Archive for January, 2009

Knives and Fire XVI (Week 4)

January 29, 2009 Leave a comment

Beef Day.

Today was mostly lecture – we learned about beef and had a lecture about kosher animals and kosher slaughter.

Beef is very nutritious – high in protein, many vitamins and minerals, both trace and iron. It also has 5% fat, and the best beef, Prime? Is also the most marbled. Most beef in the US is corn-fed, which to many tastes better, and is more tender, and also has more marbling (marbling is intramuscular fat. There is also subcutaneous fat, which is below the skin. Not as desirable.)

In terms of animals, we get beef from steers – castrated male cattle 9-17 months old. This produces the finest meat. There are also heifers – cows who have not yet given birth, cows and bulls. The latter two are used for pet food and commercial products (soup, McDonalds, etc.) Heifers are mostly used for veal – veal, unlike beef cattle, are products of the dairy industry. Farmers need to breed their cows to get milk, and that will result in calves. These are killed as veal at 250-400lbs. Over 400lbs, sold as “calf meat.”

There are seven primal cuts from each side of a steer, after the animal has been cut into quarters. In the kosher world, we only use the forequarters because there’s a nerve called the gid hanasheh (the sciatic nerve) which must be removed from the hindquarters in a process called treiboring. This is not done in most of the world (although it IS done in Israel.) As a consequence, we can’t use that part of the animal, and it’s sold to nonJews. This means we do not use the tenderest part of the steer – the loin and sirloin. No filet mignon, no chateaubriand. No tenderloin. Anything from the thirteenth rib inclusive is not used. What do we use? We use the chuck (or shoulder), the breast and foreshank, the ribs and the plate. So while we do have prime ribs, we basically get the tougher cuts and need to use a lot more moist heat or mechanical means of tenderizing, such as pounding, papain or cubing.

We also had a lecture on kashrut by Rabbi Blech. In this case, it was about kosher slaughter and identification of kosher animals, and information about kashering meat. Kosher slaughter is a tricky subject, where they have to balance the needs of halacha, the needs of the animal and the needs of the consumer (and the safety of the shochet) plus the laws of the land.

It’s easy enough to identify kosher mammals – do they chew their cud? Are their hooves split? KOSHER! Although, if there isn’t a tradition of eating such animals (American bison, Zabu cattle), it might be problematic. Tradition is important, after all. It’s a thing to fall back on if there is doubt. There are also ways of determining kosher birds and fish, including tradition – again, best method.

The most fascinating part from my point of view was the discussion of kashering – meat needs to be salted and soaked within 72 hours, or it needs to be broiled. (Interesting point – one can salt and soak any size piece of meat. Once it’s done, it’s done. So one can kasher a quarter of beef and then dry age it. More about that later.) If one broils meat over 72 hours old, one can’t recook it. Liver MUST be broiled. These days, kashering is part of processing, so it happens before the meat leaves the slaughterhouse, but in the old days, meat was sold unkashered. It would have to be washed every 72 hours unless it were frozen solid (not everyone accepted that freezing solid stopped time). (These days, one can buy broiled liver, too.)

When the rav left, the chef continued. We talked about dry-aging beef – this is a controlled, well, rot. It’s done in aging rooms – very low humidity, 34°F, with UV light and constantly moving air to control the bacteria, for up to 90 days. The result is drier, more tender meat with a more concentrated flavor. It’s not to everyone’s taste. There will be a black, dry crust to be removed.

There is also fast-aged, which is 6-8 days, done at 38-39°F, and wet or vacuum aged (still-warm meat packed in cryo-vac packages.) This last is how most meat is aged.

We also talked about how meat is graded – color (you want bright red or purple) and fat content (more marbling, the higher the grade.) Prime is the most scarce, most high-end restaurants sell Choice. We get Good or Select. There are five grades, with the lowest called “canning.” Think Campbell’s soup.

