornichons to garnish.

In my mind, I did an okay job plating it. I had a clean, hot plate, and it looks okay. So here’s Chef Ryan’s critique: it would be good to cut the roulade into five thinner slices, and maybe arrange them on piles of potato salad. Then, I can drizzle the sauce throughout. Also, the sauce needs to be less fatty (fat pools are visible up close), in other words, more refined. This class is all about refinement. Let’s make it look great! The good news is, overall it’s pretty good, and in my personal opinion, it tastes awesome, too!

On Day 2, our challenge is a little more tricky. We are asked to come in with a song and an idea for a dish. The dish should go with the song in some way, be it classical, jazz, pop, or whatever. I have an idea for pasta, so I decide on something Italian – Mambo Italiano sung by Rosemary Clooney. To me, this song is sexy, hot, fiery, and I think the food I will make is hot, spicy, red in some way.

I want to make pasta all’arrabbiata – pasta with spicy tomato sauce. I want to make pasta with a red lighting bolt on it. But of course I run out of time, and I have trouble getting the pasta a bright red, so I end up making pasta with “racing stripes” instead.

Pasta with racing stripes!

I was pretty proud of this, although of course it could be refined A LOT. Another time, I would also like to try to make those pasta with lightning bolts.

In any case, I have the pasta, and proceed to make the tomato sauce with red pepper flakes – my spicy agent. I also find some red Russian kale that I saute with garlic, and some parmesan shavings. Of course I also want a secondary sauce in bright red, and decide on smoked paprika oil, which looks great on a plate.

I used the three-point plate, and put the shrimp inside the noodles, and folded them over. I have sauteed red Russian kale with garlic and shallots in the middle, with a shaved piece of parmesan, and drizzled the paprika oil around. I wasn’t really happy with how it looked, even though I did like the idea and the taste.

Chef’s suggestion for the plating was to put the shrimp on top of the pasta rather than inside because they present nicely. Also, I could have used a large square plate and lined up the pasta on the diagonal. There were some seeds leftover from the tomatoes and chilies I used (hello, refinement?). Chef also suggested branching out into some other kinds of chilies, and not just using red pepper flakes…

Here are some other dishes from my classmates.

And finally, here are some before and after photos.



This white bean soup’s presentation was very much improved after it was simply filled into a different bowl. Believe or not, that is actually the same amount of soup in both bowls.



This is herbed roasted chicken with asparagus and potatoes, and some rosemary garnish. The first place was really too small for all the components, and piling them rather than spreading them out gives the dish more height and makes it more interesting.

I’m learning so much about plating an refinement! Chef’s critique is gentle, yet spot on. I don’t think I would have been able to handle it last year, but this year is different, and I find that I am doing a lot better with the feedback I’m getting.

March on!

~ Carolynn



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