Cooking Class 18: A taste of the Far and Middle East

I enjoyed this day. In the morning the first thing the Chef told us was that there were only two Tangines. It looks like a fatter Gennie Bottle. The Belly is wider and shorter. He mentioned that there were only two as they break so easily. Other Chefs cooked with it and then they would crack. He said “cracked dish, and wasted food all over the stove.” So he told us to just plate it in there. The catch was, there was only two so my table and I decided to secure it, first thing. We put it in our table cuby. We are like children, we know, but the early bird gets the worm.

Here was the run of the day
Chicken Tangine: if you like chick peas, and I do, this dish is for you. This is for those who like spices and flavors hitting you in the face, ex. cumin, coriander, turmeric, cayenne pepper, ginger, cinnamon sticks, honey, saffron and then the fruits-chopped apricots and chopped prunes. Oh this is so nice in your mouth and you can make it as strong as you like, but try is with the simple doses first. I had fun making this. Then I displayed it in the Tangine and it was beautiful.

The couscous-well that was another story. Remember Mr. R., well it was his deal. He did not season it, nor did he fluff it, :). It was at the end when two of us asked at the same time, what’s up with the Couscous? then we realized that no one was really tending to it. With some quick thinking my partner made some concoction and got it ready. It was good. Mr. R, where is your head these days? Maybe too much time in the kitchen is getting to be too much.

The guy at our table who is Korean made his recipe of Korean Short Ribs. All I know is that I was not really excited. I really did not taste much of the other students ribs either as it was gone in a flash. I was not sure what I was expecting but as a simple meat eater and not a regular restaurant goer, I have little experience, so am not sure what texture and flavor I was to look for. It was okay. I have to try it on my own to really see what it is like.

Next I got to prepare the creature that ends up in some people’s houses. I made Braised Rabbit legs with Red Onion Prosciutto n Broccoli Rabe.
I got to season and sear the rabbit. It looks like chicken and if you don’t tell anyone then there may only be a slight taste and texture difference. I am not saying you should fool someone and deep fry the legs and not say anything. Chef I think made the joke that he believes in honesty but people who like fried foods will like anything fried. Deep Southern Fried Buttermilk anything. I have to admit the rabbit looked nice in the dish when we finally plated it. We put the bones out on one side and then the broccoli rabe on two sides of it. I did not take this dish home.

The Broccoli Rabe was hilarious. My partner was like “throw in the garlic and then the chili flakes right away”. I was not even thinking to flavor the thing. I just wanted to get a good sauteed taste as greens can sometimes be too earthy and bitter-if you like that, fine, but me, not so much. I threw in the garlic and she was like “quick dump the rabe in and fold over so that the garlic does not burn” but rather it cooks on the rabe. At one point she took the thongs and did some folding over herself. It is a bitter vegetable but when paired with the right thing, it works.

The last of the morning run was Turkish Eggplant with Lentils Stew. That was like a ratatouille in texture but filled with chillies, mint leaves, and garlic. I only tasted a little but it reminded me of the lentils I had when I was little. Back then we added some key vegetables and there is a specific taste.

Welcome to the world of STEAMING
In the evening we made the following: Papillote of Salmon, Steamed Striped Bass w Chinese vegetables and sticky rice, and lastly shells fish-Mussels and Clams.
I like doing the cooking I have to admit. I have a good palette so can taste foulness or greatness.
The Papillote was fun-I even passed on the recipe, or tried to at least. It is that puffed effect that Naan, or Jiffy popcorn gets. The steam in the “packet” cooks the salmon. We put thinly sliced veggies on top of tomato sauce, put the salmon on that and then covered the top with cayenne pepper, curry powder, ginger and a few other things. When the packs were opened, the rising steam smelling like warm curry or tomato sauce and was amazing.
The Sticky rice was a hoot. I forgot at one time and was like–we need more water. It is supposed to be kind of wet and not single distinct pieces We used the steam tower for the veggies and fish. The bottom level had water and two baskets were on top for steaming. The fish was marinated with some dried black beans, garlic, ginger, soy sauce and sesame oil. I had help with the de-boning of my fish, as not practicing it makes you unsure and less confident on how to cut it even if you have seen it a few times.

My last task was to make the mussels and clams. I had two pots going as they had much the same process with only a sauce difference. It smelled great but I cannot do the rubber-ness just like calamari.

