Salads, salads and more salads

Garde Manger began this week which reunited us with the chef who taught us sanitation.

Elements of this class excite me while others leave me yearning to go back to cutting up dead animals.  So far we’ve made salads – that’s three days on salads.  I’ve definitely improved in my presentation skills, but let’s admit it, if you haven’t by the third day you should do some serious soul searching.

That being said it’s harder than I believed even a few days ago.  Some people over-compose their salads while others (I lean towards this end of the spectrum) just want to throw some green shit on a plate and call it a day.  I’m not a fan of things that are fussy, so I aim for a middle ground here and try to keep my salads simple and appetizing.  Sometimes it works, sometimes it looks like hell.

On Day 1 we had to make mayonnaise which just might be my least favorite task so far.  We also had to make some mayo today for a grade – mine needed more sugar as it was too acidic tasting.  Day 1 also saw us make some fairly simple salads with basic vinaigrettes as well as a ranch dressing.  I admit I’m not a fan of ranch dressing on salads, to me it just doesn’t look all that tasty slathered on green stuff.  I do like it for other uses though.

Yesterday we moved on to what you might call entree salads, that is to say salads containing protein – sorry MJ.  The mighty (if not overdone) Caeser, the Nicoise (a particular favorite of mine) as well as a simple one with a walnut vinaigrette and grilled chiken plus a grain salad (ok MJ – you could eat this).  These were ok.  I labored over the Caeser dressing only to see a tablemate throw it out because he didn’t want to make a Caeser towards the end of class.  I didn’t want to make it either – to me the task was in making the dressing, not in dressing a salad, so I didn’t really mind too much.

Today we made the salads pictured here:

Our chef has us all put these on the table up front and then he picks through them looking for good examples and moves them to another table (two of mine made it today – the jicama/fennel salad and the potato salad).   I am especially proud of the jicama/fennel salad with an orange/tarragon vinaigrette – I made the dressing for this as well and it was really good.  The potato salad was chosen by default because our table had used enough dressing when it came to the potatoes (most folks’ potatoes looked rather barren).  The third one pictured kind of lacked in appearance – it was way too small for the plate.  But it tasted pretty good though.

What is interesting to see in all of this is that there is one recipe and that when you look down the table you can see everyone’s personality coming through.  Sometimes this is a good thing – sometimes it’s a little scary.

Tomorrow we work on something I’m definitely interested in – curing & smoking.

Thanks for all the e-mails and phone calls about my hand.  It’s much much better a week later.  Lesson learned.  Mom – you can stop asking about it 🙂

Hopefully off to the bar tonight.

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