Lessons 20-24: Soups & Sautéing

I breathed a sigh of relief this week as our class made the transition from Module 1 rookies to Module 2 (lesser) rookies.

It’s hard to believe that we’re through the first of five modules in our culinary arts program, and an externship that once seemed infinitely far away is now creeping up on us. I spent last weekend studying and practicing for our Module 1 written and practical examinations, which included medium-dicing potatoes and making mayonnaise and Cream of Broccoli Soup (image #2). On Monday, Chef Ted backed up our at-home attempts by demonstrating a fool-proof approach to preparing the soup. Armed with a long list of notes, I went through the motions over and over again. The different steps became a dance in my head, a dance that would unknowingly turn into a fast-paced shuffle on the day of the exam as 13 of my fellow culinary students and I stirred, sautéed and pureed our way to the finish line.

Every day in the program is critical in terms of the techniques and culinary skills we learn, but I know that the foundation Chef Ted laid in Module 1 will forever shape the way I cook. It was 22 lessons jam-packed with countless “firsts”: the first fish and meat fabrications, the first attempt at making a roux, and the first time I made a dish (Onion Soup Gratinée) that tasted better than what I’d come to expect in restaurants (images #6 & #7). Chef Ted has passed the reigns on to Chef Instructor Sabrina Sexton, who will guide us through the lessons and techniques of Module 2. A graduate of The Institute of Culinary Education, Chef Sabrina has a distinguished culinary background.

She has worked at top NYC restaurants including Chanterelle and Gramercy Tavern, and has also spent time as a corporate chef at ABC before making the switch to teaching. Chef Sabrina greeted us Thursday morning with our first lesson on sautéing, which included practicing the dry heat method on chicken and flank steak. I plated and presented my first dish, a sautéed chicken breast with white wine butter sauce. And I have to admit that I had a “moment,” as everything just seemed to click in a single second of realization. Yes, I am living my dream and this is 10 times more incredible than I could have ever imagined. I stood like a proud peacock over my chicken breast. Who knew something so simple could bring such satisfaction? But after years of cooking chicken incorrectly, I stood defiant, staring down at a golden brown chicken breast that was slightly caramelized on the outside and perfectly moist in the middle (image #9).

A final demo of Pommes Persillade (potatoes with garlic and parsley; image #10) and 14 mouths arched into smiles with hints of the incredible flavors and endless tastes to come.

Coming up next week: Sautée III, Pan-Frying and Deep-Frying

A look back: Lesson 1: Mise en Place Lesson 5: Medium Dice & Mirepoix Lessons 6-10: Fabrication & Stocks Lessons 11-14: Meat Fabrication Lessons 15-19: Classic & Contemporary Sauces

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