Archive | August, 2011

Day 30 – Tarts and a quiche! Another fantastic fat day.

11 Aug

Oh Mark, for all of our whining that we are no good at pastries, I think our tarts turned out well. The apple tart was incredible-tasting (thanks, Ian, for the calvados addition!), even if our apple slicing and design skills leave much to be desired. I know, I know, we did screw up our puff pastry dough – twice. It looked so easy when Chef Udo demonstrated.

I haven’t tried the pear-almond tart, pictured above, yet, but I’m sure that will go lovely with a nice glass of wine at around midnight.  I’m going to give the rest of the tarts to some folks at the gym tomorrow. I’m sure they’ll appreciate me pushing the “fat”.  But, there’s some fruit in there!

And, I chowed half the quiche for dinner. Yummmm, bacon and gruyere. I know I know. What’s the old joke about bacon being the gateway “drug” to meat eating for vegetarians? I think it might be true.  Quiche:

I wish I had more time to post some recipes, but alas again tonight I’m working.  Will this way too fast-paced-life with hardly a minute to breathe ever simplify?   Ummm, wait, I guess not since I’m hoping for a career as a chef 🙂

Days 28 and 29 – Ice Cream and Profiteroles – yeah, sweets!

10 Aug

Yesterday we worked on ice creams, sorbets, granites and sherbets. Yummmmm. Anne and I had the best sorbet, we’re convinced. We didn’t have an exact recipe, as there wasn’t enough fresh grapefruit juice, so we had to use a raspberry puree and adjust the sugar and the acid content. It worked out splendidly. We also did cold mousses, one of which is pictured on the left side of the plate, below. It was a cold mango mousse with a raspberry topping, to which I added a sad looking heart made of whipped cream (we practice piping skills again today and obviously I need more practice).

Today, it was all about the souffle. The featured picture at the top is David’s and my raspberry souffles. They tasted good, albeit a bit undercooked as I’m so freaked out about over baking anything, especially after looking at my little brown turd pate a chouxes (cream puff pastries). We made chocolate souffles (delicious!), cheese souffles, and fruit souffles. Today was also about playing with decorations on the plate. I loved Victor’s pufferfish he made using Chef Peter’s different sauces in squeeze bottles:

Ahhh, makes me miss home.

I will be repeating this whole lesson on the weekend, as I’m not a naturally talented baker. Given that it’s way more of a science than an art, I need to concentrate on the precise measures and knowing exactly when the egg whites have soft peaks v. stiff peaks. You wouldn’t believe the difference it makes in pastries, mousses and souffles. The chocolate souffle isn’t all that difficult if you get the whipping correct. I’ll post the recipe tomorrow. Tonight, I have to start studying for our test!

Days 25, 26, and the weekend – Food Costing, Eggs, Sushi, and Saturday at SF Chefs 2011

7 Aug

Day 25 – After a day of offal, some math was a welcome change. We spent a large part of Day 25 talking about the calculations used to figure out edible portion costs and the “Q” factor that one must include when doing accurate food costing. Although some of our eyes were glazing over after a 2 hour lecture, learning the business aspects of running a kitchen, as well as the art and techniques of making exceptional food, are the reasons I came to school. Sure, I can look up calculations on the internet, but the invaluable bits on the Q Factor conversation between Chefs Peter and Udo are unlikely to be found there.

Did we cook that day? Of course. We made a stuffed chicken, which was great, as I got another chance to butcher a chicken and do it a different way. Chef Udo showed us a different way to quarter a chicken, which he made seem effortless in 1 minute, of course. Victor and I had some decent success with our stuffed chicken plate. The stuffing, or farce, was the main theme for the day.