I must remind you that I did not make all these dishes by myself. I may have done the execution but my team mates prepared all the ingredients, possibly made sauces and toppings, and helped at times in the actual cooking. I just spent the bulk of my time actually cooking.

I only took home my salmon, pieces of fish and some veggies. Shelled items, except scallops, lobster and crabs are not regulars with me.

It was a long intense day as there were so many ingredients. The dishes were interesting and very well flavored. Sometimes I go out to eat at a restaurant and wish to have a stronger dish. Maybe I will be the cook that takes it there.

I am done for now. I felt so incoherent this week, too much to say and not sure how to say it.
Enjoy and send some feedback.

Eat well!

Cooking Class 17: What’s up with Mr. R?

So I had to take the train and I arrived at class early. I had enough time to change and eat my yogurt and still make it on time for class. One of our classmates was late. He came in in such a hissy fit mood and he was so slow and was refusing to really take part. It was the three of us at first. So we divided up the duties and hoped that we could still finish the assignments in time. When he came in, he was unproductive and the other girl at our table was furious, but she hid it well. I was a little take aback because this guy was usually my partner, but today he just held the space. He prepared the Veal Blanquette.

So here was the run down for today.

Whole Fish w Olives (red snapper) n Capers. I volunteered to do this. I like being able to practice taking the fish off the bone. I honestly feel that the more technical things are less coveted as most people may not want to do the tedious work, as in any other profession. I do however like the challenge of taking the meat off and not destroying it in the process. I de-boned the fish and then cut into fillets. After I marinated it with a mixture of minced garlic, lime juice and canola oil. It sat in the fridge for a while. Sadly, we cooked it too late and the bottom of the fish was half cooked. That was a waste of a good fish.

Braised Beef Cheeks –yummy
It smelled so good and was so juicy. I never knew that the other cheeks cooked well. It looked like a meat mess (red and while pieces like it was ripped, and it was like the stuff you could not decipher 😦 fortunately–it just needed to be cleaned up) We seared the cheeks and then using the fond and sauce left over, added a bunch of veggies, and some red wine. We returned the cheeks and then covered with parchment paper and let cook for 3-3.5 hours. It come out so moist. I used thongs to take out of the stew and it was like holding marsh-mellows, almost. It smelled so delicious. (if you want the recipe, send me a comment) Oh I forgot to mention that this it not a quick dinner. It is more like an Easter thing, where you prepare the day before.

Osso Bucco -big meat. It was like over-sized oxtail, really. This came out so good. On the plate it as like GIANT food. I guess we are used to food that just sits flat on the plate. Well like the cheeks, at the end it was not quite falling off the bone but was soft. It would be a good stew on a cold winter’s night. We used veal shanks. We were almost done preparing this and had a few minutes before plating time. We forgot to make the Gremolota. It is a garnish of garlic, lemon rind and Italian parsley. The presentation was a good ridiculous. 3 large bones on a plate with meat, and then sauce, a plain (no veggies in it) sauce surrounded it. I can only imagine how much something like that would go for in a restaurant.

One of my favorite vegetable preparations: Endives
I did not know that I would like endive. I was able to prepare it from beginning to end. I cooked the endives with strips of bacon in a large saute pan. The bacon strips are wrapped around and you try to get it browned. I did not get it BROWN, like cooked bacon, but it was cooked 50% of the way. Then I added chicken stock and put in the oven to braise. After, on goading by my teammate, we browned the endives. We used a salamander-heat formed by long tunnels of flames on the top, -in about 10 minutes that bacon was crisp and the dish was beautiful. I want a salamander. You know when you cook something but it does not quite have a good color but cooking much will over cook it, well this is the solution. When we served it , it was pretty and when we ate it, it was great. I LIKE endives. If you want to complete recipe, comment and ask.

Braised Fennel
I could deal with this but it is too stringy and hard to pull apart. You need to cut with the grain, not against. Your knife will seem ineffectual. Someone else prepared this one. It is pretty as the shape is like a fan but I could do with out. It is prepared much the same way as the Endive, less the bacon.

We had our food for lunch. Good tasting and somewhat good for you. God help the meat eaters.
in the evening we made stick to your bones stuff.

