Monday, May 30, 2011

Another banquet

On Saturday, we had to make appetizers for a party that the school was having on Sunday.  The school has two locations - one is mainly professional classes (like I'm taking) and the other, the original location, holds mostly recreational classes.  The original location is in an old house-type building and has been under renovation for the past year (it needed it).  They finally opened and wanted to have a grand re-opening party.  So, we made appetizers for them to serve at the open house the next day.

My table made grilled zucchini roulades with goat cheese topped with a balsamic reduction.  A bit of work, but very tasty.

Things made by the other tables included asparagus wrapped in prosciutto, shrimp cocktail and deviled eggs topped with Bombay chicken curry (these were really good!).


The reason we have them plated for service is we were supposed to serve about 30 prospective students that Saturday.  They were coming in for an open house to learn more about the professional programs.  Only about 4 people showed up, so we had a feast after they left.  

Coming up?  Rabbit!

Sunday, May 29, 2011

A few fish dishes

Hello!  As always, I've been missing in action.  I was going to do a summary of the past few weeks, but we've done some interesting things, so I'll divide the posts up, so you don't get bored reading everything at once.

I'll start with the few days after I left off - which was May 18, I think.
That evening we start off making chocolate truffles.  These are incredibly easy to make - 2 ingredients:  heavy cream and chocolate.  You melt the chocolate with the cream and then chill until you can scoop it and then roll it in cocoa powder, coconut, nuts, whatever you want.  I'm not sure what happened to mine, but they never set up, just big blobs of chocolate.  I've made them before and they are always fine.  The weird thing is I make things at school and can't do it, but I make them at home and they turn out great!  I guess it's the pressure of school (or lack thereof at home) that screws things up.  Anyway, my table mate's turned out good, so this is what they should look like

That night, we also made gumbo - chicken, shrimp, okra, the whole nine yards.  Along with the gumbo we made "dirty rice".  This is similar to the rice pilaf that we make (a lot), but the dirty rice also has chicken livers in.  I tried it and really, really did not like it.  You know me, I'll eat most anything, but I couldn't get around that texture.  

The next night, we did a warm calamari salad.  We roasted red peppers, sauteed the calamari and made a vinaigrette to put over the top.  It's a warm salad.  It was ok - not sure I'd order it, but if you like calamari, you'd enjoy this salad.  The problem with sauteeing calamari is that it can become rubbery very quickly, so you need to watch it carefully.  It's a pretty salad, though, with lots of color in it (which you can't tell from the picture)

Along with the calamari salad, we made potato crusted salmon.  You take salmon filets, wrap them in thinly sliced potatoes and sear them until the crust is brown.  It's quite a bit of work, but really, really tasty.  Underneath is a beurre rouge sauce - butter and red wine reduced down.  We also did braised leeks to lay the fish on - we've made those several times and I love them.  This was a really nice dish, but would be an expensive one in a restaurant because of the effort.

More to come soon - hope you are having an exceptional weekend!

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Fish and Pork & Beans

Sorry I'm behind again!  I'm going to combine the rest of last week's classes, so then I should be almost caught up.

On Thursday, we had our pork butchering demonstration - the chef had a full pork loin which he then butchered down into roasts, medallions, etc.  Luckily, we don't need to learn the muscles, joints, etc. on the animals - we just need to know the primal cuts and where they come from.  Science has not really ever been my thing, especially anatomy, so if we had to learn all of the muscles and stuff, I would fail out quickly.

After the demo, we set about cooking, but not the pork.  We did fish instead because it's quicker.  We started out with fried eggplant - pretty standard, eggplant, breaded and then pan fried until golden.  I liked it much better than I thought I would.

We then deboned some rockfish and put it in parchment paper along with olive oil, caramelized onions, zucchini and fennel.  The parchment is then sealed around the fish, creating a pocket.  Put in the oven, where it steams the fish.  Once it came out, we made a sauce of tomatoes, black olives, olive oil, saffron and basil, which was served over the fish.  I'm not a big fan of olives or chunk tomatoes, like that, but it had good flavor - very Mediterranean.

Sorry for the picture - I forgot to take it until I was halfway through eating.

On Saturday, we started out making baguettes again - this time we added sourdough starter for some flavor.  I have trouble rolling out my baguettes - they taste ok, but they are ugly.  Also, because I tend to roll so much, they don't rise quite as much.  Practice needed.

We then did one of my favorite desserts - carrot cake.  It was a pretty traditional cake - carrot cake with cream cheese frosting.  We added walnuts to the cake, which I happen to like.  I like that bit of crunch in the cake.  When my table made ours, we added a little too much shredded carrot to our cake, so we called it "healthy".  It was really tasty.  We added a small can of crushed pineapple to the recipe, which made it very moist.

