Today I disgorged a cucumber. Oo-err. Nothing naughty, just getting a peeled, deseeded cucumber to give up its excess liquid by adding salt and letting it sit for a while. Then I took a salad for a spin. Apparently salad leaves should always be spun after washing then left to dry on kitchen paper. Gently pat if needed. Moisture repels the dressing and prevents an even covering on the leaves. This means not every mouthful is going to be super tasty. Catastrophe.
It was our second lesson and we made Hors d’oeuvres and a Selection de crudités et salads de saison, that is raw seasonal appetisers with vinaigrette and French dressing.
Sounds easy enough but multiple elements, each with their own preparations, highlighted the need for good time management. Throw in kitchen setup, workspace organisation, equipment inventory, clean down, and the variety of food safety and health and safety practices—that must be practiced at all times—and it’s a veritable juggle-fest.
A vinaigrette is basically oil and vinegar in the ratio of 4:1. Add Dijon mustard and you’ve got French dressing, which will stay combined for longer because of the additional emulsifying effect of the mustard. Both vinaigrette and French dressing will eventually separate and can easily be recombined with a brisk shake or whisk. You probably know all this.
Wash, spin, dry leaves from a round lettuce, endive and radicchio, trimming with a scissors for consistency. Onwards. Ciselé the shallot. That’s dice really fine. Julienne the carrot. I’m still working on achieving that perfect block. Carrots bend when you cut them into strips because of their woody core. It doesn’t matter with julienne because they’re only 1mm thick but it’s a pain for bâtonnet. Onto fines herbes in French or fine herbs. I haché my way through chives, parsley, tarragon, and chervil. Bigger parsley leaves are saved for later.
Going into the practical I was thinking “it’s just salad; I’ve got this”. But when chef shouted 40 minutes left and I still had plenty to do there was minor flappage during the chiffonade. I started to think that timing had got away from me.
Better plate up.
Dry the cucumber, add the herbs and French dressing to taste. Brush the top side of the radicchio leaves with French dressing. Mix the shallot and carrot julienne; add French dressing and some lemon juice to taste. Place carrot mix onto the radiccio. Place cucumber onto the endive. Slice the radishes, brush with French dressing, and arrange over the julienne.
I caught myself licking salad dressing from my finger when plating up. Naughty! Hey, I’ll have you know I did trot off to wash my hands rather than carry on with a finger laced with fresh Staphylococcus Aureus. Don’t look at me like that; we all carry it. I didn’t wash gangnam-style though.
Garnish with parsley chiffonade.
It turns out I was on time all along. but I learned to check the clock regularly. Silly me.
Done. Fill out the self evaluation form and present plate to chef for assessment.
Funnily enough, we had a lecture yesterday on efficient working and conserving time. We were told if we make a trip to the sink to wash a knife, the trip back should also be useful, say, by bringing that extra bowl. On the one hand it’s critical to maintain a clean and uncluttered workstation—no dirty bowls and utensils building up. On the other hand it’s easy to waste time cleaning bowls, pans and trays when you can give them to the kitchen porter. We were also introduced to time plans. I guess until kitchen routine is second nature and all practices have become good habits, having a time plan no matter how simple the recipe can’t be a dumb idea.