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Graduation and End of 2011 re-cap

3 Jan

Graduation was on December 20.  What fun!  Above is a pic of our whole class on Dec. 19 with our final exam judges.  Below are a few shots of us in different groups.   My mom flew out from CO and Carnet flew in from Japan.  Carnet was a super champ, as I made him go out to dinner at Sons & Daughters for an 8:45 seating.  Dinner was fabulous, so for anyone who is in SF, I recommend Sons & Daughters.  You need to have some time to dine, as it’s a price fixe dinner and they space out the courses.  It wasn’t overly long, but you’ll need to plan a good 2 1/2 hours, especially if you want to speak with the somm about some wines.  Carnet picked out some great wines to accompany the courses!

From left: Chef Jeremy, Ian (congrats, Ian, on best project, you sous vide king!), Anne, Bobby, me, Mark and Tomas.

Chef Peter and me.

The day after graduation, we threw a little cocktail party in the SF apartment. Bobbie and Mark helped me cooked appetizers: kibbeh with carmelized onions; flatbread pizzas with roasted mushrooms, pecorino romano, mozarella, roasted garlic oil, and arugula in balsamic on top after it was baked; smoked salmon on cucumber rounds with creme fraiche and dill (classic, but always good); and a meat and cheese plate with fig jam and fresh fruit.  Many thanks to the boys who basically did most of it, as I was busy doing something I can’t remember at this point.

Carnet, Jan and I flew back home to HI on Dec. 22, and on Dec. 24 we were at our favorite Christmas Eve dining spot – more out of tradition and view than anything else. We went to Orchids in the Halekulani Hotel. Here’s a pic at sunset of Carnet and me (and some random guy off to the right), and then another one of me after Busaba, Ian and Bev made me wear a bakers cap with “Iron Chef” labeled on it – hilarious!

On Christmas day, we went over to Busaba’s and cooked there. Prime Rib is Carnet’s domaine, so he was in charge of that.  In trying to stick as much as possible with Carnet’s paleo eating (with a few blips here and there), I made a parsnip and celery root puree that mimicked mashed potatoes and was sooo much more flavorful and healthy.  Here’s the quick and easy recipe:

Celery Root and Parsnip puree (serves 8-10):

Ingredients: 10 parsnips; 1 large celery root; 1/2-1 cup cream; 3 Tablespoons butter; minced parsley; salt in boiling water

Directions: Think of this preparation as similar to mashed potatoes but sweeter. 1)  Peel parsnips and celery root and cut them into even size chunks. 2) Put in 2 different pots with enough water to barely cover each.  3) Salt each pot of water heavily so it tastes like sea water. 4) Cook each until fork tender. 5) Strain both, reserving the parsnip water.  6) Add cooked parsnips, celery root, 3 tablespoons of butter, 1/2 cup of parsnip water, and 1/2 cup of cream in a cuisinart or really good food processor or blender.  7) Puree, adding more of the parsnip water as you go until the mixture is creamy, like mashed potatoes.  You can also add in more cream if you’d like, but the parsnip water adds in a lot of flavor and vitamins from the cooking water, and saves a bunch on calories and fat.  8) Pour into serving bowl and mix in minced parsley.   E voila!

New Year’s Eve we spent at the Rachel and Carnet casa, made a few appetizers, and drank way too much champagne and 21 year old Glen Livet with family.   I need to get my butt in gear and start planning some more for Spain.  Hawaii has a way of making you slow down, enjoy the sun and sand, and just want to be.  Tonight – up to Shannon and Fred’s for what will surely be remarkable Mexican food.  Shan is a whiz in the kitchen and my learning continues every time I go to her house!

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Day 120: All ends well!

20 Dec

This is our class and our judges after we got the news. We all passed! Of course, Mark and I pulled #1 (we plated simultaneously and first), and we pulled the harder combination: fresh pasta with fennel cream and roasted mushrooms, and a rack of lamb dish with braised artichokes, polenta with goat cheese, a lamb reduction and pickled maitake mushrooms.  But, in a weird way it was fun, albeit a bit stressful.