And then we got to practicalities. Chef took out a shoulder of beef *and* a pair of cryo-vac packaged minute steaks. He took a boning knife and began to take it apart, going along the muscle lines. Here’s the thing – kosher butchers have different cuts and names for those cuts, and anyway, they’re not popular among those who don’t need to eat them. (This process is called fabrication.)

Once he had the big blocks of muscles dissected apart (using his hands as often as his knife), he showed us how to trim fat and silverskin, and passed out portions. I got a “london broil” – a piece of meat with mostly parallel grain that, with marination, could be cooked in a broiler. First, I weighed it, then I trimmed it. Silverskin is a material that doesn’t cook more tender. It has to be removed. It’s done in strips, using hands and the boning knife. He said I did a good job, although I think I did butcher it a bit. Then I wrapped it in parchment paper, plastic wrap and aluminum foil, and labeled it.

All meat scraps, btw, were saved for stock, and tougher muscles for ground beef.

The cryo-vacced minute steaks were weighed in the package and then out of it – 4 oz difference. After they were trimmed and the fat removed and the muscles taken apart, with the tender ones set aside from the tougher ones. And the end result? From $7/lb, it went to about $13/lb for the servable parts.

One has to balance so many things – time and labor vs. cost of fabricated meat. And this is important to know.

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Knives and Fire XV (Week 4)

January 28, 2009 Leave a comment

Brunch day.

We went pretty much straight to work making a brunch menu. We were to “offer” pancakes, apple crepes, french toast, eggs florentine, scrambled eggs, lox, eggs and onions, muffins, strawberry shortcake, mushroom omelet and artichoke frittata. We even had a menu. Different people volunteered or were assigned different preps.

I volunteered for the eggs florentine. This is a version of eggs benedict – poached eggs on English muffins with hollandaise-type sauce. But,while eggs benedict is on a slice of ham or Canadian bacon, eggs florentine is on sautéed spinach (the name is a clue – florentine tends to mean spinach.) And instead of plain hollandaise sauce, it calls for bearnaise, which means tarragon.

And, yes, eggs benedict is the model for the egg mcmuffin – they just use cheese instead of the hollandaise, and a good thing, too. Hollandaise is made and kept at the most dangerous temperatures, and is thus a perfect breeding ground for bacteria.

So. First, I melted margarine, which means I stood there skimming it for a long time. And then I made the bearnaise, which means I made a reduction of white wine, white vinegar, crushed white peppercorns and fresh tarragon, reducing it by half, and straining it. And then I beat some egg yolks until they were pale and doubled in volume and slowly added the reduction, and then heating the mixture over hot water until I was red in the face it and it was nearly at the point of scrambling. But not quite, thank goodness.

And then I added clarified margarine too fast, so I broke the sauce. To fix it, Chef had me whip up two more egg yolks and add more reduction, and bring that up to temperature. Then we added the broken sauce bit by bit. When the old sauce was incorporated, I VERY slowly added more margarine until I got a lovely thick sauce, then added salt, lemon juice and cayenne pepper. We put it on a plate on a burner over a hot oven, and there it sat. I set up the rest of the mise en place – spinach, eggs, olive cheeks for garnish, a spoon for lifting the poached eggs, and a dozen English muffins, half of them split – on a couple of sheet pans.

Meanwhile, E made both mango and strawberry coulis, and orange-scented biscuits for strawberry shortcakes, and Y made pancake batter and whipped topping, and M made crepes and apple filling for the crepes, and S set up for the frittata, and D got the mushrooms and eggs and G made potatoes. Someone else (the other Y?) made french toast eggs. T made muffins,which aren’t easy to do pareve, and strawberry “butter”.

Chef demoed all the dishes and then sent us up one by one to cook two different dishes. Meanwhile, we’d set a table with a tablecloth and a centerpiece made of carved vegetables and rosemary, and plates and silver. When it was my turn, I made pancakes (had to do them twice) and french toast. I put the plate with the french toast in the oven while I made the pancakes, and forgot at one point that it was very, very hot, and burned a finger.

