Today was the most difficult yet, even surpassing vegetarian day yesterday.
We were tasked with creating an amuse bouche – small one bite courses that start the meal, not dissimilar to a canape or an hors d’ ovre and usually made with leftover ingredients – and coming up with two chicken dishes, one of which needed to be an entree.
All of this was done with a minimum of ingredients. Typically our ingredient list is a page and a half or so. Today it was less than a full page.
So here’s what I made:
Amuse bouche – carrot/curry soup – I again made some veggie stock using the random ingredients we had (today we had tons of turnips, God only knows why, so I used some turnip in the stock in addition to mushrooms, onion and carrot). The flavor of the soup itself was fine, but because I couldn’t locate a chinois I was reduced to using a china cap to strain it which led to some pulp making it through. Aside from that I think it would have been fine.
Salad – I decided to go with a chicken salad set atop some apple slices. I had to make my own mayo – not my favorite thing to make -but it ended up working out just fine. For the chicken salad I poached the chicken in some veggie stock, finely dicing it and tossing it with shallots, the aforementioned mayo & some chopped tarragon. The plating ended up being the biggest detractor to this dish, which tasted just fine. Chef showed me how do it differently, laying out the apple slices so that they could be used as “chips” to put the chicken salad on and putting the mesclun salad to the upper left corner of the plate.
Entree – grilled chicken, smoked sweet paprika rub, pearl onions, carrots, aioli & paprika oil – so close to being great, but without knowing the ingredients until a few minutes before you cook makes it difficult to achieve perfection every time (not that I’ve ever achieved perfection).
I rubbed the chicken with some smoked paprika that I found in the cafe kitchen next door. I added some creamed garlic to the mayo I made earlier to make an aioli (if you’re a purest then not quite an aioli I suppose). I blanched the carrots & onions and then sauteed them, which surprisingly turned out fine. One issue with this dish ended up being a timing one, because I had all the components done except for the chicken, for which I ended up waiting around for 10-15 minutes waiting for the thing to cook.
I would have liked to have serve a little more of the chicken, but the chicken breast I had was difficult to carve (someone else had fabricated it and left in some very inconvenient bones, I should have deboned it before I began). Oh well.
However the main issue was with concept. Maybe some of you will see it. I didn’t until the Chef told me that what he saw was the beginning of a deconstructed coq au vin. Son of a bitch, how could I not see this? Had I gone in that direction to begin with I think this dish would have been much better. The differences would have been the seasonings and sauces that I used. Next time I suppose.
Tomorrow’s exam day. All we know is three courses, two hours. Fun fun.