Restaurant Review: Bistro Ole

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Bistro Ole has been a favorite restaurant of mine for years.  It is located in Asbury Park, NJ and specializes in Latin infused, Spanish, Portuguese cuisine.  While it is a bit pricey, it is also BYO which is a major plus for my wine-loving family.

It is always hit-or-miss at restaurants on Christmas Eve because of the crowds and limited wait staff willing to work on the holiday.  Bistro Ole did not disappoint us. Since we had a party of 8, we had a nice table in our own little room away from the large crowd in the other part of the restaurant.  We did have to wait a bit for our main meals, but we were in no rush and were happy to have more time to enjoy our wine!  

For appetizers we ordered two orders of the "cala, cala, calamari", which is pan-fried calamari served over a chile chipotle reduction.  Every time we go to this restaurant, the calamari is always ordered.  Here's a picture of some that my brother served for himself (and decided to garnish the plate with a piece of lettuce..)

The sauce that is served with the calamari is soo flavorful.  We all mop up the remaining sauce with warm bread.  It was a bit spicier than usual, which I  usually don't complain about, but sometimes spiciness takes away from the flavor.  It was still delicious though!

We also had two orders of the verde salad for the table.  I love creamy goat cheese in a salad, and the almonds on top added a great crunch.

For the entree, my uncle ordered the Chef's Best Seller Sea Bass, which was topped with a Spanish pesto, bread crumbs and guacamole.  The presentation was wonderful and it definitely tasted like a best seller dish.  The fish was cooked perfectly and was super flavorful.

My grandma got another version of sea bass with a mild pine nut sauce.  It had a surprising amount of flavor and was a little lighter than the chef's best seller.  I would definitely order it the next time I go!

My mom ordered a shrimp and scallop appetizer as her main course.  She gets this every time she's there and usually loves it.  Unfortunately, this time the portion was smaller than usual and she was not satisfied with her meal.

My brother ordered the paella, which was a very large portion of mixed seafood and spanish rice.  This is another specialty item and was excellent as always.

My sister and grandpa both ordered one of the dinner specials, braised chicken in a white wine thyme sauce, served with spinach & bits of bacon and mashed sweet potatoes.  The chicken was flavorful and juicy, but I thought it was weird how many thyme stems were left on the dish.  I don't really like garnishes that are not meant to eat.  The sweet potatoes that were served on the side were very sweet.. kind of like dessert!

My dad ordered his usual dish, Skirt Steak with sauteed onions.  He loved his dish as always.  I had a small taste of the fried plantains that were served on the side and the onions--they were fantastic!  Yet again,  the presentation is beautiful:

I ordered the second dinner special (there were only two), Baked Red Snapper with Romesco Sauce and spinach & asparagus.  The snapper was very good, especially with the romesco, but I didn't like the bread crumb topping.  It just added a weird, tough texture to the fish.  The spinach & asparagus on the side was very tasty, but I kept getting large chunks of garlic which is never too appetizing (good thing I wasn't kissing anybody ;) ).  

Overall, dinner was excellent and I can't wait to go back again!  Rico, the owner usually stops by our table and give us all big kisses, but I guess he was super busy and didn't make it to our table tucked away from the rest of the crowd.  We chose to skip dessert since we had Christmas cookies waiting for us at home, but if you all ever go there, I highly recommend the chocolate dipped strawberries with fresh whipped cream! mmmm

Holiday Recipes

Hope everybody had a lovely holiday!!  I wanted to post some recipes that I made for my family on Christmas, including some app's, a side-dish to go along with our lasagna, and an amazing brunch recipe.

I found two appetizer ideas on a blog that I follow called "What's Gaby Cooking".  They sounded super easy to make and something my whole family would like (which they did).  First, I made Roasted Red Pepper Mozzarella Bites (  All I did was wrap bocconcini (tiny mozzarella balls) in a strip of roasted pepper (my mom roasted some in the oven a few days ago) with a little strip of basil.

(Thanks Jenny for my pretty new plate!!)