I spent the rest of the afternoon with my finger in ice water. But the plates were pretty, so I’m happy. We even fed a few people (I had a mushroom omelet and some of the muffins – one batch was short on sugar, but I like them. I’m strange – I think baked goods have too much sugar. Also, they were blueberry and very small, so the sugar-light ones really tasted of blueberry.) We discussed more egg cookery at the end of the day, and cleaned up fairly thoroughly.

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Knives and Fire XIV (Week 4)

January 27, 2009 Leave a comment


Today was Day One of two days of Breakfast cookery, which is probably one of the hardest things – eggs are relatively simple, but they’re also simple to mess up.

First we discussed eggs – yolk (fat and protein and most of the vitamins), whites (transparent when raw, opaque white when cooked, high in protein), shells. There were also more words about sanitation first (as I dug through my purse looking for the pens that were, actually, in my chef’s jacket arm pocket. Ooops.) We needed to use more soap and more sidetowels (okay, we all called them schmattas) and less paper towels. Fine by me – the schmattas worked better.

Eggs are vital to cookery – there isn’t a single station that doesn’t use them, and breakfast and brunch are pretty much based on them. Yesterday (Hors d’oeurve and canap&eactute; day) used a lot eggs – chopped eggs, hardcooked eggs for the deviled eggs and, of course, the mayonnaise. And that’s without eggs as the focus.

We also had a brief discussion of kashrut, and the checking for bloodspots, which our resident rabbi says isn’t a factor anymore, since eggs aren’t fertilized, but I know I found at least one today.

And then we cooked. First, just plain egg cookery – scrambled eggs. Basic scrambled eggs. There was the adjustment for a fleishig kitchen – coffee creamer and margarine. But the margarine was clarified, as butter should be for this. (Clarifying butter or margarine is simple – melt it. On top of the stove, gently, or in the microwave. And let it separate. Remove the scum on top, and the stuff on the bottom is impurities or water, and the golden fat in the center is what you want. VERY high smoke point.) The biggest thing – don’t let the pan get too hot. Medium heat, not high heat. It makes a huge difference.

So. Two eggs. A little creamer. A little salt and white pepper. A touch of melted clarified margarine in a teflon sauteuse (a slope-sided frying pan.) Teflon is a gift to egg cookery. Add the eggs. And keep stirring over medium heat until the eggs are at the desired doneness. You don’t want color and you don’t want them tough (the creamer helps with that) but different customers want different dryness. Plate it, decorate the plate, done.

Unless you get fancy – like baking a pastry shell, and sweating some spinach. Put the spinach in the shell and top with the eggs.

Then frying eggs – first sunnyside up. Break the eggs into a bowl. Again, just a touch of margarine. Slip the eggs into the pan, which is on medium heat. Cook carefully so that the edges don’t get too brown before the whites in near the yolks get opague. Then carefully slip them onto a plate. (Mine came out NICE, btw.)

Then over easy. That was a bit trickier. Cook the sunnyside eggs until they’re about done, loosen them with a a spatula (rubber, please) and then flip them. By flipping the pan, not with a spatula. And if a yolk breaks – do it again. If not, slide them carefully onto a plate immediately. Over medium? A few seconds longer. Over hard (and there are those who want that), a few more seconds.

Next, omelets. Now, between watching demos and cooking perfect sunny-side up eggs, I was prepping mushrooms – floating them in three waters, the first with veggie wash (this stuff works beautifully, btw.) We had discussion about cleaning mushrooms – the chef does not believe that washing mushrooms hurts them, or that they absorb that much water. Since Alton Brown proved that, too, I was happy to clean them properly. I removed the stems from the fresh shiitakes, and sliced them and the white mushrooms into thick slices. He cooked the white mushrooms with onions until they browned (and yes, they carmelized.)

