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!


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