Becoming a Jedi Kitchen Apprentice
by SuSu, Mace Vindaloo, Rosie
Menu: Roasted Turkey: Boned, Brined, and Rolled Around Dried Mushroom Stuffing | Sesame Chicken | Artichokes Stuffed with Tomato Concasse and Panko | Stuffed Criminis | Dilled Cabbage and Noodles | Two-Heat Fish | Elegant Sliced Fruit with Lemon Vanilla Syrup
There was no real course of study for a Padawan to be considered a Jedi. The only official line was that a Padawan needed to be selected for Apprenticeship by the time he or she was 13; after that, the candidate would be assigned other work, either inside or outside the Jedi Temple. Once selected, the Padawan studied for as long -- or as short -- with his of her Master until the Council deemed them ready to become Jedi Knights. One they became Knights, the Jedi would fall under the jurisdiction of the Jedi Council. Some would be sent immediately on assignments, either alone or as part of a group, some might undergo further training in specific fields as dictated by the Force. There was no calendar for when these new assignments would start.
However, for the ones not chosen, what to do with them? The Jedi Council would decide, of course. In the set piece Fateful Deliberations at Dex's Diner, four Council members discussed the fates of those not slated to become Jedi Knights. Sadly, they were determining the futures of those who had failed not only to become Apprentices, but also failed to place in an invisible competition engineered by Tenzo Tendo, the Jedi Master who headed the kitchens at the Temple (and who once had to relearn how to feed younglings). Those not likely to be chosen would be observed closely during KP duty; those who satisfied Tenzo would be offered positions as kitchen apprentices; an added benefit -- none knew they had been passed over for "normal" training, and it was considered an honor to be considered.
This was not a mercy offering; graduates of this Jedi Temple cooking program were in high demand as chefs in "real world" restaurants after their years under Tenzo Tendo's guidance. Of course, only those with Jedi talent could attend; the regular population had to make due with normal cooking schools. Though the Temple inmates often complained about some of the "mystery foods" offerings, the "cooking school" was considered one of the best in the galaxy.
So how did they pass muster? Over the years, Tenzo showed all of them how to make certain foods -- technique and following instructions were more important than creativity here -- and secretly graded the best of them. True, life in Tenzo's kitchem might not be what the Padawans craved, but it was their destiny!
Roasted Turkey: Boned, Brined, and Rolled Around Dried Mushroom Stuffing
This recipe is not complex -- assuming you've see it done, and that you'd paid close attention to the details. Tenzo Tendo showed Padawans how to bone out a whole turkey, cut out the tendons, as well as how to prepare the stock and the brine. He then gave them instructions on how to prepare the stuffing -- again, simple, but many steps, none of which could be out of step. If you forgot something, or added things in the wrong sequence, you had to start over again. The Padawans who forgot to take notes had to concentrate rather hard to remember it all!
To make things simpler, have a clean, dry kitchen towel on the work surface, to help the turkey stay put. Put the turkey breast-down on the work surface. Using the shears or the sharp, heavy knife, cut through the ribs -- right through the skin and meat -- adjacent to the thick spine. (Be sure to save all trimmings and bones, skin, etc. for stock! Stock is essential for great soups and sauces.)
Starting on one side of the opened ribcage and using the boning knife, separate the meat from the bones by scraping the meat off the bones till it is "peeled" off the ribs of the carcass in one "sheet." When you get to the wings, sever the ball joint so it is separated from the ribs. Keep them connected to the ever-increasing sheet of flesh. Keep scraping and cutting (you cut into along the bones, don't cut into the meat itself); you'll eventually cut the breast meat off the ribs, down to the keel bone, which is the big, platy bone that separates the two breast lobes. Do not cut it all the way off! Repeat the meat peeling off the other side of the turkey. Gently scrape against the bone to separate the thin piece of flesh over the ridge of the keel bone. Don't puncture the skin there. Cut out the wishbone.
Now the meat is off the upper half of the carcass, but still connected to the legs. Open out the legs skin-side down, and feel for the thigh bone through the flesh. There is actually a separation between muscle groups that will guide you; cut through and scrape along the bone to expose it, then cut through ball joints to free the bone. Continue cutting down the leg to free the drumstick meat from the bone -- you'll need to manipulate around the "knee" joint. Don't worry about the tendons at this point. On the other end of the thigh, continue scraping against the bone to free the meat off the hip bones. Repeat on the other thigh.
