Terrines! Part Two.

I know you’re just dying inside to know how my terrines turned out.

Right?

Right.

Well, after poaching them in a water bath (the oven was 350, the water 180 and the internal temp of the terrine a precise 155) and weighting them with bricks, setting them in the cooler overnight and poking them with curiosity, the terrines finally popped their molds today.

It was a bit of a vexing sight, actually, to see these terrines naked without their protective barriers keeping them in shape. They were…well, let’s be honest here. They were mounds of poached meat.

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Looks delicious, right?

Let me sum up this whole terrine thing. A terrine is a fancy meatloaf and an aspic is a savory Jell-O.

Now that I have that off my chest, I can say I pleasantly surprised at how they turned out. Our mushroom terrine, in its happy little triangle mold, was actually quite beautiful–creamy pink at the top, eggshell white the middle and earthy grey at the bottom–all in all quite fancy.

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My quality photos are less beautiful. Bear with me.

 

Our rabbit terrine was even prettier. Studded with pistachios, almonds and hazelnuts along with tender slivers of rabbit tenderloin, it looked like a treasure chest of meat wrapped in bacon.

Of course, from the outside, they weren’t very pretty, and the gelatinous residue left in the terrine mold was unappetizing, despite the chef’s insistence it was “delicious and good for your bones!” (I tried it. It was cold, congealed and slimy. I pride myself on trying everything at least once, but I won’t put that stuff in my mouth again.)

And, last but not least, our heirloom tomato aspic. We carefully removed it from the mold, propped it upright as it wiggled towards freedom and tried to gingerly cut it without tearing its gelatinous innards apart. We mostly succeeded.

This is, of course, Le Cordon Bleu, where it’s a big deal to make a big deal out of French food, so we designed a giant garde manger spread using an aspic platter as a centerpiece (made simply like a Jell-O stained glass, colored gelatin can become an art form). We handmade our own mustards, which were potent and vibrant and pack a real whollop. I will share the recipe, slightly modified after trial and error, below.

And I’m sure you want to know what everything looked like, right? Of course you do! Well, here it is: our platter of Garde Mange Goodness.

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Please do ignore the terrible quality of my cell phone camera.

While on the topic, let us dissect this picture, which is truly worth a thousand words.

It’s like a scavenger hunt.

Bottom left corner: two (empty) cups of (crappy) coffee from the school café. This serves several purposes.

- A) Caffeination. We work in the industry and go to school. We stay up late, wake up early. We are dedicated! We are motivated! We are hard workers! We are… EXTREMELY tired.

- B) Warmth. Those classrooms get so cold during lecture. When the ovens aren’t on and the burners aren’t lit, it’s like taking notes in a freezer.

- C) Friendship. *Cue the awwww noises.* We take turn buying each other coffee. (It’s only a dollar a cup.) But really, it’s the thought that counts, because we know exactly how who takes what in their coffee. That’s always nice.

Upper left corner: The potted plant. We’re supposed to make our tables look nice, but we’re just one giant back-of-house. These spiffy, rather dusty, plants that have probably been here since the school opened are the extent of our decorating skills. And the blurry students in the background are rushing to get things done because there’s never a slow moment in the kitchen. Go, go, go, eat, eat, eat.

Upper middle: look at our cute chef pants. All checkered and fancy.

Lower right: I made those place cards. I wish I could have made them fancier.

Dead center: a yin yang aspic platter. That pretty green color comes from parsley. We killed it in a food processor, strained all the juices and viola! Natural food coloring,. Gorgeous. The immediate right of that showcases our tomato aspic, followed by the mushroom terrine, bordered by the rabbit terrine. Yay, garde manger!

Photo belongs to the author.

Victory Photo!

And now, as I promised, a kick-butt mustard recipe. And I really do mean that–this stuff is potent. It only takes a little, but it goes a long way and you’ll love it. Just trust me.

 

Beer Mustard

2/3 c    ark beer

3    eggs

2/3 c    dry mustard

dash  salt

dash white pepper

1/8 t allspice

1/2 t        Worcestershire sauce

1T       packed brown sugar

2T       white wine vinegar

1T       caraway seeds

1. Combine all ingredients except the caraway seeds, mixing to combine thoroughly.

2. In a double broiler (a bowl over boiling water) cook the mixture, stirring constantly until smooth and thick. Taste, adjust seasonings.