Chicken Stewed in Red wine or as it is formally known–Coq au Vin
I always get to prepare the chickens. This preparation has pearl onions, and mushrooms. I seared the chicken-60% cooking it I think. The chicken was cooked in the bacon fat. Then after removing the chicken we had to flambe–why why why. That means, dip the pot into the flame and then have it catch on fire and it releases all the crap from pan. It was then cooked in about 32fl oz of wine (only a little is left after cooking) and then we plated it with the mushrooms and onions. It was a beautiful stew. I like the taste but I think a more flavorful wine would have made the difference. -my opinion.

Next was Veal Blanquette
I watched it get made. It was a long process, I guess similar to mine but all the items had to be prepared separately. So help you if you only have a tiny stove with 2 burners. One burner has the veal boiling, 2 frying pans had the pearl onions and the mushrooms steaming. In order for the sauce to be white, no browning could occur so all non-browning techniques had to be used.

Provencale Lamb Stew (Ragout de’Agneau) Provencal
This was excellent–almost beefy. Our teacher changed the run of the recipe. He should have just handed out his own. He changed the oil, amount of garlic, type of wine, and we added a thickener. This was a fairly simple dish and my partner prepared it. This tasted so good. I felt like it was a delicate dance in my mouth.

The last and most veggie friendly dish was RATATOUILLE–yes I have the recipe. A while back my bf and I ate a Belgian restaurant and he had it. It was tomato heavy and almost had no other taste. I could not even tell what other veggies were in it. Also I had not eaten zucchini, eggplant and squash in great amounts to even know what they really tasted like. In this recipe-you tasted all the wholesome goodness and it was a pretty color. Yellow food is a rare thing–unless you are counting yellow skittles, yellow Easter fare. 🙂 Maybe you have more yellow than me–not to be confused with a light BROWN, which is the color of all friend foods.
Here are the ingredients: yellow squash, zucchini, red pepper, green pepper, eggplant, onions, shallots, tomatoes mashed up, and some basil to top of at end. It is basically a one pot deal. Onions are browned first and then all the veggies are added and simmered till tender. It is not runny either. It is a great veggies dish and a great way to color up a presentation. TRY IT AND LET ME KNOW!

Man I brought home a little of everything. At the beginning of class the teacher said that this would be stick to your bones food.– Home cooking that was satisfying. I was afraid to eat a lot during the middle of the day as I get the ITIS pretty bad. So I ate and chased it with some coffee, more like a latte. That carried me through the evening.

Remember, if you want a further explanation or a recipe, let me know. I can scan it for you or type it up.

So eat well, enjoy life.
Ciao

Cooking Class 16: Team Leader, take two: Oysters n Fish

Team leader again. Chef mentioned it right before class ended. Yay, two days of this. So the mission, survive the day.The day before chef had mentioned that I had to be in class 15 minutes before 9 so that I could help set up. So I just made it but the room was already set up–I would have to be there at 8:30 to actually help. I had just raced from the library typing my “why I am incompetent” essay. I had written it on the train. Today I took the train as my bf was sleeping late and I could not be late for class, plus I wanted to study a little bit more. I even took a cab so that I could cut a few10 minutes.

So we took the quiz. It took me a half an hour. It was just a writing frenzy. I think I did okay. It was after that, that we got the game plan for the morning. We had to make little hens, roast some veggies and make pork logs.

The skin of the birds were filled with truffle butter-that is some expensive stuff. I got it all over my hand-my hand was worth a couple hundred dollars at that moment. The hens we put in the convection oven and we kept basting it with olive oil, using this loud timer. (similar to when your alarm goes off and you are so tired and the alarm seems to be much louder than normal) The veggies, I did not have the pleasure of preparing. In the end they are not as soft at the other teams. I usually look at and listen to the other teams when they are examining the cooked product. I admit, sometimes I look over and remember what I have to do that. There is usually so much going on and as team leader you always want to know where things are. Chef can ask at any moment and you have to have a sensible answer.

In the evening we did chicken with mushrooms. We used cremini mushrooms, oyster and shiitake mushrooms. I had heard about shiitake ‘shrooms’ but not oyster and cremini. We cut the oyster mushrooms off of a large husk, you can say. Check out the picture. We also did lamb shanks. Those things were ginormous. We put three on a plate and it looked like Viking fare. 🙂 The red cabbage was interesting. I am not a cabbage fan as I have always only have the white version and it was not flavored to my liking. This one had tiny bacon lardons, apple and some jelly. I liked it so much that I even ate it cold when I got home. Only a few things are good cold.