We then used our pork from Thursday night to make pork and beans - yep, you read that right.  However, these weren't just any pork and beans - the pork was seared (with bacon, I might add) and then we made a braise.  While the pork was braising for a few hours, we cooked our beans with some flavor.  The beans had soaked for 2 days before we started cooking them.  When the pork was tender, we combined the pork and the beans for a stew.  It was delicious! (again, ate before taking pictures).

Finally, to go with our pork and beans, we made cornbread - southern cornbread with sugar.  Ours came out really well, which we then topped with butter while warm.  Delicious!  I would definitely make pork and beans and cornbread for guests!

Saturday, May 14, 2011


Hi Family and Friends - I didn't think I was so far behind in my posts, but I am, so I'll probably do a few posts to catch you up on this week.

I posted what we did on Monday (fish fingers - still yummy).  Wednesday started out with us making dessert.  We do dessert first a lot of times because (1) you can hold it (usually) and (2) you could need time to let it set up.  This was the case with the panna cotta we made.  If you've never had panna cotta, think of milky jello.  I know, sounds gross, and I didn't really care for it, but a lot of people in my class liked it.  You do add gelatin to help it set.  We infused ours with orange zest.  It wasn't bad, but I'm glad to see there are some desserts that I can just pass on.  With my sweet tooth, that's not easy to find!

I think I mentioned the edible tulip cups that we made the other day for our chocolate mousse to sit in.  The little thing on top of these are almond tuiles.  Same concept - it's really just an almond cookie that's shaped after it comes out of the oven.  

With dessert, we did one of my favorite dishes - ravioli!  We just did a ricotta one tonight - made the pasta and shaped it and then filled with a ricotta/parmesan/basil filling.  My only problem was that my pasta dough was pretty sticky, so when we tried to pull it out of the ravioli plates, it stuck.  We got enough usable ravioli at our table, though.  We topped it with a brown butter and tomato cream sauce, which was outstanding.  I was planning on making it again tonight, but I'm too full from today's meal to think about eating anything else.

Finally, we did gazpacho - cold soup with tomato, cucumber, cilantro, peppers, onions, tabasco - pretty standard.  We topped it with some brioche croutons.  Cold soup is not my thing, but it was tasty - would be a good summer starter, in just small amounts.  

Tomorrow, I'm teaching a kids cooking class for a birthday party.  There will be seven 11-year olds there.  Wish me luck!  We are doing chicken bobs (ground chicken meatballs, rolled in potato chips on a stick - Molly?), lasagna roll ups and chocolate dipped treats.  We are dipping, pretzels, oreos, marshmallows, graham crackers and rice krispie treats (only because I want to make RK treats).

Have a great weekend, everyone!  I'll try to update again tomorrow.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Fish Fingers (or Goujonettes if you want to be fancy)

Last night we made another French classic:  fish and chips.

The fish was cod, which we sliced into "fingers".  It was then just seasoned, breaded and deep fried.  Along with the fish, we made pommes frites (French fries).  We've done pommes frites before, but as far as I'm concerned, we could do them every night!  They are so good.  Here's a little tip that my tablemate of the week told me (and we did it last night):  when you salt your fries, add a pinch of sugar to the salt.  Brings out the saltiness and gives them a little something.  Think kettle corn.

Along with the deep fried items, we also made corn fritters.  These are pretty much corn pancakes, made with cornmeal, flour, corn, jalepenos and scallions.  Ours ended up being pretty dense, we added too much flour to them.  They are tasty, though, when done right.  These weren't deep fried, just pan-fried in oil.  The sauce on the side is remoulade sauce - mayo (that we made) with pickles, capers, shallots, lemon, tarragon, chives and parsley.

Because we needed something sweet after that, we made raisin cookies with two different glazes.  Standard cookies and half were topped with apricot glaze and half were topped with a rum glaze.  I think I was a little heavy handed on the rum, but they were tasty.

Sorry, I forgot to take a picture of the cookies.  I actually forgot to take a picture when we plated, so I recreated with our leftovers.  Good thing I hadn't eaten all my pommes frites before I took the picture!

Can't remember what we're doing tomorrow night, but Thursday, we're watching the butchering of a pig (or at least half a pig).  I see bacon in my future.


Later last week we "studied" veal.  The head chef of the school came in on Thursday with part of a veal (it weighed about 55 pounds) and showed us how to butcher it.  Apparently butchering is becoming a lost art - there are not many true butchers around anymore.  Do you have a butcher near you?  I don't know of one, but would like to research that and find a good one.  We use a lot (and I mean a lot) of veal stock at school and veal bones are the only way to make good veal stock.  You almost have to go to a farm to get them.