3. Add caraway seeds, combine well.

4. Stores well refrigerated for up to two weeks.

 

This powerful mustard will help any terrine go down. (Not that I didn’t love the terrines… I just found the mushroom terrine a bit chalky. I’m not a fan of poached meat, I guess.)  Let’s face it: they’re kind of a genius idea, and a huge moneymaker.

And who doesn’t like the idea of meat Jell-O?

A Secondhand Lament

“We can accept these items.” The thin, fashionable saleslady pushes three of my former wardrobe pieces–a pair of tribal print shoes, some gladiator sandals and a pink dress–across the counter. “We’ll give you 8.50 for them.”

I look at the three items on the counter. I then look at the still-bulging bag of perfectly good clothes that I will now have to lug back to the car in the Florida heat. The walk of shame. No one wanted her clothes.

“Okay,” I reply, trying to sound upbeat. The $8.50 covers the cost of the pair of shorts I just bought, which makes me sigh. I just traded two pairs of shoes for a pair of used shorts.

(But I really did need the shorts.)

This seems to happen to me every time. I drag my clothes into Plato’s Closet with the utmost enthusiasm. Of course they’ll want my clothes–I have great clothes! Once in a blue moon, I’ll strike the jackpot. They’ll take all my clothes and hand me a twenty.

But, more often than not, they return my bag half-full, having taken the strangest items, and I will have to return home with clothes that now hate me because I tried to give them away. They never quite fit me the same way afterwards, as if they resent me for trying to give them up and refuse to prove their worth anymore.

“We’re really looking for more accessories now,” the saleslady tells me. “So if you have more shoes like these, or maybe some belts, bring them in.”

“I’ll keep that in mind,” I say.

Why is it that secondhand clothes shopping can be such an ordeal? I always have such high hopes, and it’s a one-in-a-million chance I’ll find the perfect fit of anything. It does happen–I’ll find a great pair of jeans or something and it will renew my faith in the whole escapade. Usually, though, I buy clothes that bring to mind I can see why they gave this away when I put them on.

I browse the aisles with the same tenacity as a treasure hunter, like Ponce de Leon looking for the fountain of youth. Only I’m looking for a great dress or a skirt with real character. I must weed through the jungle of sagging, bedazzled shirts with wrinkled fabric and faint stains to find a diamond in the rough. And, like real treasure hunters encounter, I must face wildlife in this fabric jungle.

Like the father-daughter team arguing near the dressing rooms.

“I am not paying for that,” I heard from across the store. I peered through the racks to see a girl of about 15 wearing a slim black dress and sky-high red heels. “Your mother and I are having a serious discussion when we get back. When did you start dressing like that!?”

“Da-ad!” she grumbled, throwing her head back the way teenage girls do. “It’s not a big deal!”

“Put this on!” he answered back, tossing her a giant Aeropostale hoodie. “This is the last time you go out in public looking like a—well, like that.”

I heard people in the store giggling. This duo had captured the attention of the entire store. Grumbling, the girl changed back into jeans a t-shirt, but as if to make doubly sure she got the message, her father made her buy the hoodie.

Once the excitement had died down, I had to face the store girls that had charge of my used clothes. These secondhand fashionistas always dress a little bit like bohemian hippies with long, flowy maxi dresses and floral headbands. More often than not, they look at me as if I got dressed in the dark.

“We don’t take Disney shirts,” one sales lady apologized to me when she returned my bag half-full. I looked at her. Why on earth not? I shrugged, letting the frustration go, and decided to browse the racks, where I found not one, not two, but three Disney shirts (really cute ones) that looked like what I had just tried to sell.

Because I buy Disney Couture shirts, with my Disney Discount (yay, perks of being a Cast Member!) I took offense. My Disney shirts are quality. They’re not the kind you buy from those discount stores just off property.

Oh, well. What can you do?

In a perfect world, I’d be able to always find magical clothes at great prices. And people would buy my things for full price.  Not just twelve bucks for six skirts, four tees and three great pairs of boots.