Next, I made Crostini with Baked Brie and Heirloom Tomato Bruschetta (
Since heirloom tomatoes are not in season, I quartered cherry tomatoes.  I mixed the tomatoes with basil, evoo, balsamic vinegar, and salt & pepper.  I let the tomato mixture sit while I prepared my toasts.  I used a marble rye loaf because my mom couldn't find a plain italian baguette at the store.  I sliced the bread thin and topped each slice with a little brie.  I baked it in the oven for about 10-15 minutes, until the brie was melted and the bread was toasted.  Then, I topped each toast with the tomato mixture.

Every year my mom makes stuffed mushrooms to go along with our lasagna.  We usually make some kind of roast too, but decided not to this year since we had 3 trays of lasagna.  I helped her make the mushrooms and they are soo simple and delicious.  I decided to spruce it up a bit by adding a touch of gorgonzola on half of them.  

To make them we wash and de-stemmed 14 large button mushrooms.  I minced most of the stems and mixed them with bread crumbs and olive oil.  We stuffed each mushroom with the stuffing and sprinkled paprika on top.  Here are the mushrooms before they went into the oven.  They take about a half hour in a 350 degree oven.
Every Christmas morning, my mom makes the same egg bake with maple ham.  I have never even really seen her make it before because she is usually up super early and makes it before I wake up.  This year I was up early and decided to help her make it.  

We put half a stick of butter in a large casserole dish and put it in a 325 degree oven until the butter melted.  Then, we swirled the pan around so that the butter coated the whole dish.  In the meantime, we whisked 18 eggs with 1 cup of sour cream, 1 cup of milk, 2 tsp. of salt, and 1/4 cup sliced scallions.  I poured the mixture in the casserole dish and baked it in the oven until the eggs set, about 40 minutes.  

We topped the casserole with slices of maple ham.  Here's a picture of my slice

We served the eggs with the beautiful fruit salad that I made.  It had a ton of fresh fruit from Delicious Orchards, including apples, pears, grapes, oranges, cantaulope, honeydew, kiwis, pineapple, and watermelon.

Lesson 30: Roasting for the holidays

Thursday, December 24, 2009

First, I would like to mention how much I hate NJ Transit.  Today's commute was awful!!  After getting dropped off in Newark and taking the path trains to school, I miraculously got to the kitchen at exactly 1:00.  (But felt unprepared without my cutting board set up and knives sharpened)..

What better way to spend the last class before Christmas than a lesson on classical roasting??  Today was such a comfort food day, which put everybody in the best of spirits.  First up on the menu: Roast Rack of Lamb Persillade.  We began by trimming and frenching a total of 7 1/2 racks.  After searing them off on the stove, we rubbed them with dijon mustard and coated them in the persillade mixture (bread crumbs, olive oil, roasted garlic, thyme, parsley).  We roasted them in the convection oven until they were cooked medium rare.

We also made a classical Roast Chicken with Pan Gravy.  MMM was this chicken juicy and tasty!  We rubbed leftover compound butter from yesterday under the skins of the breasts and stuffed the cavity with a quartered lemon, garlic cloves, and rosemary sprigs.  We seasoned the chickens with olive oil and salt and put them on a roasting rack with water underneath.  About half way through the cooking process, we added mirepoix to the pan.  We took the chicken out when the internal temp reached 175.

After the chicken was done and resting, we made a pan gravy with the drippings from the pan and the addition of chicken stock and flour for thickening.  After a little salt for seasoning and straining off the gravy, it was the perfect touch for the juicy chicken.

I personally loved making the side dishes, which consisted of Roasted Sweet Potatoes with Orange & Sage, Roasted Fingerling Potatoes, and Roasted Beets.

The sweet potatoes were tossed with clarified butter, salt & pepper, and roasted in the conventional oven on 375.  When they were almost done cooking, we added the chopped sage leaves and blanched orange zest.  The flavors were unbelievable.

The fingerlings were tossed with olive oil, salt, pepper, whole garlic cloves, and a few rosemary and thyme sprigs.  They were roasted beside the sweet potatoes in the conventional oven.  We sprinkled on minced rosemary and thyme when they came out of the oven..mmm

The beets were boiled before we took the skin off, chopped them, and tossed them with evoo, balsamic, salt, pepper, and rosemary.  The only beets I have ever had were the roasted golden beets in the Whole Foods salad bar.  Beets are pretty good!  I tried them before they were roasted and they were very sweet, but I didn't really like the texture.  After they are roasted, they are excellent.  Roasting really brings out flavor!