I just picked up my mom from the airport. I ordered Thai food in from Les Ros, and I’m going to crawl into bed by 9:00. The only thing better would be if Carnet was here to join. Tomorrow….

Speaking of, graduation is tomorrow at 4:00. I’m excited. And sad. I don’t want it to end. But, I’m also ready for my next adventure.

Stay tuned for more saltyapron, hopefully from the road in Spain!

Day 119 – Last day prior to the final, some fun with the boys, and a new knife!

17 Dec

I love my new Kikuichi slicer! It was a present from Bobbie and Mark. Ahhhh, so nice of them. But, you’re not suppose to gift knives because it severs the bond between the knife and the knife owner. So, I had to give them each $1 in exchange for my Christmas gift. The knife is so sleek and beautiful!

So, last night instead of playing with my knife all night, I decided we should go try a new BBQ place in the Mission – Southpaw BBQ. As Mark said, “no bueno”. It was terrible. Super dry ribs, mediocre-at-best pulled pork, lots of sauces none of which were spectacular, and Bobbie didn’t like our server as she didn’t know anything about Bourbon. The restaurant was packed with hipsters who apparently know nothing about BBQ or Bourbon according to my Kentucky friend. And, they didn’t have Woodford Reserve. So, that was a bust. But, I still have a beautiful knife!

Hopefully, today we’ll find some much tastier morsels in Napa/Calistoga/St. Helena. We’re going wine tasting and then lounging at my favorite place to stay. It’s a beautiful, sunny Saturday in Norcal and my life is amazing. I’m blessed.

Update to my last blog: The bread “stuffing” balls that Chef Udo made are called Knodel. There’s suppose to be an umlaut above the “o”. Thanks for the correction, Chef Udo!

Monday is reckoning day. Hopefully, our relaxing weekend will translate into a not-as-stressful-as-I-think Monday!

Day 118: Goulash, “stuffing” dumplings, and Perfect Edge Cutlery

16 Dec

I have to say my favorite things about this last week of culinary school have been the “off” menu items Chefs Udo and Jae have taught us/made for us.  Today, Chef Udo made some nice and spicy goulash and some sort of dumpling made of bread (forgot the German name) that resembled stuffing mix when being made.  That was our class lunch and it was delicious!

I also really enjoyed our speakers today at the school holiday party.  The theme was sustainability.  The first speaker was one of the principles at Fogline Farm (farmline.com), an organic farm in Soquel, near Santa Cruz.  I appreciate all the thought that the 3 young men who started the company have put into raising their meats and fruits and vegetables.  Caleb at Fogline showed us so many pictures of their cute baby pigs.  I want one, but then I’d just have to butcher it and that might be hard for me after viewing it as a pet.  The second speaker was from Royal Hawaiian Seafood and she spoke about overfishing and ocean pollution, the dire statistics that go along with those, and the pros and cons of aquaculture.  Very informative, and the tasty treats along with the sparkling wine were terrific!

Then, it was off to Perfect Edge Cutlery in San Mateo to do some knife shopping.  Chef Peter introduced our class to the store and I think just about every one of us has visited it.  It’s like Disney Land for chefs.  I had a great time learning about all the different types and brands of knives they carry and how to determine which types (namely German v. Japanese) are right for me.  I picked up a German paring knife and a Japanese Chef’s knife, as well as a ceramic “steel”.  Now, I just have to be less of a klutz and make sure I don’t drop the ceramic steel.  Can’t wait to try them out tomorrow!

Off to bed for me.  Tomorrow is the last class before Monday’s final.  I’m both sad that it will end so soon, and I’m ready for my next adventure!

