Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Class 4 - Veggies

This was a super great class. I do love my veggies. I'll have to add my recipes later... however, I'll share what we made.

*Sauteed Green Beans Almondine (this ain't your grandma's green bean dish!)
*Perfect Creamed Spinach
*Glazed and Candied Baby Carrots
*Drunken Mushrooms (the perfect steak-topper)
*Winter Ratatouille

Veggies

I am really looking forward to class this evening. It'll be all about the veggies. If it weren't for my insane love of chicken, I could easily be a vegetarian.

I have to admit, I've been watching "The Next Food Network Star" and I was super excited last week when Kelsey announced that she'd be making a white chocolate beurre blanc. It was exciting because I actually know what a beurre blanc is! =)

Still, knowing what I've learned about seafood in the Midwest, in general... I won't be running to Red Lobster to try Kelsey's Macadamia Crusted Tilapia with White Chocolate Beurre Blanc. I think I'll wait until I'm back home, much closer to the East Coast.

I hope to bring my camera to class this evening, and have some awesome shots of the school, my classmates, and whatever it is I end up making tonight!

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Oh gracious...he was right.

I decided to reheat my beautiful green avocado beurre blanc and take a picture of it. I really wish I'd had my camera with me last night, or thought about it as soon as I arrived at home.

Alas, Chef Richard was right. There's no reheating the sauce once it's been allowed to chill. It was a mess. A gloppy, green, disgusting mess. It still smelled pretty darn awesome... but really, no one on this Earth would want to eat it! So, for now... I'm afraid I simply can't share a photo.

Avocado Beurre Blanc

Avocado Butter Sauce - Yield 1 cup

Ingredients:
4 ounces white whine (Fume' Blanc or Chardonnay)

1 tablespoon minced shallots
2 ounces heavy cream
8 ounces sweet butter, cut into cubes (cold!)
1 avocado, mashed smooth
Kosher salt and pepper, to taste

Preparation:
Place wine, vinegar, and shallots in a Calphalon sauce pan (it must be heavy and non-reactive) or a coated saute' pan. Place on range and immer until the liquid barely covers the shallots.

After reduction is complete, add cream and reduce again until the cream is lightly thickened and VERY shiny.

Whisk the butter into reduction, beating constantly, back and forth until all the butter is incorporated. Remove from heat and whisk in avocado pulp. Season with salt and papper to taste. Place in glass or ceramic contianer and hold warm for service.

Note: This sauce must be served immediately. It will not hold for very long. You can't freeze it, or reheat it. If you have to make ahead of time... you can made the reduction through the cream stage, ahead of time. Once you add the butter... it must be served. =) It's Oh-SO-good!!!!

Class 3 - Seafood

While it's true that I'm not a big fan of seafood in general, I learned that part of the problem is that I've just never had really good seafood!

Chef started class tonight by reminding us that we live in Kansas...and there is no such thing as "fresh" seafood in this part of the country. I've eaten salmon in restaurants before, and while it's been good... it's never been great. Last night I had a GREAT piece of salmon. My mouth is watering, just thinking about it.

Here's a few pointers... from the perspective of a seafood chef in the Midwest:
  • Know your purveyor. That's the single most important rule to buying seafood.
  • If the seafood smells fishy... do NOT buy it. Fresh seafood should not smell.
  • Never wrap fish in plastic wrap. It will cause it to spoil more quickly. It should always be allowed to "breath."
  • Higher fat = more flavor (that holds true with anything, I think)
  • If you grill fish with the skin on, you are going to lose all the flavor when you remove the skin... so, remove before grilling.
  • In this area, specifically, the *best* place to buy fish is Costco (or Sam's) because the fish is I.Q.F. (individually quick frozen, on the boats) It's as close to "fresh" as we can get. Again, this is specific to the area I live in.... the dead center of the country.
Tonight we made several dishes and had a lot of fun. Though, we had to use the new kitchen at the school and it's much smaller and far less accommodating than the big "old kitchen." I had to work at the back of my stove and that caused me to have to rely on another team member to adjust my heat. Thankfully I still had access to two burners, otherwise I would have been in trouble when she didn't hear me say, "reduce... reduce, reduce!!!!!"

