Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Thumbs Down to Glumpy Rice

Today was meal day for Jess and myself. For the past three weeks we have been working very hard to come up with and plan for a meal for our Quantity Foods class and today was our day to make the meal (with the help of our lovely group members of course). Quantity is a class in which everyone goes into pairs (except for poor Kaylynne) and every pair is in charge one week to create a meal to feed 60 people. Each group has a theme to it as well which pertains to our nutrition background (for example, "Heart Healthy" or "Gluten Free"). Ours was a DASH diet meal which means that it had to follow a diet plan which was created for people with high blood pressure to help lower their blood pressure. In other words, we had to try with all of our might to get as much salt out of the meal as humanely possible.

Tip of the Day: Salt causes high blood pressure.
Second Tip of the Day: Everything delicious contains salt.

In the weeks which lead up to today, I've been making the food items at home to ensure that they tasted good and cooked well and learn all the little secrets to make everything taste delicious. My only downfall in all of this is that I fell in love with the Carrot Soup we made and I made it with bouillon cubes (huge no no in the DASH diet) because bouillon is pure salt. The second problem is that Jess also fell in love with this soup so we had a fairly large expectation for it. I then last night made the soup again but with a no sodium bouillon and well...it was rubbish. I was severely disappointed. We also took out all of the bouillon out of the rice which made it bland and pointless (in most people's opinions). When I make rice at home I don't use bouillon so I was used to the simple flavour of it, but this does not mean that everyone else was as well.

Anyway, I am rambling so I will move on. The day began around 8:30am when Jess and I arrived at school. We had a group of 5 other students who help us out with the cooking and serving. We plan the whole day so that we delegate most of the tasks to the group members and we are meant to answer questions, help out when needed and mostly ensure that everything goes smoothly. Our group was great because even though everyone was behind schedule most of the day, they were all cool and calm and got the work done. Their calmness kept me calm which is great for a kitchen staff. As I mentioned before, I was disappointed in how some of the food turned out and we got both good and bad responses from the clientele who come in to have lunch with us. I guess I should explain the menu!

Appetizer - Carrot Soup with a whole wheat herbed biscuit
Entree- Baked cajun cod with melon salsa, brown rice (with onions and garlic) and steamed green beans
Dessert- Baked apples with cinnamon and walnuts with a cranberry maple sauce and vanilla yogurt.

In my opinion, this is how the menu went:
Appetizer- bland flavour but looked beautiful and had lovely texture
Entree- I liked it all except for the glumpy rice. Some people thought the fish was too spicy but I thought it was great.
Dessert - very yummy flavour but apple was slightly overcooked.

It's disappointing when you have such high expectations and the reality doesn't reach as high as you wanted. Making the food at home was far more successful so I had a strong idea in my head of how I wanted everything to be and it was unfortunate that people did not experience was I experienced before making the meal for 60 people. I am also a total control freak (just ask poor Jess) especially when working in kitchens so it was hard for me to sit back and let everyone else do everything. Sure I definitely had to step in and lend a hand many times but we were told to rely on our staff to get it done. Plus the no bouillon thing took me for a major loop but we had to try to stick to the DASH diet. I am proud of us for taking a risk with the menu though. Apparently cooking fish is really touchy in the class because most of the time it just gets negative feedback. Plus we used some bold flavours which could have turned a lot of people off (and did) but we went for it and gave it a try. It would have been easy to play it safe and make things that everyone on PEI seems to love, like chicken and potatoes. Sometimes safe sucks!

I think that working in kitchens for so long has given me tunnel vision of what is important in terms of cooking. I think too much of pleasing the customer, and for this menu it would have meant a whole lotta salt added; however, for this lab the overall objective was to create a meal which followed the DASH diet which people could make at home if they were on the diet for their health. Yes, I think we accomplished that...although I would have the ensure that they followed my recipe exactly for the rice. Say NO to glumpy brown rice!

Third Tip of the Day: I swear to all of you people that brown rice can taste just as good as white rice. Use a bit less water and never, ever stir it. Let the water come to a boil, add the rice, turn down the heat, put on a lid and just leave it alone. After 40 minutes turn off the heat and allow to sit for 10 minutes. I promise it will be perfect.

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