Here's our rack of lamb all cut up:
Our delicious chicken:

After this festive meal, we were all ready for the holidays!  It's going to be a while until we meet back up in the kitchen to continue our lesson on roasting!!  So, we all said our goodbye's and I power-walked to Penn station to catch the train so I could make it to dinner with my best friends from home.  Unfortunately I had no luck with trains yesterday.  Apparently another train was stuck in the tunnel so I got to Matawan an hour and a half later than I was supposed to :(    Thank goodness I don't have to take the train for another 2 weeks..What a nightmare.

I hope everybody has a lovely Christmas!! I will be posting some more holiday recipes and restaurant reviews over the next few days (tonight we will be going to one of my favorite restaurants: Bistro Ole).    

Happy Holidays!!

Lesson 29: Grilling..take 2!

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Today we continued (and finished) our lesson on grilling.  The proteins and recipes for today's class were definitely a lot more interesting than yesterday's.  

I was very very surprised that my favorite dish of the day was the grilled shrimp brochette.  I usually do not like shrimp at all!!  A combination of the grilled, smoky flavor, the marinade, and the charred cherry tomatoes made it taste amazing!  I will definitely be making this for upcoming family events/cocktail hours.  Here's how we made it:

For 3 skewers:
9 shrimp, peeled, de-veined
3 rosemary stems (reserve sprigs for the marinade)-- our rosemary stems weren't long enough, so we used soaked skewers instead
1 sprig rosemary, minced
9 fresh bay leaves
9 grape tomatoes
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon lemon juice
salt & pepper

Skewer the shrimp to a rosemary stem or skewer, alternating with bay leaves and tomatoes.

Combine garlic, evoo, lemon juice, salt, and pepper.  Coat the skewers in the marinade and refrigerate for 30 minutes.

Grill, while basting with the olive oil mixture until the shrimp is no longer opaque.

Also pictured on this plate is the grilled lamb loin chop with mojo and a slice of compound butter.  The mojo marinade was made with sliced garlic, thyme, parsley, mint, chili powder, evoo, and salt.  We put these same ingredients in the compound butter.

We marinated the veggies the same way as yesterday, with a different assortment including yukon gold potatoes, asparagus, green onions, fennel, and red onion.

My second grilling of the afternoon did not go as well as the first :(    I grilled a salmon tranche, simply seasoned with salt and pepper.  This was difficult to grill because it kept sticking and the skin side was coming off.  I ended up cooking it very well even though it didn't look so pretty.  I gave it to the guy that was observing the class because I'm not a huge fan of salmon.  

The pork chop that is also pictured on the grill was rubbed with a chile spread consisting of toasted, dried ancho chili and chili pasilla, along with toasted cumin and canola oil.  Everybody had problems grilling this pork chop.  We had to finish cooking it in the oven and Matt and I quickly learned that our oven definitely was not working (gah).. I put my chop in another group's oven, which was already crowded with 3 other chops.  Scott assured me that if we got confused whose is whose, his is the perfect one!  Hahaha  we had some good laughs in the kitchen today!

Anyways, I think that the oven still wasn't working right and wasn't high enough.  We ran out of time and all of our chops were slightly underdone.  I didn't try my pork, but I brought it home to heat up so that it can cook through.. we shall seeee

I plated my chop with some roasted poblano cactus salad.  Yup, I said cactus.  I read over this recipe before class and was soo excited to see how cacti taste grilled.  It's hard to explain how they taste because they don't taste like anything I've ever had.  The texture was similar to a pepper.  I really liked it mixed in with the other ingredients of the salad: roasted poblanos, red onion, cilantro (I'm starting to like cilantro now!!! No longer tastes soapy to me!), garlic, tomato and lime juice.

Overall, another successful day!  When I got on the train I was EXHAUSTED.. Being in the kitchen really takes a lot of you.  We really hustle during the entire 4 hours between prepping, cooking, and cleaning.  I love the adrenaline rush though and look forward to every day's new experience!

Lesson 28: Grilling I

Monday, December 21, 2009

Happy Monday!  Aren't Monday's awesome when you know it's a short week?  Plus, I felt ready to get back to school after my long weekend.

