After a review of sauce basics with Chef JD Loy and a discussion of classical sauces vs. modern sauces we got down to business. (In case you’re wondering, refer back to the entry in CP I on sauces for information on mother sauces. Modern sauces tend to be lighter, use more fruits and vegetables, and are often made a la minute.) We each had a container labeled with our names and inside the container were 8 slips of paper, each with the name of a protein: beef, pork, chicken, tilapia, catfish, cod, shrimp, bone-in pork chop. We selected a protein and then were told to prepare it with a sauce and present it in 20 minutes. My first protein was shrimp. Easy, I thought. I’ll make a citrus buerre blanc and coat the shrimp with sesame seeds before I sear it.The shrimp turned out pretty good but my sauce separated while standing in line to present it. It was also way too salty. I then drew pork. No problem I thought–I’ll make a nice herb crusted pork with red wine reduction. The herb crust, rosemary, thyme, toasted pine nuts, and garlic turned out nice and the pork looked brown and crusty, however I cut it a bit thin so it was a little overcooked. My wine sauce lacked a finished look because I didn’t add a bit of butter at the end. It was runny and thin on the plate. The next protein I drew was beef. I was happy since I had practiced at home by making a beer sauce. I made a sauce with bacon, onions, garlic, beer, brown sugar, tomato sauce, mustard, worchestershire sauce, thyme, and salt and pepper. I strained it, reduced it and thought it tasted pretty good. My seared steak was a little on the medium rare side and I sliced it, fanned it on the plate and drizzled the sauce on it. I made some frizzled onions (thin onion rings) and placed them on top. I thought this would be the best so far but as I stood in the long line while each student had their dish evaluated I saw my steak changing when the juices mixed with the sauce and broke down. By the time it was seen by the chef it was not that great. This was discouraging–all my sauces were off and nothing seemed to be going well. I was getting pretty stressed and still had at least 2 more dishes to prepare and it was already after 8:30 PM. I drew tilapia but it was gone so I picked up a piece of cod–a huge piece. Had I been thinking clearly I would have cut it into pieces but I just made up some herb seasoned panko breading, dipped it in flour, egg, and breading and deep fried it. I made a weird miso, lemon, ginger sauce to go with it and to make up for all my runny sauces I added a little cornstarch to this sauce. While I waited in line (forever it seemed) the sauce turned very stiff so I had the opposite mess this time. It was now 9:00 and I still had 1 more dish to make before 9:15. I was frantic. I drew chicken. All that was left were huge chicken legs/thighs. I threw together something I knew well–spicy Asian marinade with soy sauce, sugar, red peppers, garlic, scallions, wine and marinated the chicken after I cut it into pieces. I quickly sauteed the chicken, used the cooked sauce for a warm vinaigrette and made up a salad with the chicken and
dressed with the vinaigrette. This was the one dish that got a more favorable review. I didn’t
take a photo of it–too crazy and rushed.
I’ll have to confess I was pretty bummed out after class, realizing I was stressed and struggling when I believed I would manage a lot better. Trying to think of creative ideas and not relying on written recipes is quite challenging. I was also trying to make sauces with out relying on the standard pan gravy sauces which use flour because I knew that would be too easy. I probably should have stuck to more basic sauces and done something I knew better. I do not have a lot of “sauce” expertise because I personally tried to avoid sauces most of my adult life in an effort to eat healthy. The typical sauce always has some amount of fat in it and the best ones have more fat, especially butter. I will have to really make an effort to practice making sauces at home and I’ll probably just make them for skill building and not to eat. With this in mind I went to Central Market this weekend and loaded up on herbs, shallots, limes, cream and butter. I’ve got to get ready for the final which I hear is even harder than this class.