This was my final menu I created, prepared, and presented to Chef Frankie Ruiz for my final kitchen practical exam in Cuisines Across Cultures at Le Cordon Bleu. Our assignment was to select a country and create a menu with an appetizer, entree, with two sides. We had to prep, cook, plate, and present within 90 minutes, all while cleaning as we went. We were graded on presentation, success of our cooking methodology, flavor profile, texture of the food, timeliness of completion, and our sanitation and professionalism. Also, we had a bit of a mystery basket in that we had a whole raw chicken, rice, and some vegetables. We had to go with what was there. I am excited to say that I remain on the President’s list with a 4.0 and received an A+ with this dish.
Above is a wonderful dish that begins with a basic chicken sauté for 4 minutes, then removing the 1 1/2-2 lbs browned chicken from the pan along with all but a tablespoon of residual oil, then adding a little more vegetable oil along with a large piece of ginger chopped, 3 garlic cloves minced, 1/3 cup sake, 1/2 cup of chicken stock, 1 Tbsp honey, 1 star anise and 1/4 cup low sodium soy sauce. Bring to a boil, then add 4 Tbsp fresh juice squeezed from a navel orange or clementine and the chicken pieces, reduce to simmer gently, covered, for 15 minutes. Turn the chicken and continue to simmer for another 5 minutes. Use slotted spoon to transfer chicken to a serving platter.
Then taste the cooking liquid and adjust the seasoning if needed. Return pan to a simmer and reduce to about 2/3 for 3 minutes or so. Return chicken to the pan only to coat it with the thickened sauce. Return chicken to serving platter, top with thickened sauce then sprinkle with 2 whole scallions thinly sliced for presentation.
The rice shown above was simple. I just used 1 cup of basic jasmine rise, rinsed it with water once to get excess starch out, then brought that 1 cup to a boil in 1 1/2 cups water, a touch of oil and 1/4 tsp salt. Then I reduced the heat to a slow simmer, covered, for 15 minutes. Then I took the pan off the heat for a few minutes to let stand and steam before flaking the rice. When flaking, I added gently folded in a mixture of 1 Tbsp fresh lemon juice, a Tbsp or two of fresh lemon zest, Tbsp of oil (can be sesame, vegetable or part oil part butter) for flavor.
Lastly, I threw together a stir fry/saute combination of shitake mushrooms, green onions (large cut on the bias), yellow onions, julienne and carrots with a little red chili peppers minced and infused into the oil, along with a little sea salt to taste. All the flavors tied in well with the chicken and rice.
Above was my appetizer. I took the chicken breast, sliced it into paper thin pieces, marinated it in a tiny bit of salad dressing in the cooler, then sautéed it, then placed it in the center of the salad. I used romaine lettuce as my bottom support, then layered large sliced cucumber and tomatoes. I topped the salad with my salad dressing, that consisted of red chili peppers, salt/garlic paste, sugar, lime juice, vegetable oil, and fish sauce. Then I topped the salad with fresh minced cilantro and mint.
The only criticism chef made was to mince the herbs smaller next time and to not sprinkle over the chicken. He suggested to sprinkle them in a circle around the chicken and the middle of the salad so it looks more organized and showcases the chicken and the salad. Chef Ruiz is brilliant at plating as he is an executive chef and owned his own restaurant for years. He has a keen eye and comments like these help train my eye so I can improve and use this logic next time. Thank you chef Frankie Ruiz for mentoring me.