The fun came with the monk fish. As with all of our cooking, it is not adhoc at all. It begins with a loose mapping of a project, with the goal being the production of these dishes. There is no order to which recipe you do first, sometimes, but there is a preference. You usually however try to make the one that takes the longest cooking time–not preparation time. There are some sauces that call for 15 ingredients but really it is just running around getting seasoning. This tasks can be split amongst 2 people and done in a short time but you cannot make meat cook faster than it normally takes. With that said, I have to retract all that. One of the guys on our team, spent almost an hour preparing a fish and then another hour cooking it. It was going right up till the end of our time. I mean that puts us back as a team, but for that person, she/he only gets to concentrate on one task. One thing turns into a large job. As team leader I was not frustrated but concerned as he took all the time to do that and he could have helped us with some of the other preparations.

The monk fish being worked on had to be seared and then a sauced had to be made and then it had to be cooked for a while longer. The sauce made was very “seasony.” I know that no such word exists, but there was a lot of bits and all were fresh ingredients. Who comes up with these concoctions? (if you want the ingredients–write back and leave a comment)

We were trying to get all of our things together as we needed to start plating our items. We got plates and then we lost plates. I think that if you get a plate from the rack, then it is yours. If you see a plate that you did not get yourself–need I say more.

Some days are long, and others are just long and trying. This was the latter of them. The fish was not the first grabbed item as well. I guess no big MONKFISH eaters. By the way, a month or so ago I took a picture of a fish in Whole Foods. It was scary and I could only think of some how accidentally, through my own fault or someone pushing me, that I would end up falling on the face of the fish, eye to eye and with his teeth embedded in my skin. Yeah, that is how graphic it was to me. So after searching for Monkfish online, guess what? I will let you compare pictures. (mine versus theirs)

Next week will be another adventure.
Till then, eat well, and enjoy life. ‘shrooms’ are good. 😉

Coooking Class 15: Braising and Bruising

So like any other day class started. However mandatory team leaders had been chosen. I liked leading others, when I am in the 90% to 100% range in understanding and being able to perform a task with my eyes closed. Well it was my time to shine or crash and burn.

Our class was filled with flare ups, the literal type and the metaphoric type. We had a goal in the morning, to push out grilled salmon, shrimp skewers, pork chops, grilled fennel, onions, grilled potatoes, grilled leeks and asparagus. I might as well be feeding an army and a certified work horse.

Well the flare ups–as usual, too much oil on the grill, too much natural oil in the food and heat for days. There were so many ingredients that it was natural for a mess to occur. One team in particular had trays, containers, and cooking utensils all over their table. If the Chef did not yell, it was because he was talking to another Chef. All you could hear was “table one, clean up, get rid of all those dirty dishes, come on, now.” We got some occasionally, but not the yelling type. He would ask and then he would occasionally walk over and clear off cutting boards. He said whatever he found he would put in the garbage. Lucky for us we had food trailings, like ends of parsley, pieces of leek, extra garlic. All I could say was “Thanks for cleaning up Chef,” and I meant it in the most sincere way.

It was tough being team leader this time. I felt like I had to move the team along. When the girl across from me is leader, I always jump at tasks and get the other guys to help me. The second guy at our table needs a little bit more explaining as he is getting a grasp of English.
The Menu–
Shrimp skewers: shrimp, grape tomatoes, onions, brushed with olive oil, and finished with lemon juice Grilled Salmon: just seasoned with salt and pepper–mine had a flare up on my skin side (lucky me-it was like a black carpet) I was able to peel it off but not without removing some fish.

Pork Chops-chops, that was not a success the first time, it was only half cooked and so I put it back in the oven to finish. It was too thick and huge. It was like a double portion. Who eats this stuff?
Grilled vegetables: let’s just say that Chef said that the class as a whole could not cook vegetables. He said that our onions were undercooked, among other things.

So at lunch we broke to the library where we pow wowed for a few minutes. In the evening we made roasted everything. Beets, small potatoes (fingerling potatoes), roasted chicken (stuffed), lamb chops with dijon mustard and covered with a breadcrumb mixture. I think the chops needed a binder. Plus we made it to 130 degrees–I am not a blood and meat person so that was a candidate for further cooking at home. It looked pretty with the breadcrumbs on it but they fell right off–maybe a dip in egg or something would have helped. (share with me your best chops recipe-I will spread to the masses–Leave a Comment) We also made roasted sweet potatoes- I love those, can eat them all day long.

