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Sunday Night Dinner Party

6 Sep

Thanks Rach for letting me drop in again to talk about food, love, and life.  When we started this whole culinary school journey Rachel and I had a couple long discussions about what we both expected from this experience.  As many of our friends have known for many years, we both love to cook… for me it’s a way to drink beers and just forget about my day to day business activities.  I normally get a pretty good buzz going when I cook and my creative juices flow.. sometimes a great meal is put together, other times we end up going out for food.  Either way, the kitchen is my zen garden and I freestyle cook like no other.  For Rachel it was always a bit more serious.  She would think about her menu for a couple of days, read through her cookbooks, adjust depending on what ingredients are fresh at the market and present the food as a complete story… with an intro, body, and tasty ending.

So when Rach decided to go to FCI, it was not something done lightly.  This was a long drawn out process with multiple visits to the FCI in New York, tons of research about the culinary school experience she was looking for, and how it would fit into our lives.  We had several aborted starts and stops along the way with work, Sprout, and other distractions along the way.  It was not until the acquisition of Sprout was well underway, did we finally bite the bullet, drop a deposit down at FCI and thus started the Saltyapron adventure.  For those of you who know Rachel, if she’s going to do something it is going to be done as perfectly as she can do it.  The first two months of school were not what she planned… the Sprout acquisition took much longer than expected and between school during the day and reviewing legal docs at night, it was a frustrating time not being able to jump in with both feet.

I digress… back to my discussion about expectations.  When school started, we talked and tried to figure out what Rachel was really expecting from FCI.  Was she going to work for a world class chef?  Was she going to open her own food truck?  Restaurant?  Catering?   I broke it down quite simply.  There were no expectations.  At the end of the program, if she wanted to become a professional salsa dancer and never step into a commercial kitchen again, that was fine with me.  The only expectation is to have a great time in the program, have fun, refine skills in the kitchen, and figure out if this is what she wants to do as a career.

So where does this guest post take us.. it was a long set up say that this weekend I finally saw Rachel take what she’s learning at FCI and transform it into a fun dinner party.  No expectations, but damn… great food.  I have always known that Rachel loves cooking food and feeding people.  But this weekend, I saw her transform from a recreational cook into the beginnings of a professional chef.  It’s probably hard to realize how much you are learning when you spend everyday in the kitchen, but for those of us who get to watch and taste the food being cooked, it’s pretty obvious.

Our Sunday dinner started not on Sunday, but on Friday.  Rachel landed from SF and was already talking about a couple ideas she had for dinner.  It was going to be a fresh fish (Halibut?) with a pan asian flair.  She was tired of cooking French food (opps.. can I say that on her blog?) and wanted something different.  Like all great chefs, she brought back fresh Tomatoes from our Mariquita Farms CSA box along with a couple avocados.  Ok.. a bit random to be carrying fresh produce with you, but maybe that’s what FCI grads do.  Who knows.  Anyways, by Sat afternoon her well planned menu completely changed.  She could not find the fish she was looking for, but did find fresh corn.  Corn?  Great chefs should cook with ingredients that are available locally.  So the menu was that.. what she found at the market.

We started with a cold soup duo.  Roasted corn with smoked trout paired with an avocado taster.  Perfect for opening up our pallet.  The next course was a beet salad with friend goat cheese that Shannon made.  Then we dove into lamb chops that were paired with a lovely fig sauce.  From what I can remember the figs were soaked in a port, shallot, coffee, thyme, vegetable stock concoction that was cooked down into a lovely sauce.  Then to finish up the meal we had a homemade lemon tart that was a chance for Rachel to practice for one of her tests this week.  The meal was paired with a couple bottles of Pinots and a French table wine.

The best part was watching Rachel’s complete mastery of Shannon’s kitchen.  Never was there a hesitation as she cooked, drank wine and talked to everyone.  I’m dreaming of the day I get to sit in Chez Hampig at the chef’s table and watch her direct her team.  That’s gonna be awesome!  As long as I get a key to the wine cellar 😉

Here are some pics I shot of pre dinner cooking.  Hope they make your mouth water as much as writing this blog post has made mine.  Thanks for reading!

– Click on each pic to see a full size version.  These are the pre cooking shots of the fig sauce, making the lemon tart, cooking the lamb, and final products the soup duo, beet salad, and of course sunset at Shannon and Fred’s house.


