Chef Waier showing us how to clean squid

Dread, dread–timed cooking. Have you ever seen the show Chopped? Well this class is similar.
Chef Waier gives us an assignment and we have 20 minutes to execute it. We had 45 minutes to set up mise en place, then we were told to prepare an amuse bouche in 20 minutes. Of course my mind is blank–no notes, no recipes, no instructions–just use anything we had available.
The amuse bouche is a small bite, one bite, intended to wake up the taste buds and given at the beginning of the meal. I took a won ton wrapper, cut out a small circle, fried it, then topped it with a very thin cucumber slice, crumbled feta cheese, a few cranberries which had been hydrated in apple juice, some herbs, sea salt, lemon zest and balsamic vinaigrette. It was actually pretty tasty and decent looking.
Next assignment: Make an appetizer using spam. Yuck! Spam is salty and nasty. I decided to saute it and combine it with onions and cabbage and make okonomiyaki, a savory Japanese pancake with aioli and steaksauce. I undercooked the pancake slightly and it had a bit of a doughy taste but it wasn’t too bad.
Next assignment: Make a soup using strawberries. Hmm–we made peach soup in CPI but I sure didn’t remember how. I asked one of the students what she thought was in it and she said yogurt. I found some vanilla and plain yogurt so I combined the yogurt, some cream, sugar, mint, lemon zest, vanilla and used the immersion blender to puree it. It was actually good.
Next assignment: Make an entree using pork. Did I mention I had worked at the Sunday brunch from 7-3 today on the line making pork chops? Also, I was physically and mentally exhausted by this point and could barely think straight. I decided to make a Thai curry with coconut milk, carrots, zucchini, onions, cumin, coriander, mace, turmeric, reduced by half, then added the sauteed pork with ginger and garlic. I served it with rice. Not bad for 20 minutes!
Next assignment: Make a dessert using thyme. I could not find anything that I thought would go good with thyme. I wanted peaches but could only find oranges and apples. I did what I saw on Chopped–put the cut up fruit in a pan with sugar, brandy, thyme, cinnamon and cooked it. I had made crepe batter earlier so I decided to make an apple thyme crepe with chantilly brandy cream. My crepe was a little too thick but the crepe stuffed with apple was not too bad. Not great, but for 20 minutes I can’t complain. First time I ever made a crepe too.
Last assignment: Make a sandwich and side dish. Oh my, so tired and ready to go home. I made a Monte Christo sandwich with a fruit salad. It was pretty standard but I thought it was yummy. Not really too creative, but heck I was happy to be able to make anything after 13 hours on my feet. After all, I’m not a spring chicken (an expression my father used to use for “old” people).
I decided that the next time I work the Sunday brunch I will go to the Tuesday class!

My amuse bouche


Strawberry soup