Day 117: 3 days and counting for Team Moustache

15 Dec

It was another pasta day for me, and a very successful one. I really like that dish and it’s pretty simple once you get comfortable making fresh pasta.  I have to say that Chef Udo’s method of rolling out pasta works for me and I’ll follow that far into the future.  Using semolina to dust the pasta dough each time prior to putting it through the rolling machine is the key.

We had a chance to work with Chef Jae again today.  We made some hazelnut shortbread-type cookies and then we decided to use some as moustaches.  Above is our class. I think Tomas looks the best in his moustache.

And, Chef Udo and Chef Jae.

All in all a fun day!

Day 116: One last practice on fish, making a ladyfinger cake, and learning we have 8 potential dishes on the final

14 Dec

Today was a good day of cooking!  Although I don’t like monkfish, I hope one of the dishes I pull for the final is the monkfish. It’s super easy to prep and it’s hard to overcook that fish, as it’s not one you want to undercook.  The chances are 1 in 4, since we learned today that in fact there will be 8 dishes in the hat, grouped in 2’s.  That’s different that what we were all expecting.

We were led to believe there would be 4 dishes total, and only 2 combos (which would have been nice and easy, like the mid-term).  I think the powers that be are experimenting on our class again. It’s either that or the instructors are not all on the same page. Either way, they’re giving us different messages or they’re still deciding.  Kind of frustrating as some of us had built in practice time at home for a couple of the dishes we’re weaker  or slower on, but now that the number of potential dishes has doubled, practicing far more than anticipated a few days before the final is not practical.  I’m busy over the next few days, so I’ll only get time to practice one or two as I had planned, but I know others who now feel the need to practice more. But, I refuse to be phased.  It’s no different than the “real world” when you are led to believe one thing and then you quickly have to adapt when it turns out to be different than originally presented.  Adaptation is going to be my middle name.

On a more fun note, we had the pleasure of Chef Jae in our class today.  He’s a pastry chef and instructor.  Since I had some time today after I finished prep, Chef Udo suggested that Bobby and I make a cake with Chef Jae’s guidance.  So, we made a ladyfinger layered cake.  Chef Jae says there’s no name for it, but the layers were made of ladyfinger dough brushed with raspberry liqueur and in between we piped mouselline (a combination of pastry cream and butter – LOTS of butter) and whipped cream.  Then, we topped it with fresh blueberries and a little raspberry liqueur + fresh raspberry “dots” in the center of the blueberries.  The cake is pictured at top.

Here are a few more action shots, in sequence (including Chef Jae in action).  I did all of the piping, with the exception of the first layer, as Chef Jae had to show me how.  I also make the ladyfinger “dough”, which is turned upside down in the pictures to soak in the liqueur. Bobby did the mousseline and Rachelle did the blueberry with raspberry dots. I have to say I love Chef Jae. He is sooo nice, and has a nice, easy teaching style.  Plus, he’s just a darling person.

Off to Range for dinner with FK.  Hope my new fillings (as of this afternoon ) on my chipped teeth hold up, as this restaurant is all meat!

Day 115: 4 days left of school!

13 Dec

Do not go where the path may lead, go instead where there is no path and leave a trail.
– often attributed to Ralph Waldo Emerson

And, I don’t mean leave a trail of food on the floor, as I was doing today.  Still working on flipping ingredients inside the large sautee pan.  I’m excellent at flipping things out of it. Need to work more on my wrist muscles.

I like this quote, as I’m often torn as to what path I should take or even if I should take a path already laid and, instead, make a new one. Carnet is great at blazing new trails.  And, I’m really good at making sure there is still a trail to follow. Translation: often times, my role is behind the scenes making sure things are all “in order”.  But, I don’t want to do that. I want to make a mess, and then be able to clean it up. I want to experiment and invent (or re-invent). I want to believe I can do something that I’m pretty sure is crazy (for me). But, I’m nervous to do it.  Whether I can muster enough gumption to do it remains to be seen in the next 3-5 years.

