So that's it. I'm done. I imagine there is a little gap of information that needs filling so here goes.
A couple of weeks ago I was given a list of ingredients. Really three lists of ingredients. The first was a list of four ingredients and their quantities that we had to use. They were as follows:
Duck Legs x 2 pc
Chicken Liver x 100 g
Salmon Filet x 200 g
Squid x 150 g
The second list was longer. It was a list of vegetables and other meats that were available (to a certain quantity) but not manditory. They were as follows:
Butternut Squash x 1/4 pc
Celery Root x 1/4 pc
Potato x 1 pc
Asparagus x 8 pc
Clams x 20 pc
Thyme x 5 pc
Duck Breast x 2 pc (~ 200g/ea)
Apples x 4 pc
Shiitake Mushrooms x 100 g
Yellow Zucchini x 1 pc
Baby Spinach x 100 g
Puff Pastry x 1000 g
Yellow Beets x 6 pc
Red Pepper x 1 pc
There might have been a couple more on that list but I can't remember. The third list was a list of ingredients available in any amount and it was as follows:
White Wine Vinegar
Red Wine Vinegar
And with these ingredients, I had to demonstrate two of the following three techniques: Deboning, Emulsion Sauces, and Farce (roughly translated, a stuffing, or something like a pate). With this list, I had to create an appetizer and a main course for two people (two identical plates). The appetizer had to be served in 2h30m and the main 45m after the apps. 3 hours and 15 minutes of non-stop action.
I had decided to split the first list into duck and chicken liver as the main course proteins and the salmon and squid as the appetizers. The difficulty I found was that having four proteins, two and two, work well together is hard. Usually, you have one protein on a plate and vegetables chosen to suit that protein. Poultry had to go with poultry and seafood with seafood - that much was certain. But finding ways and forms that would complement each other was weird. Another unwritten but widely spoken topic was variety of techniques. Beyond the manditory two of three techniques, the emphasis was on what you can do. To show your stuff.
The problem with writing this kind of menu is that you need to make it challenging enough to show that you're competant but not so challenging that you can't finish in the time alotted. So I sat down. Thought about it. And came up with the following menu...
Salmon Chartreuse with Asparagus served with a seafood salad and three mayonnaises
Nutmeg-smoked Duck Leg stuffed with apples and shiitake mushrooms baked in a salt crust, served with seasonal vegetables and a butternut puree
The salmon chartreuse is something I saw back in basic while doing that event at the National Arts Center and later got to do in intermediate but with chicken instead of salmon, but the principles are the same. Place meat/fish in a food processor until cut to a pulp, add egg white, add cream and season to taste. Pass through a sieve. Blanche asparagus, cut to proper length and line vessel with asparagus. Pipe in salmon "paste". Cook in bain marie while covered. Pop out and serve. It ends up being like stiff protein jello. The French like it and getting it right is difficult. It is easy to over whip the cream or egg whites while in the food processort. Add too much egg white and the paste will cook too dense. Not line the insides of the vessel with enough butter and it won't come out, or break on the way out. For my exam it came out alright, in both senses of the word. I took them out while it was still hot and there was enough steam around to let them release.
The seafood salad was the squid, salmon and clams cut into brunoise (small cubes - approx 5mm^3). I opened the clams by steaming them with white wine. Squid was cut into brunoise and slightly pan seared (pan at temp, add squid off heat, leave off heat - let heat of pan do cooking). The salmon I trimmed and cut raw then served raw. I had a base mayo that I had made (to show emulsion sauces) and dressed them slightly in it. With the remaining mayo, I tried making three derivatives. The plan was to use the parsley to make a parsley oil, to make a parsley mayo - that worked out ok. Use an industrial juicer (food processor + fine sieve - what you would use for carrot juice) to juice a red pepper, reduce the juice on the stove, use red pigment and concentrated bell pepper flavor in mayo. Use the squid ink to make a squid ink mayo.
The problems encountered with the latter two were there was no ink sacks in the squid we received. So there goes that idea. What ended up happening was that I used some of the clam-white wine juice to flavor the mayo. The problem with the pepper was that in the practice final we had access to the industrial juicer and scratched our heads trying to figure out how to use it. When we saw that "juice extractor" was on the list of available equipment, I thought 'hey, I can juice the red pepper with that for pigment'. And that would have been the case if it was there. As a side note, there was no citrus fruit (limes, lemons, oranges...) listed on our ingredients lists. Instead what we got was a lemon juicer. Legally, it has the same name as a carrot juicer. In essence it was useless. When I saw the chef look at me with a little "I just f*cked you over" grin on his face, I didn't even have the time nor energy to give voice to my furious anger. I stood for a second and thought, I'll just use the hand blender with a little water, strain it out and reduce that. It ended up working but it was a very mean gesture. To wait until the final exam to teach a lesson on flexibility.
30 minutes before serving the apps, I was getting caught behind. I had still to smoke and sear my duck. Make my salt crust, finish my mayos, brunoise my seafood, and get my salmon into the over. I served on time somehow. No room for panic, it had to get done.
The mains went off without a hitch. I did forget the wilted spinach but that wasn't a problem, minor detail. The chicken liver was made into a simple farce. Pan seared and pushed through a sieve to make it smooth, then spread between layers of puff pastry wafers (puff pastry baked with a weight on top). The sauce came out alright and the butternut squash puree was a winner.
At times it was precarious but at those times, I just pushed a little harder and tried to think a little less about how much more there was to do and how it all had to be done now. Afterwards, I talked to one of the waiters who took the finished plates from the kitchen to the tasting room and he said that mine was one of the best. So just as long as the judges aren't inclined to fail everyone, I'm pretty confident that I passed.
Graduation is Friday night and seeing as I'm waiting for my ride to get me to christmas with the family doesn't come in until late Friday, I chose to go to my graduation. Shouldn't be too bad. There are some people I'd like to say bye to and it is a nice way to cap things off.
After that, holidays. Then back to Montreal, setting up interviews and looking for a job. Should be fun.