Friday 7/14/11 late evening:
Mid-term week is over, thank goodness. This week was a tough one with a 3-hour practical quiz on Wednesday followed by the mid-term written exam Thursday morning. The practical exam was a hands-on application of all the basic theories and principals we have learned in the last two months. That involved setting the perfect table with three place settings, de-boning a chicken, making potato puree, salad, soup and a vegetable. Presentation was also a big factor as was keeping your work station clean and sanitary all in a three hour time limit. Oh yea, and everything needed to be appropriately hot and or cold at that three hour mark. Talk about feeling pressure. Chef always tells us to never underestimate our time in the kitchen with a deadline. Those words hit home when my aim to succeed and reach that target dead on was my only objective. I seriously think that I lost 5 pounds while running around the kitchen trying to live up to those expectations that have been taught, practiced and conveyed over and over. I do not know how it happened because truthfully, when I looked at the clock at 10 am and I knew I had an hour left, I started to panic. That panic turned into fear at about 10:30. I think that is about the time I actually felt sweat running down my back. I remember looking up at the clock at 10:50 with complete dread. My presentation time was 11 am and all I could do was turn it up into high gear. In those last ten minutes I am somewhat vague on what happened next. All I know is that I must have grown octopus arms and morphed into a speed demon. I plated everything hot and brought it over to my presentation table. I looked up at the clock and it was 11 am ON THE DOT. I looked over at Chef Bob and simply stated “go sit down now please.”
After they revived me with smelling salts….I’m kidding, we all sat down and from there the food and overall production was given the appropriate assessment. Chef Bob and Chef Greg pointed out that I had “knocked it out of the park” with my Puree of Carrot Soup complimented with a mint compound butter. By that point I felt confident that I had did my best. After I drank 4 or 5 glasses of water and returned to a normal breathing pattern, I joined in and consumed most of the meal I had put my heart and soul into. I had to agree as well. That soup was amazing.
So, I’ve decided that I am going to change my submission for the Tabasco Hottest Chef Challenge. I have spent the last couple of days perfecting a modified version of my Chicken Enchilada recipe. Two summers ago I spent a week in Avalon, NJ with my closet friend Howard and his buddies from PA. In appreciation of them opening up their summer home to me, I made them crab enchiladas. At mealtime I was given the ultimate compliment with utter silence. They happily devoured every morsel and I knew that this was a winner. What I did was take my chicken enchilada recipe from my book, It’s Just Personal (page 80) and replace the chicken with lump crab meat. Another modification I made was to change the red sauce to a roasted green tomatillo sauce using the Tabasco Brand Green Jalapeno Sauce.
With some help from Chef Pierre at the Allendale Bar & Grill, I’ve decided to call this submission Enchiladas Vera Cruz Verde. It’s sexy, isn’t it? Below is the recipe for the roasted tomatillo sauce. In the next couple of weeks I will print the entire recipe after my submission has been received. In the meantime, you can make this sauce at home and use it with the enchilada recipe from my book. As I state before, substituting crab is pretty straightforward. Getting creative with the sauce is also encouraged. This sauce is versatile enough to compliment many dishes. I would love some feedback on this and would be happy to share any ideas on future blog posts.
2 lbs. tomatillos husked and washed
1/4 C chopped cilantro
1/3 C chopped sweet onion
1/4 C Tabasco Brand Green Jalapeno Pepper Sauce
1/4 C chicken stock
Heat oven to 450F and place tomatillos on a sheet pan. Roast until lightly browned on one side (about 5 minutes), turn add chopped onions and roast until evenly browned and starting to blister (about 5 minutes.) Cool off cut tomatoes in half.
Add tomatoes through jalapeno pepper sauce to food processor and puree on high. Add chicken stock slowly and achieve a creamier consistency. Remove and keep on side.
Have a wonderful weekend. I hear the weather is gorgeous in NJ.