Omelets come in two varieties – American and French. Both take hotter pans and more “butter” than other egg dishes. French omelets stay wet in the center and one has to take care to not have the eggs color. American omelets get color and are flipped to ensure both sides are cooked.

Pour the eggs (three eggs, mixed with salt, pepper and creamer) into the pan and immediately start stirring and scrambling, using the sides of the pan, too, until they start to pull away from the sides. At this point, a French omelet is done. Bang the pan so that it moves to the side opposite the handle. Point the pan to yourself as if you were stabbing yourself and position the pan over a plate, so that you create a tri fold. Put a bit of butter on top to make it shiny, and maybe cut a slit in the top to show it’s still wet.

For an American omelet, at the point the French is done, *flip* the omelet. Bang the pan, and put whatever filling on one third. Then plate it as the French, cutting a slit in top to reveal the filling, and maybe garnishing with more.

To be perfectly honest – my French omelets all got too much color. *Sigh*. Pans were just too hot.

This was followed with an egg white omelet (which MUST be made with grease in the pan) and then hollandaise sauce. (And we poached eggs, too – slip egg into simmering water with salt and vinegar. When all white, remove *carefully*.)

Hollandaise sauce. I made hollandaise sauce. Start with a reduction of white wine, white vinegar and crushed white peppercorns (crush peppercorns with the bottom of a sauteuse.) Let reduce by half. Can be made in large quantities. Beat egg yolks with a whisk (and use a soft one) until they’re pale and double in size, and then add about an ounce of strained reduction per yolk. Beat the mixture on and off a pot of boiling water – you want the mixture warm but not scrambled and you want it nappé – thick enough to coat the back of a spoon. When the mixture is warm and thick enough, started adding the melted butter (margarine in our case, unfortunately) by 2oz ladlefuls, whisking until each ladleful is incorporated. Add lemon juice, salt, white pepper and cayenne. Done. Chef poached a couple of eggs, and had G toast a couple of rounds of bread. He put spinach on the rounds, and then the eggs (one, oddly, missing a yolk) and draped the hollandaise over it. It had a lot of flavor, but the margarine was all too, well, there.

My own needed an extra egg yolk, and also an extra ladle of margarine, and I had to change to a softer whisk, but it came out NICE. Hollandaise is not easy, but I did it. YAY.

Tomorrow, we pretend to be a diner and cook breakfast on the line.

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Knives and Fire XIII (Week 4)

January 26, 2009 Leave a comment

Canap´s and Hors d’Oeurves

First we discussed sandwiches. These are more than something between two slices of bread – there are so many bread choices, including wraps and middle eastern breads, there are infinite categories of spreads and fillings, there’s even temperature. They can be dipped in egg and fried, they can be grilled, they can be put in a sandwich/panini press, they can be baked, they can be deep fried.

Most of the popular sandwiches are NOT kosher, of course, but there are still plenty that are, or which can be made kosher with some reasonable substitutes.

Then we went to the main theme of the day – canapés and hors d’oeurve. Canapés are always on a base – usually bread, although other things (crackers, tartlette shells, phyllo cups, firm raw or cooked vegetables, fried wanton skins) can be used. So, base, spread/filling and garnish. Spread or filling can be a flavored butter/margarine, or made with cream cheese or mayonnaise, or any other product smooth and firm enough to be piped out of a piping bag, such as guacamole or even a bound salad.

Hors d’oeurve is the general case – a bite or two of food, easily eaten without a utensil or a plate, that whets the appetite for dinner, or, if in sufficient quantity, satisfies it. It should be flavorful and pretty, and complement without duplicating the dinner to follow. It should be served in an attractive way – either butlered or laid out in straight lines with an eye to contrast of both texture and color. Like sandwiches, the possibilities are nearly endless.

