Lesson 106: Mousselines, Pan-Smoking, Ceviche

Thursday, April 29, 2010

I was feeling like a million bucks today after a good night's sleep and finally recovering from the crazy night on Tuesday :)

Instead of each group preparing different recipes, every group prepared the same 5 recipes. Before we all got working on our mis en place, Chef demonstrated how to fillet a salmon and red snapper. We've seen how to filet these fish many times throughout our culinary education, but a refresher is always helpful. I tried to take a video of the demo, but my memory card couldn't hold a long video. Here's part of Chef Chris's demo on how to fillet a salmon:

This is a picture of Chef Chris demo'ing the red snapper:

I worked on the Pan-Smoked Trout with Honey-Poppy Seed Citrus Dressing. I began by preparing the brine, which included a lot of salt, brown sugar, garlic powder, onion powder, pickling spices, and honey. I dissolved these spices in boiling water and then cooled the mixture down by adding more ice water. I added the pan-dressed trout to the brine and let it marinate in the refrigerator for about 2 hours. In the meantime, I made the dressing and helped my team members out with the other recipes. At 3:30 I put my trout in the smoker and left it in there for about 35-40 minutes.

I also worked on breaking down the fois gras. After separating the lobes, I removed all of the veins and seasoned it with the brine we made yesterday, along with some brandy and port. Doesn't it look yummy?

We are making the fois gras terrine tomorrow after it marinates overnight.

The other recipes today included:

Japanese Pickled Vegetables (or as our book said: "Javanese")

Thai Shrimp and Scallop Ceviche:

Tea and Spice Smoked Salmon:

Seafood Mousseline:

Remember the brioche dough I made yesterday? We wrapped our terrines with the dough and baked it today. It was delicious!

I can't believe tomorrow is our last lesson! Very bittersweet....

Lessons 104 & 105: Sausages and Terrines

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Yesterday's class involved making basic grind sausages and emulsion sausages. Making sausages involves a lot of steps that must be done properly. My group worked on making a Szechwan-Style Sausage (basic grind) and a Frankfurter (emulsion). The other groups made sweet Italian sausages, fine Swiss bratwursts, green chile sausages, and chicken & vegetable sausages.

Kim, Matt and I prepped our Szechwan sausage by trimming the sinew and fat from pork butt. This took FOREVER, so we also took some beef from the refrigerator to add to our meat. We used the meat grinder attachment on the Kitchen Aid to grind up the meat and some cubed "fat back":

Next, we added the seasonings: prague powder #1, crushed peppercorns, dried sage, cayenne, sauteed garlic, anice seeds, powdered dextrose, sugar, chili powder, 5 spice, red chili flakes, soy sauce, and vodka:
We always kept the meat over an ice-bath to keep nice and cold. After making a test patty to check for seasonings, we cranked the meat into the hog casings:
We eventually tied up individual links from this spiral:
Rob, Allison, and Nora made the frankfurter out of beef shoulder, fat back, salt, TCM, Dextrose, onion powder, white pepper, coriander, nutmeg, garlic powder, and non-fat dry milk:
We reserved all of the sausages to cook today. At the end of yesterday's class, we also cured bacon that will be ready by Friday.

After class I met up with my sister and spent the night out in Times Square. I may have had a little too much fun and was definitely paying for it today!

Today we worked on making terrines and pates. I started out by making a brioche dough for the Turkey Pate en Croute. Then, I helped with various steps of our Country-Style Terrine and made a Salt Cure Mix for our Fois Gras that we'll be curing tomorrow.

We will be finishing the terrines tomorrow, so there will be more pictures to come. It was a lot like making sausage: grinding and processing meat and adding various seasonings and aromatics.

We also cooked the sausages today! They were delicious! We grilled the basic grind sausages and boiled & smoked the emulsion sausages. I especially loved our Szechwan sausage!

Hors D'oeuvre II

Monday, April 26, 2010

What better place to spend a rainy Monday afternoon than in the kitchen?

Today was our second (and last) day of hors d'oeuvres. Hors d'oeuvres are tough because they're a bit time consuming since you have to assemble individual bites and make them look presentable. I actually really enjoyed preparing these recipes..not to mention, it's fun to taste everyone else's bite-sized hors d'euvres.

Kim and I worked together to prepare Goat Cheese Mousse with Beet Quennelles and Buckwheat Blini with American Caviar.

