Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Class 3 - Seafood

While it's true that I'm not a big fan of seafood in general, I learned that part of the problem is that I've just never had really good seafood!

Chef started class tonight by reminding us that we live in Kansas...and there is no such thing as "fresh" seafood in this part of the country. I've eaten salmon in restaurants before, and while it's been good... it's never been great. Last night I had a GREAT piece of salmon. My mouth is watering, just thinking about it.

Here's a few pointers... from the perspective of a seafood chef in the Midwest:
  • Know your purveyor. That's the single most important rule to buying seafood.
  • If the seafood smells fishy... do NOT buy it. Fresh seafood should not smell.
  • Never wrap fish in plastic wrap. It will cause it to spoil more quickly. It should always be allowed to "breath."
  • Higher fat = more flavor (that holds true with anything, I think)
  • If you grill fish with the skin on, you are going to lose all the flavor when you remove the skin... so, remove before grilling.
  • In this area, specifically, the *best* place to buy fish is Costco (or Sam's) because the fish is I.Q.F. (individually quick frozen, on the boats) It's as close to "fresh" as we can get. Again, this is specific to the area I live in.... the dead center of the country.
Tonight we made several dishes and had a lot of fun. Though, we had to use the new kitchen at the school and it's much smaller and far less accommodating than the big "old kitchen." I had to work at the back of my stove and that caused me to have to rely on another team member to adjust my heat. Thankfully I still had access to two burners, otherwise I would have been in trouble when she didn't hear me say, "reduce... reduce, reduce!!!!!"

My partner, on the other hand, was awesome tonight. We are in tables of 4 and with most dishes we divide into teams of 2. My partner is Jenifer and she loves cooking as much as I do. She's as eager to learn as I am, and it makes her a LOT of fun to work with. The other two ladies on our team aren't quite as enthusiastic as Jen and I. But, they are really nice and easy to get along with, so it all works out.

Jen and I really took turns with our duties. I made most of the sauces, while she was in charge of grilling, searing, frying, and preparing the fish and shellfish.

I made the creamed spinach for Oysters Rockefeller and received accolades from my entire team. They loved the spinach, as did I. I watched as they devoured their oysters, and smiled as they rolled their eyes back in their heads. Hahahaha!!!! I'm allergic to shellfish, so I didn't even bother to try them. Though, I did grab myself a small dish of the spinach before I threw the rest over the oysters. It really was *that good.*

Chef made a statement, early on in the evening, that someone would be "breaking" their sauce tonight. I took that as a personal challenge. I was going to make the sauce, and it was going to be good. =)

Jen helped gather the mis en place for the avocado beurre blanc while I chopped and diced my shallots and threw them in the pan. I allowed the wine and white wine vinegar to reduce to almost no liquid at all. The shallots were just exploding with taste. Once I got to the stage where I was able to whip in the butter, I was getting tired of standing over the pan... and I was starting to get very warm.

It took me a good 20 minutes to whisk in the cup of cubed butter.... but my sauce did NOT break!!! I was hot... nearly sweating, and my arm was starting to hurt, but it was perfect!!! In fact, once it was finished... it was the perfect hue of green and the taste was amazing!!!

By the time the sauce was ready Jen had just finished searing the salmon, and I poured the sauce generously over the fish. She kept saying, "that looks perfect" over and over again. She tasted it... and a huge smile came across her face. I took a big bite...and the same smile followed. It was heaven on a plate!!!

Several classmates walked over to our table to peek at my sauce. I felt as if I'd just won some sort of prize. =) Even Chef had a great big smile once he took a taste of the avocado sauce.

I am proud to say that Chef asked the entire class to give us a round of applause as we'd made the *best* butter sauce. I was beaming with pride. And, that was about the time I started to react to the teaspoon of steamed mussels broth that I'd tasted earlier in the evening. I knew that was a mistake.

My face began to swell and turn bright red. I was itching all over, especially my face. Jen, who is a nurse by day, noticed...and asked if I was alright. She knew that I'd tasted the broth.... and started rummaging through her purse for an antihistamine. I took some medication that I had with me...and it helped immediately.

By the time I got home, I was exhausted. I went right to bed, well.... right to bed after making Adam try the butter sauce. =)

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