Hollandaise and Daily Practicals

Finally, Chef has been getting down to business in class. This week, our two-day class was turned into a practical exam, with Chef testing us on the classics, from this week forward. We were given two hours to complete a soup, protein and vegetable, with service promptly at 11 a.m. Not only was this a test in skill and knowledge, but a test in time management. If you weren't ready to serve, or didn't time your prep and holding properly, you failed.

The menu for the day was written on the board. Once everyone was seated and quiet, Chef said, "You're being tested. Make what's on the board. I'll see you all at 11 a.m." He disappeared. We all sat there kind of stunned for about 10 seconds, then jumped out of our seats and bolted for the kitchen.

Day 1 menu:
Cream of Cauliflower Soup
Rack of Lamb a la Provencale
Jardineier of Vegetables
Tourneed Potatoes

Day 2 menu:
Fall Harvest Salad with Poached Pear and Warm Goat Cheese
Lentil Soup
Eggs Benedict

I had a little bit of a head start because my station was already set up - I've been coming to class about 15 minutes early to get my cutting board set, essential tools and my knives out and ready to go. In addition, I also grab ingredients for mirepoix, salt, pepper and bay - we always need those.

Everything on the first day's menu was a cinch, so my challenge was only timing it right. My partner volunteered to make the tourneed potatoes and rack of lamb. I worked on the soup and vegetables. He took over an hour to tournee 2 potatoes (into 8 pieces), complaining, swearing and talking to himself the entire time; I wanted nothing more than to tournee his mouth shut (just shut up, suck it up and do it!) I ended up prepping everything else, including the lamb. When he was done, he picked up the lamb prep where I had left off.

Day two, he had to leave early. He started to help with the prep and then took 30 minutes to cut bacon into lardons. I knew at that point, it was all me. He left for a few minutes and returned with two eggs, an English muffin, and two strips of bacon. I asked what he was doing, "I'm making breakfast, I'm starving." "Son of a b@," I said to myself, and knew he was done for the day.

I cooked the lentil soup for my classmates (I can't eat them because of my food allergy to legumes, but sure can make a great soup out of them), finished the salad, including the candied walnut crust for the goat cheese medallions, poached my eggs, toasted the muffins, and waited for my shining moment: the Hollandaise.

When I got back from my externship in August, I was in a panic because I had been so out of practice making classic sauces. I remembered how to make everything except Hollandaise. I studied and memorized and practiced my Hollandaise before school started so I'd be prepared, and it paid off this week.

My Hollandaise was picture perfect, and I got an A for the day.

Chef said the rest of our classes will be increasingly more difficult, with practicals popping up when we least expect it. I'm excited for the challenges to come.

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