I am leaving for Italy in 4 days. School finished a few days ago with a whirlwind exhausting week of 5 exams. I was in a beautiful wedding yesterday and have just now had a chance to reflect on this past week.
I was extremely nervous about my practical exams in cooking and pastry. I designed the menu for my cooking exam the weekend we moved into our new house and hadn’t tested them at all, so I wasn’t sure how it would all turn out. I put a lot of pressure on myself to do really well on this exam because at the end of my basic culinary program, I had the same Chef and really screwed up on my exam, so I felt I really needed to make up for last semesters debacle.
I had also never worked with fresh fava beans (my husband is not much of a bean-eater) or zucchini blossoms and was fearing the worst. So, I got the ingredients the night before the exam and tried them out. Other than a few tweaks here and there, I felt confident with the results and my ability to perform them in the limited time we had been given in class. Exam day I was psyched and ready to go – I haven’t had a smoother exam in culinary school. I got an A+. Yippee!
Fiori di Zucca Fritti con insalata di pomodori e finocchi
Fried Zucchini Blossom with Tomato and Fennel Salad
Tagliatelle con fagiolo di fava e parmigiano
Tagliatelle with Fava Beans and Parmesan
Filetto di branzino al burro di acciughe con asparagi e pomodori
Fillet of Sea Bass in anchovy butter with asparagus and tomato
My practical exam went well, Chef said my first course was too simple and then by the 3rd course he was still talking about the 1st (weak, weak *shakes head*). I thought the grilled zucchini and fresh mozzarella was gorgeous – simple and beautiful. I thought that’s what Italy is all about. Ugh. So frustrating. He and I didn’t see eye to eye about presentation a lot of the time. I like simple and beautiful, he likes old school hotel looking food. Blargh. He thought everything else was delicious, but I, of course, replay his “weak, weak” over in my head.
A week off is necessary. I am burnt out.
I am going to Prince Edward Island for a week away to visit my family and my friend Scott and eat copious amounts of lobster. I need a week away from school to unwind. It will be the last break until November 28th when Chris comes to visit me in Italy after my placement is over. Do I know where I am going to be placed in Italy? Nope. Hopefully when we get back and we have Chef Tomaselli, he will find out for us. It’s killing me not to know! Where am I going!!?
Chef Zambotti and our class
(I’m in the back somewhere!)
It’s hard to believe that I am almost half-way through this semester!
We have our midterm this week. I personally hate midterms and exams in our practical lab. I get so stressed out because we have to make a three-course meal with a set list of ingredients. I love being able to cook my own dishes at school but I hate being constricted and trapped with a set of ingredients that don’t make sense. We are usually missing some key items that are necessary to make most dishes. In the last semester of my culinary management program, I thought this might be to keep us on our toes, but I have realized its actually just sloppily planned pantry lists that make all us students somewhat crazy. Who designs an ITALIAN exam without the option of using balsamic vinegar, basil, or parmigiano! Crazyness. We were alllowed to bring 2 ingredients that aren’t on the list. We have to be strategic in our choices…I chose to bring finnochio (fennel), because I can use the fronds for garnish and to make a fennel oil, the outer shell and stalks to flavour stock and the bulb for roasting. I also chose to bring mozarella fresca for my antipasti. I heart fresh mozzarella.
Our major protein for this exam is coniglio…yep, rabbit… little rabbit foo-foo! Personally, I like working with rabbit, although it does look a bit like a cat. It tastes chicken-like but sweeter and very tender. We have to prepare an antipasti, a primo and a secondi. I have been experimenting with the ingredients and took some poorly lit photos of my primi and secondi practice plates. They are a bit wonky, but you get the idea.
Grilled Zucchini with Fresh Mozzarella
Zucchine Grigliati con la Mozarella Fresca
Rabbit Ragu with Pappardelle
Coniglio Ragu con Pappardelle
(worst photo of a truly awesome dish – recipe below)
Rabbit Loin in Pancetta with Caramelized Fennel
Lombo del coniglio in Pancetta con finocchio caramellato
(please excuse the terrible looking fennel oil – it looked nice in real life!
also…notice the kidney peeking out in the back!)
Coniglio Ragu con Pappardelle
Rabbit legs – 2 hind, 2 fore
50 g pancetta, diced
2 shallots, mirepoix
1 carrot, mirepoix
1 celery, mirepoix
1 leek, mirepoix
3 cloves garlic, paste
500 ml chicken stock
250 ml red wine
.6 kg tomato, blanched, peeled and roughly chopped
3 sprigs of thyme
1 sprig of rosemary
2 sprigs of parsley, finely chopped
Parmesan, rind and garnish
500 g flour
Pinch of salt
- Season rabbit legs with salt and pepper. Sear rabbit legs. Remove. Brown pancetta, remove. Set aside.
- Add mirepoix and garlic, sauté. Deglaze with red wine. Add rabbit, chopped tomato, stock, bay, thyme, rosemary. Simmer for 1 hour. Remove rabbit legs earlier if necessary. Set aside and let cook slightly before julienning.
- Prepare pasta dough. Let rest and roll into sheets. Hand cut pappardelle noodles.
- Puree ½ the sauce. Add back in. Reduce slightly.
- Add pancetta, rabbit for 5 minutes to warm.
- Cook pasta.
- Toss together and serve with parmesan and parsley on top.