Now the whole turkey should be free. Cut the wing tip and second joint off the "drum" part of the wing. Then take your sharp, thin knife blade and fillet out the bone. Trim out cartilage bits off the meat. On the legs, trim and scrape off the tough tendons -- remember the knife should scrape againt bone or tendon, not against the flesh. Save this all for stock.
Place the meat into the brine, making sure it's completely submerged. Cover and leave in a cool place for 4 to 6 hours.
Lay down a kitchen towel, then place the meat skin side down, dark meat toward you over that. Butterfly the breastmeat so you can fold it out to completely cover the available skin. You want to make the meat as even and as rectangularly shaped as possible. You can pound the meat down lightly with a meat mallet, but be careful not to tear the meat or the skin.
Slather the meat's surface with a thin layer of mustard. Place the stuffing in a line about 2-inches from the edge. Using the kitchen towel to help you, roll the meat over the stuffing. Keep rolling like a big sushi roll. Use the skewers or picks to secure the skin so the roll holds shut. Tie butcher string around the roll every two inches or so, to hold its shape, but not too tight. The stuffing will expand -- you don't want it to burst. If desired, take a longer length of string to tie the roast the long way as well, weaving over and under the cross-wise lengths of string already tying the roast.
Rub oil over the whole surface of the roast, and place on a baking dish. Place in the oven and roast for about 2 hours, or till a meat thermometer reads 160°F / 70°C. Leave to rest outside the over, tented over with foil to keep warm for 15 minutes before cutting into slices to serve. Serves 10 to 12, depending on how many side dishes you have and how much gravy or sauce.
Though the Jedi generally try to eschew meat, the reality is that beings throughout the galaxy do eat meat, in all its various and sundry forms. In addition, if Jedi on missions were offered meat, they did not refuse it. To do so might have been insulting to their hosts, and who knew when and where their next meal might come? So they learned how to prepare meat and enjoy it, rather than be creeped out by it. Most importantly, they learned to respect it and not ever waste any part of it -- killing a creature for food demanded the ultimate respect for that creature. That included using "undesirable" cuts, or tough pieces of meat, and preparing them so they could be presented to the snobbiest of customers and guests. This dish uses "dark" meat, often maligned as less refined and "too strong" for delicate palates. It's marinated, then breaded and pan fried to a crisp finish with a coating of sesame seeds. Served on a bed of tender baby salad greens, it's an elegant lunch; served between slices of bread, it's a fantastic sandwich. Make too many, these are great as leftovers.
In a pie plate or shallow bowl, mix together sesame seeds and the flour. Roll each chicken strip in this mixture. Melt a stick of butter in a skillet with ¼ cup vegetable oil. Sauté the chicken in the fat until golden, about 2 minutes per side, each piece.
Artichokes Stuffed with Tomato Concasse and Panko
Even in the GFFA, the artichoke -- a member of the thistle family -- is considered an odd and exotic vegetable. For one, you eat the flower, which has thorns on the tips of its many petals, as well as in the heart of the bud. If you cut it, it goes black on exposure to air, like a potato or an apple. So how to prepare it and treat it along the way is very important. Padawans who don't pay attention fail at most often at preparation of the artichoke. Worse, it's not always apparent that you'd forgotten a step until the guest sits down to eat it -- and chokes on the ill-prepared dish! It's a brutal lesson.
In a skillet, heat the olive oil, and gently cook the shallots and garlic till tender, but without color. Add the tomatoes and herbs, and cook till quite dry. Season to taste with salt and pepper and set aside.
Place the artichokes and stems in a non-reactive pot (stainless steel or ceramic finish), squeeze the lemons over them and put the skins in the pot, too. Add salt, then cover with water and bring to a simmer. Put a plate over the artichokes to keep them submerged, and simmer for 30 minutes. When tender, drain upside down till cooled.
Heat the oven to 375°C / 175°C. Cut the artichokes in half. You will see the downy looking "choke" -- use a teaspoon or grapefruit spoon to remove all of it, but be sure to leave the tender leaves and base as intact as possible. In this cavity, stuff with the Tomato Concasse, the top with the panko breadcrumbs. Place on a baking tray and put into the oven and cook about 15 minutes, or till the crumbs are browned and the filling is hot. Don't overcook, or the artichokes could dry out.
