Wednesday, 29 March 2017

Chefs Are Givers, and Takers too! We all need each other.

Chefs, taken as a group, can be slightly obsessed, slightly wild, slightly ... crazy?! We do things the hard way sometimes, but to a woman or man, we love to create, share and welcome others into the community we make. This week we have been privileged to welcome into Monarch Park the wonderful teacher, Chef Walter Herbst.

Chef brought his decades of experience, his fundamentals of tough training through a 4-year apprenticeship in Austria, his decisions to come to Canada and take his chances ... and more than a few stories about chefs he's worked with, some of whom were just weird.

So, our students got an earful AND training in the fundamentals of pastry.
Starting with just four ingredients (water, butter and flour, followed by a few eggs) they learn to make choux paste ... and then work magic with it!

Take a few basic things and learn to play
... treat the results with heat, then tenderly fill the little balls up to make profiteroles, injected with Chantilly cream lightly touched with flavour. After making them, letting them cool and counting them, we had about 117 profiteroles. Every one of them got filled and, by the end of lunchtime there was not a single profiterole left.

Most everyone looked a bit glazed over.

Check the concentration. Enjoy the result!

Then, just as a second tease to the palette AND the tongue, we made Black Forest Cake.

Black Forest Cake is a traditional dessert. It has room for little variation if done according to tradition, and in our kitchen this time we discouraged experimentation ... learn the basics, learn the fundamentals, appreciate the traditions ... THEN inject yourself into the creative process AFTER you've got the basics down pat. That is my rule, and Chef Herbst reinforced it with every example.

First, make a plain and very good chocolate cake in a springform pan. Make it slightly higher than usual, if possible, so the layers come out right and very visible.

Cool the cake overnight: A cake even slightly warm cannot be dressed with icing or any topping.

Today (Chef Herbst's third day with us) was all about the final finishing and decoration. New skills learnt included the use of a baker's comb and skillful manipulation of the piping bag. Start by taking the cooled cake and cut it in half laterally, then fill the inside cut with cherries in heavy syrup.

Then replace the top slice

Then ... Pride! check it out!!

Well done all.

And at the end, student chef Mariam offered Chef Herbst a thank-you on behalf of everyone.

There was no cake left...none at all.

Saturday, 4 March 2017

Pasta ... Learning a New Skill !

The free-est chef is the chef who needs very few tools.

The free-est chef is the chef who knows technique.

The free-est chef is the chef who enjoys being skillful.

The free-est chef is the chef who only needs fresh ingredients.

The free-est chef has a few good tricks and bits of knowledge up her or his sleeve!

The free chef makes her / his own pasta AND can do something with it!

A classic of the 'pasta cuisine' is tortellini ... a simple pillow of pasta, made from one sheet, with a prepared filling. We have a contract for next week to prepare dinner for 80 or so members of the South Riverdale Community in Toronto, and we have proposed the following menu: Tortellini da Zucca, a Caesar salad with house croutons and a dessert of choice. (The client does not have a dessert preference, and Chef just got a great deal on a heap of Meyer lemons, so we're making semifreddo for 80!)

The big skill to be learnt is making tortellini ... after my students have the skill to do this, they can change the filing any way they want, and mess around with the size, and invent sauces ... no limits to a good young chef who has skills and techniques and imagination!

Here are the steps being demonstrated:

Prepare the filling of choice (in this case acorn squash with nutmeg and a tiny amount of pepper and even less crushed leaves of kasoori methi

Make long sheets of pasta

Use a piping bag to put 'spots' of filling along the pasta-sheets, one dot every 5 cm or so
Brush egg wash between the spots, and use this to seal the pasta after folding and creating pillows
Use two sizes of pasta-cutters (one to press and seal, the other to cut) and create filled individual pillows
Cut the pillows and fold the tiny tails
Lay out on sheets and chill for later service

We have to make about 600 tortellini, so we've practiced working as one big machine, each young chef doing one function and the whole brigade just going like blazes. It works!
This tray was produced in about 6 is their very first try.
Well done everyone!