So, what did we make? Well, the class in general made vegetarian summer rolls, vegetable sushi, tahini, ceviche, seared tuna on wanton skins, whitefish salad in cooked potato cups, babaganoush, guacamole in phyllo cups, herring and beets in tomato cups, salmon and cream cheese roll-ups, plus more. What did I make?

With my partner, we made deviled eggs, hummous, roasted pepper and anchovy canap´s and, because it was needed for several dishes and there wasn’t any in the kitchen, I also made mayonnaise.

The hardcooked eggs were cut in half the short way, and the ends trimmed so they would stand flat. The yolks were combined (in a food processor) with a little margarine and pareve cream cheese (for texture only), plus mustard (powdered and Dijon), my mayo, salt, white pepper and cayenne pepper. This was piped into the whites, and garnished with a tiny slice of cornichons (tiny spicy pickles.)

For the hummous, we combined chickpeas (rinsed and washed), tehina (made in class), salt, pepper, oil, water and garlic powder, and a touch of cumin. We gave it a creamy texture.

The canapés were even simpler – we (okay, my partner) roasted and peeled a red pepper and sliced it into julienne. We also rinsed off the anchovies to get rid of some salt. We put bread slices into an oven set on broiler and toasted it on both sides. I spread these with pimento margarine, already made. We then put the strips of pepper and the anchovies in parallel lines. This was placed in the fridge to firm up, and then we cut off the crusts and cut first in half and then in thirds. And that was it.

And everything was so pretty and yummy and FUN.

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Knives and Fire XII (Week 3)

January 22, 2009 1 comment

More Sauces

We started with a long discussion of sanitation – to be precise, food-borne illnesses. These include virus (best controlled by personal hygiene – wash those hands!), bacterial (don’t let the food stand out between 40°F and 140°F, or time-temperature control – and handwashing won’t hurt, either, and avoid cross-contamination), parasites(be careful who you buy from), fungi (get rid of affected foods) and toxins (be careful who you buy from. And maybe just avoid shellfish.) This will be on a test. I’m going to make flashcards.

Then we continued with the class from yesterday. M put up the two bain maries (one hotel pan insert with hot water on the stove, into which he put canisters of already hot stock, sauce espagnole and demi-glace, plus one of clarified margarine) and one with ice on the cook’s table between the stove and the sink. This held vegetables under 40°F.)

I put the borscht back on the stove and began heating it – M would add three cups of hot stock when it was available. Meanwhile, we needed meat – we were to make sauces that started with browning a piece of meat in a sauteuse and removing it so we can use the fond (the crispy bits left at the bottom of the pan). So, Y (the male one, not the female one) and I were set to slice a french roast thinly, and place the pieces between two pieces of plastic wrap. These pieces would be pounded gently to tenderize the rather tough cut.

At this point, my borscht was ready to correct the seasoning. I added cider vinegar, salt and sour salt (powdered citric acid.) It tasted good to me, but I had M taste a little later and he said it needed more sour. When I tasted it again, I found he was right, so I added another shot of sour salt.

Meanwhile, Chef showed us how to make sauces using meat – some of the pieces were floured lightly with seasoned flour. These were placed in hot pans with some canola oil and/or melted clarified margarine. When they were browned, they were removed. Chef then added some garlic and shallots and a bit more oil, and deglazed with wine. When this was reduced by half, he added demi, and let it cook a bit more. Then he added the meat and let it cook a bit, and then, off the fire, some flavored margarine. And it was delicious. There were several versions, including one that used a lot of sliced onions plus beer and finished in the oven.

G made salisbury steak using a sauce that used mushrooms and concasséd tomatoes. We all had that for lunch – I didn’t leave the classroom at all, except to deliver a bowl of borscht to the store clerk downstairs (garnished with an ice-cream scoop of rice – the last of the rice as it happened – in lieu of sour cream. Was very pretty.)

After lunch, I cooked the same sauce, except I used the rest of the pounded meat. Also – yummy.