Of course, I’m a bit biased. I like my clothes. They have memories. From the classy shirt I wore on Christmas Eve of 2009 (the year I brought that sad-looking cheesecake I will never stop apologizing for) to the skirt I sported on the world’s most disastrous date (good riddance to that one–they can have it for free) I look at outfits and think of the times I had in them. They’re more than just fabric, they’re bits and pieces of stories.

I’d better stop before I start sounding like a Cotton Inc. commercial.

The point is this: secondhand clothes dealing is, in short, a gamble. Sometimes it pays off. Sometimes it doesn’t. (Most of the time it doesn’t.)

It’s like the Lottery of Twentysomething Fashion, and I have terrible luck. It’s entertaining, though, to say the least. I always leave with the hope of maybe next time.

And, for the record, sometimes the gamble pays off. (I am the proud owner of secondhand heels that I wear to every job interview and have gotten a compliment on them every time. No joke.)

 

Also, an update on the terrines from the last post! They are currently in the walk-in cooler of the Catering and Buffet room, weighted and waiting to be sliced and displayed on Monday. I’ll keep you posted.

 

Terrines! Part One.

How long has it been since you’ve had aspic? (Have you ever?)

Introducing aspics and terrines to the modern age is entertaining. Watching first-time aspic eaters take a stab at trying meat-flavored jello is enlightening–and entertaining– to say the least. No longer are neon raspberry and lemon jello boxes the be-all-end-all of cooking with gelatin. Instead, wibbly-wobbly molds of liquid meat towers take the center stage of classic cuisine.

Photo Credit: laweekly.com

“The best place to get these recipes and a good feel for them,” my chef informed us, “is in garage-sale copies of old Betty Crocker cookbooks. Women’s positions were based on how well their aspics turned out. It was precise! It was an art! It was something used to impress the husband’s boss at a dinner party. And nowadays, it’s old-school.”

I, personally, was thrilled to try my hand at aspics and terrines. They’re so fancy and old fashioned and they make me feel like Samantha from Bewitched trying to impress Larry and Lousie Tate. Without the magic, of course.

Terrines, galantines and aspics were to be our homework topics. With explicit directions to study terrine technique before the next day, we left class with notebooks full of Terrine How-To and DIY Galantine information.

My Terrine Team (Team Terrine? Terream?) didn’t take these words to heart. I received several text messages this morning from my group: “Not feeling very well,” and “Do you have a copy of the recipes for today?”

If anything is going to cause a sinking feeling approaching a difficult lab day, texts like these will do it.

“Yes,” I typed back. “I have the recipes.” I’d even gone so far as to watch Julie & Julia for the sole sake of the Aspic Scene, where Amy Adams pitches an adorable fit over the un-gelled aspic in her refrigerator.

(Also, I needed an excuse to watch Julie and Julia, but that’s beside the point.)

Photo Credit: worstpreviews.com

When my team met up before class, we designated who would do what. Our menu included a rabbit terrine, a mushroom terrine and an heirloom tomato aspic. Simple enough, mostly needing time to set or cook. I wasn’t concerned.

Perhaps I should have been.

Terrine Day went downhill fast. The rest of the class was a mess. Every few seconds–amid the shouts of, “WHO HAS THE DUCK FAT?” and “Someone’s rabbit tenderloins are burning over here!”–someone would make the mistake of shaking an un-set aspic or opening an oven, slowing down the cooking process. We didn’t finish in the allotted time.

“EVERYONE!” the chef yelled as one girl ran to the dish room to dry her tears (yes, tears, over an aspic that won’t set are apparently common), “Silence! Put your terrines away! We are now a full day behind. We’ll complete this lab tomorrow. I am shocked none of you came prepared.”

I looked at the faces of my classmates around me. Not a single one of them had raised their hand when asked if they had made aspics or terrines before. This was a first time for everyone, something that didn’t happen often in my group of little culinary geniuses.

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Photo Credit: My super high quality cell phone. (That was a joke.) (This is our uncooked terrine, tightly sealed, water bathed and ready to hit 155 in an oven. Yes, it is wrapped in bacon. Those are bay leaves on top.)

