Here I am again! A few nights of good sleep and the world already looks much brighter! It might not be easy, but I am already inspired by the activism among my friends and family.

But now back to my culinary adventures…

This is the last week of month two, meaning a few things. First of all, people are leaving at the end of this week and new people arrive next week. I’ve met lovely people here over the past two months and I hope that I can stay in touch with many of them as we spread out across the globe.

Last week also means that I’m probably going to face another cuisine test, which I’m not looking forward to all that much. But actually, we already had a “pop quiz” half way through the month challenging us to create a carrot dish, so it’s starting to feel more relaxed.

Before I tell you about the wonderful things I have made this week, let me finish off last week. In pastry, we worked with chocolate. Unlike month one, I actually managed to keep my apron relatively clean (which is a huge challenge when you’re tempering chocolate every day). We only created one molded chocolate that had an orange caramel filling. The rest of the chocolates were “enrobed” (enrobés) by hand, meaning that you begin with the so-called chablonnage, spreading a thin layer of chocolate on a baking sheet. Then you pour a ganache or other filling on top of the chocolate and let it harden. Next, you make your préenrobage, adding a thin layer of chocolate on top of the filling. After cutting out the desired shapes, you dip the individual bonbons in chocolate. Voilà! While the work is somewhat repetitive, it has a calming, zen kind of feel.

The week culminated in a chocolate display on Friday, for which we had to collaborate as a class to create a piece to showcase our bonbons. My class decided to make a floral inspired design with a tiered base. As we started our work on Friday, I think it’s safe to say that we felt overwhelmed and didn’t really know what we were doing, but I’m super proud of what we managed to create by ourselves in just 2 hours.

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The take-home result of chocolate week was an ENORMOUS box of chocolate; I’m not kidding, we must have had two kilos! As soon as I got home to the residence, and afraid to even enter my home with this temptation, I gave 90% of the chocolate to the man who runs the shop here. Now I have the perfect amount of chocolate to savor now and then.

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The best thing about our work with chocolate is that it is entirely manageable from a home kitchen! I always thought that making pralines wasn’t possible, but that’s not true at all. Don’t be surprised if my Christmas gifts this year include some delicious goodies…

In cuisine, we finished fish week with some classic tuna and shrimp followed by a more unusual dish. The tuna was just lightly seared along the outside and chef said that my shrimp was perfectly cooked with a hint of translucent in the center! This was served with bulgur and sauce vierge as well as an alternative socca. Traditional socca is a Ligurian pancake/bread that you’ll find a lot for instance in Nice. It is made of chickpea flour and is baked in extremely large pans in a pizza oven. The socca for our dish was made using chestnut flour instead, making it sweeter than usual. And to show you that class doesn’t always go as smoothly as it may sound: I burned the first socca and after having the second one in the oven for a seeming eternity, we finally realized that the oven was off… Nonetheless, as Chef Samuel has told us, there is almost nothing in cuisine that you can’t rectify (well, I don’t know what you can do with burnt socca).

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Friday’s dish used John Dory, which is probably one of the coolest fish we’ve made so far. My partner was out for the day, so I fileted the fish ALL BY MYSELF! And because John Dory is so cool, each filet is actually composed of three individual filets. The texture when cooked is also very unlike most fish. It is firm, but not tough and feels comforting. We served the John Dory with samphire and homemade spätzle and a reduced stock sauce.

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We had an ambitious start to pastry this week, being handed seven recipes on Monday. So, yesterday we were asked to prepare a plated dessert using Sacher biscuit, hazelnut crumble, citrus gelatin, coffee gelatin, praliné cream, raspberry pâte de fruit, and chocolate garnish. I created a layered dessert with the biscuit, the crumble, and the praliné cream, topped with some pâte de fruits. I especially liked my two-shade chocolate sides, although they could have been neater.

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Today, we continued ambitiously with a pain d’épice (gingerbread) and white chocolate mousse dessert à l’orange. While we did not come up with the plating for this on our own, Chef Pascal complimented me for my exceptional work, saying that it could be served in a one or maybe two-star restaurant.

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In cuisine, we are back to meat. I must say that while I think our meat dishes are delicious, I enjoy working with fish more. Maybe that’s also because fileting a fish does not seem as vulgar as some of our other tasks (hint hint, skinning rabbit tomorrow…). Monday’s dish was lamb with crushed potatoes and trompette de la mort mushrooms. We baked the lamb in a salty crust, which was a fun new technique, although the cuts on my hands were not so happy.

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Yesterday and today we prepared pork with a checkered crust and the most amazing potatoes cooked in Italian pork fat. We also served beef tongue with beet root, turnip, and a red wine sauce in a free plate exercise. Chef Samuel said that my plate was sad L Mainly because it didn’t showcase the right ingredients. Well, constructive criticism is something I’ve learned to live with here, so it’s alright!

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And next week… How Tamar skins a rabbit and tries not to cry!

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