Thursday, 26 January 2017

EXAM CAMP!! Puff Your Pillows and Roll Your Dough !!

What a complete blast! One whole day during our semester exams Chef opens his kitchen up to a very special group of students in Monarch Park ... all of our developmentally delayed students and those with special physical challenges. Today was the day! Woo hoo!!
In the morning we all get together and make lovely pillows of spanakopita, and in the afternoon there is just time for ooey gooey decadent cookies. Nothing lasts any further than the bus-yard at the end of the day. Everyone goes home exhausted.

The first challenge is getting everyone to have their hands and fore-arms washed up half way between the wrist and elbow ... and keep sweaters and shirts up above the elbows. Lots of soap and hot water. HOT water. Not cold water. And soap. For the students who cannot stretch enough from their wheelchairs we have a basin and washcloth system, so that every single student can get their hands into mixtures and try to hold the tools. No one is left out today ... and in this wonderful school no one is left out ... period. Monarch Park is like that. It is 2017.

First we finished up making the filling for spanakopita which Chef had started. This meant crumbling almost 2 kg of feta cheese. About half a kilo of cheese got eaten immediately!
All the crumbled cheese is inspected by senior students who have taken our culinary arts course and know what is needed. Some got sent back for re-crumbling. Finally ... everything was ready to stir together and have the flavours adjusted and finished.

Then the phylo pastry was prepared ... three layers, laminated with a thin layer of melted butter. Everyone is taught to only carry phylo on the BACK of their hands (so there are no punctures from fingertips by mistake). Then a small ball of filling is placed on the end of a phylo laminated strip, and folded into a nice triangular pillow!

Then ... Into the oven for a while ...

And ... Presto! Kaboom! Instant delicious ... beautiful spanakopita.
My executive sous-chef for the day, Julien, laid these out for me. Julien is a grad of our culinary arts program.

Everyone took a noontime break and returned in the PM for a shorter stay ... so cookies were made. Oatmeal (and raisin) cookies ... it is Robbie Burns Day and no oatmeal should go unappreciated.

FIRST do our mis-en-place

SECOND stir things together

THIRD flop all the dough onto a very clean counter

FOURTH roll the dough into little balls and put on baking trays

FIFTH bake

SIXTH cool down then EAT!! Here's Julian enjoying delicious!

Thanks to every single adventurous, brave, loud, enthusiastic student who took part today, and to the legion of wonderful teaching staff and teaching assistants ... you folks rock these kids' world day after day.

As my friend Chef Terry Port says, "I bid you good eating!"

Friday, 20 January 2017

Endings ... and Success !

The end of the semester has arrived on the calendar ... and the past 2 weeks have been a frenzy of learning to plan, actually planning out time and structures, and then everyone coming together to develop a wonderful tasting menu highlighting the students' learning and developing skills.

The menu makes only a promise ... it is the delivery to the table which tells the story, and the look of delight on the faces of our customers is the final punctuation mark.

I'd say this brigade has hit better than a homer ... they tore the cover off the ball AND hit it into the lake!

Let the pictures tell the story.

Chefs Emily and Colin arrived a bit before 06h00 to start making bread. The rest of the group drifted in when their planning sheets told them to arrive ... the whole lot was hard at work by mid-morning ... and the tables were set, the drinks prepared, the coulis made,
the fritters fritted and pasta designed to have fresh basil leaves right in the structure of the pasta itself!

Salads were built and plated.

The demi-chicken breast on peach reduction and salsa verde was created.

The pastas were filled with a slightly warmed shrimp filling then cooked and topped with a delicious cream sauce with butter-braised mushroom nuggets.

Lamb racks were frenched and prepped in our dredge of herbs and spices, to be mounted on a teensy potato fritter on a bed of rosemary sweet potato smear.

Teeny tiny cheesecakes had been made and set out with slices of killer-good Meyer lemon semifreddo.

Green Onion Cakes were rolled and fried into dreamy lofty delicious treats!

Warm and cool beverages has been prepped and set out.

Finally, banana slices tossed in our own middle-eastern style dry rub ended the feast.

And ... the crowd went wild!

Well done, everyone. A wonderful final exam, a great semester and HUGE amounts of learning and personal growth. Congratulations to each of you as you continue your journey of learning.

And, as always, an enormous vote of thanks to our wonderful community volunteer, Ruby Trostin, who has made this semester's work go smoothly for us all. Before this final exam Ruby interviewed every student team, ensuring they knew what they were doing and checking their time-estimate as well and ensuring their requisition was correct...THEN she went home and spent hours typing up the full requisition of food Mr Chef to buy! THANK YOU Ruby!! As well, special thanks and a grovel of gratitude to my delightful volunteer kitchen assistant Noah, who has kept us all tidy and this old chef heavily-caffeinated for months!

Friday, 13 January 2017

Salmon in our Dishwasher

We have a sort of pathetic dishwasher in our kitchen. The Arm-Strong model (4 students' hands in the sinks) works MUCH better on dishes.

However sorry and excuse the machine is for dishes, it cooks fish just fine, thank you very much.

Not like this.
(I don't remember where I found this image, but I love it. Thanks, someone!)

We take a nice filet of Salmon (or Char or Trout) and ensure there are no pin-bones. Add some lemon juice and slices of lemon (if nice ones are available) and some pepper and fresh dill. Wrap it tightly in THREE layers of tinfoil,
securing the edge-creases with a smoothing spoon. Then invert the wrapped fish onto an upside-down baking tray
and put it into the dishwasher. Put another tray on top, seperated if at all possible. Then run the machine for about 18 cycles (our cycle is 110 seconds). Thanks to Chef Jacob today
who stood by the side of the raging machine and poured in water and pushed buttons at just the right times. At home just put it on the pots and pans cycle, with the hot air dry ON. You can do your dishes at the same time ... don't forget to add the soap!

Remove, allow to rest for a few minutes then peel off the foil and serve!

What could be simpler?

Enjoy on simple rye or pumpernickel bread with a smear of very fine Kozliks's mustard.
Chef Keely demonstrates.