Chef kept saying all through this exercise and the one before, do not put herbs on the food while it roasts, it will just burn and all the flavor will be lost. There are 3 teams and there were two dishes where this applied, the sweet potatoes and the regular potatoes. In each team, at least one of dishes earned us a good yelling. The Chef asked why the dishes were covered with all that crap. ( basically)

Remember-Chef was not too please and he was still yelling a lot. So he decided to give a paper to write at home due the next day. In its simplest terms, “why couldn’t we follow directions and get it together today.”

I had a dinner to attend at night so I was going to have to write the paper, study for my test the following day, do 8 tourne (fancy cut) potatoes and medium diced potatoes for homework. So what is free time, the time when you are in the shower or on the toilet or eating. I remember: I have so much of that. 🙂

So let’s see what happens on Sunday.
Ciao for now.

Trailing at James Beard Foundation-Seviche Restaurant w Chef Lamas

So Tuesday night I hustled out of work, ridiculous as it was and I walked a few blocks in a wool jacket to this nondescript place @ 12th street on the West side. First of all I was looking for the wrong number and it was about 75 degrees in my jacket. I so did not want to walk any further. Also I had my clothes, tools and my knives. I am dangerous when I am hot and angry. 🙂

So I entered and went down stairs to the front room and then I peered into the kitchen. My host was a little oger-ish and scary. I asked him where to change and he said, change in the bathroom. So much for travelling light. I was wondering where I would rest my 1001 bags, in the bathroom. I am grossed out by those kinds of things. So the bathroom was relatively clean, as the place had not been overrun by people as yet. I had to store my things in the coat closet.

I found Chef and he was not as imposing as I thought. He was a nice guy who seemed patient. You will see why. I met another kid from ICE (my school) and he was older, already with almost grown kids. I was glad. The kitchen was small but very cozy. It was James Beards’ kitchen and it was a little country. It was traditional with the kitchen being on the lowest level and you could walk out to the back.

There was a whole bunch of people and only after an hour there did I decipher the team. So I got a task immediately. I was eager to help or else I would essentially be waiting time and have taken up a covet spot. So I had to make this thing in a spoon. It had fish, come to find out (after deduction and reading the names on the back of the shirts of the workers, and hearing the chef say it a few times) it was bass, seviche style. It smelled of strong lemon/citrus scent and it looked milky. So I filled the Chinese spoons (the ones you use for won ton soup) with a few pieces of fish and then later topped it with pico de gallo, and finally a piece of orange. It was pretty. It was to be one of the passed appetizers. There was not nearly enough room in the refrigerators. There was one with trays and only a few pieces so I put the second smaller tray in there.

After that Chef asked me to make some empanadas. There was ground bison, with scallions filling. I filled the shells and got them ready for frying. At the same time some pulled pork came out of the oven and also some arepas. I was ready to do work but the chef put a plate together for us, arepas with pulled pork, on the side was tomatillo. He added a cooked empanada. It was good eating and it tasted great. I got a chance to talk to the guy from my school, with the last name Orchart. I cannot remember his first name for the life of me. He let me know that he is somewhat of a regular. He gave me the low down on the place, even a little tour and then he talked about the help.

After the break, we started again and Chef Lamas (yes he has a name) gave us a run down of the plates we would use and the dance for the evening. The little alleyway in the kitchen would be used for us and the guests. I love dancing.

Menu for the Evening

Passed Appetizers
Empanadas (bison meat)
Ahi Tuna with a shot of something
Chicken Livers
Seviche Bass

Dinner
Arepas with pulled pork
Black Bean soup (topped with a zig zag of sour cream, a wedge of cheese that floated, chopped bacon and a ciloantro stem and leaf)
Seafood Broth (mussels, seared scallop, a shrimp, broth made of coconut and ginger and this oil I put in the plates for color) DELICIOUS-the broth, it was hot and flavorful
Skirt Steak, baby potatoes, with some pico de gallo and some sauce

Dessert was a banana rolled in thing sheets, deep fried, baked, and then put on a plate with a brown syrup, and berries. We stuck these larger than life pieces of mint leaves in the banana. It was like a little palm tree on some of them.

