Lesson Learned: Never Apologize in the Kitchen
I've read My Life in France, at least half a dozen times in the past couple of years. Written by Julia Child with the help of her grandnephew Alex Prud'Homme, this book chronicles the years that Julia spent living in Europe with her husband, Paul. It details her time at Le Cordon Bleu as well as the 10 years that she spent composing the acclaimed and ever popular Mastering the Art of French Cooking. One of my favorite books, it tells the story of a true pioneer in the culinary world, from her standpoint and her voice and I can't get enough.
One thing that has always stuck with me from reading (and rereading) this book is how determined Julia is to never apologize for anything in kitchen. Regarding her time at Le Cordon Bleu she says, "..I made many boo-boos. At first this broke my heart, but then I came to understand that learning how to fix one's mistakes, or live with them, was an important part of becoming a cook." This week in school I learned this oh so important lesson firsthand as I was making my assigned Moroccan-inspired millet salad.
Millet, if you've never cooked with it before, is a tiny little seed that looks like something that would be dinner for a bird but is actually something quite tasty. It's also a refreshing change up from other more familiar grains and seeds. Millet is a little finicky in the sense that like most grains, it requires a certain ratio of seed-to-water (1 part seed to 2 parts water in this case). However, once the water evaporates, the millet still might be a bit too tender and more water needs to be added. Now this is the tricky part, the key is to add just a tiny bit of water so that the millet will stay nice and fluffy. My hand got a little heavy with the water and my millet ended up melding together into a giant gooey mass. After adding other flavors to the salad (like little cubes of carrots, chickpeas and fresh mint, parley and cilantro) it tasted fine but it wasn't the intended texture - a total bummer (or "boo-boo") for a culinary school student.
Looking down at my pile of millet, I couldn't help but be a little bummed until Chef reminded me that I need to use this to my advantage. "Make individual cakes" he helpfully suggested. Realizing I still had a fair amount of time left before we were to have completed our dishes, I was itching to be more creative than that. The main focus of the day was a giant leg of lamb (glorious, delicious lamb..) and my millet was to accompany that. Thinking that a leg of lamb sounded a little rustic, I got the idea to hand-shape individual leaves out of the millet, just for something a little different.
While it wasn't the ideal, it still worked and to that I say, Julia, you are so right. Lesson learned. When life hand you over-saturated millet, make millet leaves. Or something like that. Culinary school lesson for the day: never apologize in the kitchen, just make things work and learn to live with it.
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