Then we all did an exercise – we had to come up with a five course menu. He suggested menu names for the dishes we came up with, and commented about lack of color and such. What was mine?

Citrus Fruit Cup
Pan-seared St. Peter’s Fish on Salad
Consommé with slice of lemon
Braised beef with pan sauce
Roasted potatoes
Steamed haricot vert
served with Merlot
Ginger-chocolate cake, mocha sauce, raspberries.

He liked the colors.

And we cleaned up and labeled and put things away and left early.

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Knives and Fire XI (Week 3)

January 21, 2009 2 comments

Half way done. NOT long enough.

Sauce Espagnole, Small Sauces and Soups

Sauce Espagnole is brown sauce – brown stock, fat, mirepoix, flour, tomato purée and a sachet. We put the flour in the oven to brown it and reduce the cooking time, and we used the beef fat rendered from yesterday’s bones. So. Melt the fat, and add the mirepoix. When it is browned, add the brown flour and cook until the color gets deeper, and then add the stock slowly. When that’s done, add tomato purée and the sachet (crushed peppercorns, bay leaves, thyme sprigs and parsley stems, tied up in cheese cloth.) Then let it simmer for an hour and strain.

This was combined part for part with brown stock and reduced by half. This is demi-glace.

Then I prepped for borscht – beet, cabbage and beef borscht. We started with the beets – 20 beets cleaned and baked (we put water on the sheet pans and covered them with another.) Meanwhile, as I helped someone else make her espagnole, someone else followed my directions on the remaining ingredients for the borscht – onions, carrots, sour salt, vinegar, garlic, cabbage. I made 3/4″ dice of potatoes. I ended up dicing four russets to make the equivalent of two potatoes – there’s a lot of trim in precise cuts. We’re keeping the trim in a container of water in a fridge. We went to lunch. It took until then for the beets to be done.

Wearing two pairs of gloves, we took the hot beets and peeled them with a paring knife, and then cut them into 1/3″ squares. The two pairs of gloves made it possible to handle the beets. We cooked the onions and carrots in beef fat until they started to brown. Then we added the garlic and the cabbage, and then stock, the beets and the potatoes, plus the vinegar. And we let that cook, after transferring it to a larger pot, eventually covering the pot with a large sheet pan.

Chef set up a bain marie – a hot water bath – on the stove to keep the demi-glace and the espagnole sauces warm, so he could use them for small sauces. He made one with thyme and sliced shallots and wine, one with shallots and wine only, plus a bit of maitre’d hotel “butter” to mount it, and one, Chasseur, with mushrooms and a tomato concassé and white wine. He’d grilled some meat so we could taste it properly. And someone made sauce Robert, which is with mustard and it was delicious.

And they cooked the chutney as well. It smelled and tasted like sweet pickles.

The borscht needed *stuff* to make it finished – sour salt, regular salt, pepper, sugar and vinegar. Also, I shredded some beef chef had simmered. The result? Nicely balanced but we needed a lot more liquid. We’ll correct that (and the flavorings) tomorrow. I just tossed in handfuls of seasoning.

The cooking liquid, btw, was a remillage – a “rewetting”. We took the bones from yesterday, and cooked them again, with a fresh mirepoix and sachet. NOt as good as the first stock, much better than plain water.

We concluded the class with a discussion of wedding cakes and then of foodborne illnesses. Some of which was seriously scary.

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Knives and Fire X (Week 3)

January 20, 2009 Leave a comment

Brown Stock and Alternative Sauces

First we discussed costing using the Book of Yields. A chef has to be aware of how much food costs per unit – both as purchased and in edible portions, and to balance the cost savings of buying less processed foods with the price of labor and waste (although, in a good professional kitchen, nothing is wasted.)