This morning there were still some problems getting into Penn Station because of the blizzard (I can't believe we got 20 inches!!).  I only got there 20 minutes late, which wasn't a big deal (just didn't get as much time to people watch the crazies in NYC from the Starbucks window).

Today we had our first lesson on grilling.  We grilled rib eye steaks, chicken paillard, flank steak, and an assortment of veggies.  We fabricated the chicken to form chicken cutlets and marinated them in olive oil, tarragon, lemon juice, garlic, salt, and pepper.  We also made a chimichurri sauce to marinate the flank steak.  For the veggies, we made another marinade with red wine vinegar, olive oil, and fresh herbs.

Finally it was time to grill!  I made the chicken first, to be served with some of the veggies.  I plated my first dish and was very pleased with it.  My chicken and vegetables had the perfect grill marks and I was certain that my chicken was done to perfection.  I presented my colorful plate to Chef Karen and she approved :)

Next up, I grilled the rib-eye, simply seasoned with salt and fresh ground pepper.  I also served this with some more veggies.  Yet again, I succeeded to cook the steak to the perfect medium-rare!  I'm not going to lie, I was pretty proud of myself.  I struggled the first week and I am finally seeing improvement!  I am getting used to feeling my proteins to tell if they are cooked through, and it really does show that practice makes perfect!

Here's a picture of my rib eye and vegetables grilling away:

Here's the plate that I proudly presented to Chef.  My steak has a slice of the compound butter we made earlier on, made with softened butter, fresh herbs, and salt & pepper: The perfect finishing touch to the grilled meat.

After cleaning up a bit, me and the other Allison started grilling our chimichurri flank steak.  We agreed that it was a little difficult to grill because the chunky marinade was burning and sticking to the grill.  I think it would have been better to top the grilled flank steak with the chimichurri at the end, but that was not an option today.  Because of our difficulties, our steak ended up being a little towards the rare-side, but the chimichurri flavoring was still delicious.  

I left class at the end of the day smelling very smoky, but I felt very satisfied with the dishes I prepared!

Tomorrow we will be spending a second day grilling shrimp, pork, salmon, and more vegetables.


Saturday, December 19, 2009

Saturday nights are usually reserved for nights out for dinner.  In fact, I don't remember the last time we stayed in on a Saturday and cooked.  With the snow still a fallin' we decided that tonight we should forgoe our usually Saturday plans and stay home.  

After a long day of cooking sauce and lasagna, a huge gourmet meal was definitely not in the picture.  I decided to feed leftovers from culinary school to my dad and brother and cook a light quiche to have later on.  I love love love quiche.. it was a staple go-to dinner that I made all the time in college.  Here's my recipe that I've adjusted over the years:

1 9" whole wheat pie crust (store bought or homemade)--today I used a store bought crust!
1 wheel laughing cow garlic and herb cheese (or any flavor--today I used regular swiss)
1/3 pint (or a large handful) cherry tomatoes, halved
1/2 box frozen chopped broccoli, thawed
3 eggs
1 cup half and half
1 pinch salt
fresh ground pepper
2 T. crumbled gorgonzola

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spread the laughing cow cheese on the bottom of the crust.  Add cherry tomatoes and broccoli.  Whisk eggs, half and half, salt, and pepper.  Add the egg mixture to the pie shell.  Bake for 30 minutes.  Sprinkle with gorgonzola and bake for another 10-15 minutes, or until the eggs are set.  Let the pie sit for at least 10 minutes before slicing.  I enjoy my slice topped with a sprinkle of cayenne pepper for heat!

The best thing about this quiche is you can add whatever vegetable or meat you'd like and get creative with it.  I've also made this quiche with spinach and sundried tomatoes.  You could even switch up the cheeses and add some bacon for crunch!

My brother wanted to be pictured in the blog, so here he is enjoying some of my quiche!

Here's a sloppy pic of my second slice.  I have to learn to be more patient and take pictures of food before digging in!

Snow and Lasagna!

I actually ended up missing my first class yesterday so I will not be blogging about deep frying!  I wasn't feeling good yesterday morning and knew there were delays and cancellations on the NJ Transit so I decided to take the day off.  
This morning it was snowing out!  It was the perfect day to stay nice and warm in the kitchen and make Christmas lasagna!  My mom and I made a big pot of sauce for our traditional lasagna with mini meatballs and dried hot sausage.  We also made a separate sauce for our non-traditional lasagna with spicy poultry sausage.  We only assembled the non-traditional lasagna and put it in the freezer so that it is good for Christmas day!

