Today marks a very important day. I have decided to go back to school--culinary school; online culinary school. "WHAT," you say? That's right; I have enrolled in the future of food through Rouxbe.com. I have started my first unit in a 27-unit course entitled Professional Cook's Certification Course. It is a six-month course that according to the company, "...charts a new path for cooks that want to learn to develop their craft. Equally suited for culinary students wanting to enter the industry, working cooks looking for professional development, or even serious home cooks that want to develop their culinary skills, this course introduces and reinforces fundamental techniques and knowledge needed in today's kitchens."
I had my first assignment in my cookery class. I was asked to make my favorite go-to meal. I have to admit, it was not easy deciding what to cook. My go-to meal changes periodically, but I finally decided on Potato Leek Soup. In the process of making the soup, I was to take a picture of my prepared ingredients, a shot during the cooking process, and one of the final dish. I woke up this morning and headed to the store to get my ingredients. The store is pretty empty in the morning; I will have to remember that. The soup does not have that many ingredients so shopping took no more than five minutes. I headed home, unpacked, and got started.
The second unit got down and dirty about food and kitchen safety and cleanliness. I learned something that I had not even remotely known before regarding rice. Did you know that Bacillus cereus is a pathogen found in rice? B. cereus is killed by heat, but its spores are not. If rice is not cooled and stored properly, the spores can emerge from dormancy and contaminate the rice, causing foodborne illness. This is something I will not soon forget as I make rice often and have probably been putting my family at risk. Who knew? Obviously not me! That was not the end of interesting tid bits discussed in Unit Two.
I have spent the last few days slicing, dicing, and chopping, all in an attempt to perfect my knife skills. It started with cutting through flour with a pastry scraper for about a half an hour as lookers-on shook their heads in confusion. It may have looked odd, but it really did help perfect the rolling action but without a doubt it was even more helpful in adjusting to the proper position of my guide hand and its precious fingers. It took quite a while to get the hang of the connection between my guide-knuckle and the pastry scraper. To be honest, I am still working on it, but with each assignment, I am getting more and more comfortable with it. From experience with several unintended slices and dices to my own fingers, I can tell you that learning proper technique is paramount.
Today's lesson was to cut carrots into 1/4 cups of brunoise, small dice, medium dice, large dice, fine julienne, julienne, and batonnet. It was actually quite a bit of fun and I found that I actually was not too bad at it. My favorite was the brunoise cut. I love it and if I had the time, would use it as a confetti to celebrate each meal. I actually found cutting uniformly to come pretty naturally to me, and much like most cooking, rather relaxing. I may never become a chef, but I will definitely become a better cook. I had to post samples of each of my cuts and describe options for the scrap.
It came! The whet stone arrived; even a day early. Amazon is the best; at least when you live on an island and there are no malls or departments stores available without a ferry ride. I decided to wait until everyone was gone for the day to begin my lesson in knife sharpening. I soaked the stone as instructed, selected the knifes that I wanted to sharpen as well as one to practice on first. I then turned on some background music and watched the Rouxbe video on using a whet stone. And then I watched it again. And again.
I wrapped up the third unit on knives and am now on to Unit Four: Salads & Dressings. Here's the thing; I love salads. I just also happen to have an aversion to dressings. Maybe I should rephrase that; I actually hate vinegar which happened to be in most vinaigrette and dressing. Before I had started this cookery school, I had decided that I was going to take this opportunity to try a few things that I had swore off. This was one of ingredients on my hit list to try, so I really should have been more excited, right? I even went out of my way to pick vinaigrette options that had vinegar in them as part of my practice assignments. I went to the store and purchased a white wine variety and still feeling positive began making my salad. When the time came to make the mise en place for the dressing, I knew in my heart that I couldn't do it. The smell...ugh!