You can also eat the stems -- trim off the thick skin and serve alongside the artichoke flowers. Or use them in artichoke soup.
When serving, be sure to offer a separate plate for the leaves. To eat, pull off the leaves and scraped the meaty base of the leaves between your teeth. The heart and stems can be eaten as they are.
This recipe uses the same stuffing as for the artichoke recipe, and is much simpler to prepare. However, since the "baby portabellas" used here are so small, you need to prepare a lot of them. The repetition gets to many of the Padawans, who find themselves easily distracted and bored by the chores. Others enjoy the work, and find it almost meditative. Those are the ones Tenzo Tendo is looking for to work in his kitchens!
Dilled Cabbage with Noodles
Like the Sesame Chicken, this dish is born from humble ingredients which are normally overlooked by snobs. For one, it's cheap, filling, earthy -- more like comfort food than haute cuisine. The recipe is the same, whether it's peasant or gourmet fare, but how the ingredients are cut is the big difference here. A sloppy Padawan with poor knife skills could never aspire to work in a kitchen where even the side dishes must be beautiful. In any case, a careless Padawan would not be desirable in any Jedi calling; those who failed to make this dish were often deemed hopeless -- the harshest evaluation.
In a large skillet melt the butter, then dump in dill seed, carrots, and brown sugar. Cook till the sugar is melted and the carrots are tender. Dump in the reserved cut cabbage all at once. Cover and let cook till tender, tossing once in a while to encourage even cooking. Season heavily with salt and pepper. When the cabbage is tender, toss with drained noodles or pasta. Taste and re-season if needed. Serves 8 to 10.
Seafish with a higher fat content are a dream-come-true for many chefs -- the flesh of these creatures was often robust enough to treat like a steak, meaning they could take high heat for a crisp finish. They could also be baked without drying out. Tenzo taught the young chef candidates how to make this elegant dish -- one that looked like it was cooked "à la minute" or "to order," one at a time. In truth, it could be half-prepared in advance -- pan-sear the fish, skin-side only -- and finished in the oven while guests eat their appetizers. A baking pan is lined with herbs, and the half-pancooked fish placed on this bed. The still-hot pan could be used to cook the aromatics for the vegetables toppings. On order, the toppings were piled onto the fish, and the whole tray placed in a hot oven for 15 minutes. But, like anything else, if you didn't pay attention to the Master and his strict instructions for timings, you'd screw up ALL the servings. A lot of the Padawans did screw up, not realizing how short a time 15 minutes really is! (Use a kitchen timer, it's much safer than trusting your instincts ... and fish should never, ever be overcooked!)
Elegant Cut Fruit with Lemon Vanilla Syrup
Pastries can be beautiful and the gourmet set love them -- a big finish to an elegant dinner. But the rich and the powerful often have illnesses and syndromes thanks to their gluttony, and though their eyes may crave a rich dessert, Tenzo knew that their mouths and bodies appreciated a simple piece of fruit instead. But presenting fruit unadorned seemed so austere ... many begged him, at least put it in a tarte shell with a shiny glaze? Tenzo taught his Padawans that the most beautiful presentation of fruit was on it's own, and perceiving this beauty depends on the level of enlightment of the diner. Others required the simple ingredients be prepared to sate their desire for excess. When such was the case, fruit could be cut and presented artfully, and dressed in a light infused syrup, instead of being manipulated in a pastry. A tasty, fresh presentation could actually fool diners into believing these were exotic and expensive! But attention to detail and flavorings are tatamount here -- the less you do to an ingredient, the finer it has to be. The Padawans learned to recognize and respect perfection with this treatment of simple fruit.
These are guidelines for cutting specific fruits. You will notice that the techniques can be applied to any similar fruit. Be sure to wash and dry/drain the fruit before cutting, and it should be cut as close to serving time as possible. Like other living beings, once the skin is peeled off or the fruit is cut -- exposing it's innards -- it will start to die.
* select a large platter and make mounds of fruit, without mixing them together (as with a conventional fruit salad). Put out bowls of toasted nuts or coconut or granola and let people take the fruit they want, and sprinkle over with crunchy condiments.
* on each individual plate, artfully arrange different fruits and drizzle with syrup.
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