Day 34 – Student’s choice – yippee!

18 Aug

Chef Tomm gave each of us a chance to create two courses of our own choosing using at least 2 of the 3 proteins he picked: ahi tuna, calamari and shrimp/prawns (differing sizes). He went around and labeled our stations with “A-1”, “A-2” and so on. I set up at A-1 prior to the labeling event. As soon as he started labeling, I knew what was going on. That meant that I had the least amount of time to prepare and present my dishes, as I was going first. To be fair, he did ask the class if they wanted to draw numbers out of the hat, and of course everyone said no except for me because no one wanted to be first. So, he settled it with a good old fashioned game of paper-scissor-rock, which I lost. So, I was first!

The great thing about this exercise was that it was not nearly as hard as “Chopped”, as I had about 2 hours to prepare the two courses and we had what I thought were easy proteins (at least for me) with which to work. Plus, Chef Tomm let us raid the pantry, so we were not limited to what other ingredients we could use to build our plates (other than what was in the pantry, of course). And, two hours was fine. In my mind, I think those who had more time (say 3 hours) would be expected to produce better dishes.

My theme was Pac-rim/Thai. Not French, I know, but I’m missing home, my husband and my mother-in-law, so this was an homage to them. My first dish (pictured above) was a calamari and prawn ceviche, with a light coconut-pineapple juice-lime juice-orange juice base. I really liked all 3 citruses together (my husband taught me that). The challenge was how to get the ceviche “cooked” in the one hour I had from concept to plating the appetizer. Thanks for the hint, Chef Tomm. Yes, blanching the prawns whole for a couple of seconds in hot water to start the cooking process works. I didn’t blanch the calamari, as I didn’t want it to seize up and it turned out that was a good call. That sitting in the acid-base for an hour was fine. A few small pieces of my shrimp were not quite “done”, but overall, I thought it was a successful appetizer.

Onto the main course: Coriander and white peppercorn crusted and seared ahi tuna, sliced and put over coconut rice, all topped with a green curry sauce and served with a cold, quick-pickled cucumber salad on the side to cut the “heat” of the green curry sauce.

Yep, I threw my whole coriander, kosher salt and whole white peppercorns in the mortar and pestle, as I had seen done in Thailand lots of times. I didn’t know if that combo would be enough on the outside of the tuna, but it was actually really good and it seared quite nicely on the tuna.

Here’s the final pic:

I also wasn’t sure if the ahi was going to stand up to the curry sauce, but I had to try. The curry sauce was great, if I do say so myself. I was worried, at first, since my husband is the expert Thai cook in the family. Yes, Carnet, I did place the coconut oil in the hot pan first and worked the curry paste into it, as you do πŸ˜‰ Thank goodness the pantry had kaffir lime leaves, fish sauce, coconut milk, ginger and garlic. That made everything a whole lot easier!

And, today, the Thai gods were with me. It turned out very decent. My two biggest mistakes on the plate? 1) My confetti of lime zest should not have been on the rim of the plate, as that’s where customers grab the plate, and 2) there was too much rice as compared to tuna (ratio of protein to starch was off). Overall, I’m happy with my performance and I quickly realized that 2 hours is a whole lot of time when you have quick-cooking proteins and a stocked pantry (I even had time to make 2 batches of rice, as I didn’t like the way my first batch of coconut rice was cooking).

This was a super fun day for me. Next Thursday, we move to level three, where we will be preparing family meals for the entire school everyday. So, that will be more time-pressured and a chance to perfect certain techniques.

Update…Just in…Victor made a sweet “mock” newsletter about our Chopped day. Victor, you are awesome! Check it out, as it has pictures of all of our dishes and commentary:

FCI Seasonal Challenge copyreduced

5 Responses to “Day 34 – Student’s choice – yippee!”

  1. Lucinda Byers August 18, 2011 at 1:08 am #

    LOVE your course choices – they sound brilliant. LOVE LESS that your delicious emails send me straight to the office biscuit barrell each day.

    • rachelogdie August 18, 2011 at 2:58 am #

      Luc my love, you are still the funniest person I have ever known, save my husband. Get ready for more biscuit eating, as tomorrow we’re making cheese and Friday we’re making pasta. Thanks for following!

  2. carnet August 18, 2011 at 2:12 am #

    Oh yum! I have now officially retired from even cooking Asian dishes at home. It’s 7 a.m. here in Bangalore and I’m hungry… your pics and descriptions are making my stomach grumble. Of course I wonder how the Ahi tastes with cauliflower rice πŸ˜‰

    • rachelogdie August 18, 2011 at 3:00 am #

      Thanks, love! I think it will taste yummy with cauliflower rice.

  3. Sabrina O'Hearn August 19, 2011 at 5:34 am #

    Finally got to see your page. Very good job. I think I’ll hire you as my personal chief chef.
    Can wait when you get back to Paradise.

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