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Holy Tapas Chef Fans!!!

You know even though I have been at NECI and I know how the classes work I still get surprised when a class is over before it feels like it even starts. Some classes feel like they last longer, and others are a whirl-wind of activity where the time really does fly by and you blink and they are over. Flavors of Mediterranean Cuisine or Tapas as almost everyone else calls it is one of these classes.

First for anyone who doesn’t know, Tapas are small plates and are known in many different languages and many different cultures by different names but they are all really the same. The class is called Flavors of Mediterranean Cuisine because that is the area of focus for the class. The homework is relatively simple with repeats of assignments that have been done for other classes. What I mean by this is that just like product identification, we have to do an ingredient fact sheet, but with ingredients from the Mediterranean. For anyone who wants to know more about Saffron or   Olives, just click on the links. In addition to this we had to create a Cuisine Overview akin to the one we made in our French Classic Cuisine class. Not that hard as you can see but there is another aspect of the homework that while also not hard is stressful, or could be stressful. What could this be you all ask…Creating a special to be run along with the other tapas. Now we only had to come up with and run one special, but the stipulation was that it had to be from the region we did our cuisine overview on, so I ended up running two specials because before I even knew what region I was going to do I had an idea for a special that I wanted to run.

We will get to my first idea in a moment but lets talk about the “official” special that I put out first. My “second” special was a Greek style Dolma. I picked dolmas because I have always really liked them and wanted to put my own spin on them, so what I did was make a saffron herb rice and an olive tapenade to make my dolma stuffing. Thinking that it would need a bit more acidity I served them alongside a traditional Greek avgolemono sauce. By the look in most of your eyes and the questioning looks on your faces, an avgolemono sauce is an egg and lemon based sauce that is widely used in Greece by itself or in soups as a thickener. It’s alright everyone, I had no clue what it was myself before I started looking into Greek cuisine.

Now sadly I am going to have to call this special a flop. I don’t know if it was the time of year or if dolmas just aren’t very popular up here in Vermont. Whatever the reason may be I only sold two of them… My Chef loved the filling and the sauce but personally doesn’t like the texture of grape leaves. While the number of specials I sold doesn’t count for or against me I still was disappointed. My block mates and Chef, thought that all of the other components came out and paired nicely with each other so if I was to do this dish again I would use smaller or maybe even a different type of grape leaves to hopefully change the texture.

At this point I already had the mise en place already ordered and ready to go for my second special… I wanted to work with quail eggs, and had since the first day… So what I ended up doing looked a little something like this…And from the front….This, Chef Fans is a saffron poached quail egg, sitting on seared prosciutto and olive oil brushed and grilled Za`atar Bread. With a Saffron Hollandaise, and a Potato Nest fried in duck fat. I am really pleased with how it came out, and for anyone who was able to have one I will welcome any criticism that you would like to give me.

See the class really doesn’t have that much homework, so why does it feel like if you blinked the class was over? Well for starters we would normally get into the kitchen at 1:45 (hey 15 minutes early is on time) unless it was a lecture day, and then we would still get into the kitchen about 1:45-2. Now anyone who has been to or worked at NECI on Main knows dinner service doesn’t start until 5:30 but what you probably don’t know is that light fare starts at 2:30 down in the lounge… This means that almost as soon as we get into the kitchen and set up we can start getting orders. Oh and we still have to prep up our stations from the night before and also prep out and specials we are planning to run that night or the next day.

Next we have dinner break but it is not really a break because remember we are still doing light fare down in the lounge. So we rotate in and out with some eating and the other waiting for the ones eating to come back and replace us. This is a lot like real life where you may not always have time to eat dinner and you just have to scarf down some food really fast and then jump back into it so really it’s not that bad.

If this is not that case to make the class so fast then it would have to be the station rotations that we had right? Alright here I will give it to you this was a fast change, but it really has to be that way. For starters we had a class of 7 people, and there really are 7 stations that you can work,and for everyone to get a chance on every station that means we had to do 2 day rotations… Oh and if people should miss class then it still has to get covered and the prep and food still needs to go out.

I don’t want any of you to think that Tapas was a bad class because it was too fast, in fact the opposite is very true. This is one of the craziest times I have had in the kitchen, all of the pick ups take almost no time at all so you can really send food flying out of the window. Something is always going on or needs to get done, like the nightly deep cleaning projects. You read what I typed correctly, Nightly Deep Cleaning Projects…!!!… it’s really not that bad because instead of having a day where you hate yourself, and the equipment for getting so dirty, you are only mildly annoyed with it for collecting more grease and carbon then you reckon is possible in a weeks time. It did make me personally realize how dirty a kitchen can get in just a short amount of time.

In short Tapas was an awesome class and I’m sad that I really can’t think of anything else to say about it… yes I know I have said a lot but just go with it…

Until next time Chef Fan’s enjoy the small plates and all the tasty two or three bite morsels they hold….

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One Comment on “Holy Tapas Chef Fans!!!”

  1. Grandma July 27, 2011 at 11:23 pm #

    Grant, Grandpa and I are sitting here enjoying your Tapa’s scenerio and loving it. So glad you are enjoying yourself so much. We love reading about what you are doing. Tell Tori “hi” Love and hugs.
    Gma and Gpa.

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