So before we were ready to plate my creation, I showed Chef the fridge and he said nothing, not even realizing until we were in the light, that the “fridge” was a FREEZER. I had frozen the fish appetizer. I was calm though as I knew there was more and I could make them twice as fast now and knew the drill. Chef agreed as I jumped to do it. Wow, ass whooping/cut tail/beating avoided.

So the dance was fun. Plating is the most important once the food is cooked, which in this case, it was done earlier and sitting in a warming place. The meat was done on the spot as you cannot really let meat sit for hours in the heat. It will just overcook.

With the soup, we had everyone doing a job like an assembly line, sort of, as this kitchen was a square with a 3 sided island. (In the box and around the box were your choices) We had a time limit and all. In order to keep all people eating at the same time and not eating every minute there was a kitchen manager who told us when to move to the next course.

It was a fun first time. The food was excellent and hearty. The Chef’s team was young but fun guys, who seem to work well together. It is unlike an office where you can just do your work and hide and keep the interaction to a minimum. In a kitchen, team work is necessary all the time and you better learn to get along.

Okay so next time you are in Louisville Kentucky, check out Seviche Restaurant.

Enjoy life and eat well!

Cooking Class 14: Deep Frying Oil Slick

We must have used about 2 gallons of oil that day. We fried broccoli, chicken (southern fried), oysters and bass. We breaded and battered everything. We put the chicken in a shallow pot and cooked till golden brown (our team cooked a little past that-dark brown) We even had two of those pots going. We also a had a pot for the seafood (bass and oysters) and then a pot for the french fries. We were playing with the temperature and maintaining. We also made cocktail sauce and a wasabi -soy dipping sauce for the morning and chimchurri and maitre d’ butter in the evening. The second set went with the steak.

At some point in the class we heard the teacher comment that people must get along. Apparently two students were having a verbal argument. I totally missed it but we had our own things.

In the evening we went on to grilling. Man the smoke that comes from the grill is ridiculous. It is even more so when you have a flare up–the only thing you can do is try to remove your charred or soon to be charred meat from the flames, cover with a pan to smother or to throw a lot of salt on it, as we learned in the last module. Always have a box of kosher salt handy.

We did Flank Steak, Rib Eye, Chicken Pillards, and a bunch of vegetables. My steak had the cross hatch required but I made perfect boxes actually, so a little too perfect. Restaurants usually have the cross hatch in a diamond shape but to be able to get a perfect box, to me, is another skill. I also made chicken, pounded, on the grill. That was good but I was afraid it was not cooked in the middle so I put it back on the grill, which produced a slight cross hatch on top of what I already had. The grilled vegetables were great. They were in marinade and were the highlight. After all the grease in the morning it was great to eat something that NATURE INTENDED. Squash, Cucumbers, Red Peppers, Eggplant, and Carrots. Grilled veggies are the best.

If you would like any of the recipes for the send me a comment and I will email when I have a chance.
Enjoy life and eat well!!

Cooking Class 13: Pan Frying

Today we had some guests. Two Virginia girls were sitting in. They looked like debutantes and not cooks: tall, slender and as if they were to host a tea party. We cooked salmon in the frying pan, loins of lamb and fillet of sole. We also made sauteed spinach. I am so glad we did, as later on I had food to eat. It used to be that on the says we brought lunch, we made tons of food. On the days we brought snack food from home, we made nothing to eat in class–like the day we made sauces.

My fillet of sole came out great. It was dipped in flour. I made a lemon, white wine and parsley sauce. I also did salmon–mine stuck a little so I was a little put off, but it was cooked. Then I made a white sauce for the salmon. The lamb came out good, a little bit rare for my taste, but it was fine for the Chef. We took turns making these and I also made apple sauce, which was supposed to go with our potatoes, that we never made. Only the Chef made one (easy-use a Mandoline to slice potatoes to the desired thickness, mix with salt and whatever seasonings you like, oil a little frying pan, all the sides and then pack in the potatoes. let is cook till brown on the bottom, then you can flip). He gave to the two guests. I also did sauteed spinach; well I cooked the garlic a little too much and so the taste was slightly bitter.

