It seems like every week now marks a turning point in my transformation from self-taught home-cook to budding culinary professional. We’ve officially completed one-third of our 110 lessons in ICE’s Culinary Career Program and all I can think about is how to make the time slow down. Before I began the ICE Culinary program I asked several former students about their experiences, and every single one of them had some version of the following: “It was the happiest I’ve ever been in my life.” No kidding.
Our group of 13 is solid at this point. We’re working in a groove, balancing each other’s strengths and weaknesses as we collectively build our skills sets. Now well into Module 2, we’re prepping and cooking anywhere between 5 and 8 recipes a day. And this week wasn’t exactly a light load.
Chef Sabrina has been an incredible guide with a well-balanced approach of instruction through demos and individual guidance as we learn by doing. I came to ICE with absolutely zero restaurant experience, so my number of questions seems to be growing along with my number of “firsts,” which this week included everything from prepping an artichoke to cooking in a tagine.
Each week I claim a new recipe as my “absolute favorite,” but it’s going to take a lot to beat this week’s candidate: Chicken Tagine with Couscous (images #9 & #10). The traditional Moroccan dish consisted of chicken legs and thighs stewed in a blend of saffron, ginger, tumeric, cumin and coriander. The dish cooked inside a tagine, or clay pot, that’s topped with a funnel-shaped lid. We served the Chicken Tagine atop a bed of couscous, and for the first time ever I took home leftovers.
This week included the techniques of braising and stewing, so while our dishes cooked we spent our spare time moving on to the (dreaded) next knife cut: tournée. We all looked at our toy vegetable kits on the very first day of class and laughed at the thought of knowing how to cut a tourne. We’re not laughing any more. Chef Sabrina patiently walked us through each of the steps to cut the 7-sided tourne. The shape resembles a football with flat ends and has seven rounded sides (image #8). I’ll be the first one to admit, I am terrible at this. But as with all learned skills, I can only hope that nights of tourne cuts for homework will turn my too-small, 6-sided, pointy-edged “tournes” into perfection.
Coming up next week: Gratins, Purees, Timbales & Souffles, Legumes and Grains & Rice
A look back: