Saturday, December 20, 2008


And, finally, we have Japan. Um. Depending on how long you've known me, you may not know of my love for sushi. How I can stuff my face with far more sushi than a human is supposed to eat and still want more as long as some is sitting in front of me. All you can eat sushi nights are both the best and the worst, for obvious reasons. I also love ramen. And miso soup.

Miso Soup
Make dashi, drain the tofu. Soften the red miso in a medium bowl by adding 2t of water and blending with a whisk. Gradually ladle the softened miso into the stock pot, while simmering over medium heat. After the miso is disolved, add trefoil stalks, shittake mushrooms, and tofu, and heat thoroughly. Remove from the heat and serve garnished with a little sansho pepper.
Wash the rice at least 3 times, until the water runs clear. Drain the rice in a colander and let it stand for 30 minutes. Cook equal parts rice with equal parts water. Clearly, watch carefully so the rice does not burn! Remove from heat, place a damp towel of rice, and let it cool.
Pour seasoned rice vinegar (rice wine vinegar, sugar and salt) over cooked rice and mix it gently.
Make tetzu - 1c. water and 1T rice wine vinegar. For dipping your hands into, so rice doesn't stick to hands.
Toast nori over light open fire, shiny side down.
Place nori on makisu, with rough-side up. Spread rice, leaving a 1/ in. at the side ear you, and a 3/4 in. at the side furthest from you. Hold the makisu with both hands and carefuly roll it up, wrapping the fillign in the middle, adn rolling away from the side closest to you. Hold the rolled makisu with both hands and squeeze gently to firm the nori-roll. Cut into eight pieces, using a very sharp knife.
Lay rice over nori, then place filling, and roll, pulling tightly toward you as you wrap.
Or make a rice ball in palm of hand, and place shrimp/fish on top.
Lay rice on nori, then flip over, place filling on inside, and roll as above.
Yum. T and I did an amazing job. Aren't his avocado slices beautiful?
Grilled Chicken Skewers with Yakitori Glaze
Mix glaze: soy sauce, mirin, sake, sugar, crushed garlic, sliced giner, water, and cornstarch.
Thread chicken andonions onto water-soaked skewers. Apply glaze.
Grill until done. Baste as necessary. Finish with five spice powder and salt.

Tempura and Ponzu Sauce

Pour rice wine vinegar into a small bowl. Add the sugar and stir until the sugar is dissolvd. Taste for sweetness. Add cilantro, chile, and garlic and mix well. Season with salt and pepper and allow to sit for 10 minutes to 1 hour, for flavors to combine.

Mix the ice-cold water into the flour until the mixture is slightly thicker than buttermilk consistency. Dip slice vegetables (we used zucchini, onions, and eggplant) into the batter mixture and shake offany excess. Deep fry vegetables until the batter are light golden in color and crisp. Turn the vegetables at intervals to ensure that both sides are cooked equally and then remove. Season with salt and eat with Ponzu sauce: lemon juice, rice wine vinegar, soy sauce, mirin and lemon zest - bring to a boil, then cool; strain and reserve.

And... grilled steak. Yum.

Lessons Learned:
This only reinforced my love of Japanese foods. I think miso soup is going to make it into my regular rotation. So simple, so good.

And that's it for classes, folks - next step: cooking in the school's restaurant. Cooking for people besides ourselves. Fun! Scary! Guess we'll find out for sure what I think of working the line...


Okay, sadly, I do not have the photos for Vietnam. See my Thailand post for explanation.
I also may have mentioned, I recently discovered where the Vietnamese markets are near me - when the weather gets better (seriously, is it ever going to be consistently not winter?) I plan on taking the el up and exploring. Anyone want to join?

Summer rolls with Peanut Hoisin Sauce
Soak the cellophane noodles in bowl of hot boiled water until they soften. Drain noodls and shock in cold water.
Working with one sheet at a time, completely immerse a sheet of rice paper in hot water for a few seconds. Remove and lay it on a board. Place a leaf of lettuce, 2 pieces of shrimp, 3 cilantro, 2 mint leaves, a wad of noodles, bean sprouts and carrots. Fold the sides of rice paper over the filling and roll up the rice paper into a cylinder - really tight - you don't want it to be able to open up.
Serve with peanut hoisi sauce: rice vinegar, hoisin sauce, peanut butter, fish sauce, hot water, sugar, lime juice, minced garlic, ground peanuts. Simmer until sauce is not too thin or too thick.

Bo Nuong - Beef Skewer
Soak bamboo skewer in water. Combine lemon grass, chopped garlic, sesame seeds, fish sauce, oyster sauce, soy sauce, onions, honey, an dsugar. Marinate meat at least 2 hours, turn periodically. Skewer and wrap with caul fat then grill well done. Serve with dipping fish sauce: hot water, sugar, white vinegar, fish sauce, minced garlic, minced thai chile, and juiced lime.

This. was. fantastic. Caul fat is not exactly pleasant to work with, but when it melts into the meat, it makes it juicy and delicious.

Lessons Learned:
I miss Chef T! He subbed this night, and he brought all kinds of Vietnamese herbs for us to sample. He's the one that told me where the markets are, and encourage me to go exploring. He was such a nice teacher, and actually very interesting to talk to. I would have liked to have ended the program with him.

Just in case you wanted a reason to keep reading (for those of you that do)... I'm actually back to cooking at home these days, and I'll probably keep blogging about things I've enjoyed making. And then you can listen to me daydream about my plan to buy a stand mixer.


I only have a few photos from my final, which was on Thai dishes. My camera's battery had died, and I kept forgetting to charge it. So, these photos are on Irish's camera, and, well, she's not exactly good at following through on reminders to send them to me...

But this night was delicious. It's hard for me to pick favorites when it comes to food, but definitely Thai is way up there.

*Tamarind water - made by rehydrating the tamarind paste in equal amounts of warm water, mashing the paste to dissovle and passing through a strainer. You can also buy tamarind water - just look for products that only have the ingredients of tamarind and water.

Kai Look Koei (Son in Law Eggs)
Hard cook eggs first, then peel
Simmer tamarind water, palm sugar (brown sugar if can't find this), and fish sauce, stirring, until syrupy, 5-8 minutes. Transfer to a bowl.
Deep fry the eggs, turning to brown evenly. When gold and blistered, after 3-5 minutes, drain on paper towels. Make and alternate sauce with a combination of sambal and fish sauce with a little bit of brown sugar. Adjust the seasonings so that all the flavors are represented.
Toss the 3 whole eggs in the tamarind sauce and the other egg in sambal sauce. Cut the eggs in half lengthwise and arrange ona platter with a dollop of sauce under each. Scatter the chiles and fried shallots on top.
Okay, so this may sound kind of disgusting, but it was pretty good. I wouldn't be able to eat more than one just because of the deep frying, and, well, that's just too much egg, but, still, not as awful as it may seem based on the description.

Green Curry with Chicken

Brown chicken in oil. Add eggplant until see color. Add 1T curry paste. Add milk, then heavy cream, add lime leaves, simmer until nappe. If bland, add fish sauce. Served with rice.

Pad Thai

I know this is so cliched, but, honestly, pad thai is one of my favorite dishes. It's just so good. Plus I really liked this recipe. This is definitely a keeper. Now, if only I had a real stove and not a stupid 2/3 electric stove that doesn't really allow me to cook on a wok...

Now, if you are lucky enough to have an actual stove... here's the directions:

Fry an egg in oil, then take out. Fry shrimp, and turn down heat. Add shallot and garlic, then brown sugar, then scallions, then half the sprouts. Oh. Buy real sprouts. As in, go to your nearest Asian market, not the boring old grocery store you would go for simple staples. You won't believe the difference.

Anyway. Then add noodles. Strain the tamarind water, pour over noodles, then add egg. Break up among noodles. Add a couple T of water, then add fish sauce. Careful! Not too much - it will make it really salty. Serve with coarsely chopped peanuts, lime wedges, shredded carrots, cilantro, and thai bird chiles.

Lessons Learned:

I think I could eat pad thai every single day. And oh man does fish sauce smell so bad, but it makes dishes taste so good.


Okay, so writing this post is making me crave these dishes. Seriously. I realize it's dinnertime, but don't these dishes look so good? I'm going to have to stop in HMart when I visit my parents tomorrow - I wouldn't buy seafood there, but I will for sure buy noodles, spices and vegetables there.

Pork and Ginger Potstickers
Dough: Mix flour and salt. Slowly add hot water to flour in 2 oz increments. Mix until a ball is formed and dough is not too hot to handle. On a floured surface, knead dough until it becomes a smooth, elastic ball. Place back in bowl and cover with a damp cloth. Allow to rest for at least 1 hour. Working on a floured surface with floured hands, roll out dough to form a long log 1 in in diameter. Cut 1/2 in. pieces and turn them over so the cut sides are facing up. Flatten with your palm and roll out thin using a rolling pin. The dumpling wrapper should end up about 3 inches in diameter.
Filling: Sprinkle cabbage with half the salt and let stand for 30 minutes. Place the cabbag on a clean dishtowel or cheesecloth and squeeze out any water. The dryer the cabbage the better. In a large bowl thoroughly mix the cabbage with ground pork, minced ginger, minced garlic, soy sauce, sesame oil and egg Cook 1 T to check seasoning. Reserve.
To put together: Put a tiny bit in the middle of the wrapper, and seal with water. Pinch all the air out - just like ravioli, this is key to them not exploding. Press fork tines into edge to make the pretty border.
Sauce: Soy, dijon, honey, sesame oil, minced giner, water, and minced scallion.

Mapu Dofu
Re-hydrate tree ear muchrooms in boiling water. Stir fry the minced ginger in oil and add minced pork and chili garlic paste. Then add scallions, tofu, peppercorns, soy sauce, sugar, and cornstarch. Drain the mushrooms. Deglaze with sake. Stir gently to coat.

Pork Fried Rice
Use day-old rice. Use a wok. Heat egg in oil, then take out. Fry pork 2 minutes, remove and set aside. Heat 1/2 T of oil in same wok. Add rice, mix well, toss in mushrooms and scallions. Add soy sauce. Add egg back in, break with rice. Add sprouts and sesame oil. Add pork back in, toss. Serve hot.
Yet again, I have another dish I don't have a recipe for. Shoot, I am only screwing myself, since I remember liking this - wish I knew how to make it again! Anyone have any ideas what it might be?
Lessons Learned:
I'm trying to increase my tolerance to "heat" in dishes - it's getting better, but I'm still a weakling compared to lots of people. But, now, I mostly just keep stuffing my face even if it burns because it just tastes so good. That's how it'll get stronger, right?


I love Indian food. I tried it for the first time several years ago when I was hanging out at a friend's house - his dad is Indian. But the person who really made me love it is my sister's husband. He's an amazing cook, and he really knows how to make any Indian dish. I love eating over there.
Seriously, is there any region whose food I don't love? No. No, I don't think there is.

Mmm... Rico made the most amazing black tea... this was so good. But since we get out at 11:30pm and I have to get up at 5:45am, I had only one sip and then took it home. I had it the next day, cold - it was fantastic!
Black Tea
4 c water, 1.5 c milk, 14 cardamon pods, 6 whole cloves, 1 in. piece fresh ginger, 3 cinnamon sticks, 2T honey, 2T black tea, 2 T vanilla
Boil 10 min, strain
(see photos below)
Sift flour, baking powder and salt into a bowl and mae a well in the middle. Dissolve fresh yeaast in 1/2 c of warm water. Mix the water and yogurt in a bowl. Pour this, plus yeast mixture, into the center of the flour and knead, adding water if necessary to form soft dough. Knead the dough again and cover and leave for 2 hours.
We grilled these, but they can be baked similarly to pitas if you want them to puff up a litle bit.
Tomato Chutney
Um. Yeah. So I'm blanking again on which dish is which. Whoops. I seem to have photos of additional dishes, but not the recipes...
Mix tomatoes, creamed ginger, creamed garlic, minced cilantro, chile powder, sugar and salt. Simmer until a saucy consistency is reached. No oil is required for cooking. Remove from fire, cool and serve. Sprinkle with minced mint.

Tandoori Chicken
Blend half the plain yogurt, lemon juice, garlic, ground cardamon, ground cumin, ground cinnamon, nutmeg, ground ginger, ground mace, ground aniseed, saffron, red chili powder, red pepper flakes, black salt, pepper, salt, orange food coloring, and yellow food coloring. Can be either mixed by hand or in a blender. Fold in remaining yogurt, and reserve 1/4 c for basting. Add chicken to marinade (remove skin). Reserve. Grill chicken until done, basting occasionally with yogurt mixture then butter. Serve with onion and cilantro.

Aloo Gobi
Fry potato in oil until golden and tender. Reserve some of the oil used to fry the potato and begin pan roasting the cauliflower (add small amounts of water to steam near the end of cooking). When the cauliflower is tender, return the potatoes to the pan. Add the minced ginger, minced garlic, turmeric, cayenne, ground cumin, and ground coriander. Cook to heat the potatoes through. Add small amounts of water to prevent sticking.
Remove from the heat and stir in the yogurt and chopped cilantro. Adjust the seasoning with salt.

Lamb Curry
Toast whole cumin in oil. When brown, add minced onion and minced tomato and cook to brown. Add yogurt, chili powder, coriander, turmeric, and garam marsala, and simmer for 2 minutes. Add 1 in. cubes of lamb and continue simmering until cooked, about 15 min. Add water as necessary. Add onion gravy, and simmer 10 minutes more.
Onion Gravy: sliced onion, sliced tomato, yogurt, cream, cashews, cumin, cardamom pods, whole clove, ground cinnamon, ground mace, ground coriander, turmeric, chili powder, paprika, and salt.

This is a lentil dish. I love lentils. But I don't know the recipe. Sorry!

Oh, and everything is served over basmati rice. I buy all my rice and noodles at ethnic grocery stores - I feel like finding those in every city or suburb is the key to finding quality food at reasonable prices. I love me some Trader Joe's and Aldi, but I love exploring Indian and Asian grocery stores. Next step is Mexican and African grocery stores. I've located them, but I haven't had as much of a reason to go into them - I'm more likely to make Indian or other Asian dishes at home.

Lessons Learned:
There are a lot of things I have learned to really enjoy over the past year, both because of and before culinary school. One of those is tea. Coffee. Alcohol. I realize this could just be because as we get older, we are earning more money (hopefully) and therefore have more disposable income to buy better quality... Mmmm. Tea. Sitting in a sushi restaurant, waiting for my food to be ready, I love to sip on hot green tea. It's just so good.

South America: Brazil & Argentina

I apologize for my photography lately... lots of blurry shots for some reason... maybe I was eager to eat and took the photos too fast...

There are lots of Brazilian restaurants in Chicago... steak places, but I've never been to one. A little out of my price range, and since meat isn't my life, I figure I can wait.

Sweat onion and a quarter each of red and green pepper (brunoise) until translucent. stir in tomatoes, salt, pepper and cook 2 minutes more. Pour in the clam juice, bay leaf, and scallions, and make a slurry with the coconut milk. Add to the pot. Bring to a simmer over med-high heat. Reduce and adjust consistency. Cook 10-15 min, stirring occasionally, until peppers are tender. just before service, add the scallions, scallops and monkfish and season with salt and pepper. cover and simmer 5-7 minutes, lifting cover twice to stir gently. Add the lime juice, dende (palm oil) and cilantro and simmer 2 minutes more. Ladle into large bowls and garnish with the toasted coconut and lime sections.

Churassco con Chimichurri salsa and Yucca Frita
Beef Flank Steak and plantain chips

Pat steak dry. Stir together salt, cumin, coriander, and pepper in a small bowl and rub mixture onto both sides of steak. Broil steak to desired doneness. Let stand 5 minutes before cutting.
Meanwhile, with motor running, add garlic to a food processor and finely chop. Add cilantro, parsley, distilled white vinegar, oil, cayenne, and salt, then pulse until herbs are finely chopped. Slice steak thinly on the bias and serve with sauce.
[we grilled the steak instead of broiling, and also chicken]
Chimichurri: 1/2 c chopped parsley, finely mince 3 cloves garlic, 1t oregano, 1t chili flakes, 1/2 lemon (juice), salt, black pepper, paprika, bay leaf, olive oil to thicken. Marinate one hour.
Feijoeda Completa
Soak dried black beans overnight. Drain and add ham hock and fresh water. Simmer until the beans are soft. Shred meat from hock. Reserve beans, water and meat.
Render bacon, remove when cooked.
Brown pork butt and andouille sausage in the bacon fat. Remove.
Sweat onion and garlic in the bacon fat, add tomatoes then bay leaf. Return all meats to the pot, simmer, in addition to beans, orange juice, and bean water to cover. Simmer for 1 hour to combine flavors.
Tastes good with braised collard greens.
Okay, so I did not help with this dish. Once I saw what a ham hock looked like, I could not bring myself to help. I didn't even taste it. It was just too much pork for me. Rico happily took my plate.

Lessons Learned:
Either meat is extremely popular in the majority of the world's cultures, or these are just the recipes I'm being exposed to through this program...


Sadly, I was not present on Mexico night, much to my dismay. I had to attend conferences for work. You know, where I sit at a table playing on my laptop or walking around catching up with people - in my role, I don't have any parents that want to speak to me. How many parents want to be caught sitting at the table clearly labeled "psychologist." Not too many.
But then you know, luckily, Chef K made two of the midterm practicals recipes from this night... awesome Chef. Love you. I burned all the stuff. Oh, and the chicken wasn't cooked. ha. Whoops.
But I really was disappointed because I love Mexican food and I didn't get to learn how to make it. But then I was told if I had seen how much lard they put in the tamales, I would never want to eat Mexican food again... so maybe it worked out in my favor!
But I would have really liked to have learned how to make a good mole... guess I'll have to teach myself when I have time to myself again...

Lessons Learned:
Getting angry at the chef doesn't help one cook better... in fact, it may make you burn things.


This night we visited Spain. I love tapas. But I like to balance with lots of vegetable dishes - tapas can be pretty meat-heavy.

Gambas al Ajillo
I made this dish twice - I think I burned the garlic the first time. But it was kind of nice making it twice, one because it's so easy, and then two because there's only four shrimp and I wanted more!

Cook garlic, red pepper flakes, and sea salt in olive oil over moderately low heat, until garlic is pale golden, about 4-5 minutes. Increase heat to moderately high, then add shrimpa nd saute, until shrimp are just cooked through, 3-4 minutes. Finish with lemon juice.

So simple and so good!

Borrego en la Parilla con Salsa Romesco I don't really think the sauce is supposed to look like this... but Chef K said that's how he likes it.

Sweat garlic until fragrant and light brown. Remove and add bread slice and fry until golden. Remove and gently fry the almonds. Remove and cool oil. Place garlic, bread and almonds in mortar and pestle and work to form a paste. Add peeled and roasted red pepper, tomato, paprika, and cayene pepper and continue to work into a paste (we used the blender). Add vinegar. Slowly drizzle in oil to form an emulsion, adjust seasoning with salt. Should be the consistency of a light mayo. Serve over grilled lamb steaks.


Looks good, right? I didn't actually have any of this - I was getting restless by the time it finished cooking.

Warm the while wine and add saffron, steep for 10 minutes. In a separate pan, sear chicken (leg, breast, and thigh) to golden brown on all sides. Remove. Repeat with sausage (andouille or chorizo, bias cut), then remove. Add onion and garlic, sweat to golden, add rice and paprika, toast for one minute, then deglaze with tomato. Degalze with wine mixture. Add stock, chicen and sausage to pan. Cover. Simmer paella until liquid is absorbed and rice is tender. In last 8 minutes, add red pepper, mussels, clams and shrimp. Arrange the seafood, chicken, and sausage, alternating in a spiral around the dish. Add peas just before serving.

Serve in dishcooked in. Garnish with parslep and a dollop of Aioli in the center of the dish.

Oh, and by the way, it was my birthday! Whoops, I have clearly been too busy to post, since my birthday is in the middle of November...

Here's what Irish brought me:

Not to be ungrateful. But. Pound cake is nice. But it's not my "favorite" cake like she claimed I told her. Just because it's low fat doesn't mean it's healthy - it's loaded with sugar! And, really, I guess yellow cake would be my favorite. With pilsbury frosting. It tastes like cake. Like my memories of cake. But whatever - she claimed I mentioned that one night. Considering I haven't eaten pound cake in years, and she never asked me what kind of cake I wanted, I'm going to guess that she misremembered. What I do like, though, is all the fruit on the cake. That is my idea of a good dessert!

But the whipped cream Chef K made for me tasted excellent. Whipped cream and strawberries. Yum!

Lessons Learned:

I'm starting to get a little... I don't know. I go through these stages where I don't know if I can trust people. And I'm just starting to doubt my friendship with Irish and Tennessee. I just don't think we're really friends. For example, this cake - compare it to what she made Rico or Tennessee. Or Nemo. Which, whatever, if she doesn't really consider me a friend, that's okay, that's the beauty of adulthood is you get to choose your friends. But there's no need to fake it, and I'm pretty sure that's what they're doing with me. Granted, I have major trust issues, but usually I'm pretty right about who is faking it. 6 months. 5 nights a week. That's a lot of time to spend with the same people. But it is possible to be friendly without pretending to be a friend. True, I am writing this months later, with lots more history to support this theory. You'll see when I get around to January.

Anyway. Spain has good food! I've been wanting to visit Spain for years. Someday...


And we make it to Italy... I wish we had practiced more with making pasta, I really enjoyed that. But we made Gnocchi Piedmontese (which I realize is kind of like making pasta), Insalata di fruiti di mare, and Saltimbocca. Oh, and just for fun, we got to make pizza.

Meet Mr. Octopus. He has a mouth! and an Ink Sack! Yum!

To be honest, I don't like gnocchi. I really wasn't that motivated to learn this. Also, I was really tired this week - I was starting to hit a worn out phase again. So this really isn't a good example of what they should look like. No need to judge - I already did.
Boil potatoes whole with skin in salted water until soft and peel. While very hot, pass through food mill, until smooth. Add olive oil and when it cools slightly mix in egg well. Gradually kneed in flour to form a stiff but slightly tacky dough. This is similar to pasta: make a pile of the potato, form a well, and add the olive oil and egg. Add more flour as needed. Roll, cut and score. To score it, press lightly against the back of a fork to indent, then peel away. Cook in boiling salted water for 5-10 minutes or until they float. in a warm saute pan, lightly toss with butter, olive oil, garlic, sage, salt and pepper. Here, we just tossed with browned butter and sage.
Beurre Noisette a'la Sauge (browned butter): in saucepan, melt butter and cook till milk solids at the bottom of the pan start to turn brown - do not burn!!! Take off heat, and add sage.

Insalata di Fruit di Mare
Cook seafood (shrimp, squid, clams) in poaching liquid. Par cook octopus in water and white wine, enough to cover. This will allow you to remove the skin. Bring to boil, shut off, add octopus, and leave 30 minutes.
Combine with red onion, celery, carrot, red pepper, and green olives. Marinate in extra virgin olive oil, lemon juice, white wine vinegar, garlic clove, capers, oregano, basil, parsley, salt and pepper:
Marinate at least one hour, but ideally overnight.

Saltimbocca di Pollo alla Sorrentina
Slightly pound chicken out after removing skin and wing joint. Season with salt and pepper and dust in flour. Top each piece of chicken with sage, salt, mozzarella, and then proscuitto. Pound out. Saute, then place in oven until cooke.
For tomato sauce: Render bacon, remove bacon, then sweat mire poix. Add tomato puree, chopped tomatoes with juice, salt, sugar, fennel, oregano, thyme, and chili flakes. Simmer 15-30 minutes, then put through food mill.

Meanwhile, T. made some pizza.
He went for the classic. This was good, but I ate it when it was too hot. Like I always do. And then I end up with a burned tongue instead of being able to taste how good pizza is...

Look, it was Rico's birthday!
Okay, well, actually her birthday was the night before, but she had taken the evening off to be with her mother.

Lessons Learned:
I learned some nice recipes that were a little different from the pasta variety. I'd like to try make the polenta recipe we were given sometime. And maybe figure out how T made that pizza from scratch...
mmm cake. now I want some again!

Russia & Eastern Europe

This night we made Russian and Eastern European food. Food from cold countries - not really up my alley.

Salmon Kulebiaka with Lemon Veloute

Poach salmon in cour bouillon to par cook, then chill. Cook rice, and mix with sour cream, lemon rind, and dill. Lay out puff pastry, and lay crepe over the pastry. Slice a hardboiled egg and lay over the crepe. Spoon rice over the egg. Spoon the duxelles over the rice. Lay salmon over the top. Fold remaining pastry to seal package - decorate with scraps of dough. Egg wash for seal and good color. Bake until golden brown. Make lemon veloute supreme using poaching liquid as stock.
As you can see, Nemo and I went all fancy. I cannot take any credit here - Nemo was the one that really wanted to do this, so I let him have at it. I thought he did a pretty good job - it made it more fun to break in to.
Being a huge rice fan, I really loved just eating the scraps of rice - I like sour cream a lot more than heavy cream, and it added a tanginess to it. Actually, really similar to the plain yogurt and dill we spooned over rice growing up. Yum!
Court Bouillon is just water, white wine, lemon with rind, mushroom trim, carrot trim, onion trim, celery trim, parsley stem, thyme stem, black peppercorn, and bay leaf. We actually used vegetable stock instead.
You remember duxelles, right? Nemo loves doing this, so this dish was all his. Melt butter, sweat shallots, add minced mushrooms and reduce cream.
The crepe should be rested for one hour before putting it into the puff pastry - so plan ahead when making this dish!
Goulash Soup
Ha. This does not look that appetizing. Mostly because I did not make the vegetables small enough. So partly I fault Chef here - he didn't give us any instruction on this dish, and I thought, well, once I actually get the seven sides for the tourne, I'm not touching them again - but, apparently, and this made sense once I saw the final dish, the vegetables should be much smaller.
Dredge beef in flour and paprika. Saute in olive oil until brown on all sides, remove and reserve. Add onion, caraway seed, and saute until onion begins to softn. Deglaze with stock and add beef back in. Bring to simmer. Simmer until meat is just tender, about 40 minutes. Stir potato, parsnip, carrots, and garlic into soup. Simmer until vegetables are just tender. Stir in tomatoes, celery and bell pepper. Simmer until vegetables and meat are very tender, about 15 min longer. Cool slightly. Reserve beef and transfer 1/2 of vegetables to blender. Blend until smooth. Return pureed vegetables to pot with beef and reserved vegetables. Stir in parsley, season to taste. Garnish with sour cream.

Cut core out of cabbage. Parboil cabbale whole in salted water. Drain and dry. Sweat onion in butter until translucent. Let cool. Combine raw meat, seasoings, cooked rice and eggs. Add sauteed onion. Stuff cabbage leaves and roll. Bake, basting with tomato juice. Tomato juice should be reduced to almost a sec.
Some tips - cook off a piece of meat mix before stuffing cabbage rolls to make sure it tastes right. Also, we stuffed the filled rolls in these tiny aluminum pans - that way they wouldn't unroll while they cooked.
For the sauce, render bacon in butter (wow, could it be any more unhealthy?), remove excess fat, add onion and mushrooms which are sauteed until golden and tender. Add stock and reduce to consistency. Season and serve with cabbage, under rolls.
We were also supposed to make pierogis, but nobody had the time. Too bad - I would have loved to have learned how to make them. I hear all the time from people of Polish ancestory who say no one makes pierogis like their grandmother...
Lessons Learned:
In lecture we learned about caviar - in France and the US, only roe of sturgeon can be called caviar, but the US allows it to be called caviar as long as the type of fish is printed on the canister. One of the reasons caviar is so expensive is directly related to the age and size a sturgeon must reach before developing the valuable roe. Beluga - as long as 20 years and weighing up to 2000 lbs; Osetra - 12 to 14 years and weighing 500 lbs; Sevruga - 8 to 10 years and weighing 150 lbs. I've never had caviar - is it good? Is it worth the expense?

Greece & the Middle East

Yay! I learned how to make pita! I love pita! This was a really fun activity for me - and mine turned out so pretty!
We made gyros again - this wasn't very challenging since we had made it in Meat Fab. But now there were pitas we had made ourselves to stuff it in...

Gyros with Tzatziki Sauce
We didn't make the tzatziki sauce ourselves - at least Nemo and I didn't. We again missed out on having classmates leave us enough. This time it was the yogurt. But people had way too much tzatziki, so they shared easily enough.

Combine ground lamb, pepper, garlic powder, kosher salt, oregano, cornstarch, and onion powder. Make into a log, several inches across. Bake at 300 degrees to internal temp of 135. Slice thin and serve with raw sliced onions, tomatoes, warm pita bread, and tzatziki sauce.

Tzatziki sauce: peal cucumber, remove seeds, and cut into small dice. Combine cucumber, yogurt, sour cream, garlic, fresh dill, lemon juice, and sugar. Chill until service.

Lamb Kabobs
Also served with tzatziki sauce. Trim and cut boneless lamb into 1 in cubes. Prepare marinade (red wine vinegar, lemon juice, tomato paste, ground allspice, ground cardamon, ground cinnamon, salt and pepper), and add meat. Refrigerate, covered, for at least 1 hour. Thread meat, onions, green peppers, and tomatoes onto skewers. Grill.

Whoops, I made mine a little spicy, but much better than any packaged taboueleh I've had - usually people make it too garlicy - this recipe had no garlic.
Mix: finely chopped scallions, black pepper, finely chopped fresh mint leaves, finely chopped jalepeno pepper, lemon juice, olive oil. Separately mix: fine bulgur, small dice tomatoes, and chopped fresh parsley. Mix together right before service and serve on romaine lettuce leaves.

Baba Ghanouj and Khubz (pita)
Whoops, this one I made way too garlicy. But it wasn't horrible, still edible. I kept trying to balance out the tastes as I spun it in the food processor, but it just wasn't happening. Like my pretty pita plate?

Grill whole eggplant in skin, then shred flesh out of skin when cool. Process eggplant, tahini, garlic clove, fresh parsley, ground cumin, lemon juice, and salt. Pour in olive oil.

Sponge method: yeast, lukewarm water, sugar, and bread flour. Add remaining ingredients (lukewarm water, bread flour, salt and olive oil). Knead well by hand. Let double in size. Punch down, knead again for a few minutes. Divide and round into 8 pieces. Flatten each one into 7-8 inch rounds, and proof for 20 minutes. 1/2 in thick. Bake 500 degrees 3-5 minutes. Wrap in cloth until ready to serve.

Tip: Place hot sheet pan upside down in oven as it heats - slap rounds on hot pan once ready to bake. Flip halfway through.

Okay, unfortunately, since this was weeks ago, I don't remember if this is the method we used. I thought we did something slightly different, but I didn't write it down if we did. I guess I'll just have to try to make them again during my Christmas break to find out - darn!

Finally, Greek Chicken with fries. Always fries.
Marinate chicken in olive oil, salt, pepper, lemon, fresh oregano and garlic. Roast in pan.
Um, if I remember correctly, Nemo and I were lucky Chef didn't cut into this, because it was raw on the inside. Which didn't really make sense because he had cooked it a long time. Oh well, the fries were done perfectly if I do say so myself!

We were also supposed to make baklava, but I'm glad we didn't because I don't like Greek baklava - they use almonds, whereas in Turkey you use nuts like pistachio. This pastry is sweet enough as is - you need salty nuts to balance it out.

Lessons Learned:
I just love making bread. Look, a heart: I think I could do this for the rest of my life. Anyone know of any openings in a bakery? Preferably bread bakery?


So we're back with Chef K. I found his e-mail to us the night before class started a little odd:
Hello Everyone,

This email is to inform you about International Cuisine.
I expect everyone in full uniform when ENTERING the classroom.
This is a professional class and I expect each and everyone of you to act accordingly.
There will be class rules handed out on day 1.
Please bring your knife kit as well as a camera. The camera will serve useful for your final project.

Chef Wook Kang

Weird. It's a little harsh - our class has never shown up without full uniform, and our class had never had problems behaving professionally. This just started the road toward me questioning Chef K....

I was really looking forward to this class, especially after being forced to make all that food with cream and butter and bacon for Culinary Skills II. Finally, food I would really enjoy.

We made B'Steeya, Golden Beet Salad, Lamb Tagine, Cous Cous. Other class members also made enough Harissa and Mint Tea to share with the class.

I don't remember if this is a dessert or a sweet entree, but it was good. I think it's a sweet entree. Inside the layers of phyllo dough is poached chicken, onion marmalade, egg, cream, garlic, and lots of spices. After you cook the chicken, you layer the phyllo is a pan, put in the filling, and then fold over the phyllo. Then you bake, and dust with sugar. This would be a really pretty and surprising dish to serve to guests.
Golden Beet and Pomegranate Salad
But of course they couldn't actually provide us with pomegranates. Even though this is completely the season for them.
This was the first time I had ever had beets. I know, I can't believe it either - how have I never had beets before? For some reason, mine and Nemo's took forever in the oven, and in the end, were still a tiny bit raw. After roasting them, peel with gloves on, or you will have the color on your hands for days.
Chef B (from Meat Fab) is teaching the other half of our cohort next door, and he kept coming back to eat from our salad. This is a pattern that would be repeated throughout this class - I got teased repeatedly by my friends about my ability to get along with this man that so many hated. I can't help it - in the end, I found him amusing. There are certain people, and I don't know why, but I have learned to just ignore their pompous behavior and see through to their fun side - BB is the same way. Sometimes, I could just scream over how sure of himself he is and how strict he is with ideas. But I don't. I just remove myself mentally and let him talk - it's the only way to put up with behavior like that. Anyway, people claimed Chef B loved me, and was flirting, but I don't think that was true at all - I just made an effort to talk to him about things besides food.
Anyway. This is a great salad! Boil onion, red wine vinegar, stock, pomegranate molasses, sugar and orangezest until liquid is reduced to 2T. Cool to room temp, then combine with beets. Sprinkle with feta cheese. You can use any lettuce base you would like - we were supposed to have arugula or frisee, but no surprise, my classmates did not leave enough to share even though there was plenty. So Nemo and I got stuck with plain old lettuce. Which, given that Chef K didn't really seem to be grading us except that we had completed this dish, was fine.

Lamb Tagine and Couscous
This was really good. Ha. Clearly. I obviously couldn't wait to take the photo before I started eating... It just smelled so good! Saute lamb. Remove, then sweat onions, deglaze with stock and add dates, prunes, saffron and salt. Braise with meat. Stir in honey, lemon juice, and season. Eat. Enjoy!

Lessons Learned:
I don't think this will come as a surprise to anyone, but I loved making Moroccan food. How could I not? It's a cousin of the food I grew up eating - filling tasty and healthy... Finally!
P.S. Sorry I'm 7 weeks behind. Things got a little hectic in my life. In a good way. well, except work. That still remains annoying. The schedule change for culinary school for the last three weeks was a little rough.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Final Practical - Black Box

For the final, we were given one protein, vegetables and a starch and told to create a meal. We ran the idea past Chef and then were allowed to start. The last five people were going to have to stay and clean the kitchen, so we were all motivated to work quickly. I was sixth to last - yes!

I had pork, lentils, and squash and zucchini. The only part I was unsure on was the pork - although it was better than getting chicken because I still hate cooking chicken.
I decided on Sauce Robert, which meant I needed to turn veal stock into espagnole without the demiglace step.
This recipe was actually pretty simple, because it just meant searing the pork and then sauteeing to finish. Meanwhile I reduced the stock down to espagnole and cooked the lentils. Then I sauteed the vegetables in the leftover pork juice and oil.

This turned out pretty tasty. I especially liked how the vegetables tasted with the little bit of pork taste. I did decently on this - the lentils just needed a little more flavor.

For the quizzes in class, I got 13/15 on sauces, 17/20 on fish, 12/15 on stocks & poultry, 13/13 on soup, and 18/18 on meat and game.
We also had to do a blog entry. I got teased a lot by the class because I did not want to put my name on the entry - I don't like to have my name anywhere on the internet. It used to take six pages on google to find me. But as you can see, Chef let me just use my initials.

Final Thoughts:
Although I wouldn't really eat much of this food because of all the cream, I feel like I learned a lot about improving techniques. Chef Z was a nice guy, and a decent instructor. He would show us these slideshows of photos of food from his trips around the world, in particular China.

Last Day to Practice

Election Day!! Chef released us early due to his concerns about us getting caught in the excitement of people leaving Grant Park. He kept us updated on the election results during lecture from his laptop, but soon into cooking, it became very clear who was going to win. The city was so quiet when I left - I could clearly hear a speech being given in Grant Park, and my school is almost a mile away. I have never heard the city so quiet. And it wasn't eerie, but completely beautiful. Just peaceful.

This night we made Bouillabaisse, which is a country fish stew. Someone else made the fish stock for the class, which is the base to this soup.
Heat olive oil and gently sweat leeks until they turn translucent. Don't let them brown. Add chopped tomato, saffron, Pernod, and 10 oz fish stock. Simmer until tomatoes have softened, then season with salt and pepper. Add all fish (we used trout, cut in large chunks, halibut, cut in large chunks, shrip, and mussels) and simmer covered until mussels open. Do not let soup boil or fish will fall apart. Take out fish, and stir in rouille (see next). Place fish in vowl and ladle broth over. Garnish with grilled baguette slices.
Process a roasted and seeded red pepper, a quarter of a jalepeno, one clove of garlic, salt, and one baguette slice with no crust. Puree. Transfer to bowl and work in olive oil with wooden spoon.

We didn't plate this, so you know I just snacked on the baguette slices all night...

Moules Marinieres

Sweat shallots, then put mussels in pan, coating with butter and shallot. Deglaze with white wine, cover with another saute pan, cook 2-3 minutes over high heat. Reduce wine by half with top off. Add 2 oz heavy cream, reduce by half. Monte au beurre. Season with parsley, and toss to coat.

For this assignment, Chef told us to work on other tasks, and then he would yell out this dish and we would have 5 minutes to cook and plate it. Stressful, yes? Mine tasted okay, but I had reduced the sauce too much.

Coquilles St Jacques, Beurre Blanc au Curry

Dry scallops and season well, then coat with spice blend (I used Master's curry blend). When oil begins to smoke, add scallops and then sear both sides. Remove and reserve.
Add shallots and sweat, deglaze with wine and white wine vinegar and reduce to au sec. Add cream, curry powder, and tomato paste, and reduce until nappe. Monte au beurre. Strain and adjust seasoning.

Lessons Learned:
Alright. I admit it. Plating matters. That scallop looks much more appetizing when plated like this than if I had just thrown it together. Fine. I guess the chefs win.

More Fish

And we've hit November. At least I'm in the same month for keeping up with posts. Three more posts, and I'll only be 12 days behind... And I'm only posting to avoid working on a project from work that's due tomorrow morning. I'm screwed. Oh well.

This night we plated Loup de Mer end Papillote with rice and Beurre Blanc.
I got a 40/40! My first one for this class - I tend to lose one or two points per dish, but I got a perfect! yay! And by the way, this is an amazing way to cook fish. I loved this dish. Two fish dishes I like - who knew it could happen?
Anyway. To make this dish:
Cut parchment paper in half, smear butter on the right half of the paper, as big as the fish. Season the fillet (we used lake trout) with salt and white pepper and place on top of the butter. Top fish with eminceed shallots (super thin!), fine julienned red pepper and zucchini, thyme and parsley, then season on top. Remember, when using white pepper, use only a sprinkle! Place the lemon slices on top and add a splash of wine. Only a splash. Fold the paper over and seal - we folded the seal starting at the corner at 45 degree angles. Bake in 425 oven until parchment is puffed and browned - you are looking for expansion of the pouch, about 5 minutes. You serve it in the closed pouch to the customer - and then they open it to open and smell the steam.

A Beurre Blanc is an acid reduction emulsified by butter. You can use any acid, but in this case we used champagne vinegar. (As an aside, I always have trouble spelling that word because I went to school in Urbana-Champaign. So I always have to pause when writing about the drink). So. Melt whole buter, then sweat shallot and thyme. Reduce champagne vinegar to au sec, then add heavy whipping cream and simmer until reduced. Monte au beurre. Pretty simple, really.

Here it is prior to cooking, with all the layers:

Here's the perfect plating!

Saumon Grille with potatoes
This one, we had to come up with our own way to make the potatoes, and give him a explanation of why we did what we did. Nemo and I decided to do a version of "fish and chips." Chef and I had an argument over why salt and pepper was not creating a new flavor. I'm sure I was wrong, but I also love dishes seasoned only with salt and nothing else.
Grill a seasoned salmon fillet. Make potatoes. Serve with sauce.
Um, I can't remember what sauce we used here. I think Nemo created another Beurre Blanc with different flavor. But I could be wrong. Yummy looking, right?
We also learned how to make Hollandaise.
In a stainless stell bowl, combine vinegar and yolks and whisk over a really low flame until thickened and warm - keep moving bowl on and off heat - until 145 degrees. The sabayon with triple in volume. Gradually whisk in warm butter drop by drop at first, then in a slow, steady stream. If the sauce becomes too thick, add a bit of water or lemon juice, this allows all butter to be incorporated without breaking the sauce. Season with salt and cayenne. Serve warm, not hot.
Lesson Learned:
I really don't like these sauces. I hated the mayo, and I didn't like the hollandaise. I just really can only feel the oil and butter on my tongue. And that is just gross.