Anyway, onto what we cooked...  After watching the butcher demo, we took the top round of the veal and sliced it into thin slices, called scallopini.  We pounded the slices out (looks bigger and you get more even cooking because it's pounded to an even size all around) and then breaded and pan fried them.  On top is a brown butter sage sauce.

To the side are glazed carrots.  The last time we made glazed carrots, we had to tournee them (the 7-sided cuts).  You know how much I love doing that, so I was not feeling the love on the carrots.  He surprises us with cutting them in "oblique" cuts - basically just on the diagonal.  Yay!  Much easier. 

Also to the side are Pommes Anna.  I've always seen Pommes Anna where the thinly-sliced potatoes are shaped in a dome-like shape.  These were different - just shaped in a ring and then pan fried to crispy.  Came out tasting like potato chips.  They were good, how can you go wrong with homemade potato chips?  They were not what I'd expect with veal scallopini, though.

On Saturday, we used the bottom round of the veal (it's tougher cut of meat) and made braised veal.  This is done much the same way as boeuf bourginon or coq au vin.  We are starting to see commonalities among the dishes - the techniques are the same, just subbing different ingredients.  Light bulb!!  The veal was good, but there was an addition of orange zest in the sauce, which not many in my class liked.  It was subtle, but not subtle enough.  We made our infamous rice pilaf to go alongside.

Also on Saturday, we made baguettes.  We started out making them in the Kitchen Aids, but chef nixed that - all done by hand.  It wasn't too bad.  Mine was a little denser than I liked, but it was good to soak up the sauce in the veal.  I really like making bread, so I need to practice this more.  Anyone need a baguette?  Each recipe makes about 3 loaves, even I can't eat that much.

Also on Saturday, we revisited chocolate mousse.  Actually, we didn't revisit, it was a completely new recipe.  Our last recipe had us whipping egg whites and then folding them into the chocolate batter.  This one used all of the egg and was very dense and rich.  We also used a pretty high cocoa content in the chocolate, so it was somewhat bitter (the higher the cocoa percentage, the more bitter the chocolate - 60% is a good bittersweet).  We piped the mousse into edible tulip cups that we made.  Make the batter, form it in a template, bake it and when it comes out of the oven, you immediately put it over a champagne flute to form it.  Fun!  They are thin and fragile to work with, but a very fun idea.  That's raspberry coulis underneath.

Up next - fish and chips (another classic French dish :))

Monday, May 9, 2011

Last week

Sorry for being MIA last week - whew, it was a busy week and I had no time to upload pictures or post anything.  5 weeks left in Phase 1 and then a week long break.  I can't wait!  I'm enjoying my time, but not having any downtime is wearing on me.

On Monday we made potato gnocchi.  If you've never had gnocchi, it's basically pasta, but made with potatoes instead of flour.  Blah!  Would much prefer pasta to gnocchi, although ours was a bit starchy, which may have had something to do with why I didn't like it.  It's fun to make, though and I may try it again.  We made a tomato sauce with fennel to go along with it.  It was made with both fennel and toasted fennel seeds.  Different - a bit of anise flavor to go with it.  Of course, we added a splash of Pernod to the sauce to round it out (Pernod is anise flavored liquor).  We also made a quick salad of frisee (bitter), with roasted red peppers and a vinaigrette.  The frisee was too bitter for me, but I ate the peppers.  For dessert, we made jam cookies - sandwich cookies with jam (or chocolate ganache) inside.  The top of the cookie is cut out, so you can see what's in the middle.  Sorry, I forgot to take pictures that night.

On Wednesday, we had a guest speaker, so we had a relatively easy night.  Our guest speaker was the woman from the school who does the placement for the externships.  Nothing really new, just to start to get us thinking about where we'd like to extern.  I still have no idea.  As scared as I am of working in a restaurant, I think it'll be the best training.  Hotel is another option, but could be overnight hours.  At any place, I think it'll be a lot of hours for very little pay.  Really scary to think about.

Anyway, that night we did a whole roasted chicken.  We stuffed the chicken with vegetables and lemon wedges, salt and pepper.  We then browned the whole outside in a skillet before putting it in the oven to finish cooking.  After butchering the chicken, we put the carcass and vegetables back in the skillet with some chicken stock for an au jus.

With the chicken we did mashed potatoes made with garlic confit.  The raw garlic is covered with oil and put in the oven until tender.  You can then use the garlic-infused oil or the garlic cloves.  We used the oil, which was ok, but I'd prefer using butter instead.  The flavor seemed a little funky.

We also did asparagus - nothing big - cooked, shocked then sauteed with salt and pepper.

I'm doing a separate post for Thursday and Saturday - veal days. 

Have a good week, everyone!