The goat cheese mousse was simply a puree of goat cheese, milk, creme fraiche, roasted garlic, cumin, extra virgin olive oil, and walnut oil. There's a bit of gelatin in the mousse to help the mixture firm up and create a smooth, silky consistency. We also folded in some ground walnuts and minced chives. We topped each little mousse with a beet mixture that I made by mincing cooked beets with olive oil, canola, sherry vinegar, salt, and pepper. You definitely have to like goat cheese to enjoy this hors d'oeuvre (I LOVE goat cheese!).. The consistency was perfectly silky and the beets added a nice hint of sweetness to the tart goat cheese.
The blini were also very interesting to make. The batter was made with warm milk, yeast, sugar, buckwheat flour, all-purpose flour, and salt. After the mixture fermented and doubled in size, we added in an egg yolk and some beer. (This was all mixed up in the industrial-sized food processor to create a light, airy batter). Right before cooking the cakes, we folded in a whipped egg white. Then, we put the batter in a squeeze bottle to make it easier to create tiny "pancakes". The cakes tasted very interesting--they were light, but you could taste the beer in them (Kim and I were tempted to finish the beer.. we were good though!). They went perfectly with the accompaniements of caviar, creme fraiche, and chopped chives:

My group also made Shrimp Shao Mai Dumplings: (And unpictured Duxesses & Fois Gras Palmiers and Chicken Sate Yakitori)
At 4:00 all three groups presented their dishes. There was a lot to try today! A new class started today down the hall, so they came in our kitchen to sample our food. I'm jealous that it was their first day.. I don't want to be done with school!! I was also jealous of their crisp white uniforms... ours definitely aren't crisp or white anymore! Anyways, back to the food...

Chicken Sate with Southeast Asian Dipping Sauce:

Vegetable Confetti Pancakes with Tomatillo Salsa:

Thai Spring Rolls:

Spicy Crab Remoulade:

Smoked Salmon Parfait Shot Glasses:

Beef Sate with Peanut Dipping Sauce:

Smoked Salmon Crepes with Cream Cheese and Caviar:

Scallop and Pork Spring Rolls:

Coconut Shrimp in Puff Pastry Shells:

Tomato Mousse with Sun-Dried Tomato & Zucchini Quenelles:
We are making a sausages tomorrow which should be interesting! Then I'm having a girl's night out in the city with my sister :)

One more thing.. Kim brought in cookes from Levain Bakery for us to try. Let me just say, it was the most amazing cookie I have ever tasted. They were HUGE and cake-like with chocolate chips that are all gooey (which I don't understand because the cookie wasn't warmed up). So basically, I'm going to have to plan a trip to this bakery very soon because I need more cookies!!!!!

Lesson 102: Hors D'oeuvre I

Friday, April 23, 2010

I believe everyone has a case of "senior-itis"... Chef told us it's common for classes to start slacking at the point of the program. We're done with our practical exam and only have 5 lessons less until graduation.. so I think we are all ready to be done and have our externships on our mind.

However, when I think about only having 5 classes left, it makes me really sad! I can honestly say that these past 6 months have been the most exciting, challenging, exhausting, and FUN months of my life. I think back to orientation day when I was first introduced to my 15 classmates and stepped into kitchen 1401 for the very first time. I was a bundle of nerves and was super shy. Now I can walk into the kitchen with confidence and enjoy four hours of cooking every day with my classmates that have become my friends. Yea, there are occasional fights and lash-outs and also some tears shed from time to time.. but 9 times out of 10 we're laughing together and working as a team to cook our hearts out.

Today we may have been a bit slower than usual and lost our sense of timing, but I think today was just a fluke day (and it's Friday..) and we'll be back to our hard-working selves on Monday! Even though we presented our food a bit late and did not put as much time in our presentation, the food was still delicious. Each group made 5 different hors d'oevres that were packed with flavor and could be enjoyed in just one or two bites.

Nora and I worked together to make these Curried Lamb Phyllo Triangles:

These were made with ground lamb, onion, garlic, tomato, curry powder, cayenne, veal stock, yogurt, scallion, lemon juice, and fresh mint. After this mixture cooled, we assembled the phyllo triangles.

Nora and I also prepared the Braised Manila Clams with Sausage and White Beans:
We braised the clams in wine, shallots, and thyme. Then, we cooked up some Italian sausage, shallot, garlic, sage, and white beans. We pureed this mixture to top the baby clams.

My group also prepared these other 3 hors d'oevres:
Beef Empanadas:
Vegetable Pakora Fritters with Tamarind Chuntney:
Spicy Shrimp Fritters:
The following plates were made by the other groups in the class.