My partner, on the other hand, was awesome tonight. We are in tables of 4 and with most dishes we divide into teams of 2. My partner is Jenifer and she loves cooking as much as I do. She's as eager to learn as I am, and it makes her a LOT of fun to work with. The other two ladies on our team aren't quite as enthusiastic as Jen and I. But, they are really nice and easy to get along with, so it all works out.

Jen and I really took turns with our duties. I made most of the sauces, while she was in charge of grilling, searing, frying, and preparing the fish and shellfish.

I made the creamed spinach for Oysters Rockefeller and received accolades from my entire team. They loved the spinach, as did I. I watched as they devoured their oysters, and smiled as they rolled their eyes back in their heads. Hahahaha!!!! I'm allergic to shellfish, so I didn't even bother to try them. Though, I did grab myself a small dish of the spinach before I threw the rest over the oysters. It really was *that good.*

Chef made a statement, early on in the evening, that someone would be "breaking" their sauce tonight. I took that as a personal challenge. I was going to make the sauce, and it was going to be good. =)

Jen helped gather the mis en place for the avocado beurre blanc while I chopped and diced my shallots and threw them in the pan. I allowed the wine and white wine vinegar to reduce to almost no liquid at all. The shallots were just exploding with taste. Once I got to the stage where I was able to whip in the butter, I was getting tired of standing over the pan... and I was starting to get very warm.

It took me a good 20 minutes to whisk in the cup of cubed butter.... but my sauce did NOT break!!! I was hot... nearly sweating, and my arm was starting to hurt, but it was perfect!!! In fact, once it was finished... it was the perfect hue of green and the taste was amazing!!!

By the time the sauce was ready Jen had just finished searing the salmon, and I poured the sauce generously over the fish. She kept saying, "that looks perfect" over and over again. She tasted it... and a huge smile came across her face. I took a big bite...and the same smile followed. It was heaven on a plate!!!

Several classmates walked over to our table to peek at my sauce. I felt as if I'd just won some sort of prize. =) Even Chef had a great big smile once he took a taste of the avocado sauce.

I am proud to say that Chef asked the entire class to give us a round of applause as we'd made the *best* butter sauce. I was beaming with pride. And, that was about the time I started to react to the teaspoon of steamed mussels broth that I'd tasted earlier in the evening. I knew that was a mistake.

My face began to swell and turn bright red. I was itching all over, especially my face. Jen, who is a nurse by day, noticed...and asked if I was alright. She knew that I'd tasted the broth.... and started rummaging through her purse for an antihistamine. I took some medication that I had with me...and it helped immediately.

By the time I got home, I was exhausted. I went right to bed, well.... right to bed after making Adam try the butter sauce. =)

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Coffee Cocoa Spice Rub

This is GREAT on pork tenderloin. We also made this in class, searing the tenderloin in the pan and then finishing in the oven. It was seriously YUMMY!!!

1 tablespoon black pepper - course grind
1 tablespoon ground coriander
3 tablespoons espresso, fine grind
2 tablespoons ancho chile powder
2 tablespoons ground cinnamon
2 teaspoons nutmeg, ground
1 teaspoon ground cloves
4 tablespoons cocoa - unsweet
1 tablespoon Spanish paprika
1 tablespoon dark brown sugar

Tip: Combine the above a day in advance to allow flavors to blend together.

Bourbon Marinade for Chicken
1/4 cup soy sauce
1/2 cup bourbon (can use Jack Daniels, too!)
1/4 cup Worcestershire sauce
1/4 honey
1/4 cup grapeseed oil
4 cloves garlic, minced
2 tablespoons brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon ginger, fresh - peeled and minced
1 tablespoon black pepper, ground
1 teaspoon white pepper, ground

Tip: Marinade contains sugar, take care not to grill over high heat. Watch carefully so that the marinated chicken does not become charred.

