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(post, Maggie Restivo)
What a whirlwind few months it has been! I moved (twice), hashed out some deeper family issues, and finally started culinary school. I must say that it is a relief to feel like I am finally where I belong. My brain feels full to the brim with cooking and general food knowledge and possibilities. I am almost finished with my first phase of CUL 101 and what an adventure it has been! The phase started with basic stocks and broths, then we moved into mother and compound sauces, soups and sandwich making, and now we are on to breakfast cookery. Did you know you can flame a pan with ice cubs??? I sure didn't but it is by far the coolest thing I have done in class so far! We were pan searing some grouper. Our lab chef, Chef Martoccio, came to check on my group and said "Do you want to see something really cool?" Of course the only response we could give were smiles and a great big "YES!" Chef Martoccio scuttled off and came back with a few pieces of ice in his hand. Now I would absolutely be lying if I said I wasn't a little let down when I saw that it was just ice. Chef checked the flame under the pan, looked around and chuckled and then very dryly stated "Stand back." My group mates and I glanced at each other, took a step back, then we leaned in (we just could not resist being close to the action). Chef tossed the ice in the pan and a giant flame spit straight up into the air, steam erupted and we all leaped back from the pan (I did a quick check to make sure I had at least one and a half eyebrows left). Chef threw a another pan on top of the pan he had flamed. After we all settled down a little, Chef explained to us that the ice flamed the pan because: 1) the pan was smoking hot 2) there was some clarified butter in the bottom of the pan 3) 1 + 2 + ice hitting a smoking hot pan caused steam to for almost instantly, steam is so hot it caught the butter fat on fire. Placing another pan on top of the pan with the grouper catches the steam and allows the steam to finish cooking the grouper with out burning the surface of the fish. COOLEST THING EVER!!!!!! Oh and if you haven't seen Julie/Julia you really should. It is just as much about Julia Child as it is Julie Powell. It is a little bit of a chick flick. I was able to bribe my boyfriend into seeing the movie, by offering to take him out to eat afterward, and he really liked it too. I swear I am going to start wearing my pearls under my chef's coat at class!