So, first up: Tomato Sauce with spicy poultry sausage
1 package spicy italian poultry sausage (about 1.5 pounds)
1 onion, chopped
3 carrots, small diced
3-4 cloves garlic, minced
1 28 oz can san marzano tomatoes, crushed
1 bouquet garni (I used 2 bay leaves, parsley stems, and thyme sprigs)
1/2 tsp. dried oregano
1 tsp. sugar
1/4 cup red wine or chicken stock
salt and pepper

We began by simmering the tomatoes with the bouquet garni.  In a large skillet, brown the turkey sausage on all sides.  Add to the tomato sauce.  In the same skillet, coat the pan with EVOO and add the onions and carrots.  Saute until soft and a bit caramelized.  Add the garlic and cook for another minute.  Add the mixture to the tomatoes.  Deglaze the pan with chicken stock or wine (we actually added a little of both).  Add the pan drippings to the sauce.  Season the sauce with sugar, salt, pepper, and oregano.  Simmer for about an hour.  When the sausage was done, we sliced the links and added them back to the sauce.  

When sauce #1 was done, we got started on our second sauce with dried sausage and mini meatballs.  This sauce was made in the same way as the other one except we grated the carrots, and basically doubled all of the ingredients to make a huge pot of sauce.   Instead of poultry sausage, we browned partially-dried hot italian pork sausage:

Next, we made mini meatballs.  We didn't measure anything, and just eye-balled all of the ingredients.  In a large bowl, we mixed together 2 packages of ground beef, parmesan, 2 eggs, breadcrumbs, garlic powder, chopped parsley, and a splash of milk.  
Then, we formed them into cute little meatballs and browned them in a skillet to add to the sauce.

Here's the final product of our huge pot of traditional tomato sauce:  

Next, it was time to assemble out non-traditional lasagna.  My mom and grandma are putting together the other lasagna on Tuesday.  

First, we layered a little sauce and a layer of fresh whole wheat pasta sheets (cooked just shy of al dente).  Then we spread on part-skim ricotta, chopped spinach (mixed with salt, pepper, and a hint of fresh nutmeg), fresh mozzerella, a sprinkle of pecorino, and more sauce and sausage.  We continued to layer for 2 more layers.  I CANNOT wait to try this lasagna.  We usually just make 2 traditional lasagnas, but I figured it would be nice to change it up and make 1 lasagna a little different :)

Lesson 26: Pan Frying

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Today started out a little rough.. I felt like I was having one of those days where I can't do anything right.  I tried sharpening my knives on my wet stone for the first time this morning and I couldn't get my knives sharp enough (I was probably doing it wrong) and I was left with smudges on my knives.  While on the train, the bridge was stuck open again and I was stuck between Newark and Secaucus for an extra 20 minutes-- 90 minute train rides are not fun!  

I finally got to class and was extra clumsy, confused and sensitive while we were setting up and mise-en-place'ing our recipes.  Thankfully, I snapped out of it and the rest of the day went a lot more smoothly!  (A special thanks to Matt for making me laugh today--I really needed it!!)

We moved on to pan-frying today, which is a lot like saute, except with extra fat in the pan and we used the standard breading procedure before cooking to ensure a golden brown, crisp finish.

First on the menu was potato pancakes  (or latkes) with spiced apple sauce.  For the pancakes, we grated potatoes and onions.  We mixed them together with egg, flour, salt, pepper, and a little lemon juice (to prevent discoloration).  We pan fried them in canola oil, forming little pancakes and cooking them until they were golden brown.  We served them with homemade apple sauce that was made earlier in the class and some creme fraiche.  Soo good!

Next we made veal milanese.  We pounded out veal cutlets, seasoned them, then went through the standard breading procedure (flour, eggs, breadcrumbs).  They were also pan-fried in canola oil until they were golden brown--only took a couple of minutes.  I actually really liked how they tasted with the apple sauce!

Next up: panko crusted chicken supremes.  We formed supremes out of the chicken breasts and also put them through the standard breading procedure, except with panko breadcrumbs.  I love panko, since they are flakier and tastes lighter.  These supremes were also pan fried in canola and then finished cooking in the oven.

The last dish we made was my favorite: crab cakes with avocado sauce.  These were very easy to cook, since we just had to brown both sides and put them in the oven to heat through.  I forget everything that went into these cakes, but some ingredients included: lots of lump crabmeat (duh), sweated red pepper & onions, mayonnaise, eggs, worsteshire, etc etc...  All formed together into large patties.  The avocado sauce was the perfect complement and was so smooth and creamy.

TGIF tomorrow!  I'm so worn out after this long week of intense cooking!  We're ending the week tomorrow with deep frying (some menu items including fish & chips, tostones with mojo sauce, broccoli tempura with wasabi sauce, and fried oysters)

Lessons 24 & 25: More Saute!

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

During today and yesterday's classes, we were able to practice and perfect (well almost perfect) our saute-ing skills.  Yesterday's menu consisted of pork tenderloin with roasted red pepper sauce, sea scallops with onion compote, sauteed strip steaks with aguardiente, and pommes persillade.  I've never cooked scallops (or eaten them) and they were pretty good.   I loved the onion sauce that we made with it!  It was made with caramelized onions, tomato paste, dried chiles, heavy cream, culantro, and butter.  I have never heard of culantro before and honestly thought it was a typo for cilantro in our recipe.  It is a very tasty herb that has a stronger flavor than cilantro but also tastes very fresh.  It really made the sauce come to life!

For cooking scallops for the first time, I did a good job!  I improved a little bit on my saute-ing, even though nothing was perfect..but that's okay because I'm learning! :) 

I totally forgot my camera, so I didn't take pictures, but I was on my game today and took a picture of every dish!

Our mise en place for today was a little more difficult, since we had to filet whole fish for our sole a la meuniere (we used flounder instead of sole), prepare tranches out of a HUGE salmon, and prepare our lamb loin.  We also spent a lot of time fine julienning potatoes by hand and with the few mandolines that were available.

The first dish I prepared was the sole a la meuniere.  I dredged my two filets and sauteed them in clarified butter.  Once the filets were browned and cooked through, I prepared my sauce with whole butter (browned), lemon juice, and capers.  The finishing touch was some chopped parsley.

This was my favorite dish of the day!  The fish was cooked perfectly and the brown butter, lemon sauce complemented it perfectly.

Next, I prepared sauteed loin of lamb with pan sauce.  I seared the lamb loin on both sides and let it finish cooking in the oven while I prepared my pan sauce.  The sauce consisted of minced shallots, red wine, veal stock, and whole butter added in at the end.  My lamb was cooked perfectly! The sauce could have reduced a little more though!

Next on the menu was paillasson de pommes de terre.  What is that you ask?  Basically a huge potato pancake!  This is such a great dish because you can make small ones or large ones to serve a crowd.  They can also be made with sweet potatoes (I'll have to try it at home and let you all know how it comes out).  

To make this crispy potato cake, peel and julienne potatoes with a mandoline.  If you are not cooking them right away, put them in water so that they do not turn brown.  Squeeze out the liquid before tossing them in canola oil and salt.  Heat a non-stick saute pan and add canola oil and butter.  Add the potatoes, forming a flat layer on the bottom of the pan. Put a small lid or something on top of the potatoes to flatten them out.  After they are browned on the first side, flip over and continue to cook until brown and crispy on the other side.  Cut into wedges and enjoy!

The last dish of the day (which I unfortunately didn't have time to make) was the sauteed tranche of salmon with salsa verde.  The salsa verde was made with parsley, basil, garlic, evoo, sherry vinegar, capers, salt, and pepper.  I tried Kim's salmon and it was delicious.  I'm picky with salmon (and most seafood) but I really enjoyed the texture of the sauteed salmon and the pesto-like sauce with it.

Lesson 23: Mod 2! Chicken and Steak

Monday, December 14, 2009

I was very anxious/excited for today's class because it was the first day of Module 2 and we were introduced to our new chef instructor.  Chef Karen greeted us and laid out a new set of rules and instructions to follow for the next 6 weeks.  It's so different for all of us to get accustomed to a new chef who has different ways of doing things..but it is really going to prepare us for the future when we have to work for different chefs or even different clients/customers.  It will also be very helpful to learn different techniques from the different instructors.  

