28 May 2006

Portfolio on the brain

Sorry for the inexcusably long hiatus between posts. Suffice to say that real life has been encroaching onto blog time in a Major Way, but Chefette is starting to get things under control.

As you probably remember (I've been droning on about it enough!), the deadline is approaching for our portfolios to be handed in. Come Tuesday 30th May, all students have to turn in their tomes, with a minimum of 8 three course menus and 8 lists (each one a separate category with at least 15 dishes, eg 'Hot Starters' or 'Poultry and Game Main Courses'), together with a bibliography of all recipes. We also have to include a cv, and complete a costing exercise for a major banquet of 400 diners.

After multiple afternoons and evenings spent goggle eyed in front of the computer, I'm now about 95% done-- everything except the updated cv, which I will be polishing off tomorrow morning. The menus weren't too hard. Once you think of a theme or an occasion, it's not too much of a stretch to propose some appropriate dishes, as long as you let seasonality be your guide. To give you an example, for my Spring Bistro Lunch menu, I've suggested a salad of baby leeks and asparagus, followed by a main course of roast duckling with honey and spices, and a dessert of rhubarb & strawberry pie.

The hard part has been the lists. I must have combed through 30+ cookbooks during the past month, trying to put together lists with sufficient balance and variety, that will appeal to a wide range of palates, yet wouldn't be too hard to do if you had to cook them for 50 people. And of course you have to keep economics in mind-- you won't make much money if all you're turning out is lobster and ribeye, as expensive ingredients tend to eat into your gross profit!!
All I can say is bring on Tuesday evening, when the yoke will have been lifted and I shall be experiencing a newfound feeling of liberation to have the whole thing turned in.

In the meantime, the regular classwork ticks on. We made croissants last week, which are a labour of love to say the least. They need to be made over three days to let the flavour develop. Lots of stages, with rolling out and layering butter, and popping the dough in and out of the fridge at various points in the process to allow for rising and then chilling into shape. I wish I could say they were not worth the effort, but they were utterly delicious, and about 10 times better than the version at my local supermarket. (Of course, the ones in Paris are yet another 10 times better still ...)

The other experience of note was getting to go on a tour of Billingsgate fish market (at in the morning, of course). The quality, variety and freshness of the seafood there was glorious to behold. We saw metal filing drawers flat and wide enough to accommodate architect blueprints that were filled to bursting with wriggling eels. Styrofoam boxes the size of dinner tables covered with shining John Dory. And best of all were the lobsters, live in tanks and feisty as playground bullies. A merchant pulled one out of the tank that was as long as a putter from claws to tail. He estimated its weight at over 25 pounds (!), and said it would cost over 150 pounds to buy. Fortunately for Chefette, he had some smaller ones available, and she took a couple home for dinner with the husband that night. They fulfilled their destiny by being simply boiled and served with chive butter. A taste of heaven.


Anonymous said...

Oh those poor lobsters!

I cant remember if I sent you these links but there's some Tokyo fish market pictures in there..!


Annalisa said...

Hey Margaret

I can only admire your dedication completely as I sit here bored at work. You have such talent. Keep it up!
Still a bit away, but I may be going to a rock festival in Paris (staying in a hotel!) over the late August bank holiday & would love some restaurant recommendations as an antidote to festival food.

Annalisa XX

Anonymous said...

Have you looked at www.chocolateandzucchini.com, I think you might like...

Anonymous said...

Very happy to give you restaurant recommendations for paris, Annalisa.
Also, if you are going over on Eurostar, book your tickets early. That is always a very popular weekend and I know from hard experience that the cheap tickets sell out quickly!

Anonymous said...

Jo- i do look at the chocolate&zucchini blog regularly. i envy her food photography abilibies!