Lesson 39: Legumes

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Today started off with a little test-taking.  All of the written tests have been really easy so far.. We are given the questions beforehand, so it's just a test of retaining the information and remembering all of the important details of the cooking techniques.  I think I did well.. hopefully I didn't forget anything!!

As soon as we handed in our tests, we got started on preparing our mise-en-place for today's recipes.  Chef asked me which recipe I'd like to work on, and I immediately responded with the lentil ragout!  The recipe sounded really interesting and tasty.. plus I always like to choose recipes that I would be interested in recreating at home.  I'm going to definitely try making this again (with a few variations) for my grandpa since I know he loves lentils.

The recipe starts off by rendering bacon (I'm going to try using pancetta next time).  I added some mirepoix, leeks, and garlic.  After they sweated a bit, I added tomato paste and let it cook for another couple of minutes.  Next, I added the lentils, chicken stock, and sachet d'epices (which I made with parsley stems, bay leaf, peppercorns, caraway seeds, and lemon peel).  The mixture simmered, covered for about an hour.  I loved the thick texture and all of the flavors.  This could also easily be made into a soup by adding extra broth.

Al worked on the baked beans, which turned out delicious!  I love baked beans and will be making them from scratch from now on, instead of opening up a can like I usually do!  When we took them out of the oven they were beautifully glazed on the top.

Henry made the lima bean stew, which was my favorite dish of the day.  I absolutely love the oversized beans in a thick, creamy broth with chunks of pancetta!

Allison was back today after being sick for a while!  She was in charge of the Cuban black beans and did a fantastic job spicing up the recipe at the end by adding some fresh cilantro and cumin.

I am so upset I didn't get a picture of the falafels!  Matt worked on the falafels and made a zesty chickpea mixture with a bit of a kick.  I loved the little bit of spiciness these had!  We all had fun experimenting with the best ways to cook these so they were crispy, yet cooked through.  The first few times we fried them they were very brown and crispy on the outside, but still too soft and mushy on the inside.  In the end, Henry showed us the best technique by smashing them just a little so that they cook evenly when we fry them.  It worked perfectly!

Most of the class made falafel pitas with yogurt-tahini sauce and salad, but I loved my falafel just on its own!  The falafel had so much flavor, that it needed no condiment or bread filler!  I'm definitely going to experiment with these at home and try baking them (for a healthier touch and to see if they cook all the way through-- I will use Henry's technique and flatten them a bit)

I learned a lot about working with beans today.  Since we had limited time in the kitchen, we had to use the fast-cooking method for beans (by boiling them for an hour).  However, Chef told us that beans taste best when they are soaked for 24 hours prior to using them for a recipe.

We also made another little random treat today in the kitchen-- a Bloomin' Onion!   Kim mentioned that she wanted to make it for her superbowl party and didn't know how, so Chef spontaneously called for a beer to be delivered for the beer batter and demonstrated exactly how to prepare the onion, batter it, and fry it.  YUM!  The pastry class even shared some marshmallow topped parfaits that they made today.. It was a goood day!

Tomorrow Chef Karen will be back for our lesson on grains.  I am making risotto tomorrow, which I love to make.  I think the slow, attentive cooking process is so soothing (is that weird?)


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