After preparing our mise en place (prepping the kitchen for the day's recipes), we each began trimming flank steaks and chicken breasts and mincing shallots.  We worked individually today to saute a few chicken breasts and portions of steak and make pan sauces for each.  The pan sauces were made simply with shallots, stock, wine (red for steak, white for chicken), and a few pieces of cold butter at the very end.  Sounds simple, right?  Wrong!  It takes a lot of practice working with commercial stoves when you have never worked with them before.  My shallots kept burning and either I didn't reduce the sauce enough or it would be reduced too much.  After a few mistakes with the chicken, I finally got the hang of it when I prepared my steak.  Today was like a trial-and-error day where everybody got to just saute away until they got it right!  After tomorrow and Wednesday's continuation of sauteing I'm sure we will be a lot better!

Sunday Night Dinner

Sunday, December 13, 2009

My mom and I had a lovely afternoon and evening together.  We went to the mall after lunch and did some Christmas shopping.  I HATE shopping, so we got only the necessary things that we couldn't get online.  For lunch I made a delicious wrap with some of my leftover chicken from last night's dinner.  I took a sundried tomato flat out wrap and spread 1 laughing cow cheese wedge on it.  Then I added some chopped up leftover chicken, baby spinach, leftover corn and red pepper salsa, tomato slices, and a drizzle of wasabi mustard.  YUM!!   I always need something sweet after a meal, so I had a couple of christmas cookies that my mom made and chai tea with almond milk.

We didn't get back from the mall until around 4, so I started prepping dinner soon after we got back.  Like I said in my previous post, my mom and I definitely love to take advantage of nights when it's just me and her because we love to make fun, new recipes with lots of veggies and good, fresh ingredients.  I made a "polenta casserole" from my mom's "Clean Eating" cookbook.  I made a few changes while I was cooking.  Here's the recipe:

1 bunch swiss chard, triple washed and cut into small pieces
1 red onion, thinly sliced
2 cloves garlic
1 sprig rosemary, chopped
1 cup sliced mushrooms (I used baby bella)
Olive oil
Salt & pepper
Fresh grated nutmeg
1 package instant polenta
Grated pecorino romano (to taste)
About 1/2 cup part skim ricotta
About 1 cup good quality jarred marina, or homemade

In a large, nonstick skillet heat about 2 T. olive oil.  Add the onion, garlic, swiss chard, and rosemary.  Cook until the vegetables are beginning to soften.  Add the mushrooms.  Continue to cook until all of the vegetables are tender.  Season with salt, pepper, and nutmeg.  Set aside.

In a sauce pan prepare polenta according to package directions.  Season with salt & pepper.

Preheat oven to 350.  In a 9x9  baking dish layer about half of the polenta.  Spoon half of the marina on top.  Spoon on half of the vegetable mixture.  Continue with another layer of polenta, vegetables and marina.  Sprinkle on pecorino and dollop a few spoonfuls of ricotta on the top.  Bake covered for 15 minutes.  Continue to bake uncovered for another 10 minutes.  Enjoy! (I added some red pepper flakes to my portion at the end.. mmm)

Here's a picture of the casserole before it went in the oven:

After preparing the casserole, my mom and I opened up my favorite bottle of wine that I haven't had in a year.. Vasse Felix.  I had 2 bottles left and was craving it, so I decided to share one bottle with my mom tonight.  The last bottle will have to be enjoyed on a very very special occassion!! 

We enjoyed our wine by the fireplace :)       In the picture it doesn't look like it's on, but the flash just ruined it!

Then it was time for dinner!!! It was soo good!  We each had 3 helpings! 

For an after dinner treat, my mom took out some mini pretzels and good-quality dark chocolate disks.  We placed one disk on each pretzel and put them in a 350 degree oven for a very short amount of time (prob only a minute and a half- 2 min)-- basically just until the chocolate sets on the pretzel, but is not melting down the sides.

The next step is to put the pretzels in the fridge to set and even freeze them if you like them cold.  But, I couldn't wait to try them.  I started jumping up and down and doing a booty dance because they were so good!  

Yupppp I'm a little weird!  After a few chocolate pretzels, my mom and I decorated our beautiful Christmas tree:

Now time to end the night with a Lifetime Christmas movie!! :)

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