Not enough pepper was the key criticism -- and disappointment -- over my "best ever" beef stew in culinary school today.
The stew was one-inch dice of beef chuck in a sauce flavored with veal stock, salt, pepper, tomato purée and a bit of stewed tomatoes, garlic and yellow onion. Covered slow cooking, like a braise, deepened the flavors and reduced the sauce to a nice hearty thickness. At the end of the hour-long cooking time, blanched carrots, pearl onions, potatoes tourné and peas went into the pot for final texture and flavor.
It was a good, non-heart-stopping exercise to get us back into the swing of culinary school after two weeks off. The crucial last five minutes did, of course, bring the stress level up a bit. But it appeared that everyone managed to complete the cooking, plating and presentation in the allotted time.
I was last to present, and Chef tasted nearly every component of my plate. He was happy with the meat, potatoes, vegetable and garnish. Only the sauce fell short, and then only for a slight lack of pepper, Chef said.
Monday's "salt band" lesson must have taken; Chef said the salt was just right.