But, in the short term, I have to concentrate on getting a panel of Bay Area chefs to like my final plates I present next Monday. Feeling good about my crispy skin on the Arctic Char.  Still feeling awful about the gross chickpea cake.  No problem on the grilled and braised radicchio. No problem on the romesco-ish sauce.  So, if one of the dishes I pull to make for the final is the Char, I will be happy.  It’s also a fast prep compared to some of the other dishes.

The final countdown: Tomorrow – monkfish, Wednesday – pasta, Thursday – calamari, Friday – don’t know, Monday – final exam!

Tonight’s dinner: garlic sausage from Marin Sun Farms (pasture-raised animals/meats) with horseradish mustard and red grapes, with a bottle of Moretti beer to wash it all down 🙂

Days 112, 113 and 114: Jaegerschnitzel, spaetzle, and the restaurant heats up

11 Dec

I’m bummed I didn’t take pictures, as the process of making spaetzle was really cool, if not a bit difficult for a first-timer.  Chef Udo said he would help us make a couple of German dishes for our class family meal on Wednesday.  So, he had Tomas make jaegerschnitzel and the dough for the spaetzle. Then a few of us took turns cutting the dough into the boiling water.  I think if you look up most spaetzle recipes, they will call for pushing the dough through a colander, but according to Udo that is the Swiss way, not the German way.  We used a pizza board and a cake spatula to work tiny bits of dough off the large dough ball and into the boiling water.  I have to say my arm got a work out!

Mark was sick on Thursday and Friday, so I got an extra day on saucier, which meant I made the lamb dish 2 days in a row.  On day 2, I was much faster at both prep and getting the plates out during lunch service.  So, although everyone knows repetition is the key to getting faster at things, repetition 2 days in a row was key for me – instead of waiting for another 8 days to practice lamb again (our rotation is we do 1 dish every 9 days, which equates to us practicing the dishes only 2 days each prior to the final).  Since the lamb is 99% likely to be the saucier dish on the practical exam, I am super glad I had another day of practicing all the components.  I’m feeling much more positive and relaxed about it all. And, it was more fun in the kitchen last week as we had a few days of larger numbers of patrons in the restaurant, which meant we didn’t have a lot of time to stand around and be bored before firing our dishes.

It has been a very relaxing weekend.  Igor and I ate and drank wine together on Friday night, then yesterday I spent some time working on plans for Spain and putting down a schedule to brush up on my Spanish.  I’m a bit nervous about going and just knocking on doors, as the economy in Spain isn’t exactly wonderful right now.   So far, no connections have panned out, but I’m still hopeful.  I’m hoping a smile and my energetic personality will help 😉  Only half kidding.

Tonight, I’m off to Charlie Hunter at The Independent.  I haven’t seen him in a long time, so I’m looking forward to hearing some of his new tunes!  Hoping some of those stick in my head for tomorrow’s class, as I’m usually singing some bad 80’s tune I heard on the radio on my commute down to school.

Day 110: 2 weeks left of school and the importance of breakfast

6 Dec

I’m back on desserts for 2 days. Everything went just fine with my dessert today, save my ice cream wasn’t quite as frozen as I would have liked it to be for service.  That’s not what irritated me.  I’m not going to rant on why I’m irritated as I already “caused a commotion” (as my grandmother used to accuse me of) at school by asking why we couldn’t practice 2 different dishes simultaneously and then did a smallish rant in response to the answers that were insufficient in my opinion.  Instead, I’m going to rant about breakfast.   Yeah, breakfast! Chef Peter, Bobbie, and all the rest of you no breakfast eaters, eat it … everyday!  And, make it a healthy one. Coffee by itself does not count.

I used to be a coffee and bagel or no breakfast eater because I was too busy and I always used the excuse that I just wasn’t that hungry when I first got up.  But, when I started FCI, Carnet reasoned that if I didn’t eat before I left for school, I was going to tank and not have a chance to eat prior to lunch.  He was right.  So, his promise to me was that he’d make me a healthy breakfast every day when he was home.  He has done a fantastic job.