In the evening we had the fun tasks of preparing Chicken Supreme, Veal Milanese, and crab cakes.
The chicken Supreme is a breast with bone in. We seared that in a frying pan. The Veal Milanese, we breaded and then fried. The crab cakes were hilarious. I put twice the amount of scallions. It tasted good though. We all tried the frying at our table and all made it nice and dark. You can call us the darkies from now on. Chef even suggested I make another one (a third one) so he could go home happy. Well sorry to disappoint. The key is to actually turn it often. We all put it in the pot and tried to fry it like meat-let is sit on one side and then when completely done, flip to other side. I think the crab meat was cooked so really we just needed to kill all the germs and make the patty form-that was it. We instead tried to cook a steak.

I left class with a huge bag of cooked food. I had already planned out the meals for the week.

After class I walked to meet my other half. It was raining hard and the wind was out of control. Umbrellas were useless. Only rain boots, rain coats, and a determined walking pace kept you from being blasted with rain and blown off course. My pants were soaked and my air breather sneakers were wet. My wool jacket smelled like wet dog. Yummy.

Tomorrow, on to deep frying. Let the fat fest begin.

Cooking Class 12: New Chef

Change is good they say and he says. This new CHEF was a bit more forward and wanted things a certain way but nothing less than the other CHEF. He gave us his rules pages–hilarious. Yes SENSEI, YES MR SIR, YES GENERAL. He even gave us his business card. I love it.

Once we exchanged pleasantries we moved on to our knife skills. Today’s skill involved what I call micro chopping-or what they call mincing, to the max. I minced so small that it was like a wet mess. All the moisture was pouring out. Man I chopped like a Bushido warrior, some serious Japanese knife skills. Seriously though, we chopped shallots, garlic and parsley. I got a few excellent nods. This was nice to bring back my morale from the day before when I farted through my exam.

Then we did some potatoes, and guess what–morale booster, my potatoes we great. I just have to practice to maintain it. Then we took a break and just rested. Chopping takes a lot out of you. After break we cooked proteins. We prepared chickens and flank steak. I got another opportunity to cut up a chicken. This time I was like a chicken magician. I popped the legs and thighs out and this time only 5% butchering the breast while taking it apart, and had a nicely carved bone. Then we proceeded to cook the breasts and steak.

We seasoned briefly with white pepper and salt then put in a pan with a little oil. We cooked 80%, flipped, cooked another 5% then finished 15% in the oven. We put the whole Saute pan in there to finish. Then with the left over fond in the pan, we added shallots, then red wine and let it cook for a minute or so. Then we added veal/ chx stock and then 1tblsp of butter and let that cook till it reduced to a somewhat thick sauce. We plated the meat on top of that. Man Chef had a decent lunch. After all the tastings, he must have had 1 good piece of steak and a whole chicken breast.

We practiced this exercise for a few hours. It takes this long because the cooking space is small so you have to do a dance with the rest of your team and constantly yell out–hot pan, behind you, opening oven, coming through.

Why at first eye I like this Chef, he thinks like me. 1) why do we waste a lot of food and plastic containers (containers can be washed in the dishwasher we happen to have) 2) he is about quality and learning the proper technique rather than doing all the recipes in the lesson plan. what good is it if we do 9 recipes and rush but miss vital parts because we have to split the recipes up to get them all done 3) he likes a clean place and he cleans himself. 4) he comes around and checks out what you are doing

So this is a good thing and I hope this module is fun and filled with learning.

Okay, got to run and read about what else, food and technique. I am writing this week about best fats to cook -not for taste, but for different types of cooking. Some fats cannot get too hot or they burn and a kitchen fire is not fun at all.

Cooking Class 11: test of memory, trial n error, patience

Like the title says, test. Well today we had a written exam and then we had a practical exam. When I woke up this morning I thought I had this in the bag. Well the written exam was okay so I am satisfied with my efforts. The practical, well what a bunch of brain fart came over me. I tried to fit in and instead I ended up wanting to run over my foot with my own car. My Mayonnaise was excellent, true, the Chef’s words. My dicing, was mediocre. For some reason I changed my technique and ended up with all these weird shapes, different sizes and man I only got to do 2 potatoes. Let’s just say I could not fix that.

