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Whip it, whip it good

(post, John Dryzga)

I was running a bit late on Saturday.  I entered the kitchen about 9:15 and was greeted with a sight I haven't seen in quite while, a cutting board set up opposite my position.  I quickly scanned the kitchen looking for my old partner S to only find no evidence of her presence.  Hmmm, I thought to myself as I proceeded to set up my own station, this is a mystery.  Soon, a woman I have not seen in the class before appeared across the station.  "Hi, I'm J.  Would it be okay if I work with you?".  "Sure I said, let's go get our mise en place."  J has recently graduate college and just landed a job.  This new job precluded her continuation in the weekday class so she transferred to the weekend class to finish out Techniques.

Today's class concerned mousses and souffes.  We had a lot of dishes to make our way through so I was anticipating lots of stress and running around.  Except for some recalcitrant egg whites in the first mousse, this was the most relaxing class we had yet.  

Chef Nic gave us a quick overview of mousses in general then launched into making the classic dark chocolare mousse.  With his usual elan, he had his mousse ready with hardly any visible effort.  It was soon our turn to grab our whisks and start whipping.  J jumped into separating the eggs as I whipped the heavy cream to soft peaks.  For the purposes of this class, all the whipping was being done old school, by hand.  I got the chocolate melted as J started whipping up the egg whites.  Whip as she might, the darn whites would not hold soft peaks.  I took over the whisking duties, but still no joy.  We kept passing the bowl back and forth as we tag teamed whipped the crap out of the egg whites.  They just sat there limply, mocking us.  After much too much time, Chef told us to start over.  J quickly separated four more eggs as I ran to get another bowl.  Let me just digress here to say that we used an infinite number of bowls in this class.  Much kudos to the much put upon dishwasher.  The second time proved the charm as the new eggs whites soon stood at soft peaked attention.  We whipped in a portion of the egg whites into the chocolate to lighten the mixture a bit and carefully folded in the rest.  The whipped cream was folded in and the mousse was put into glasses just as Chef called us up for the next demo.

We now had to make a white chocolate mousse.  Since white chocolate is such a different animal than dark chocolate, the recipe differed significantly.  The biggest difference was the addition of gelatin to enable the finished product to set up.  After Chef Nic's demo we were off to the whipping.  This time all the ingedients cooperated and we gelled as a team.  We quickly had the mousse in the fridge and something occured that had not occured for a long time, a free moment appeared.  We looked at each other to make sure we didn't leave out some crucial step as most of the class were at it, whisks tracing furious circles in bowls.  We just shrugged our shoulders and started collecting the ingredients for the chocolate souffle.

Chef gave us a great overview of souffles, especially how they are dealt with in restaurant kitchens.  "Souffles do not wait for guests, guests wait for the souffle" was this class's pearl of professional cokking wisdom.  With all the mystique and mythology surronding souffles, I expected to be let in on some dark, eldritch secret.  The reality is that it is pretty straight forward and decent technique should yield a fine souffle.  We did not have to whisper and tip toe around the kitchen as countless sit coms and cartoons have depicted the souffle process.  Chef even did the unthinkable, he opened the oven to check on them!

Soon we were elbow deep in bechamel and egg whites cranking out our chocolate souffles.  Again, J and I worked as a well oiled team.  The souffles were in the oven when it happened again, free time!  This is started to get addictive, not running around like a lunatic the entire five hour class.  After about 10 minutes I checked on the souffles and sure enough they were rising as advertised.  They emerged from the oven pretty much picture perfect.  Well, one was picture perfect, the others certainly acceptable.  We took the picture perfect one up to Chef for evaluation.  In a big change of usual procedure, Chef was only checking for proper doneness, he was not tasting the food.  "It all tastes the same" was his answered when students queried on why he was not eating our food today.

After a break for lunch, Chef asked the class what was different about todays class.  "Its very relaxed isn't it" he said as he got in a few digs about pastry chefs.  He then demoed the Grand Mariner souffle.  This was slightly different than the chocolate souffle procedure as the base is much lighter.  J and I quickly had our souffles in the oven.  A quick survail of the class saw most of our fellow students still hard at it.  I don't know why we were so fast today, but I really enjoyed it.  The lightness of these souffles allowed them to really puff up.  They looked quite impressive when we removed them from the heat.  These ended up being our favorites.  They were really light and had such a nice, clean flavor.  We brought one up to Chef to have it disected.  It was pronouced good and we were off collecting the mis en place for the cheese souffle.

Chef demoed the last dish.  The recipe was similar to the sweet souffle procedures with some changes.  The molds were lined with butter and bread crumbs instead of butter and sugar.  Salt was added during whipping up the egg whites instead of sugar.  The mix was seasoned with some cayenne and nutmeg then our cheese souffles were molded and popped in the oven.  We began to clean up our station and congratulate our selves on a job well done.  This time having the extra free time didn't work out so well, Chef gave me some additonal cleaning duties.  We were still done a few minutes early.  I think I'm going to like having J as a partner for the remaining three classes.