But, when he’s not home, I still make a healthy breakfast because it only takes 15 minutes.  Here’s how it goes….I wake up and spend 5 minutes in the shower thinking about what I can make for breakfast in under 15 minutes to ensure that I get out the door within 40 minutes of my alarm going off (often hitting the snooze button once).  Obviously, putting the coffee on takes 5 minutes.  Smoothie with yogurt and protein powder (not the gross sugary kind) – 5 minutes.   Eggs, bacon, spinach or some other greens, and tomatoes – 10-15 minutes.  I don’t ever just do a smoothie, as it’s not enough and there’s too high of a sugar ratio to protein, so I make hard boiled eggs the night before or a few days before and pair 2 of those with the smoothie.    I don’t generally do carbs in the form of bread, as I’ve learned that the wheat carbs tend to give me a high that then drops to a low. So, it’s mostly about the proteins with the vegetable and fruits (obviously fruits have carbs, as well, so that’s why I always mix the protein with it).

15 minutes max and I can have what is a complete breakfast for me.  It’s not hard at all.  Just do it.  You’ll feel better and you’ll have more energy further into the morning.

At top is one of my recent school day breakfasts.  2 eggs, scrambled; 1 roma tomato; handful of sauteed spinach; 2 slices of lamb bacon (much leaner than pork bacon) and a large piece of lettuce for extra vegies. The pickled onions were a 15 minute quick pickle the night before.  A 15 minute breakfast. Done. You’ll feel fabulous.

On another note, here’s dinner from last night (the “fridge pizza” – prosciutto, gorgonzola, pears, tomatoes, romano cheese):

 

And, slices with salad on top:

 

Off to a bread making class this evening at La Victoria Bakery in the Mission. Hope it’s good!

Days 107 and 108: Monkfish (ummm, on the Monterey Bay seafood watch list!) and Wild Mushroom pasta (yeah, a vegetarian dish other than salad)!

2 Dec

Yesterday, I was on monkfish.  I’m not sure why that’s on our menu.  Is it cheap?  Seems awfully silly to put monkfish on the menu in California when, 1) it’s on the Monterey Bay Aquarium Seafood Watch List, which means do not buy or eat!, and 2) it’s from the Atlantic.  We can’t get any other fish that swim in the Pacific?

According to the Monterey Bay Aquarium, “Monkfish are usually caught using bottom trawls, a method that can damage seafloor habitat and often results in high bycatch. Monkfish are also caught using gillnets, and this can result in the accidental catch and death of sea turtles and marine mammals.”  For more information, see www.montereybayaquarium.org/cr/SeafoodWatch/web/sfw_factsheet.aspx?fid=53 .  And, for me, they just have too many worms.

On a yummier note, we do have a good vegetarian dish on our menu: Tagliatelle with Roasted Mushrooms and Fennel Cream.  (see a picture of it at www.flickr.com/photos/64065736@N02/6371650713/in/photostream ). We make the tagliatelle with a combination of “00” flour and fine semolina, but if you can’t find 00 flour, all purpose flour will do. But, be sure to use semolina, as well.

Here’s a similar recipe to what we have been doing at school, which will serve 8.

Pasta:

200 grams (approximately 7 oz.) 00 flour or AP flour

200 grams fine semolina flour

pinch of salt

4 whole eggs

*A general rule to keep in mind is 1 egg per every 100 grams of flour.  This won’t be exact because the size of eggs differ and flours differ, but it’s a general rule.  The recipe at school calls for an additional 4 egg yolks in this recipe (yolks, only), but my pasta was way too wet with the extra yolks so I ended up adding more flour.