Guest Post: Live to Eat

22 Aug

Greetings SaltyApron readers.  I’m sneaking in for a quick guest post while Rachel is practicing how to filet a Flounder for a big week at FCI.  Wed is big test at school and she’s in focus mode.  I wonder if she’ll even notice I posted on her blog 🙂  My theme for this post is our love for food has no boundaries.  I was in Bangalore, India the past two weeks for work and even though it was a grueling schedule, we always found a way to find good food each evening.  I have realized that no matter how tough work can be, the expectation of a good meal always puts a smile on my face.  Food is partially about nutrition, but following my Grandfather’s philosophy on life… we don’t eat to live, but rather we live to eat.

  The trip started with first making sure we had a good supply of proper spirits for our two week trip.  As you can see from the picture on the left, I choose two bottles of single malt scotch as my after dinner drink of choice.  Unfortunately instead of a glass of scotch neat, it was scotch and laptop 😦

We stayed at the Matthan hotel in Bangalore and the highlight of the hotel was the morning breakfast buffet.  I believe that a solid breakfast is the best way to start a day.  Lots of protein and green veggies.  I ended up eating a variety of stuff for breakfast each day.  Sometimes it was more of a Western meal consisting of a four egg omelette (only two yolks), a plateful of steamed broccoli,  sautéed zucchini,  and boiled green beans.  I threw on a couple slices of smoked salmon and topped it all off with papaya and pineapple.

Other mornings, it was a full on Indian breakfast with Dal, Dosa, Uppadam, and an assortment of other dishes.  Yum!  Either way it was a great way to start the day as often times I would miss lunch.

In India, most people are vegetarians due to their caste.  There are deities for every animal in India except the cat from what I have been told.  The cow is sacred and many folks in my company started missing their beef steak.  Needless to say, finding a NY steak in India was nearly impossible.  As you can see from this picture, the cow is truly sacred and they basically can walk anywhere they want without regard to traffic as no cars are willing to even get near them.

Our office was in a large technology park and there was a huge lunch area that reminded me of the lunch room in the TV show Outsourced.  There were tons of local food stalls and the price was right.. barely $2 for a yummy local dish.

The great thing about food in India is that you realize there are so many regional cuisines that we are never exposed to in the States.  Most “Indian” restaurants you find tend to serve Northern Indian food it seems (Tandoori), while in SF there is a big new push of Southern Indian restaurants (Dosa).  One of my favorite meals was Goan food (mainly seafood).  The great thing about local food in India is their use of spices.. everything is so full of flavor, that you end up not eating that much as your senses become full before your stomach gets engorged.  I have been on a Paleo eating plan in the States, but I decided while in India, I would dive into the many types of Roti, Naan, and other breads.  I even ate with my right hand which seemed to make the food that much more tasty.

When walking around town, it was great to see that in order to get food, you needed to visit the source.  I saw mutton being bled (didn’t take a pic as Rachel would have hated seeing it).  Here’s a picture of where you can get your very freshly killed chicken and bring home for supper.  It would be great if more folks in America had a chance to see how their food is either grown, raised or killed.  It might make people willing to spend more on pasture raised beef, chicken or eggs.  It’s time to educated folks that chicken nuggets are NOT natural!

Finally.. food is everywhere.  It was great to see folks on the street selling cooked food, fresh vegetables, meat, most anything someone would need to make a meal.  There were very few supermarkets and those are for sure intended for the “elite” class.  India is not much different than what I saw traveling through most of Southeast Asia.  The only place I have found to even be close to this feel in the States is Mission St. here in San Francisco, where you still see the avocado guy on the corner by my office.

Anyways, long post, so I’ll wrap things up.  Living to eat makes everything else simple.  Only we can control what we put in our bodies and choosing to eat scrumptious food that makes you smile puts everything else in perspective.  So here’s to hoping that you are having a wonderful meal where you are and for some toasting a fine glass of vino.  I can smell Rachel’s founder cooking in the kitchen, so I better get ready for dinner.  Yumm. I am an lucky man.  I’m gonna eat well for a very long time 😉 Or at least until we are old and gray.

One last thing… I just ate Rachel’s Flounder that she’s practicing for tomorrow’s class.  Beurre Blanc sauce with mushrooms over Flounder, a veggie packet, and green beans.  Yum!!!

Rachel’s comment is that she needs to edit something else.  We both felt the green beans were too much, but it’s going to be in her basket tomorrow.  Hopefully she’ll get the smaller French Haricot Vert so it won’t be so overwhelming on the plate.