What started off as a pretty slow week actually took an interesting turn in the end. Our labs consisted of tarts, lamb and pork fabrication, and more preservatives. Usually I like to talk in order of what I have done this week, but since this post will involve the picture of a whole dead lamb I figured I’d leave that discussion till the end for the weak of stomach.
In baking our task was to make meringue-type butter cream, pecan and pumpkin tarts using the sweet dough we had frozen a few classes earlier and prepare the fillings, because of a gross mathematical error it ended with us actually not needing to make the filling and jumping straight into preparing the tarts.
The shapes and amount we were making were one long rectangular pecan tart, a large round pumpkin tart, and 6 of each small tart.
Rolling out the dough was an easy process since we were not needing something thin and it was just a matter of pressing the sides gently to rid the pan of any trapped air bubbles. The tart I found most interesting was the french tart. Instead of being set in a little tin foil cup and having ribbed edges, the mold was a simple circle in which we pressed the dough into so that it would have a flat bottom and sides.
Once finished with the shells we put them in the fridge to cool as we moved on to the butter cream. I couldn’t believe how difficult it was to make the Italian style meringue. We needed sugar and water in a pot, then added lemon juice for an acid. We had to attempt it twice because the first time the sugar crystallized and that ruined the whole thing.
When it was finally done correctly we added the mixture slowly to the egg whites we had been whipping in the mixer so it would not cook them, then began adding around 2 kgs. of butter one chunk at a time. As the last chunk went in we then added in the cream cheese while others in the group began filling their tarts.
It was an easy process since the pumpkin was just poured in and for the pecan we layered the bottom with the nuts and filled in the already made mixture. Since both items needed to be cooked at different times our group piled the same items on different trays and popped them into the oven.
While doing so we began to clean, finish up the butter cream and started setting up the boxes we would need to package our items.
In truth it was a very quick class. The tarts came out, looked tasty, packaged them, poured butter cream into buckets for later use and tidied up. I didn’t feel like I came away learning much since shaping the tarts to the tray was very much the same as making a pie. The only thing I learned is don’t let other people near your tray in the oven because if they give it a forceful push back in the beginning of cooking the pumpkin will slosh about and make the tarts messy in appearance.
In retail our task was to only make antipasto and it surprisingly took the entire class time to do it. We needed celery, cauliflower, zucchini, cherry red peppers, green beans, carrots and pearl onions. For a few hours we were chopping everything small, making the cauliflower into tiny florets, carrots into obliques, and peppers into spears.
After I personally went through 3 kgs. of cauliflower I was happy to move onto a vegetable that had colour. Before we had time to get near the steamer though we noticed our chef had written on the window ‘No Facebook’ which had me worried.
I started wondering if we weren’t supposed to take pictures of this particular class for some unknown reason, which then had me worried because of this blog. In the end it turned out we weren’t allowed to post about Stephen Harper, Prime Minister of Canada, who was coming in case the media caught on and rushed to our school for pictures.
Well when he came we all hurried to the window. Our class is on the second floor but one of the walls is completely glass so you can look down into the lobby and from there a large majority of our class watch him come in with security and entourage. It was actually pretty neat and I imagine the school was very proud. We had noticed that morning that there was fall themed decorations everywhere but assumed it was to make the school look nicer and appeal to our customers, but once we found out who was coming we knew exactly why.
Back to the antipasto. When everything was blanched we began stuffing the sanitized jars and filling it with brine. In the end we had 35 jars processed and a very sticky table.
Now for the animal fabrication.
That’s the sheep I had staring at me on my table. I thought I was prepared after watching chef take them apart but when it was finally my turn to get the saw in my hands I was a little iffy. We first took off the front legs and then the head. After he wasn’t staring at me it was a little easier to get my hands on it.
The class kind of went by in a blur, a lot of hacking with the saw and trimming the fat. For a bit I worked on getting the shoulder blade out of one half then diced the thicker pieces for our later retail class to make curry. I worked on the side ribs as well while others in my group frenched the main rack.
As you can see our table was a bit of a mess. Once we had everything wrapped and tidied we then moved on to a half pig carcass. With this one I felt a bit more confident and sawed off the legs and helped with the head. I then began removing the jowl for bacon and was definitely put off my tuna sandwich lunch when I saw a gray substance that I assumed to be the tongue.
From there I sawed through the spine then along a scoured line for the ribs. This butchering went by a little quicker. I assume it was either because it was only a half pig or because we felt more bold after finishing the sheep.
After we had everything tidied of fat we did a quick clean up and then watched chef demonstrate how to make different types of bacon and ham. First he demoed prosciutto then moved on to bacon and honey bacon. By the time we got out we were all pretty tired and stunk of raw pork. I don’t think I saw many people that quick lunch period actually eat anything with meat.
I must admit it was very interesting but not something I could do all the time. Well at least not if it had a head.