Another Monday, another morning of dropping stock and clearing out the ice machine. At least I now know what a stock that has gone bad smells like. Some say gym socks, I say a good cheese.
Unfortunately, one of our chicken stocks had gone bad over the weekend. Not sure why, but most likely the stock wasn't kept at a simmer. We make plenty of stock, so it wouldn't be a problem. If anything, it made the job slightly easier.
On the other hand, the classrooms were unusually cold this morning, which meant that it took my hands longer than normal to warm up after numerous immersions in ice water. Consequently, my knife cuts at the beginning just seemed rather slow. Or perhaps it was simply that I always feel slow and disorganized after a quiz, dropping stock and figuring out what all the mise cups on my station contain and which recipe they're for. And, once again, we had recipes that needed to get into the oven for a significant period of time. This is always a source of a sense of urgency, since you need to finish prep as fast as possible so whatever needs to spend time in the oven, can.
Production today was: Whole Roasted Young Chicken with Giblet, Apple and Chestnut Stuffing Served with Roasted Root Vegetables, Pine Nuts, Arugula and fortified Pan Jus; and, Roasted Leg of Lamb (Butterflied) with Herbs and Garlic and Served with Salt-Roasted Fingerling Potatoes and Lamb Jus.
Roasting is generally faster than braising, but it still takes awhile to properly cook a large chunk of meat such as a leg of lamb. Even whole chickens take a good 40 minutes or more. Roasting is also less forgiving than braising, so you have to make sure to keep an eye on your meat. Depending on the cut and any oven/roasting pan peculiarities, your meat might brown extra fast (cover it with some foil to stop the browning), or simply cook faster than you think. The recipe might say 1.5 - 2 hours, but your roast might only take 1 hour.
Another thing about roasting is that not everything roasts at the same temperatures. For example, the chicken was started at a high temp to brown, then the temperature reduced to finish cooking. The lamb and potatoes were roasted at a temperature between these two extremes. And, not only did we roast the chicken, leg of lamb and potatoes, but the chestnuts had to be blanched, peeled and then roasted separately before going in the stuffing. The beets also had to be roasted separately, and the darn things took longer than an hour to be properly roasted.
So, you need to have a roasting plan. What will go in when and at what temperature. What will happen if you need to change temperatures in between. For some things it might not matter too much, just changing the amount of time it takes. If you're working with a partner, as I was, you need to communicate and stay on the same page, otherwise, not only will you have problems with the oven temperatures, but you'll likely run into space problems (not enough room in the oven).
Thus, it wasn't surprising that around 9:10am or so, Chef Merino told the class that if they didn't have their chicken in the oven, it was too late, don't bother, they wouldn't be able to turn in their plates (properly finished, anyway) by the 10am deadline. However, the students were given the opportunity to finish their chickens the next day; they just had to put all their prep on a sheet pan for storage. More than a few sheet trays went into storage. There probably should have been more, but some students pushed the deadline a bit, perhaps more than a bit in a couple of instances.
I was pretty happy that I was able to meet the deadline, though it was closer than I would have liked. Part of the problem at the very end was that the plating instructions for the Roasted Chicken weren't terribly clear. Even Chef Knight wasn't sure what they meant.
In any case, sometimes it seems that cooking is more about logistics and organization than anything else. Mise en Place, the most important thing you learn in culinary school, I think.
Roasted Leg of Lamb (Butterflied) with Herbs and Garlic and Served with Salt-Roasted Fingerling Potatoes and Lamb Jus
Whole Roasted Young Chicken with Giblet, Apple and Chestnut Stuffing Served with Roasted Root Vegetables, Pine Nuts, Arugula and fortified Pan Jus