** Marinate chicken 4-6 hours before roasting or grilling.

Beef Stroganoff

2 lbs beef tenderloin tips, cleaned
Kosher salt and pepper, as needed
2 tablespoons butter, unsalted
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
3 tablespoons all purpose flour
2 cups beef stock (we used the stock we'd made in class last week)
1 tablespoon Dion mustard
1/4 cup sour cream
1 small white onion, sliced thin
1 cup baby Portabella mushrooms, sliced.

tip: When searing tips in pan, do not overload the pan and cause the meat to boil instead of searing. Cook meat in batches, if needed, to achieve the proper searing technique.

Slice meat into 1/2-inch-thick long strips; season with salt and pepper just before adding to pan.

Heat skillet over medium high heat; add olive oil, then add butter. Once the butter starts to foam add tenderloin strips and sear until golden nice and brown.

Remove meat to a warm platter and hold.

Add sliced onions to pan and deglaze the drippings and flavors with onions. Cook until soft and slightly brown. Add mushrooms and cook for 5 minutes.

Sprinkle flour over onions and mushrooms and cook for another 5 minutes, stirring to keep flour for burning. Add stock, stirring to keep from forming lumps, bring to a quick simmer... and simmer for 10-15 minutes, adding more stock if necessary.

Reduce to a simmer, add mustard and beef tips, bring back up to a quick simmer. Remove from heat, and add in sour cream. Stir well... serve over buttered egg noodles.

Class 2 - Meats

In tonights class, we learned all about meat. The class was broken down into the following sections:
  • Meat Identity: where cuts come from
  • Trimming a whole beef tenderloin: buying, trimming, and how to utlize the different parts productively
  • Using a Jaccarder on Meat: purpose and proper use
  • Whole Chickens: sizes and uses - butchering
  • Which cooking method is correct? - simple rules to understanding which cooking methods to use with regards to the different types of meats
We discussed the different gradings of meats, carcass divisions in beef, veal, lamb, and pork, matched cooking methods with cuts, and cooking methods of poultry.

We also did a lot of cooking, recipes to follow. =)

Our homework for this week is to go to the grocery store, identify 5 different cuts of meat, discuss where they come from, and the best cooking methods to apply to each cut. We also have to research the "Maillard Reaction."

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Chef's Comments

Chef walked around the kitchen last night, picking up each container of stock - holding it up to the light, and commenting. I had frozen my stock and had to thaw it out previous to class. It was taking much longer than I'd hoped, so I the big old disk in a sauce pan and heated it up. I noticed a few more imperfections as it heated up, so I strained it through a cheesecloth, again.

When he picked up mine, he looked at me and asked if I'd just made it. I explained that I'd frozen it and reheated it. He looked at it in the light and said, "nice color." He then opened it up and smelled it.

He put the lid back on the bowl, held it back up again and said, "When it's done correctly, you can smell the herbs and vegetables, nice." And with that, he set my bowl back down on the table in front of me and moved on to the next stock. =)

There were stocks that were much clearer than mine. There were some that were much darker (with beef, the darker the better). There were a few that were much cloudier. In fact, he stopped at the one and said, "You boiled this, didn't you?" The poor lady looked down and admitted that she had the heat too high and had not been paying attention.

I felt pretty good about the comments I received. =)

Saturday, June 7, 2008

Comments on Brown Stock

I made my stock...and the smell is heavenly. To tell the truth, it tastes pretty darn good! And, I really love that homemade stock isn't anywhere near as salty as store bought. However, my stock isn't perfect, despite the fact that it took 6 hours to make, from prep to final strain.

I will update this once Chef explains what I did wrong.