Mussles with Orange-Saffron Sauce:

Mushroom Phyllo Triangles:
Shrimp Toasts:
Chorizo and Tomato Phyllo Triangles:
Fried Oysters:
Risotto Croquettes with Fontina Cheese:
Coconut Shrimp with Tamarind Dipping Sauce:
Not Pictured: Indian Potato Samosas, Cod Fritters, and Crispy Duck Wontons with Coconut-Soy Dipping Sauce

This was a really tough week for all of us. Hopefully we'll all rest up this weekend so we're ready for our very last week of lessons!

Final Practical Exam + a Vegan Experience

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Today was quite the day! I traveled to school with a strong stench of garlic... Chef asked all of us to peel a couple of bulbs of garlic each and bring it back to school today. I think it was for some event he's doing? There were definitely no vampires going near me today. I kept getting whiffs of garlic coming from my bag..not very pleasant.

My mom came to school with me today to attend the Alex Guarnaschelli cooking demonstration (I bought her a ticket for Christmas). We love watching Alex's new show "Alex's Day Off" on Food Network (Sundays and Tuesdays at 9:30 AM). I love the way she talks about food and cooking. You can tell that she has such a passion for food and her career when she speaks. I was so jealous that my mom got to attend the event while I had to take my practical.

I walked my mom to the 12th floor (where the event was held) and hung out for a bit while hoping to catch a glimpse of Alex. I saw her setting up in the room and decided to go in and introduce myself. I am definitely not the forward type to just have the confidence to walk into a kitchen and introduce myself to a Food Network star, but my mom helped me gain the courage. I knew I would regret it if I didn't take the chance. It helped that I was in my uniform and could tell her that I was about to take my module 5 practical. She was super nice, wished me luck, and even gave me a few words of wisdom.

Here's a picture my mom snapped during the demonstration:

I entered kitchen 1401 ready to take my exam and still a little bit starstruck from meeting one of my favorite chefs. We set up the kitchen to perfection and began going through the list of things to complete for our exam. I started out very calm and got through the mise en place with ease.

After fabricating my chicken, I immediately started braising the legs, thighs, and wings. Next, I blanched my green vegetables and presented them to Chef. They were perfect. By that time, it was already nearing 3:30 and my mom came up to check on me since her demonstration was over. I was doing really well at that point and had no problem with her standing outside the kitchen and observing. I grilled my chicken paillard and was about to take my braised chicken out of the oven. While I was putting the finishing touches on my braise and reducing the liquid, I noticed my mom wasn't watching anymore (I figured she left and went shopping to kill time while I was finishing up). As I was about to plate my braised chicken, I went to grab the handle of the saute pan... the saute pan that just came out of a 400 degree oven.. OUCH! My whole hand was scorched. As any chef would do, I complained that it hurt like hell, but did nothing about it and continued to cook and plate my dish. Eventually I couldn't take the pain anymore and sunk my hand in the nearest bowl of ice water. Gahh.. my hand STILL hurts!

As I walked to the end of the hall to present my braised chicken, I noticed an extra person at the "judges table".... MY MOM! I was pretty frazzled at this point after burning myself, so seeing her was a bit of a shock. She was sitting next to chef trying everyone's dishes. I presented my dish to chef..and apparantly my mom too. I'm not going to lie, it was a bit weird to have my chef and mom critiquing my braised chicken, that apparantly needed more salt...

At this point, I just started getting emotional. My hand REALLY hurt, I wasn't happy with my braise, and why was my mom judging my class's food with Chef?!!! I overreacted a little and told my mom to leave, but Chef insisted she stayed. I'm glad she did... I shouldn't have let that affect my performance. I eventually pulled it together and presented my perfect sauteed supreme of chicken with pan sauce and my ..umm.. not so perfect puree. My puree was fine -was the right consistency and tasted good, but I didn't take the time to make sure it was hot when I served it. It was getting towards the end of class and frankly, I just wanted to be done!

In the last hour of class, the kitchen was chaotic, so there was a HUGE cleanup at the end. We actually didn't get out of class until around 5:20. Lets just say, I was in need of a nice glass of wine when we left! My mom and I went to a local wine bar and discussed the crazy happenings of the day over a nice glass of cabernet.

Then, we walked up a couple of blocks to Blossom Restaurant for a Vegan dinner! I ordered the Feijoadinha with Smokey Tempeh-- a stew of smoky roasted tempeh, black beans, chayote squash, and sweet potatoes in an orange-lime broth:
This dish was AMAZING!! I especially loved the crunchy sweet potato crisps on top, which added a nice texture to the stew.

