Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Common Sense

When thinking about food, most think that taste is the most important sense. But, in reality we use all of our senses equally when experiencing food. Throughout my day I noted how many times I used all of my different senses.

I started off by making the happy carrot salad. The key component of the salad are the carrots, which are shredded through the Robot Coupe. This creates a fine texture, but leaves the carrots still crunchy. Golden raisins are plumped in warm water and then added to the salad to contrast the crunch with a softer feel.

After I finished the salad for lunch service, I moved onto the catering project that would occupy me the rest of the day. I began by preparing the components of the salad. I first made orange and grapefruits supremes. This is a difficult task that requires good knife skills. I had to cut off the skin and then cut between the segments to form perfect half moons of pure orange, no peel or seeds attached. This took quite some time, my hands became sticky and my nose was filled with citrus scent. To be honest, my hands still smell a little fruity! Next, I crumbled the queso fresco, a rather dry cottage cheese-style cheese with a very mild flavor. At first I wore gloves to prevent mess, but then realized I couldn’t feel the cheese enough to determine if the crumbles were the right texture. After using my senses to help me crush the cheese, I moved on to toasting the pecans. I simply put them on the sheet tray and popped them in the oven. I had to watch them to see if they became the perfect color brown. They were a bit on the toastier side, so I removed some of the darkest pieces, but the rest were good to go. I finished up the salad by preparing some local greens and making the dressing. We used local arugula and frisee, I washed it and spun it in the salad spinner to remove the moisture. Then I made the citrus vinaigrette by combining orange juice with sherry vinaigrette, champagne vinegar, parsley, and olive oil. We warmed the orange juice to bring out most flavors. I had to taste it to make sure the flavor was correct.

Once the salad was prepared, I moved on to prepping the fixings for the two main dishes, a grilled marinated chicken breast and roasted beef tenderloin. For the chicken, I had to make salsa verde. I combined chopped parsley and cilantro with garlic, lemon juice, and olive oil. I combined and tasted, the bright green color contrasted against the chicken will be quite eye catching. In opposition to the green, I also seeded pomegranates to compliment the chicken. I had to cut off the tops of the pomegranates, then cut the fruit in segments and tear out the seeds in water. Although time consuming, these seeds are brightly pink colored and full of flavor. Then I moved on to the beef accompaniments and made roasted tomatoes. Once the roma tomatoes were cut in half and tossed in olive oil, salt, pepper, and a pinch of sugar I popped them in the oven until shriveled with a bit of brownness. Like the pecans, these were a bit overcooked, but savable. I have decided I need to set timers once I put things in the oven!

I finished the catering by making the side dish of snap peas with ginger and almonds. The dishwasher helped clean the snap peas, and then I blanched them in boiling water and then shocked them in an ice bath. I then put a pint of almonds and 3 tablespoons of fresh ginger in containers to head out with the catering.

The whole day I was reminded of how important it is to be aware of all of your senses as you deal with food. I had to see how cooked something was by noting color change. I also saw how bright colors contrasted with blander colors can make food more appealing. Being next to the expo station also showed me how important presentation is. The smells in the kitchen also send you signals of when something is ready and when something is burning. An inviting smell can always work up an appetite, especially if that smell is freshly baked brownies coming from the dessert station next to you. I also used touch when preparing the food, not only when crumbling the cheese but also when tasting dishes to see if the mouth-feel is appealing. Hearing is used to talk to other chefs, but more importantly hear boiling water or a timer that reminds you of what you have forgotten. Finally, taste is used constantly, to decide if using your other senses efficiently has been successful, or if you have just failed trying. I would say we were quite successful in the kitchen today.

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