Sunday, May 23, 2010

Test No. 4

The Last test left before the final. I was given the task of preparing the main dish the name of which is Bauletto pesce di Acqua dolce con gamberi. Literally, Trunk of freshwater fish with shrimp. I was happy to be making this dish because again when we made it in class this one turned out the best of the fish dishes we had done that day. I was pumped. I cleaned my fish, Tourneed the Accompanying vegetables (Potato, Carrot, and Zucchini), had pine nuts ready to toast and toss with capers for the base on the plate. The Bauletto itself is pretty simple you take a Fillet of trout cover with parsley and marjoram finely chopped lay half of a fillet of salmon on top, then take a freshly peeled shrimp sliced in half and set apart so that you can roll the fish into a log which you put on oiled parchment and cover with foil. Here comes the gamble, you can’t see the fish you must cook blind first heating in a sauté pan and finishing in the oven. Being from the Pacific Northwest I take my salmon cookery very seriously it is easy to overcook even under constant vigilance let alone blind cooking. The test was to commence at 11:30 but as per usual it did not start until 12:30 and there was again only three Judges. I was pissed, one of the chefs had expressed concern that I had now started the fish rolls but I said to her through the interpreter “Look, this is a quick cooking dish the only thing I have to worry about is the vegetables which were already on the stove, and the judges aren’t even here. I am about to start the rolling process now but am in no hurry.” I had even made my simple sauce an emulsion of Olive Oil, Lemon Zest and Juice, and Fresh Dill.

Still it doesn’t bode well when the chef thinks you should have done something by now and you haven’t so I quickly made my rolls and placed them in their foil packages the last time I would see them before service. As 12:30 rolled around I put my pan on the stove for the initial heating I had four packages though only three would fit into a pan so I grabbed another pan for the last package and started it on a slightly lower heat worried about overcooking the whole time. I set the hot pans to one side and went about the task of slowly toasting the pine nuts so to soften and make them aromatic without burning them. I added the Capers just to heat them through. I had washed them thoroughly to remove the extreme salty flavor they got from being packed in large grain salt. When my time came I had everything ready to go. Pine nuts and capers down on the plate, Vegetables cooked and places on the plate the roll of fish out of the oven where, since sitting on the stove top so long I was sure they had overcooked, opened the package to find a perfectly cooked log o fish, I sliced into two parts and displayed in as lovely a manner as I can make, The chef comes back to me and says my portions are too big I need to remove half of the roll from each plate. A small speed bump but one that almost made me forget about my sauce of lemon and dill. I dash across the kitchen sauce my fish forgetting the fish is hot and the sauce is cold I should have put the sauce on the plate not directly on the fish. A rookie mistake but I was a bit frazzled at that particular moment.

I take the plate to the table there are two chefs and the director. One of the chefs was one whom I had previously presented my Eggplant Parmesan to so I knew she was a two star chef. The pressure was on, I explained my cooking methods and the different components of the dish trying to down play my tour née because it is an old school technique and I hadn’t made them since culinary school so I was a little rusty on the exact practice of making them. But they looked nice. I was worried as the two star took her first bite. She pauses, she closes her eyes, “Bravo, Le pesce e tanto morbido, Bellisimo” Good job, and the fish is so soft, Beautiful. She went on to compliment the sauce how it was creamy and lemon sweet not too tart. This was great news. The director did not come to school the next day so I had no idea how I had done on the test, I needed a small victory for my own sanity. The following day we got our scores. 29.3/30 A+. Perhaps lighting all those candles in the Cinque Terre might have helped. But Ciao for now, stay tuned for Lavazza, Italy’s number one coffee producer. Better than StarBucks???

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