Day 26 – Eggs. Perfect! I loved this day. Usually Carnet is the egg maker in our house, so it was great that I had a chance to hone in on my egg-prep skills. Mark was a great partner to have, since he nailed every egg preparation we did – unbelievable. I was impressed. We made the following with our eggs: Les omelettes, poached eggs (yes, with Chef Peter’s hollandaise, they were delicious!), eggs cooked on a plate, scrambled eggs, baked eggs in cream, a basque-style omelette (really tortilla espanola, in Spanish), stuffed eggs Chimay-style and every type of “fried” egg from over easy, over medium, and over hard to a “steamed egg” that was actually fried on one side and then steamed on the top. Above is the basque-style omelette and below are the Chimay-style eggs which are essentially a type of deviled eggs, but the stuffing is primarily mushrooms, shallots and herbs, and it’s all topped with a mornay sauce (a bechamel with gruyere cheese in it). Very low fat that one is – ha!

Carnet treated us to a fabulous sushi dinner at Kiss Seafood on Thursday night. We had been working hard and didn’t feel like cooking. So, we went to this 12-seat restaurant owned and run by 2 people – the sushi chef, and I’m presuming, his wife. Incredible. Without exception (okay, maybe one – the liver sauce on the abalone), the fish and preparations were sublime. Look at the colors on one of 6 courses from the special Omakase:

No school for me on custard day 😦 So, I can’t write about that. But, I know that I need to memorize how to make meringues and ladyfingers. So, I’m going to get on that soon.

Today, Igor and I went to SF Chefs 2011 at Union Square. What an eating and drinking extravaganza. I got to meet one of my culinary heroes – Hubert Keller. We also saw a hilarious demonstration from Fabio Viviani, the darling Italian chef from Top Chef and Top Chef Masters:

Chef Jeremy also took part in different demonstrations. It was great to see Chefs Bruno, Tomm and Tim outside of the classroom. Some food highlights included Fleur de Lys’ avocado shooter (can’t remember the exact description on the card) and Nettie’s Crab Shack’s dynamite smoked trout. Tuna seemed to be the thing, and although most did a lovely job with theirs, after a while I was all tuna’d out. The afternoon session was just perfect. It was lovely and warm inside the tent and it wasn’t all that crowded, so much so that I think we ate at about 85% of the places. Then, we had to tap out due to bulging bellies.

BF, we missed you today! You would have loved it. Igor and I did our best to eat for you 😉

Day 24 – Disgusting, I mean organ meats

3 Aug

I think I was so disgusted I forgot to take any pictures of our finished dishes today. So, above is the only picture I have: Chef Peter and Heather are taking the outside connective tissue off a calf’s liver.

We started off by cleaning kidneys and lamb tongue.  The kidneys had a bit of a foul smell to them so I had to step away for a few minutes.  Obviously, offal isn’t my thing; to me, it’s truly awful – ha!   I just wonder if eating parts of the body’s filtration system is really that good for you?  Yeah, yeah, liver is high in iron, etc. But, c’mon, so is spinach.

I did taste all of our sauces. Ian and I made a mean mustard-brandy sauce for the kidneys, so that helped tremendously. But, the taste of those kidneys lingered on my tongue way too long.  In general, the sauces were all pretty good, so it made it bearable.   I know people love sweetbreads, and admittedly, they did have a certain custardy inside to them. However, given the choices of “delicacies” in this world, puh-lease. I’m going for something way tastier than that. In fact, I’m looking forward to some sashimi Thursday night with Carnet before he heads to India.

Given the fact that I am biased against organ meats, I am going to post a recipe from Day 19 that I promised to post: Lamb stew. Yield: 4 servings.

Ingredients for the Lamb: 1) Shoulder or leg of lamb, 2) vegetable oil (1 T), 3) about 4 oz. of carrots, cut into even size chunks, 4) 4 oz. of onion, cut into same even size chunks as carrots, 5) 2 minced garlic cloves, 6) about an ounce of tomato paste (this is key – you can’t really do the lamb stew without tomato paste).