Then there was the soup making. All started well but I seemed to be lost as if I could not remember what to do-even though I tried it at home and memorized the recipe. I even forgot to add the Celery–don’t tell Chef. I saw some one peeling it later into my exam and was like–what is he doing? Later on I had to puree some broccoli, well it looked foamy and white so I panicked. I went from blender to blender–a hidden camera would be sinfully entertaining for outsiders. I literally tried to get the best blend and could not for the life of me figure out why everyone’s mixture was greener(variations but definitely greener), like baby i-s-h-t. Later on I started to achieve that, after adding more liquid and by then I had already boiled down my thickening liquid so could only add a little. It was a 3-5 minute blend, constantly. I may have gotten 3 but not the right amount of mixture, so it was useless. ( I had added some of the crap (bad crap) previously to the finished sauce in the pot.) I could only imagine what everyone else was thinking and the Chef was right in front of me the whole time in his ‘lifeguard’ chair. I was livid that I wanted to just say the hell with it, but I added some of the better pureed liquid and it added some color and flavor but by then all the pieces were in it. It had a grainy consistency. I tried to season as best I could already knowing the outcome, and so I presented to Chef. It was one of the disheartening feelings. I am a quality, hard work person, and I try to make it the best no matter what. To knowingly hand in that work was like a slap in my face.

So I finished at 3:10, right before my presentation time of 3:15. Man, it takes a lot out of me to even relive it. Picture a military engagement where you make a mistake and lose your way, there is no going back–you do the best you can and MOVE ON. So to end my beautiful day, for some reason, we seem to only have a few dishwashers, cleaner uppers and tidy uppers in my class, though there is a list by each person’s name. I washed these large pots. I even got black soot on my hands–woman hands. Too bad Chef did not see my grand and grave efforts. One day soon, all will bow to me. 🙂 Sorry, I am listening to chanting music and if you like that sort of stuff, it makes up feel like a cut above, literally–like being up high examining below. You gain perspective. Well I gained a little.

So we shall see what I get on my tests. I will definitely be trying to make that again at home, and it will come out EXCELLENT. Wherever Chef is, he will sense it, and say it, “EXCELLENT, BRAVISSIMO”.

Tried a new place tonight for dinner, nothing special like __________ (fill in the blank with any fancy place) but it satisfied a craving.

New class teacher tomorrow. We have a new module–sauteing, and pan cooking. Protein heaven.

Until tomorrow. Eat Well and Enjoy Life.

You have been reviewed: Basta Pasta

Tortino di Granchio :Crab meat, avocado, green apples, Yukon Gold potatoes & basil aioli with grapefruit jelly, radishes & chayote (Interesting and very tasty)

Ravioli di Vitello, Prosciutto e Mozzarella: Veal, prosciutto, & mozzarella cheese ravioli with fresh tomatoes in Parmesan sauce It was what it was. In retrospect, some pignolis would have been great.

Pesce del Giorno :Charcoal-grilled fish of the day with grilled vegetables
According to my mate, it was salty in places (fish), but it was tasty. The vegetables were excellent, except for the red cabbage that was rather salty.

Vulcano :Melting chocolate inside warm cocoa sponge cake with vanilla gelato and fresh fruit (It was okay. It was a 4 out of 10 for what I know that dessert can be.) So I went home and tried it. Well, I made little chocolate bombs. I followed a recipe that had no flour (I sneaked in a tablespoon), but the center of my trials cooked, so it was like a high version of chocolate cake, not really a cake like texture, but cake like appearance–slightly wet texture.

The restaurant was off the main street but bright. From the window and as soon as you walk in you can see the freezers (true of not?) and then a bar on the right, small. The kitchen itself was in the front and open so you could see all that was going on. It was rather small and looked like it could be set up as a tv kitchen, all ready for the cameras.

The place was owned and staffed by Japanese. Yes, Japanese making pasta dishes. The inside had dim track lighting and had simple chairs and tables covered with paper, the kind you tear off after a patron leaves. It is one way to clean. The only thing was that the paper machine was in full view and the pitch sound caused by the tearing was annoying. Other than that, they were attentive and brought the food fairly quickly.

I would probably go back but order another dish and skip the dessert. I would maybe go to tasti delight instead.

If you like pasta I would give it a try. If you don’t like a loud place, don’t go there. The people next to us–well lets just say, I was ALL IN THEIR BUSINESS. They sat 5 inches from me on both sides. The atmosphere is simple but okay for dates. We saw a lot of families. They even take your coats.