The cooking in Intermediate definitely kicks it up a few notches. At first it seemed to be a similar formula to Basic, you know…breaking down and cooking a protein, creating a sauce from the remaining carcass or bones, making a starch or vegetable, blah, blah, blah…but then I noticed that there seemed to be an extra element thrown in. It started with an extra side-dish or two, a more complicated sauce, poultry with the feet still on so I had to rip the tendons out and cut off the feet too (all our poultry were feetless in basic, not sure why they all need to have their feet on now), and then suddenly we were killing lobsters, deboning chickens and stuffing our own sausage. Basically all the fun stuff that I’ve never done before, but always wanted to do.
Okay, well I should clarify that killing the lobster was NOT fun. It was actually pretty awful. I wasn’t looking forward to it in any way, but I thought I could do it. I thought that it wouldn’t be that bad. Nope, I was wrong, it was THAT bad. Before you start calling me a wimp, let me tell you how we killed the lobsters. We did not get to pierce their brains with a quick slice of our knives or plunge them into a large pot of boiling water and close the lid not having to bear witness to their deaths. I would have welcomed one of those less active forms of murder. But no, no, since we were going to be braising the lobster meat later, it couldn’t be overcooked and heaven forbid we should slice the head in half should we want to use it as a garnish; instead I had to submerge just its head into boiling water while I held its tail with one hand and the claws with the other. Needless to say, the lobster was not happy and it did not go down without a fight. For a little over a minute it bucked its tail and flailed its claws, hoping to have momentum enough to jerk its head from the scalding water. All the while I was holding it, tears welling up, as I felt it dying in my hands. I know I sound like a drama queen, but trust me, it was traumatizing. Also, since we were dipping only its head in the boiling water, it was really merely brain-dead at that point. I brought it back to my cutting board, and with the tail still moving since the nerves hadn’t died yet, I twisted and ripped the tail from the head. Even though I was emotionally exhausted at that point, the practical had just begun and I had to get to cooking. In the end, the dish was tasty, but I can say with 100% certainty that it is the last time I will be killing a lobster in that manner. I now know that I am just not cut out for murder. Holding a living being in my hands while I kill it just isn’t for me. Below is a picture of the resulting homard à l’américaine avec riz aux raisins (the lobster), as well as boudin blanc aux pommes (white sausage with apples…and my first foray into the archaic garnish that is the tomato skin rose), tourte de pintade (guinea fowl pie…aka the bird above with its tendons ripped out).
I enjoyed the boudin blanc practical so much that for a few days after I day dreamed about becoming a sausage maker. I know I sound like a culinary school nerd, but who knew stuffing forcemeat into pigs intestines could be so fun and I say that without any hint of sarcasm. I really enjoyed the whole making-something-with-my-hands aspect. And when else is it normal to hear people casually asking who has the bowels. (For some reason the translator in demo chose to use the word “bowels” to describe the “natural casings;” it made for an interesting demo: “the chef is very frustrated that his bowels keep breaking, in eleven years of teaching this course it’s the first time he’s had this many holes in his bowels”). Oh, and the boudin blanc was not only fun to make, it was tasty too. Even if I don’t open a sausage shop, I already have visions of future bbqs with all sorts of tasty home-made sausage creations. Perhaps someday I will have food-snob children who kindly ask their friends why their mothers buy hot dogs instead of making them at home like their mom.
As for deboning chickens, also pretty fun. Well fun in that challenging puzzle/ trying to get a dress off a Barbie doll sort of way. Since we were going to be making a ballotine with it, we had to make only one slice down the back and keep all the rest of the meat and skin intact. It might seem easy when you first think about it, but next time you are carving a chicken imagine it raw and imagine taking out all the bones with only making one cut down the back. In particular, think about those leg bones, they are trickier than you think. The opening picture in this post is the deboned chicken, before we stuffed it with forcemeat and foie gras mousse, rolled it up in saran wrap, punctured the saran wrap and cooked it in broth (that we made from the removed bones of course). Like the sausage making, that practical also has my imagination running thinking of all the things I could stuff into a deboned chicken. Who knows, maybe I really will open that sausage shop and I can sell deboned-stuffed-poultry too. I mean a girl can dream, can’t she?