Ingredients for the Vegetables: 1) about 4 oz each of carrots, pearl onions and turnips.  You want to cook these all until they are about al dente in a small pan with some salted water no more than half-way up the sides of the vegies, about 1 tsp. of butter and about a tsp. of sugar.  When the water evaporates, you should see a light sugar/butter mixture bubbling that will leave a glaze on the vegetables, 2) about 2 oz each of string beans and shelled or frozen peas. You’ll want to blanch these in salted, hot water right before the end of the finished product so you can add them to the stew at that time. If you do them ahead of time, be sure to shock them in cold water to stop the cooking and then reheat before you add them to the stew, 3) about 8-9 oz. of new potatoes, cooked in salted water and timed to be put in the stew at the end, 4) salt and pepper to taste.

Assembly and cooking: 1) Trim lamb and cut into cubes, then season cubes with salt and pepper, 2) Heat oil in a large pan and brown cubes. Remove and reserve, 3) Add fresh oil to the pan and saute the onions, then the carrots, and then the garlic, in that order.  You usually want to add in onions first to extract the great flavors out of them and then build upon each prior flavor with the addition of a new ingredient. You want to add in the garlic last, as it tends to burn. 4) Add the meat, then the tomato paste and stir around to make sure the tomato paste completely coats the meat and the vegies, 5) Season with salt and pepper), 6) If you have some red wine open, I would throw some in there and scrape up any brown bits in the pan (deglaze) before covering everything with water or stock. 7) Bring to a boil, cover, and place in 350 degree F oven for approximately 1 or so hours, until cubes are fork tender. Stir every 15 minutes or so and do not let boil in oven. 8) While the meat is in the oven, prepare all the vegies, 9) When meat is tender, strain out the meat and vegies from the sauce, and reserve the cooking liquid. 10) Degrease the liquid (you can simply use a spoon to take off the top layer of grease and discard it in a small bowl you have handy) and then reduce over medium heat to concentrate the flavor.  Add a roux – equal parts butter and flour – if needed to thicken. If you do add the roux, you’ll need to bring the sauce to a boil so it doesn’t taste like flour.  Check the seasoning of the sauce at this point. If it’s too salty/concentrated, add some water.  If it needs more salt and pepper, throw it in there.  If you didn’t use the roux, but want a nice shine on your sauce, swirl a teaspoon of butter in it right before the next step, 11) Place meat back into the sauce, along with the carrots, pearl onions, turnips and potatoes (not the vegetables that you cooked in with the meat).  Place string beans and peas on top and serve!  The picture of the stew is below:


Day 23 – More lamb and rabbit, along with some fab dinners at home

2 Aug

Okay, okay, we didn’t make this at school. I made it for dinner tonight and Carnet loved it. I made 2 whole branzinis (gutted and heads cut off) stuffed with thinly sliced lemons, fresh dill, and sauteed leeks, topped with really good olive oil and a bit of ghee, and steamed in an incredible semillon/sauvignon blanc. The topping is made of gorgeous tomatoes from our CSA basket, sauteed for a few minutes with lemon and a minced serrano chile. I forgot the chopped pistachios in the picture, but added them later.  They were a good textural contrast. The wine really made it, though. And, who said you can’t steam in only wine and have it come out incredibly? If you have great wine, it makes all the difference. The apricot notes and sweetness of the semillon gave the fish some really bright notes.

As an appetizer, Carnet tried both the lamb shank and the braised rabbit that Tomas and I made today at school:

I love working with Tomas. He has a very fluid, comfortable style in the kitchen and is super competent. He was born to be chef. He is a great multi-tasker and cool under pressure.  All you amazing chefs out there, take notice of Tomas – you’ll probably want to hire him.

Thanks, Chef Peter, for giving me a hard time today for being lame on keeping up with my blog posts. Sheesh. I miss two days and my fans are up in arms 😉  So, Chef, you’re the reason I’m doing this post at 10:30 p.m.

