Wednesday, July 21, 2010

The Exam!

More than two weeks have past since the end of my Ballymaloe experience...the girls arrived on the Tuesday before the practical exam (practical took place on Thursday) and my brother Steve arrived with his family on Friday; the day of the 6 hour exam. We've been traveling since then. Everyone but Tom and I are back in Arizona. We are in Lyon, France visiting friends.

Well I made it, at least made it through. The practical exam was supposed to be completed in 3 hours…I took 5. But I’m really pleased with my results and Darina said “well done" when I saw her later in the day. I had practiced my meal a few days before with horrible results...burned the chicken and plating creativity ended up looking like blobs not beautiful scrolls and towers! Got help from my neighbors on how to plate the dessert and the patron saint (I think it's Pasqual) of the kitchen must have been guiding me in the rest of the meal because I must admit the final result looked like it had come out of a professional kitchen. My order of work was three pages! My menu was:
Chilled Pea Soup with Minted Cream
Chargrilled Chicken Breast with Aioli, Rocket(Arugula)and Roasted Cherry Tomatoes
Poached Pears with Chocolate Sauce and Ballymaloe Vanilla Ice Cream
White Yeast Rolls (I was assigned this bread the day before the exam)

Everything went like clock work until the final 15 minutes... went to check on my bread and the oven was off; tried to get the oven back, no luck, went to get instructor for help she moved bread over to another oven. Called for my tasting which meant I had 15 minutes to plate my dishes. Started my plating and remembered I wanted to make croutons for the soup. Quickly heated some olive oil and sauteed the diced bread, this put me behind schedule and now the pressure was on. Started plating my main dish...the roasted tomatoes on the vine were no longer on the vine, they cooked a little too long and had fallen off the vine. What to do...magically the creativity juices started to flow and I placed them in a circle around the chicken which was placed on top of the rocket. Doesn't sound that pretty but it really did look good. The instructor overseeing the kitchen (Gillian) came by twice asking if I was ready for the tasters to come in...not yet, not yet, just a little more tweaking. Okay ready, I was required to leave the kitchen as the tasting was taking place. As I left I remembered about the rolls, looked in the oven and they needed to get out. Quickly grabbed the tray with my wet dish, hOT, HOT, sat down quickly on stove top; hit naan bread of another student which caused it to fall to the floor and shatter. OH NO, I yelled and I could feel the tears start to well in my eyes. The darling student whose bread it was immediately came over and said not to worry she had already been graded. I left the kitchen and then Gillian said Karen did you make the Aioli...I had and had it ready to go in the refrigerator just had forgotten to put it on the plate. Got it for her and left the kitchen. Went outside and cried with exhaustion and relief. The next day was long but I feel I passed. Will get the results in about 6 weeks! Friday night all the teachers put on an end of term dinner for the students. It was fantastic and that night we all went to the Blackbird for the last time....It was a good night!

Monday, July 5, 2010

Last day in the kitchens

Well, the end is almost here. Today was the last day to cook in the kitchens except for exam day. There was an air of relief and sadness in all of us. Everyone was taking loads of pictures. The afternoon's demo was the last one for Darina to present.

P.S. Here is my exam menu:
Chilled Green Pea Soup with Fresh Mint Cream
Chicken Paillarde with Roasted Tomatoes and Rocket (Arugula)
Poached Pears with Chocolate Sauce and Ballymaloe Vanilla Ice Cream

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Happy Fourth!

Time is flying, tomorrow begins week last week and I can't believe it. Right now I feel like I should be a "culinary dropout" though. Went to a small Fourth of July party and I brought an apple crumble. Upon tasting it I realized I forgot to add the sugar; I went to an extra bread practice this morning and my breads all had massive caves on the inside. Tim (Darina's husband) thought it might be that the oven temperature was wrong. I practiced jointing a chicken last night (need to do it for my practical exam)and it took me 30 minutes to finish...given that I only have 3 hours to prepare this meal I'm in big trouble. Last week my teacher tried to show me how to pipe icing on the cake I made...her's was beautiful, mine looked like blobs. I think I'm turning into a blob after all the sugar and cream and no exercise these last 12 weeks! The pictures above are of the party and my darling Irish neighbor who made cupcakes in honor of the Fourth of July!