The most difficult things..Les choses la plus difficile...
Die Schwerste Sachen..................
Now it may sound silly, but the most difficult things to get right in a professional kitchen are the two above illustrated. In the home kitchen less so, because few people even try!
I'm talking about cooking them correctly - pleasing to everybody...!
A "simple" boiled egg is almost impossible to get right - for everybody!
Some like them runny, some like them not runny, some will reject anything that looks like the uncooked white of egg, others will reject anything that looks like the hard cooked white of egg - the things crack
when immersed in the hot water.... spraying the yolk and white into the water and filling up the shell just with hot water!
More and more Hotels are taking to the "Breakfast Buffet" which often includes an "egg boiler", attractive little machine that cooks your eggs (it says) perfectly - according to your taste, but in fact passes on the responsability to the guest who, strangely enough, will eat anything cooked by himself!
It is simply impossible to get right...so don't even bother trying!
There are all sorts of "gadgets available - from little things that prick a small hole in the shell of the egg so they do not explode in the water, to "presses" that will compress an oval hard boiled egg into a square one, for use in buffets...all gadgets - the fact is simple - it's impossible.....! Just do the sane thing - either get people to make their own - or suggest fried eggs instead.....! Even they CAN have their problems...!
The other thing which is highly difficult is FISH - in general!
The infamous British boiled fish... probably the most revolting tasting - and looking - dish ever known to man, or beast!
Fish, it is said, must swim, but NOT in water....the term is used more in reference to either the sauces or the wines served with it.
Fish should be cooked fully, but not cooked to the point of being dry and tasteless. This is where the various cooking processes come in.
Frying, grilling, poaching or in "papillote" (be it in greaseproof paper or in aluminium foil) all give the same effect, done correctly - tenderly cooked - almost by vapour, keeping the taste and succulence inside.
The sauces as well are mainly complicated and time consuming - at home, all the egg and butter based sauces such as Bearnaise, Hollandaise and so on, are expensive, slightly difficult and very rich. Delicious - yes, but not easy!
In fact, in the Professional kitchen, the post of "Poissonnier" is generally only second to the sauce chef, who is generally the second in command to the Head chef,
This, of course, only in the kitchens which still hold to the "corner system" - fewer and fewer nowadays, but the kitchens where the best food is to be obtained.
Each "corner chef" (Saucier, Garde-manger, Entremets, Grillier, Pâtissière - amongst others) is not a only a "generalist", but a "specialist" as well, but it is a system which costs a lot to maintain, so it is becoming rarer, nowadays mainly all the Chefs are a sort of "mix" - generalists in almost everything! Except boiled eggs.....!
The "poissonnier" has explicit jobs. Control of the quality and freshness of the fish products, making the sauces and the absolutely necessary "fumet de poisson" (fish stocks) - the base of all fish cooking and sauces.
He may well "borrow" the egg yolk and butter based sauces from the "Saucier", or the mayonnaise and fish garnishes from the "Chef Garde-Manger" (Larder chef), the vegetables, prepared by the "Chef Entremet" and so on, but in view of the price of fish and marine products, his job is extremely important, and is generally one of the most well paid ones.
His art, both in preparing hot and cold marine dishes, with all the sauces involved is a most complicated one, and he is always at the mercy of suppliers and sometimes head chefs who must ensure a "win" for their establishments.
Grilled fish profits enormously from fierce but short heat, and served with lemon wedges or rounds, or "Maitre d'hotel butter", is a delight.
It should be moist - but cooked, the outer skin - crispy!
A difficult task.
Whole fish such as sole, plaice and all the rest may require protection once the grilling has commenced, allowing the fish to be cooked through but avoiding that the skin, if present, burns and becomes unappetising or indeed dangerous to eat!
Fillets are or of course even more delicate, and fish in the "bechamel" based sauces profit highly from being served either with fried croutons or small crescents of puff pastry.
It's the mixture of "crunch" and "slurp" which is so tempting......!
This illustration is actually an example of a Malay dish where it is intended to burn the fish - it's called "Ikan Bakar"...but in general fish should not be burnt in such a manner!
The subject of "fish" is vast, and I will be returning to it again and again, but just to finish off with, here is a little true happening - regarding the position of "Poissonnier" which I occupied, many years ago in a large hotel in Wiesbaden, Germany.
...The hotel boasted, as many did at the time, a large "tank" designed to hold fresh, live fish, like trout in particular, but also for freshwater crayfish, and was also used for the stockage of sea spiders, lobsters and the like.
I had worked here for some time, and I was aware that this tank had some kind of problem - each time we ordered and restocked the trout, alive and well, we had just less than 24 hours to use them, or they were all floating belly up....Serving something of that nature is, of course, extremely dangerous, particularly without knowing the why's and wherefore's of the problem.
We had the doubtful pleasure of receiving a new Head Chef, who insisted on using this tank much more.
I informed him of the problem, but like all young, newly promoted head chef's - he knew better!
"Upon thy head be it", I thought, and proceeded to carry out his orders.
24 hours passed, and the couple of hundred trouts seemed to carry on swimming around, quite happily!
I, of course, was greeted daily by the triumphant look of the Head Chef, and I didn't understand anything any more!
On the third day, when I arrived, I was greeted by an anxious looking head chef who informed me that "my" trouts were all lying - belly up!
I explained to him that "HIS" trouts would represent around 500 Dmarks (at the time around $750) loss to the Hotel...to which news he went rather pale....rather like a dead rainbow trout, and his mouth fell open in the same manner.
Having mulled over the problem in his "private" head chef's office, together with some cronies he had brought with him, he finally came to see me, and informed me that for the next orders for "fresh rainbow trout" we would take the "freshest dead ones".......!
I informed him that HE would take the freshest dead ones - cook it - serve it - and preferably eat it himself...!
I left the establishment and went to Stuttgart "Schlossgarten Hotel" where they had WORKING fish tanks and an excellent Head Chef..............myself!
See - there are always "silver linings"....!
iwmpop (mr le marquis) - Vauvert, France - Janvier 2011
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