My observations -
1. Chef said that the "perfect" stock will be amber and clear.
Mine is a bit cloudy. He said that cloudy often occurs when the stock is allowed to boil too rapidly, or too long. I allowed mine to come to a slow boil, and I immediately reduced the heat to a simmer. I'm not sure why it's not as clear as it should be.

2. The perfect stock will be gelatinous when it's cold.
Mine isn't. Period. I have no idea why... perhaps I strained it too much. But, there was an awful lot of bone marrow in there, which would have prevented it from being clear. It's very liquidy... there's no gel to it at all.

Imperfections aside, I can't wait to actually use it for something. The smell is very enticing... and the taste... well, nothing short of "delish." I just wish I knew what I did wrong!

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Umami

We all grew up knowing we had 4 senses of taste... sweet, salty, sour, and bitter. And, then there's umami - the sense of savory. Umami is when the sense of taste combines with the sense of smell - to bring about the enhancement of flavor.

A great example was given last night. Imagine you are completely blindfolded with your nose plugged, and someone puts a jelly bean in your mouth. You didn't see the jelly bean beforehand, but you are able to sense, through taste, that it's either: sweet, salty, sour, or bitter. But, you don't really have the ability to identify the flavor of the jelly bean until you unplug your nose and utilize the sense of smell. That is umami.

Chef explained that most of us have items in our home that have Umami, such as ketchup, soy sauce, parmesean cheese, red wine, etc. These things are added to foods to make them savory and robust.

He recommended the book The Fifth Taste: Cooking with Umami by David and Anna Kasabian.

Interesting, huh?

Brown Stock

Ingredients:
2 lbs beef bones
7 cups cold water
4 oz mirepoix
Sachet d'espices
1 oz tomato paste

Procedure:
  • Roast bones, tomato paste, and mirepoix in a 350 degree oven for 45 minutes, or until bones and veggies are golden brown.
  • Combine bones, mirepoix, and water
  • Bring to a boil, slowly.
  • Skim surface with a spoon.
  • Simmer for 2 hours
  • Add sachet d'espices; cook for another hour
  • strain, cool, and store - refrigerated or frozen
Yeilds 1-1/2 quarts.
*note* - you can use beef, veal, or chicken.

Class 1 - Knife Skills

Last night I finally got to test my new Westhof... and I'm still afraid of it. It's a big knife, and it's going to take me a while to learn how to use it properly, but I'll get it. I must have sliced and diced 12 pounds of celery, carrots, red potatoes, onions, and garlic. My hands stink, and no matter how many times I rub them on stainless steel, the onion smell continues to linger. Yuck.

All of the miripoix veggies that were cut up went into the oven with beef knuckles to create a beef stock; we'll use the stock next week for "meat class." I do have homework, and I wasn't expecting that. I have to make my OWN beef stock, from scratch, and bring in a cup for the Chef to grade. He's been doing this for 25 years, he said, "I'll be able to tell, with one look, what you did right or wrong." Ohhh goody. =)

We discussed all different types of knives, their uses, what they are made of, how to care for them, and the different parts that make up a knife. It really was very interesting... even though Chef Richard assured us that this particular class would be pretty boring. I can't wait for the next class. I was fascinated by this one, if he thinks it was boring, next week outta be fantastic!

Monday, June 2, 2008

Shoes... glorious shoes!



I've been searching for the perfect "kitchen shoes" for a while. After searching high and low, I came across Klogs Chef shoes. I tried them on...and instantly fell in love. They aren't the prettiest shoes in the world, but they are the most comfortable I've ever had on my feet.

In all honesty... I'm a Crocs gal, I love those things....and I don't care one bit that the vast majority of folks I know absolutely hate them. They are comfortable... and as a person who's already had knee surgery and has chronic back pain, comfort is the end all... be all. However, I'm not allowed to wear Crocs in the classroom or the kitchen. So, Klogs it is!