After re-reading my blog post yesterday, I realized that I forgot to mention that Chef Peter’s teaching style is one that really works for me. He gives super practical advice, especially how to “save” something if it’s not turning out quite right. This is exactly why I went to culinary school. I have read tons of cookbooks, but the reality is reading will only get you so far. You need someone with 20-30 years of experience in multiple kitchens to watch you and let you know what you can do at any given point if something is not going exactly as planned with your dish. He also has a hilarious sense of humor, which I think is crucial in stressful situations. Yes, I’m enamored of school.

I’m also enamored of my loving husband.  Last night we were talking about some of our “idols” in the nose-to-tail culinary world and we decided Carnet is a stems to leaf expert.  He made collards two ways last night, with the intent of making the stems as delectible as the leaves. It was fabulous and complimented his red wine braised beef ribs and grilled eggplant, pictured here:

You gotta love a man who cooks exceptional dinners for his wife on a regular basis. On another note, congratulations to you, love, for signing on the dotted line today – on your 6th anniversary of starting Sprout (! I’m super proud of you.

Days 21 and 22 – More Poultry, Game meat and Veal

1 Aug

I’m late on the posts from last week.  In fact, that’s the story of my life lately.  Late to the party. I wish I had more time to spend on school, practicing butchery, and cooking.  But, life isn’t that neat. It’s messy – like many kitchens.  No matter. I’m bound and determined to be a great chef, come hell or high water, regardless if I’m 60 when I achieve what I want to achieve in the culinary world!

Back to food… last Thursday and Friday, we played with more poultry, venison and veal.  I’m not too hip on veal due to the way that some cattle companies raise and treat their cows.  But, at school, I don’t have the luxury of arguing that, except for maybe with Chef Udo who is certified Master Chef and incredibly knowledgeable about and respectful of where “food” comes from. At school, you have to learn to prepare what they give you.  So, although I don’t know where the veal came from that they gave us to prepare, Anne and I prepared a delicious sauce after a few hours of poaching our veal.  The final dish on Day 22, Veal Blanquette:

I really did appreciate the fact that Chef Udo was critical of nearly every movement I made in the kitchen (except for criticizing my uniform since I didn’t wear the mandatory, useless scarf that only serves to choke me and raise my temperature. A cumbersome neck scarf underneath a chef’s coat that already has a high collar – seriously? I understand rules, since I’m a lawyer. But, I also understand that some rules, like some laws, are archaic and ridiculous, and that one size doesn’t fit all. Sometimes you have to examine the intent and realize that “traditional” laws and rules don’t always keep up with modern-day reality, efficiency and usefulness). Fortunately, Anne and I decided to set up at the station front and center of Chefs Peter and Udo on Thursday and Friday so we could benefit from Chef Udo’s watchful eyes. I think harsh critiques can be a fast and good way to learn, even if they are mentally painful sometimes.

So, what did I get right? I’m not sure. I was slow on my tournage, I trussed my venison against the grain (maybe that should be something highlighted in the book as something not to do), I chopped my onions like Rachael Ray (cool, because she’s a multi-million dollar earning cook that I like), and I wasn’t gentle enough with either my chicken or my knives. Also, I just seemed to be in the weeds the whole time, on both days.

The result? Still some beautiful tasting food, if Anne and I do say so ourselves. Below is Grandma’s chicken (a whole roasted chicken with bacon and mushrooms for depth of flavor):

On Friday, we also made a simmered beef rib stew with horseradish sauce:

I can understand how some of my thoughts could be interpreted as complaints. They really aren’t. The above are small snapshots of my thoughts, perspectives and reflections. I love my life and I love what I’m doing. I know I’m incredibly fortunate to be attending culinary school and I’m guessing most people in my class think the same.

I think great chefs are the ones who persevere through stress, complications, and a world full harshness, to say the least. I hope to persevere through all the madness in the world and someday be recognized among those great chefs. I look forward to trying to live up to your expectations, Chef Udo 😉