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Salad Days or The Tale of the Thirsty Egg Yolk

(post, John Dryzga)

I kept streaming in oil and whisking, the nascent mayonnaise still refused to get thick.  In my mind I kept hearing the plant from "Little Shop of Horrors" saying "Feed me, Seymor!".  Is this egg yolk getting kick backs from the cooking oil lobby?  Why won't it thicken?

Saturday saw us tackle salads.  Chef Nic gave us a lowdown on the various salad types from simple to composed.  Needless to say, we were not going to prepare anything with the word simple in it's title.

Our first dish was macedoine de legumes, a salad consisting of small diced cooked vegtables in a mayonnaise dressing.  Once again, I was manning the station solo, so I was a bit busy.  I had to cut carrots and turnips into 5mm cubes, cook haricot verte then cut them into 5mm lengths, cook peas, and make a mayonnaise.  I actually managed to cut the vegtables into the correct size this week, so that part went fine.  The cooking went off without a hitch.  I had my vegtables cooling on a tray while I tackled the mayo.  I whisked and dibbled in the oil drop by drop.  It was emulsifying fine.  The mixture was taking on the form of a mayonnaise, but it was not getting thick enough.  Running counter to common sense, to make a mayonaise thicker, you add more oil.  So after whisking in 150ml of oil into a single egg yolk, I had to run to the back of the kitchen as get more oil.  I measured out another 150ml and sprinted back to my station.  Whisking furiously, I incorporated all of the subsequent 150ml, but still no mayonnaise joy.  Repeat sprint to get more oil, repeat whisking and streaming.  After about an additional 100ml of oil, I had a mayonnaise.  I was scared that it would just take like 400ml of oil, but it actually tasted pretty good and had the right consistency.  I needed more mayonasie for one of the other dishes we were making this day, boy did I have mayo to spare.

The other teams in class had time to make additional garnishes for their macedoine de legumes, but between working on my own and the additional whisking I did not have the time to really concentrate on plating.  I went for a simple bistro presentation.  That is a nice way to say I plopped some of the salad on a plate in my best school cafeteria worker manner.  I brought my dish up to Chef and was prepared for the worst.  He liked it!  It could have been colder, but outside of that he liked the taste and the doneness of the vegtables.  Whew!

The second dish allowed me to catch my breath somewhat.  We had to choose one of three vegtables to prepare a la Grecque.  We each had to make our own, so being by myself was not a handicap for this preperation.  This is dish is less of a salad than an antipasto type offering.  You basically cook your chosen vegetable in a highly acidic solution of white wine and lemon juice, flavored with some sweated onions.  The addition of other flavorings is dependant on what vegetable that you are preparing.  Since I was making mushrooms, I would add some tarragon to the finished dish.  For once, there was no drama.  The onions sweated in the sautoir just fine.  The wine did not erupt in a column of flame, the lemon juiced without squirting me in the eye, the mushrooms did not get any ideas of their own as I was quatering them.  After about 10 minutes of cooking, the mushrooms were down.  I adjusting the seasoning and placed the dish in the refrigerator to cool, as this is a dish best served cold.  I plated this and served it forth to Chef Nic.  I can't help but feel a little nervous each time I do this.  Chef gave it a taste and proclaimed it good.  I guess after 15 classes I am finally learning how much salt that Chef likes in his food(i.e. a lot).

The last dish was going to be a challenge, assortment of crudites.  Chef demoed preperation of about 6 different vegtables, each with a dfferent dressing, that was to be prepared.  When the demo was over, we had less than an hour to do this.  It was going to be impossible for me to get all this done, so I was just going to plow forward to see how many I could accomplish.  
We had to do the vegtables in a certain order because some had to sit in their dressings longer, so I jumped into chiffonading some red cabbage.  This had to sit in some rasberry vinegar for a while before it's final dressing so I jumped into the next one.  My fellow students were aware of my plight, so I did receive some help on this last dish.  Just getting some half way prepped cerlery root and some already peeled tomatoes were huge time savers!  I called it quits when I got four of the crudites done: celery root in remoulade, julienne of carrots in a citrus vinaigrette, red cabbage in a raspberry vinarigrette and tomatoes in a balsamic vinaigrette.  I plated them as well as I could and presented them to Chef.  He liked all of them!  I could have cut the red cabbage a little smaller, but aside from that everything was good.  So with a little song in my heart, I faced the huge mess of my station to clean up before calling it a day.

Tracy: Thanks for the kind words, I'm glad you are enjoying my posts.  I am just doing this for fun, I guess it depends on how you define fun though!  Hoboken is a fun little city, one square mile and at least 5 makers of fresh mozzarella.