This was my exam!
Just kidding! I didn’t have time to take a picture of my final dish, so I decided to post a festive picture of the Baked Alaska the chef made during the last demo. Very reminiscent of the holidays, no?
Thanks to all the well wishes and good lucks, I passed the exam! I’m not sure how well (or how poor) I did, but in any case I am moving on to Intermediate Cuisine. Despite my struggles with high expectations, I feel really good about completing the exam without any huge mistakes. Nothing was perfect, but nothing was completely awful either. The two dishes that came out were canette rôti, roast duckling, and côte de veau, veal chops. I got the roast duckling, which would’ve been the one I picked had I had the choice.
There were little curve balls that the chefs threw at us. Whether it was intentional or unintentional I don’t know, but they were definitely challenges. One of the curve balls presented itself when I had to clean and truss the duck. We had never had to chop off poultry feet before. If it wasn’t the exam, I would’ve stalled a little longer before touching and cutting off those webbed feet. However, the challenge really wasn’t about touching them, but rather knowing where to cut them off. There was a distinct place where the skin changed from pink to yellow, so that’s where I cut, but I think they ended up a bit short. They looked too stumpy and not like proper drumsticks. Another challenge was plucking the feathers. We usually flamber poultry which gets rid of most of the down. Ducks have thicker feathers, so some have to be picked out by hand, but man! This duck had SO many un-flammable feathers. I ended up having to use the tweezers that I bought for picking out fish bones to get all those suckers.
The duck is also accompanied by two garnishes: turned turnips and petite onions, both caramelized and glazed. The turnips were fine, except, I got a oddly portioned piece that could only be cut into 8 pieces. There were so few, that I wasn’t even able to properly taste whether they were seasoned or not. The petite onions ended up being more like medium-small onions. We had never worked with that size onions before, so when we glazed them (both dishes required this same garnish), the onions starts to come apart and unravel. None of the curve balls were huge and leaving me dumbfounded, but they definitely made the exam a bit harder than it could’ve been.
I finished right on time, without a minute to spare. I slowed down a bit at the end because I had work quickly in the beginning. Very bad and lesson learned: never slow down! I rushed at the end and haphazardly put everything together. Luckily, there was really no “presentation” aspect, as we presented the duck whole on a big platter with the garnishes and jus on the side. It’s kind of a gamble presenting a dish like that because there’s no way to know how well the duck was cooked or not. Another curve ball?
Anyways! I’m really happy with how basic turned out and am really excited to start intermediate. There’s always so much more to learn!