It is May 1st of 2018, the day of our practical final. None of us knew how the exam would go, how much time would we get, are we cooking a dish from the textbook, is it a group project etc. When we arrived in the kitchen, we found out that our practical final was going to be like the cooking show Chopped. Meaning that our instructor got to choose random ingredients that we had to incorporate into our dish, within the time limit of one hour and thirty minutes. Although our instructor took it a level further and had everyone pull a piece of paper out of a bowl that determined what cooking method you had to use.
This second aspect definitely threw some people for a loop and had them worried. I was excited as most of you should know by now. So, the ingredients that we each had to use were chicken breast, brown rice and cinnamon (a lot of people frowned at the last ingredient). Luckily the cooking method I drew from the bowl was broil. For those who don’t know, broiling is a cooking method where the heat source comes from above, most cooks usually use it to “finish” dishes or get the dish browned quickly.
The timer starts and my first instinct is to get my chicken marinating while the rice cooks, since that will take the longest. Coming from Jamaican background I wanted it to have a carribean feel to the dish. I marinated the chicken breast with salt, pepper, garlic powder, and a little bit of ground clove and cinnamon. Next I rinse my rice, strain it and set it aside. I fill a pot with water and start cooking red kidney beans (peas) on a high boil until they are soft, then add my brown rice and let it simmer. The kitchen was so hectic, we never had an assignment that was a free for all, we always worked in teams, so this was a change of pace. We had people who wanted to use the stove, but stove space was limited to only eight burners. People who had their food on the back burners ended up burning their products because they could barely reach it. For your grade you had to be creative, time sensitive and in control of what you plan to make.
Now that my rice is almost done, I turn the heat down lower and put a lid on it. I go into the fridge to get my chicken and ….. it’s gone. Somebody took the wrong chicken and now I was stuck with someone else’s chicken that could be too spicy, salty, zingy, for my dish. I didn’t want to try and reseason it either because the flavors might not have worked together if I added the ground cloves and cinnamon to theirs, so I used it as is, sadly. I got oil in a pan just to coat the bottom and began pan searing the chicken. While this was cooking, I got a random idea to make a sauce for this dish. In a small pot I added coconut milk, salt, pepper, garlic powder, cinnamon and rosemary and let that simmer on low while waiting for the other components to finish. Next I cooked the chicken on the other side, then transferred it to a baking sheet and topped it with minced ginger and garlic. I then put this in the broiler for about 3-5 minutes to get a little more color on the ginger and garlic. When I pulled this out of the oven, the ginger was so fragrant, I could smell it more than anything else in the kitchen and it looked great.
With 20 minutes left on the clock, I start plating up by putting my rice and peas in a measuring cup, packing it down and gently putting it on the plate to retain the shape of the cup. I sliced my chicken breast and layed it in a line accross the plate, on top of the rice as well, then spooned the coconut milk sauce on the side and garnished with fresh rosemary. Some of the students presented their dish early and got scored already, and next it was my turn to present while my food was still hot.
Walking this dish to the instructor with high hopes that I would get the highest grade was a little nerve racking, especially since my chicken was taken. Now as I sit across from the instructor she tries the rice first, then the chicken and sauce together and nods up and down as she chews. She says that the dish tasted great, the sauce was a good compliment for the chicken and was a smart move, BUT the flavor of the chicken didn’t really match (super spicy). I bet someone just threw salt, pepper and cayenne pepper on it and called it a day. anyways I told her that there was a mix up in the fridge, but at the end of the day I only received an 88 for the final. I told myself I was not going to let that happen again on my next practical final, this test definitely gave me some experience that will help my intuition if that were to happen again. The main lesson I learned from this, label your food!
I hope you all enjoyed reading this story if mine, and look forward to my new recipes and blogs coming out weekly.
Please leave a like, comment and share.
Have a blessed day.