Sunday, November 22, 2009

Souped up week in culinary school

Monday brings the practical exam for soups in Culinary Foundations II, and the three required soups run the gamut. That most classic of French soups, consommé, is first on the list. A lot of work goes into producing what essentially should end up being a clear, flavorful broth. Our ability to make it clear and flavorful, the clearer and the more flavorful the better, will determine our score on a 20-point scale.

Next, for another 20 points, is an American original, clam chowder. The keys are creaminess, texture -- not too thick, not too thin -- and, of course, flavor. One of my practice tries left Chef Dan Fluharty asking if I had set out to make cream of celery soup with a few cams in it. Second time around -- and the same will go for Monday's practical exam -- the celery moved to the background. Lesson learned: Be exacting in keeping those flavor-enhancing herbs and vegetableds to their proper proportions.

The final 20 points will be for a "national" soup, Portugal's caldo verde. This is a multi-dimensional soup that includes the strength of chorizo, the base of potatoes cooked to softness in chicken stock and the pepperiness of kale.

We will have two hours to prepare, plate and present the three soups. In Friday's dress rehearsal, everyone completed the tasks in the allotted time. My soups got good preliminary marks from Chef Dan, and I am anticipating a repeat performance for Monday's test.

(Photo shows the remains of making consommé. At left is the paper-filter-lined chinois, a cone-shaped fine strainer; at right is the bowl of consommé.)

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