Culinary Arts Project

The Battle of the Hollandaise, James Beard House, and Kitchen Vocabulary – Day 74


  • When rolling your pasta dough through the final time to create the fettucine from a wide piece, trim the ends so you don’t end up with spikey and uneven fettucine.
  • If you cut your bread before service, put a damp towel over it to keep it fresh.
  • Never close the oven with your foot – it’s dangerous, and slams the door loudly which impacts not only the food but the chef you’re volunteering for at the James Beard House! Ooops.

While there was much less panic in the kitchen today, I still had my troubles. I’m really wrestling with what should be one of the simpler dishes – poached eggs with Hollandaise. My problem is how to serve this dish pipeing hot!!!!

Stewart vs. Hollandaise - Round 1
Stewart vs. Hollandaise – Round 1
Luis losing his battle with the lemon tart dough
Luis losing his battle with the lemon tart dough
A bass losing his battle with Miyako
A bass losing a battle with Miyako

I started my battle with the Hollandaise early: took 2 eggs yolks, 25ml of water, and started whisking them over a hot water bath. It took for ever to turn into a sabayon (almost liked soft whipped cream).Then off heat, I slowly added the clarified butter, cayenne pepper, lemon juice, “more lemon juice” according to Vitor, and some salt. It tasted ok, but the problem was how to keep it hot. Apparently the trick is to double bowl it and then put it over a hot water bath, which I tried. I got my vegetables reheating in butter, and then tasted the Hollandaise and now it was cold. Ugh. Turned up the heat on the hot water bath, poached my eggs, shocked them in ice, trimmed them, and then got them ready to go into salted hot (not boiling) water so that they would reheat but not cook. I looked up and my Hollandaise had curdled. Aaaaahh!!! Back to the drawing board. Wipe out the bowl, two more egg yolks and some water, and I start to whip again. This time it literally took less than two minutes and I had my sabayon (nothing like a pre-heated bowl I guess). It was like magic. I added the butter, cayenne, juice, salt, and put it back on the doubled water bath, but no way I was going to turn the heat up on it this time. Three minutes till plating time, so I put my poached eggs in the hot water, fill the mold with my vegetables, put the eggs on top, cover with Hollandaise, put the “tomato peel cross” on it, and run to the chef’s table….

Dolma getting accolades from the chef, in front of Chef Sayhac - the dean of the school!!!!!!!!
Dolma getting accolades from the chef, in front of Chef Sailhac – the dean and founder of the school!!!!!!!!
The chef asks "Whose perfect papillote is this?"
The chef asks “Whose perfect papillote is this?”

…total disaster. My Hollandaise was lukewarm with too much lemon and cayenne, the eggs were also only lukewarm, my vegetables were ok but I didn’t have enough of them, and the tomato peel was too thin. Total defeat. The only way I can see to pulling this off is to poach the eggs and make the Hollandaise right at time of service. This reheating business doesn’t work so well, plus you risk “breaking” your Hollandaise (which happened to a lot of people in the class).

The beef bourguignon was better, but I over-reduced my sauce a bit. I just love the smell in the kitchen when people take the cover off the braising dish. Heaven!

The "kitchen cam" at the James Beard House
The “kitchen cam” at the James Beard House

Saturday, I had such and incredible time at the James Beard House. I was the only volunteer, so it was famous Vermont Chef Kruse, his crew and me. I couldn’t believe it but he let me sear all the bacon wrapped sous-vide rabbit (which was one of the signature dishes), the whole team really took me under their arm. The Sous-Chef, Chef Juan (from Costa Rica) was my boss, and taught me all sorts of tricks. I also realized how much Culinary School had taught me particularly in the “kitchen vocabulary” department. Like in most disciplines, the kitchen has its own vocabulary. Had I been volunteering at JBH prior to culinary school, I would have had no idea what the chef’s were talking about: “hotel pan”, “sheet pan”, “half pan”, “china cap”, “chinois”, “circulator”, “Hobart”, “combi”. After the meal, the chef and his team walked around and talked to the tables. I was honored to be asked to join them. When not panicking, I was grinning ear-to-ear all night.

1 reply on “The Battle of the Hollandaise, James Beard House, and Kitchen Vocabulary – Day 74”

I did this dish the first time last night. The only time in my life I made Hollandaise sauce was in June in level 1 and I had no memory of it and no clue. I knew what they book said “If the sauce broke because of A, do B. If it broke because of C, do D.” Chef Alex (our sous chef) fixed mine the first time it broke, but the second time, he told me “I can’t bring it back more than once. It’s not a cat. Start over.” He also then told me how to tell why it broke: “If you had it on the heat, it broke because it was too hot. If it wasn’t on the heat when it broke, then it broke because it was too cold.” Ah so! When I’ve poached eggs at home I’ve used a pot, but Chef Philippe told us to use the sautoir so they wouldn’t bump. Meanwhile, the 1L of water in the recipe was too shallow and they stuck to the bottom and I had to let them overcook a bit so they didn’t fall apart while being removed. Chefs both said ignorre the recipe, don’t measure anything, add enough water that eggs will drown and keep adding vinegar until I can taste it.

It was all worth it because I got my first compliment on taillage. Apparently by lesson 73 I have finally learned how to make piles of cubes the size of peas. Chef Philippe: “don’t get a big head. Get the next dish out.” OMG I forgot to check the beef and it was now a pan of sucs with chunks of carrots and shredded beef. Also I had not rolled out the pasta or touched the garniture. We were told if we didn’t start onions already, don’t start now, it was way late, almost 10pm already. I got the pasta done, taking too long. I scooped some sucky carrots and all the sucky meat into another pan, poured some water and stuck it on the flat top to make a stew consistency, sauteed mushrooms in clarified butter and added that, hachered parsley, sauteed the bread pieces, and at least got some perfect pasta for the bowls’ centers.

It was around 10:30 now and everyone was cleaning up, and Chef Alex came by to see if I had died, and burst out laughing at the mess all over my station and the 2 bowls of peasant stew front and center. We agreed that if someone ate it at my house they would love it, but if they had ordered beef bourgignon at a restaurant they would have sent it back all whattthehell is this.

I’m still loving reading your stuff here. Right now I have to revise the action plan so I can try to plate the actual dishes sometime before rather than after the due times.

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