I've been away for a bit, as I've been thoroughly enjoying a 10-day break between the end of Term 1 and the start of Term 2, which, incidentally, begins tomorrow. I can't deny I have a few butterflies in my tummy about beginning a new term with a new class, new instructors and double-to-triple the workload, but fortunately it's not a nauseating feeling. More like elated anticipation.
Looking back on Term 1, I can't believe how quickly it flew by. What I'm most amazed by is the fact that I've learned so much already, I feel like I've been in school for at least an undergrad semester, not the actual eight weeks that Term 1 occupied. The last week of Term 1 was especially challenging for a variety of reasons, but on the last day, finals day, my kitchen partner and I managed to pull off some plates that I'm particularly proud of: Pork chops with cherry-almond stuffing served with creamy mashed potatoes, grilled asparagus, grilled eggplant and roasted yellow peppers, and pan-fried chicken Supremes (boneless chicken breast with leg bone attached, aka "airline breast") in lemon-garlic Espagnole sauce served with pan-fried sun-dried tomato and basil polenta, roasted red peppers and sauteed spinach. They weren't perfect, as the pork chop was a bit overdone and some of the grilled veg were charred, but I was happy with the seasoning and presentation at day's end. I wish I had thought to take some photos of our final dishes, but I guess I'll have to recreate them some other time. Hint, hint.
I have to say, I attribute the sense of readiness and most of the creative inspiration to that fabulous dinner at Le Pigeon I wrote about previously. It really got the juices flowing for a nice presentation. Though every part of our menu was planned almost a week in advanced, I decided on finals morning to nix the boring roasted potatoes we were planning on doing for our pan-fried chicken Supreme, and go all-out with the colorful, round polenta cakes, each topped off with a beautiful basil leaf. It's not a difficult process, pan-fried polenta, as long as your mise is well-done.
Finals day also consisted of a written comprehensive exam of about 100 questions, which wasn't too painful. Also due were our math work books, study guides, proficiency sheet with about 15 tasks (including various cuts of potatoes, vegetable cooking methods, tomato concasse, et al, each of which had to be personally inspected and signed by an instructor), as well as our big notebook with all of our work over the last 4 weeks, including recipe analysis sheets and tasting journals.
I'm not sure what to expect from Term 2 yet, especially since I've been told that my uber-brilliant instructor has been known to make people cry, but my expectations for class and for myself are high as ever. My mom thinks they're too high, and maybe she's right. I just have to remind myself occasionally to make sure I'm having fun. Sounds silly, I know, but necessary for the moments that I'm on the verge.