Saturday, November 7, 2015

Week Eight at Ballymaloe Cookery School

How Julia Child would've sealed a classic French Paté Terrine, with fluting paste, not tinfoil.

I'm never going to be the same again. Without sounding like an egotistical culinary snob, at this point in the Ballymaloe 12 Week Cookery Course my culinary prowess has been elevated to such heights the universe's destiny to utilize me as a scepter of cooking knowledge is certain. So much has been covered, to actually attempt processing the knowledge while still enduring the process of learning is entirely overwhelming in itself, but let me try.
Correct utensils are so important.
Ali is hiding in trepidation.

This week. What did I do at school? I butchered a side of lamb in an hour and a half session. Ending determination? Not for me. The smell of raw meat is so gross and the blood. And sawing bones. No.

I made puff pastry for the first time — definitely for me. Weirdly, I'm finding the pastry side of things much more calm, I like the precision required, and I'm all-around good at it!  Plus, all the sugar and butter is, like, really delicious.
Attempting the modern art plating effect. 
Shortbread Stars with Strawberries & Cream.










     



    


Crab Paté Pot & Cucumber Pickle.




For the first time, I made a classic French terrine of paté with chicken livers and juicy ham alternating with ground chicken and pork mince seasoned with lots of warm spices like clove and allspice. The casserole dish needed to be sealed really tightly, so instead of using wasteful tinfoil, I made a luting paste, or paper maché paste, that was blobbed over the rim and lip of the casserole dish. It worked really well to seal in steam, but seemed kind of like a craft project gone bad. More paté was made of the crab variety, but nothing starts easy here at Ballymaloe. The crabs were live, I needed to boil them, crack them open and pick apart every. little. bit. of. meat. Time consuming isn't an accurate word. There is no word for what we've all endured. Everyone on the course is So. Tired. Pasta was on the schedule and of course, we kneaded, rolled, and cut the pasta by hand. My pasta was then tossed with more chicken liver — yes, lots of offal up in here. In our afternoon demo I watched a whole salmon be gutted (more blood — being fully immersed into the reality of food here!). And if watching the salmon being gutted wasn't graphic enough, this week I was on stock duty (make the stock for the school, which students do on a weekly rotation) and assigned to remove the aorta from chicken hearts destined for the stock pot. My back bone is officially made of steel, but we wouldn't want the bitter blood to go into the stock, now would we? Everyday at school I learn a little bit more about having a restaurant or catering business. So many tips. So. Much. Information. 

Blarney Castle has interesting grounds to explore. 
Not to mention the sweet little babies at home who've been asked by their new found Irish playmate, Jasper, "You don't really have a mammy, do you?" *insert breaking heart* I'm not sure how full-time working mothers achieve balance. Is there balance? I feel like Mariah Carey, on the edge of an exhaustive breakdown. But, in fairness, my boys are having so much fun bonding with Travis, which is so, so very good. SO good. 

Ireland has an abundance of cool caves. 

To see food at its beginning level in an old-fashioned kitchen like Ballymaloe is eyeopening, exhausting, at times disgusting, definitely back bone steeling, and part of me is frankly, really kind of sick of the work involved in wholesome eating. If I were to go home and choose a recipe for, let's say, some type of Christmas Decadence with puff pastry, do you think I'd actually take the time, like we do at Ballymaloe, to roll 926 layers of butter into flour just to avoid some omega 9,000 cancer causing oils? I'm not sure I would, because after rolling the layers of butter, turning it like a book, sweating and swearing over the correct length and longitude of a piece of pastry, that $3.99 price tag on the packaged puff pastry sure looks attractive. But let's stay positive! I'm a chef, of course I need to make puff pastry. And that is the key: Knowledge. I've got it. Now, how am I destined to use it? What is the cause? What is the path? Already, I know God has used my life to be an example for the 20 Somethings on the course. They see my family, my marriage, my lifestyle choices on display and hopefully, one day, they may think back to "that crazy lady on the cookery course with the two cute kids and tired, devoted husband" and want to devout themselves to their loved ones in the same manner. So, I sign off with lots of XO's. I'll be home soon. To cook for you. And I am So. Excited.