Culinary Arts Project

The Hammer Drops: Blood, Sweat and Tears – Day 70


  • Powdered sugar through a cheese cloth gives a much finer “sprinkle” than through a sieve.
  • Chives+chervil+Tarragon is a great combination of herbs for fish – beats the standard parsley by miles. (especially the tarragon).
  • Gently tap the salmon skillets under plastic with the side of a butcher’s hammer to flatten them out so that they are the same thickness throughout, and therefore cook evenly.

It was pretty chaotic in the kitchen today. Half the class got hit with the tsunami of doing the nicoise/grand mere chicken combined, both dishes for the first time. These dishes have an incredible amount of garniture preparation, and you really don’t have any time to spare, and it’s easy to find behind, as many found out.

Joanne's bandage
Dolma looks at Joanne’s war wound.
Chef Joe and Alton discuss why his profiteroles didn't "texturize"
Chef Joe and Alton discuss why his profiteroles didn’t “texturize”
Terrence nicoise under inspection.
Terrence nicoise under inspection.

One student was 10 minutes late to the chef’s station. Also, many of us did things today that the chefs have been telling us not to over and over, which led to a somewhat exasperated chef’s station. Not only that, but the usual jovial Joe had to leave early to do his externship trail so he was under pressure, Joanne burned her arm, several people “cracked”, and I can’t tell you how many infractions Vitor committed. This all contributed to quite the tension/pressure in the kitchen. To be honest, it was exactly the craziness I thought all of Level 4 was going to be.

To give you a sense, in the words of our frustrated chefs: “Not a good day today”, “lot’s of sloppiness”, “it was like a pizza parlor here today”, “if you don’t have your note cards, next time you’re out”, “peel over your bowl – this is level 1 stuff”, “follow the directions”, “only take what you need”, “a lot of people we’re late”, “the dishes have to be HOT”, “the sautoir has to be very hot, or the chicken skin will come off”, “properly remove the salad from the water, don’t just pour the water out”, “eggs were under-cooked”, “eggs were over-cooked”, “food was under-seasoned”. “manchonner, every day we have to remind you to manchonner”, “the jus was too runny”, “bone with bone-out, white with dark meat”. Ouch! Guaranteed we’re going to do better tomorrow chef!

Meagan "went for it", with four plates.....
Meagan “went for it” with four plates….. did Stewart
……so did Stewart

Amid all this though, with some tag-teaming with Erik, I actually had an ok day, but I could definitely feel the tension all around. My dishes were the easier grilled salmon with a cream herb sauce, and profiteroles. The salmon dish tasted amazing (if I do say so myself!). We made our own fish stock starting with 1L of water, fish parts/bones, mirepoix, thyme, bouquet garni. This was boiled down to half, and then added to wine/butter shallots glaze, and then heavy cream was further added, reduced down, a few drops of lemon juice, s&p, and at the last minute the herbs (chervil, tarragon, chives). Reduce reduce reduce, concentrate concentrate concentrate. This ended up being just a few tablespoons of heaven. The fish was served with a rice pilaf and spinach with garlic, s&p, and the amazing addition of nutmeg.

No eyeballs in the fumet!
No eyeballs in the fumet!
Emma: it's hammer time!
Emma: it’s hammer time!
Vitor, in a rare instance of not committing an infraction today!
Vitor, in a rare instance of not committing an infraction today!

The profiteroles were “easy-ish”. The dough is pretty straightforward – you boil water with butter, salt and sugar, then add in flour, mix, dry it a bit over the heat and then off-heat you gradually add eggs till the “Israelites make it but the Egyptians don’t” (see Day 29). My batter took 4½ eggs. You pipe this out and bake for 20mins, cut them open, stuff with crème Chantilly, sprinkle powdered sugar and place over a dark chocolate sauce. Yum! I always think that “Pate a choux” by itself tastes a bit bland (as its supposed to). I’m going to try and sneak in some extra sugar tomorrow to see the effect.

To top all the mayhem off, after we were done, we had a “Poissonier” written exam – thank goodness I studies the skate, salmon, and bass recipes for that one.

Thanks for those that are sending in meatball recipes for the contest. You can email them to me at if you prefer.

3 replies on “The Hammer Drops: Blood, Sweat and Tears – Day 70”

Today was terrible! In ER with a mask over my face receiving a breathing treatment and waiting for X-rays. The doctor saw my burn and told me I was bad ass but should have treated my burn as soon as it happened. I replied that my chicken dish could not wait! NYU hospital thinks we culinary students are nuts!

Please tell me tomorrow will be better!!!!

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