Rules: One mystery protein is selected by head Chef. Each person, individually, must envision and then creat a main course. Presentation of entre to the head chef is timed for 2 hours after each person’s start time. Your score is determined by technique, flavor, originality, and presentation.
Mystery Protein: Veal breast
Dish: Pan-fried crisp veal cutlet with a creamy tarragon mustard sauce served over a bed of sauteed greens.
Results: My scores were great for presentation, originality and flavor. I lost a few for technique simply because by breading pulled away from the cutlet a bit upon cutting (apparently this can be overcome by breading the protein 30-40 minutes before pan-frying to allow the mixture to fully adhere – which I didn’t know).
Thoughts: The best part was that working with only one mandatory ingredient and only one dish to prepare seemed like a cinch compared to the previous challenges. It was interesting to see all the various preparations that people did. I saw a few rolled/stuffed veal presentations that looked promising. There were a number of veal stews or ragus served on their own or with a form of cooked potato. One very ambitious student decided to do his veal ragu with handmade pasta! Given our time constraints, I thought this was very aggressive. He was not the only one who rolled pasta. Another student made a free form type of veal lasagna layered with a bright green herb sauce. Overall our class performed well and of all the practical exams, I actually found this one the easiest and least stressful… perhaps going through mock challenges AND the previous 4 practicals all helped prepare me.
As you can tell by the description I wasn’t going for a health-consious dish. My goal was flavor, color and varying textures. The star was a crispy pan-fried, golden brown, large butterflied veal cutlet. I drizzled the top with a creamy pale yellow mustard sauce that had flicks of bright green from the tarragon. I also placed a teaspoon of finely diced tomatoes in the center/top of the cutlet for a shot of color. The veal cutlet was perfectly framed by the bed of bright greens peaking out from beneath. I sauteed spinach and mesclun with some shallots and extra virgin olive oil, then seasoned with a pinch of salt and fresh ground pepper. Yum! Of course Matt sampled my leftovers for dinner that night and cleaned the plate.
What did I learn from these challeneges? That there are a lot of things to consider when putting together a plated entree. Besides just picking your protein and sides. You have to think about all the colors on the plate… if there aren’t any you’re in for boring brown or yellows that don’t get the same wows as bright greens and reds, for example. You have to think about the textures… this is a component of taste and varying textures cause you to percieve each food in a different way. You also gain more satisfaction from a meal with different textures and flavors than one that has just one. Also to be considered is how the flavors and ingredients in each part of the dish play on each other. Food for thought!