Then we continued in our discussion of sanitation in professional kitchens. To be precise, we talked about the foodbourne diseases that can be prevented with proper hygiene (hepatitis A and norovirus), the ones that can be controlled by proper time and temperature control (bacterial), and the ones that can only be managed by using trustworthy suppliers (many seafood toxins – can’t be detected, can’t be cooked out, and can cause death, paralysis or amnesia (and how scary is that last?) Of course, those last are also mostly in shellfish, so that’s just not a factor for me. We had a side discussion of trustworthy suppliers – people who have been in business a long time, people who state in writing that their deliverers follow HACCP (Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point) requirements – meaning they deal with food safety issues before they become issues. Some companies also report the temperature of the truck at both loading and delivery, so you know they pay attention.

We also discussed sauces again – how to thicken with a starch slurry (cornstarch/arrowroot/potato starch and cold liquid, added to boiling liquid) and how to use a beurre manie (flour and butter kneaded together and added at the last minute), plus monter au beurre (swirling in butter in the last minute) and making a liaison between cream and eggs.

Then we discussed alternative sauces – particularly salsas (raw sauces of chopped fruits and/or veg), chutneys (cooked sweet and sour sauces) and relishes (also cooked or pickled.)

From there, we moved to brown stock. Brown stock is basically the same as white – bones, mirepoix, aromatics and water, but the method is a little different. First, the beef or veal bones are caramelized – placed in pans in a 350°F oven until mostly done. Then they’re spread with tomato paste and put back in the oven (although we do drain the fat first.) And when that’s very brown, we put the bones in the stock pot, and deglaze the pans with water, which is then added to the stock pot. The bones are replaced with the mirepoix (normal mirepoix plus leeks), which is also browned in the oven. Meanwhile, the stock is brought to boil and down to a simmer, and skimmed. The browned vegetables are then added to the pot with the sachets (I made the sachets – bay leaves, thyme and crushed peppercorns) and the pans deglazed again. And then it’s simmered for 6-10 hours.

Meanwhile, there were other things to do. First thing – we made a mango salsa. This used ripe mangos (sliced into thin 1/4″ squares), finely diced red pepper and red onion and jalapeño pepper, vinegar, honey, lime juice, olive oil and cumin. I worked with G, but I just did the mango because cutting those thin little slices took forever. It didn’t help that my knife could have been sharper and the ripe mango was slippery. We mixed it all together and it was delicious. It would be so yummy on fish or chicken. At which point, we went to lunch.

When we got back, we had a lecture on kashrut. In this case, it was mashgichim. The mashgiach is the person the supervisory agency puts in the kitchen to assure that everything adheres to halacha – not just the food and cooking methods, but anything that goes on in terms of food and service, like bug removal and the turning on of flames and the kashering of equipment.

The rabbi talked about both catering and restaurants, but the main thing was communication between chef and mashgiach, plus recognition that you have the same goal – to serve a quality kosher meal.

In catering, there’s a lot more control. You know what you’re serving and when and where. You can tell your
mashgiach what the menus are and when you’re serving. In restaurants, it’s far less predictable because the meals aren’t set and you never know when you’ll run out of checked vegetables.

Then we moved onto catering for Shabbat – time constraints, equipment constraints, halachic concerns about ovens and lights and even maybe an eruv (so one can carry from refrigerated truck to hotel if they don’t have fridge room) – even serving dairy breakfast while prepping fleishig lunch. One hint – hire all non-Jewish staff on Shabbat to minimize problems. And make sure to make tea essence and get rid of all peppermills – even for decoration.

And keep the number of the supervisory organization at hand so they can mediate between you and the mashgiach (not possible on Shabbat, of course.)

He did NOT discuss Pesach because that’s a major issue all by itself.

Then the rabbi left and we got back to cooking. While part of the class dealt with the stock and part prepped a mango chutney to be cooked tomorrow (I peeled two), some of us got our knives sharpened. I watched chef as he sharpened mine – he actually removed stone as he moved the knife forward over it. This is what’s supposed to happen.

And then we helped clean up. Long day, but productive.

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