Directions: Combine the flours and salt in a mixing bowl, beat the eggs separately and then mix them in a mixer with the flour until it forms a ball. Or if you don’t want to use a mixer, simply make a well in the flour and pour in the egg yolks and work the eggs into the flour until it becomes a ball.  Take the ball out of the mixer or bowl and work it with your hands for 10 minutes on a lightly floured surface until smooth and light golden-ish.  Let it rest in the refrigerator for about an hour or more and then take it out about 1/2 hour prior to rolling it out in the pasta machine.  Roll out the pasta, cut it into 12 inch long pieces, then cut the pasta into 1/2 inch x 12 inch pieces with a sharp knife.  Hold on a lightly semolina-floured surface until ready to cook.  I’m sure there are probably better videos out there (and Chef Udo and Chef Rogers would take issue with what I’m going to suggest here), but if you need a quick visual, someone who does a fast, simple pasta is Jamie Oliver at www.youtube.com/watch?v=C0XVDpPBHho .

Fennel Cream

3-4 heads of fennel, white parts only and thinly sliced

1/2 yellow onion, thinly sliced

1 Tbl. fennel seeds

2 bay leaves and 3-4 tarragon stems

water to cover

1/2  pint of cream

Directions: Heat a pan on medium.  Toss in the fennel seeds and roast until aromatic, which will be a couple of minutes. Then, put in some oil, add thinly sliced onions and sweat the onions.  After a few minutes, toss in the fennel and sweat down for another few minutes. At this point, you need to season the vegies with a couple of tablespoons of salt. It will seem like a lot but it’s better to season prior to dumping in the liquid.  Next, add in bay leaves and tarragon stems.  Pour in enough water to just cover the vegies and then pour in 1/2 pint of cream. Continue to simmer for another 20 minutes until the flavors all meld.   Check seasoning and adjust salt or liquid. Throw in some white pepper (not black, as you want this to be totally white).

Remove bay leaves and tarragon stems and then blend in a blender until smooth. Here’s where you need a chinois or fine mesh hand strainer.  Put the blended cream through a chinois or fine mesh strainer. What you should be left with is a thin fennel cream.  It will thicken up later when you toss it in the pasta, so don’t worry if it’s really thin at this point.

Roasted mushrooms

24 oz. of your favorite wild mushrooms.  Our recipe at school calls for 8 oz. each of oyster mushrooms, creminis and shitakes.

4 garlic cloves, finely minced

4-8 oz. dry sherry or madeira

salt and pepper

fresh thyme, parsley and tarragon, finely minced

DirectionsYou can either roast these in the oven with some olive oil, garlic, and salt until brown, or you can pan sear them until they are brown. Either way, you need to stir them to make sure they brown on both sides. After brown, add the dry sherry or madeira and stir until the alcohol evaporates by at least half.  Remove from heat and save the mushrooms until ready to put everything together.  The herbs will be added at that time, as well.

The pasta, sauce and mushrooms: Putting it altogether.

1) Bring salted water to a boil.  Throw in your pasta and boil for  2 minutes – no more!  You want it to be pretty al dente because you will add it to the fennel cream and mushrooms and cook it a bit longer in the sauce.

2) Meanwhile, get a very large saute or 2 large saute pans on medium heat.  Add in about 16 oz of fennel cream between the two pans or in one large pan.  Add in the mushrooms. Heat that through.  Here’s where your fennel cream starts to thicken. If it gets too thick, you can always add some pasta water to thin it out a bit.

3) After the pasta has been boiling for 2 minutes, take it directly from the water and put it in the warm fennel cream mushroom mix.  Add in a 1 tablespoon butter and some grated parmesan. Toss to coat the pasta in the sauce, butter, and mushrooms.

4) Taste. Adjust any seasonings at this point, and you can always add in more fennel cream here if your sauce is too thick or more pasta water, or more cheese if it’s not cheesy enough.   At the very end, toss in a couple of tablespoons of the minced herbs. Serve immediately in a large, warm pasta bowl, or plate separately on each diner’s plate.

*This whole process takes no more than 5 minutes from the time you drop the pasta into the boiling water, so you need to have everything ready. Otherwise your pasta will be overcooked and your sauce will get cold.
Happy eating!