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Don't Burn the Bechamel

Shoot Date: December 2014

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Class starts at 9. The menu for the day was Ham and Mushroom Fettuccini Alfredo, with Tomato Bruschetta.

Chef Robert guides the class through the first steps of the recipe, how to create the base of an Alfredo sauce, a béchamel. As the class watches, he brings out two large, deep sauce pans to start the sauce. He rhymes out the ingredients... flour, butter, milk, bay leaf, onion, clove, salt, pepper and nutmeg. He starts by melting the butter, then pouring in equal parts flour to make something called a roux. Stirring vigorously, he mixes the two ingredients together into a paste. He warns the students that it is important to stir often because the butter and flour will stick to the pan and burn. After the ingredients start to brown, he slowly pours in the milk, continually stirring. He uses his warning voice again, "It is important to pour the milk slowly to avoid lumps forming." The students took turns stirring the sauce ensuring that it would not burn while on their watch.

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After the milk is mixed in, Chef Robert demonstrates how to add the other ingredients as the students continually stir the sauce. It slowly starts to thicken. He allows the mixture to come to a boil and then reduces it to a simmer. The students prepare the other ingredients to add to the sauce, which would turn it into the ham and mushroom Alfredo sauce. Students chop up onions, garlic, mushrooms, and ham. The students seem happy and excited, but maybe because it was the last class until the New Year, more than learning to make the béchamel. They were excited for Christmas; it came through in their interviews. They also spoke about their lives, hobbies, families, placements and what they wanted to do after graduation.

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Chef Robert started up a second pan for the other ingredients. He heated up some olive oil and later added in the onions, garlic and mushrooms that the students had chopped. The students were instructed to watch the pan until the ingredients started to sweat. When the students called it, the chef poured in some white wine and had the students stir the ingredients until the liquid reduced by half. These ingredients were then added to the béchamel sauce, along with the ham and grated parmesan cheese. The pasta that had been boiling in a much larger pot, was drained and folded into the sauce and served.

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The students were also preparing the bruschetta mix. They were instructed to slice their baguette to be toasted. Everyone worked hard to master the art. Careful attention was placed on the basil so as to bruise it, as it turns black. The lesson was how to make a chiffonade of basil. Students were asked to stack, roll and slice the basil. They carefully stacked the leaves on top of each other and gently rolled them into a cigar using a sharp knife to then slice them into thin ribbons. "Basil bruises very easily," the Chef's voice echoes through the kitchen, "If your knife is dull, you will bruise the basil leaves and crush the edges. It's hard to make ribbons of a chiffonade without a very sharp knife. So for beautiful, bright green ribbons of basil on your plate, definitely make sure your knife is sharp."

A partnership project between
Humber School of Social & Community Services and Humber School of Hospitality, Recreation & Tourism and Christian Horizons.