Stage Fright

For the past couple of weeks, I’ve thought a lot about my course load for the fall 2010 term. Against my better judgment, and the advice of my advisor, I initially enrolled to take 21 credits worth of classes. I had hoped to pack on the credits so that I could graduate next December, but I had no way of knowing at the time of class registration that my unemployment benefits would be ending.

Unfortunately, that is exactly what happened 3 weeks ago. Unless the Wisconsin unemployment rate jumps up above 10% again (Lord, please do NOT let that happen again!), there’s no chance of my benefits being reinstated. What does that mean? I’m flat busted broke. I’ll be living off of my financial aid disbursement when it arrives in mid-September. So, I’ve come to my senses and reduced my course load to 16 credits so that I can simultaneously tackle my school work AND a part-time job without losing my sanity. Plenty of others have paddled through similar waters, so I’m confident that I will manage to do so as well. I’m just going to make darned sure that I have one hefty oar so that it is less likely to break on me in the middle of rough waters. How will I do that? By making sure that I get enough sleep, eat well, and trust in God to see me through this rather than relying solely on my own ego-ridden self to do so!

Anyway, the point of this post was not to rag on about my unemployment status. I was actually thinking about how NERVOUS I am about being a student this term. Here’s why:

I was sitting in the commons a few days ago. As I peered through the cafeteria and into the kitchen, I saw a group of bright-eyed, bushy tailed incoming culinary arts students. Dressed in their crisp white kitchen coats, ugly as sin hounds tooth pants (eww!) and shiny black kitchen shoes, they were attending the culinary “boot camp”. It’s a required 4 hour orientation and tour of the FVTC culinary department for all new culinary arts students. The culinary instructors were all on hand to explain their rules, regulations, and expectations. As I watched, I realized that I’m no longer the “new kid on the block”. I’m embarking on my fourth term as a culinary student. That means there are higher performance expectations for me to deal with. No longer will I be permitted to get away with mistaking a teaspoon for a tablespoon. Heaven help me if I don’t know exactly how many ounces are in a gallon (for the record, that’s 128… THANK YOU for the instruction, Chef Jeff!), and I’ll be expected to know how to make a hollandaise sauce without it “breaking” (executing a perfect hollandaise sauce is actually part of the final exam for one of the courses). Frankly, I’ve now got a bit of “stage fright”! I think I will go re-read about the science of emulsions now and then FACE MY FEARS head on!

Before I head off, I’ll leave you with a recipe for eggs Benedict…perhaps you’d like to fear the emulsion with me.

Eggs Benedict (serves 4)

2 English muffins, halved horizontally
4 slices baked ham or Canadian bacon
4 whole eggs for poaching
2 tablespoons distilled white vinegar
2 teaspoons coarse salt (sea salt is wonderful in this recipe!)
Hollandaise Sauce (see recipe below)
Fresh parsley or chives, for garnish

Toast English muffin slices until golden brown and spread with 1 teaspoon butter. In a large frying pan, cook ham or Canadian bacon slices until lightly browned and place them on each English muffin half.

Use a pan that is at least 3-inches deep so there is enough water to cover the eggs and they do not stick to the bottom of the pan. NOTE: To prevent sticking, grease the pan with a little oil before filling with water. Add vinegar and salt to the poaching liquid; bring the poaching liquid to a boil and then reduce to a simmer before adding the eggs (bubbles should not break the surface). HINT: When you poach eggs, adding a little vinegar and salt to the water will help the egg to hold its shape. Without it, the eggs will become skeins of protein tangling up in the water.

Break each egg onto a saucer or into small cups or bowls. Slip eggs carefully into simmering water by lowering the lip of each egg-cup 1/2-inch below the surface of the water. Let the eggs flow out. Immediately cover with a lid and turn off the heat. Set a timer for exactly three minutes for medium-firm yolks. Adjust the time up or down for runnier or firmer yolks. Cook 3 to 5 minutes, depending on firmness desired.

Remove from water with slotted spoon. Lift each poached egg from the water with a slotted spoon, but hold it over the skillet briefly to let any water clinging to the egg drain off. Drain well before serving. Top each English muffin half with one poached egg.  Spoon warm Hollandaise Sauce over eggs and garnish with a small parsley sprig or chopped chives.

Hollandaise Sauce

3 egg yolks
1 tablespoon freshly-squeezed lemon juice
1/4 pound (1/2 cup) unsalted butter, cut into pieces
1/2 cup white wine
1 tablespoon white vinegar
Salt and pepper, to taste

NOTE: If you use salted butter, delete the salt from the recipe.

Stir egg yolks and lemon juice vigorously in medium saucepan over very low heat.  Add butter and white wine and stir constantly with whisk, until melted.  Add white vinegar, salt, and pepper and continue vigorous stirring until all butter is melted and sauce is thickened (be sure butter melts slowly so eggs have time to cook and thicken the sauce without curdling). NOTE: If the sauce begins to separate, add 2 teaspoons of water to the sauce mixture and whisk briskly until the mixture has combined together to form a creamy sauce.

Keep warm until ready to serve. HINT: I put mine in a small thermos to keep it warm.

Have a wonderful week. I hope to see you back here soon!



3 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Barb Giglio
    Aug 21, 2010 @ 06:32:21

    I love the name, a fox in the kitchen.. and the picture is great. Thanks for sharing the recipe and I will lift you up in prayer this semester. 🙂


  2. Tracy Brown
    Aug 25, 2010 @ 07:46:20

    Oh Becca you rock! (For a lot of reasons, of course…)

    Specifically: Gordon loves Eggs Benedict and I have never made it for him. I’m going to give it a try on Sunday and use your recipe!

    Two, we often eat salmon and make a “Hollandaise Sauce” of sorts… (yes, we use mayo – egads!) I’m going to use your sauce recipe for salmon too. By the way, we put capers in the sauce when we make the salmon. Have you ever tried it?

    One last note: I know you had hoped to beef up on the credits taken this semester… and although I have faith in you to tackle tough stuff and reach your goals, I am glad you are giving yourself breathing room too!

    So happy semestering! You are doing it Becca! 🙂

    Best wishes,


  3. Trackback: First Week Frenzy « A Fox In The Kitchen

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