Isn’t that what culinary school is about? I mean, it’s great when things work out as planned and everyone can drive home with a leg of lamb in their front seat, but it’s even better when things go horribly awry because that is the best possible way to learn. It’s a mess (and sometimes a very ugly one–pureed meat and mushrooms isn’t very appealing when raw. Or cooked, for that matter!) But it goes to show not everyone is perfect. We are all still learning.

And when are we ever going to get the chance to make (or break) fancy buffet terrines ever again? They’re not exactly popular these days, although their rarity means they can be sold for hefty price.

No, today was a train wreck of pureed chicken and wobbly tomato juice. But it was one heck of an interesting class, if not one I’d necessarily like to repeat.

Hopefully tomorrow the aspics and terrines will be beautifully set, the way a 50’s Housewife would be proud of, and I can post some pictures of the accomplishment. Of course, if things go horribly awry, the pictures will be far funnier for me to post on the internet, so perhaps tomorrow you’ll all get to laugh at the way my food turns out.

Either way, it’s going to be an adventure. Stay tuned.

 

Dinner Party Memories

A single, bright yellow egg yolk, still runny and perfectly smooth. A gentle pinwheel of smoked haddock. A creamy, slightly sweet, steaming hot broth.

Set against the eggshell white background of a beautiful soup, offset by two perfectly tourneed potatoes, garnished with some mustard seeds and a vibrant parsley leaf, this dish could have easily just slid through the doors of a high-end eatery like Per Se or Alinea.

Instead, it is placed in front of me under the careful eye of my culinary buddy, who we will refer to hereafter as Biker Bill, as I sit at his dining room table in an offset Orlando suburb. Instead of a posh, glittering five-star restaurant, the man-cave feel of the room is an unusual and charming juxtaposition.

“Tell me what you think,” Biker Bill says. “And be honest.”

I take a bite. The smoked haddock is perfect, flaking under my spoon as I dive into the gorgeous artwork that is my dinner.

“Bill,” I say. “This is delicious.”

The table full of culinary students (read: meal guinea pigs) chimes in with praise and agreement. Biker Bill explains the dish to us as we eat, using his hands to illustrate every movement, from stirring to garnishing. Expressive, he doesn’t even realize he’s doing it.

This is arguably one of the best possible reasons to love culinary school. My classmates are literal geniuses. I look at their food, their knowledge and their passion and it just fills me with pride and excitement. They’re so talented.

Occasionally we all get together for dinner parties where bottles of wine litter the table and we usually end up playing poker. (Which I am terrible at, but I’m learning how to pull off a fedora like a champ. Also, I’m underage, so I drink sweet tea out of a wine glass to feel fancy.)

Tonight’s dinner party was based on competition meals, which Biker Bill and our other talented classmate (henceforth referred to as ‘Mr. G’) are perfecting in preparation for the state competition in mid September.

Our second course involved handmade orzo, beautifully offset by a tricolored brunoise of pepper, next to a moist and flavorful piece of chicken and stunning, slightly translucent pearl onions. We ate and marveled and drank our respective pairings (I recall a local blueberry wine on the table, a very sweet red, a blended pinot noir and Mountain Dew.)

Dessert was provided by our most talented group baker, a dear friend with something close to a serious obsession with Girhardelli chocolate. A chocolate tart with pecans and crumbled amaretto cookies, cut into picture-perfect wedges of course, finished the night. We sat around and talked about everything from our chefs to our classes to our various kitchen jobs.

And can I just say that tart was probably one of the best things I’ve ever eaten? You could sit there and say, “Erin, I need you to kidnap the President’s daughter, okay?” and I would just sit there and agree with you because seriously, this tart has the power to melt minds.

I don’t think I can ever truly express how cool it is to be surrounded by talented people who invite me into their homes just to feed me.

“Can I just take a second to appreciate this?” one dinner party guest called out as we sat around the table. All the girls, four of us in total, were chatting and giggling over drinks while the men cooked. “The men are in the kitchen and the girls are sitting at the table drinking wine. Welcome to 2014!”

What can I say? This education extends off campus. The more I learn about these wonderful culinary artists, the more sure I become that this is the best industry I could have ever entered.

The people and the moments are just as sweet and memorable as a tasting course at a five-star restaurant, and really… who could ask for more?

 

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