Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Earl of Sandwich

We still had no fish after Labor Day, a good thing really. If it had come in on Friday it would have had a long weekend in the cooler before we got to it. Since we had no fish and the end of the quarter was rapidly approaching Chef had us prepare two sandwiches and and a side dish using up what we could in the walk-in.

The Pantry class involves a lot of sandwich making so this was a little introduction to those that might be taking that class. And in my opinion, most of the people in my class just don't get it. Nearly everyone just made shit up, throwing ingredients between bread or wrapped it in a tortilla. No thought went into what they were doing at all.

Chef wanted sweet potatoes used up. Man they were nasty. We had to cut the mold off of most. Nearly everyone did some version of fried sweet potatoes, chips, fries, waffle fries, etc. Absolutely no creativity. Igor did a very poor Monte Cristo. It was obvious that one, he's never had one, and two, he didn't bother reading the recipe. Baby Face did a Philly Chicken wrap that wasn't a Philly. It was just chicken and cheese. I did a classic Kentucky Hot Brown with a side of hash browns.

The hard part was not going too fast and being done at 10:30 instead of noon. My dish was fairly simple. It's an open face sandwich, usually topped with turkey but I used chicken breast, covered in a cheese sauce "gravy," topped with a cross of two strips of bacon and a garnish of tomato wedges. Served hot of course.

The cheese sauce was simple but involved steps I had never really done before as a whole. The sauce is made from cheese melted into a bechamel sauce and a bechamel sauce is basically a roux blended with heavy cream. So the first thing I did was make a roux but before I could make the roux I needed to clarify some butter. Simple but many steps. I only needed enough sauce for two sandwiches and my book recipes made about a quart of bechamel sauce and a quart of cheese sauce so I kind of eyeballed everything figuring a sixth of the recipe would work for me. Both the bechamel and the cheese sauce came together nicely. I strained the sauce through a chinois into a baine marie and held it on a warming shelf over the stove to keep it warm.

There were about five other people who were going to use bacon. It made absolutely no sense to have five people each cooking bacon so I got a sheet pan and a rack and went around asking people for their bacon so I could cook it all at once in the oven. I also know that every time, Chef says this is the preferable way to cook bacon, NOT in a frying pan, NOT on the flat top, which is exactly what the other five people were starting to do when I came around. You would have thought I was from Mars with the looks I got from every one when I started putting the bacon on the rack. They just don't pay attention and listen, doesn't matter if they are 19 or 55.

Sauce was done. Chicken was just a matter of sauteing two breasts and slicing them up. When the bacon was done, I cut the crust off of four slices of plain white bread and put them on the same rack that the bacon had been on and put them in the oven to toast. At this point I am basically done, ready to plate. I plated my sandwiches and put them in the warmer to stay hot and then started on shredding potatoes for my hash browns.

My hash browns were made with both Idaho potatoes and sweet potatoes with diced shallots. Since my sandwich had Parmesan cheese in the sauce, I topped my hash browns with Parmesan cheese also. I had my doubts about combining the two different starches but it actually worked quite well. Unlike the rest of my class, I remembered that the shredded or cut potatoes need to be in water to prevent browning. I had all of my ingredients prepped but at this point my side of the kitchen is being over run, so I get the hell out of the wait and go do dishes.

On a side note, I had decided not to start the dishwasher and fill the sinks and see what happened. It wasn't until 10:30 that Mayfield realized it hadn't been done when he went to wash a pan out and took the time to do it. It's a shame the dishwasher was already put together since I normally have to do that the first day of the week also.

When I got back to the kitchen, Mayfield was whining because someone had stolen his bacon. It was kind of his fault because he didn't claim it after it was cooked and let it sit by the oven for about an hour. I knew Ridges took it for his sandwich. I was pretty disappointed he didn't fess up to it. Mayfield had to start over but he put his bacon on a half sheet and put it in the broiler, which by the way he has never used before. I'm not going to say that we are not allowed to use the broiler but we are strongly discouraged by Chef to use it. Mayfield walked away and in a few minutes his bacon promptly started burning. Chef began yelling to get the bacon out. Chico was standing right in front of it looking like a deer caught in the headlights. Chef then gave a dissertation about not using the broiler after which I watched no less than a three people cook in it. Nobody listens. I really hope Chef either fails a few or gives them low grades just to send a message and an incentive to take the class seriously.

We had to present our sandwiches. No one knew how to do this. We did this in my Professionalism class and I let the teenyboppers slide a little since they don't watch Food Network or go to fine restaurants. Chico just said he had a ham and cheese sandwich. That's it? You've got to sell it people. I know most of them watch Food Network. Watch Chopped or Iron Chef America. there is a way to do this. Hell, go out to eat to a nice restaurant and listen to the server sell the specials to you. Chef went through each as if it were a competition noting that had this been the Pantry course, there would have been knocks for lack of color, height, plating, etc. I think it was lost on most. He had no comments on mine other than that at the Brown Hotel in Louisville they sell thousands of these sandwiches every day. My sandwich went over well I think. Both were eaten. I thought it came off spot on, even better than the one I had back in May in Lexington.

I think RK is starting to get a little miffed with me. When I was making my cheese sauce he came over and asked how long I had been in school. I think he thinks I'm a ringer. I told him this was only my third quarter, which should be the same as him but I'm having my doubts as to whether he took Professionalism and Serve Safe or not. You could see the little wheels turn in his head. Later when we were eating he asked me what restaurant I worked in. I said I have never worked in a restaurant other than McDonald's back in high school. The little wheels turned a little more. I can see the resentment starting to set in.

1 comment:

Brook said...

It is both joy and torture to be the smart one in class. To get true pleasure from learning and making cognitive leaps is a wonderful ability. And it sucks that people who lack the ability can't accept their limitations(well let's be honest here-we have a hard time accepting other peoples limitations too)and the only response they can muster is to attack the one who illuminates their shortcomings. So, do you hide your light under a bushel or not? Why should you have to?