Cooking School Journal: Chicken


Our menu: Chicken stock, Brunoise-stuffed Chicken Legs with Sauce Supreme, Chicken Cordon Bleu, Panko-crusted Chicken Nuggets, Chicken Lollipops (chicken wings in which you scrape all of the meat to one end making it resemble a lollipop), and the Gravy to Chef’s roasted chicken that she perfectly trussed.

A lot for two ladies to prepare in one hour for sure.

Home-Schooler Sabrina and I began with the stock. I cleaned and handed her chopped veggies as she dumped carcasses into giant stock pots and covered them with water. Then they sat on the back burners as we began to brunoise.

Basically we had to julienne then dice carrots, celery, onion, leek and ham into cute little cubes and saute them in oil. That was going to be our stuffing. We were really solidly focusing on that until Chef sauntered up to our cooking station.

“This would be a great recipe to add some of your own personal flair…add some cheese and herbs or whatever you think would be good.”

Then she was gone as soon as she came.

Bewildered, I offered up the idea of breadcrumbs and parmesan, cheating from a Bruce Aidells recipe of chicken legs stuffed with his sausage and the aforementioned. A delicious recipe! My potluck go-to dish. (To be honest, though, after sitting next to him at Chez Panisse, where he really could have used two chairs instead of one, I take his recipes and file them in the once-a-year category.)

Home Schooler Sabrina was hell bent on goat cheese. More power to her. You could spread goat cheese on just about anything, and I would eat it.

I offered up, “Do you want me to mix up the goat cheese with the brunoise?”

“No. I’m just going to lay it on top of the stuffing.”

Hmm. Okay.

The first dish we plated were those legs…and the big critique was that the goat cheese sat in the middle like a giant bog… and again there was no color. White chicken + white cheese = No fun.

Chef would have put some gorgeous and colorful herb with that making the presentation almost orgasmic.


It went downhill from there.

I added all the butter to the Sauce Supreme in one fell swoop, forgetting the 2 tablespoons that were to be reserved for the glistening swirl at the end. Crap!

Sabrina was about to speed-dial her attorney to file a case against me.


I baked the “lollipops” instead of deep-frying them, the way Chef had implied but never instructed.

(However, that’s the way Julia does them.)

5 points off!

Everything else ended up being a disaster.

We forgot the bouquet garni in the stock.

I used a prepared sauce from the school fridge to dip the lollipops.I think at least one TA shuddered in disgust. I also think Chef was about to cry.

On top of all of that…

There were too many times when Sabrina would yell over the crowd…”JULES?Are you interested in helping with this, or should I do it?” Just passive-aggressively loud enough to be heard by everyone.


There is nothing worse than a martyr. And she was a great one.


It was a tough night.

I totally screwed every dish up.

How could that be?  I have spent five days trying to sort all of it out in my mind.

It was a whole different thing to be the 20 year-old junior in college, trying to impress your college professor, in an environment where you just want to be the smartest in the room (except for that Asian girl).

This is different. I’m paying a lot of money for this course. Not to simply be the smartest or most popular, but to really learn. I need this knowledge. Otherwise, what’s the point? Even if I’m not the most-liked,  I want to be a cook.

Maybe my job is to be wrong.

A lot of the time.

So they can teach me how to do it right.

And make it worth my while.

And worth every dollar.