Day 12: My apron is really staring to smell like fish

In the ninth grade, I decided to quit ballet after a 10 year stint. My father wouldn’t let either of his kids be inactive, so I joined track. I was always the last kid up the hill, and basically defined “white man can’t jump.” I’d knock over every hurdle I attempted. It got to the point where the coaches made me do it for their own amusement. That’s how I felt today.

Every recipe was a hurdle. Not that it was hard, but there were so many components that I could never quite catch up. We started with filleting a flatfish, flounder, which was much easier than yesterday’s roundfish. (Though I did overhear Chef say, “The fish is already dead guys,” to a student who was butchering the fillet.)

Chef filleting a fish

In a flatfish, you carve out 4 fillets—two per side. We used these fillets to make courgettes, or fish sticks, and braised flounder. The courgettes were tasty even though I overcooked mine (anything tastes good deep-fried, right?), but to make it super French we made elegant baskets made out of deep-fried potato sticks and waffle fries. Mine came out macerated because they’re impossible to release from the ladle-like spoon that shapes the basket. But Chef Laura was kind enough to let it slide during her critique of the dish, telling me they take practice.

Fish sticks!

The braised flounder elicited a cartoon-like grunt from Chef. One of those stereotypical Frenchman “Ruh-hah-ha” noises, which translates to “I really like this.” Standing in front of the salamander (basically a giant toaster), Chef is actually giddy watching his glacage brown like a toasted marshmallow. He’s impatient waiting for this “magic” to happen, and jumps from foot to foot, admitting that he’s impatient.

Using the salamander to brown the top of the glacage

“No one does glacage anymore,” says Chef. “It’s unfortunate.”

Glacage, in true French form, is a sauce that includes cream and whipped cream. (I should check my cholesterol soon.)

Braised flounder with a glacage sauce

TIP OF THE DAY: If breading something, season the egg yolks not the flour. Salt and pepper will fall to the bottom of the flour and not evenly coat the food. 


4 responses to “Day 12: My apron is really staring to smell like fish

  1. Full disclosure: I cried in class the first time I filleted a fish. It was the round fish and I killed it even though it was already dead. As chef told me then, practice makes perfect. And he was right. I can do it much better now. I. The meantime, viva la fish sticks!! 🙂

  2. One time I applied to be a fish monger at Whole Foods with no experience at all because I thought it sounded fun. I didn’t get the job, for obvious reasons. Kinda glad now….

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