My mom ordered a "seiten" special that was grilled and was atop some vegetables, kale, and a red pepper sauce. It was also very good, but I liked my dish more ;)

A lot of people are against trying vegan meals, but if you go to a good restaurant that knows how to serve up gourmet vegan dishes, it is soo good! I prefer it to a steak dinner!

Time to go collapse into bed... long long day!

Market Basket Challenge Day 2

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Today was much the same as yesterday. We had a bit more of a general idea of what ingredients we would have because everything that was left over from yesterday was fair game to use today. We also got some other different ingredients, including some seafood.

In my mind, I was planning on making a cut of beef with a really nice cherry tomato sauce (I remembered seeing a ton of cherry tomatoes yesterday). However, when I saw the mackerel, I decided to change my menu a bit.

I thought that if I seasoned my fish with lots of spices then it would pair well with a fresh salsa. I made a salsa out of roasted yellow bell pepper, cherry tomatoes, cilantro, red onion, olive oil, and balsamic.

I also had a beet side-dish stuck in my head. I wasn't sure if it would go with my fish and salsa theme, but I decided to give it a try. I made a goat cheese polenta with beets and swiss chard. I loved this polenta!! When I went to plate my dish, I realized that the color of the polenta (which turned pink from the beets!) totally clashed with my fish and salsa. Oh well, whaddaya gonna do? I presented my plate with confidence to Chef Chris. He also commented on my..um weird.. color scheme, but he loved all of the components of the dish. My fish was cooked perfectly with a crispy skin, my salsa was super fresh and nicely seasoned, and my polenta was obviously awesome. Overall, I was happy with the end result:

(Spicy mackerel with a roasted pepper & tomato salsa; Goat cheese polenta with beets, swiss chard, and fresh thyme)

Tomorrow is my FINAL practical! I seriously cannot believe that this is my very last practical in culinary school. I'm a little bit nervous, but I'm confident that if I stay calm I will do absolutely fine. Here is my practical that Chef Chris made up himself to only give to his students:
-Knife skills-- small-dice mirepoix, fine mince garlic, fine mince shallot, prepare 1 sachet and present complete mise en place for braising
-Fabricate 1 whole chicken into 2 breasts (both frenched), 2 legs (thighs separated from drums), and 2 wings
-Braise the chicken legs, thighs and wings. Present in a hot bowl with 2-3 oz sauce.
-Make a paillard out of 1 breast and Grill
-Pan sear the other breast and present it with a pan sauce
-Cook green vegetables properly: asparagus, brocolli, and haricot vert
-Prepare a root vegetable puree and present in an 8 ox souffle cup

All stuff I have done before, but this is a lot to get done in the time we are given. I'm looking forward to the challenge!

My mom will also be coming to school with me tomorrow! She'll be attending the Chef Guarnaschelli demo while I'm taking my practical (I wish I could go with her!!)..Afterwards, we're having dinner at Blossom, a vegan restaurant in Chelsea. Tomorrow will definitely be an exciting day!!

Market Basket Challenge

Monday, April 19, 2010

Why do I always have the weirdest encounters at Starbucks???!  Today I was minding my own business while sipping on some green tea before class when some guy comes up to me and hands me his business card.  Apparantly he writes on a blog called "womenofstarbucks.com" and asked if he could take my picture.....uhhhh??  Awkward!  I didn't really know what to say, so I uh, let him take a picture of me?  Must've been my snazzy new yellow jacket from Marshalls that made me look so picture-worthy ;)

Anyways, I'll back-track to last weekend.  I spent the majority of the weekend experimenting with graduation ideas.  Kim worked on some of the dishes too so we were able to really discuss our game plan today.  I won't tell y'all the exact menu yet, but here's a little preview of what I was up to this weekend:
Notice my ridiculous sad face while killing the lobster... yup, I'm a killer and I'm not proud of it.

I brought the final dish to school today for Chef Chris to try.  Kim and I also brought it down the hall for the other chef instructors to have a taste and offer their opinons.  Overall, we got good feedback and have a good idea of what to change.

Class today was a bit different than usual.  Instead of working in groups, we were able to work independently.  We were given complete freedom as to what to make and were not given any recipes or instructions.  Chef Chris gave us a few ground rules and then left the rest to us.  We had to present a plate to him that contained a protein, starch, vegetable, and 2 oz of sauce.

At the beginning of class half of the students were let into the kitchen to take a look at the ingredients we were given and prepare a menu.  The rest of the students were let into the kitchen 30 minutes later.  I was in the first half of the group and immediately looked at the proteins.  My game plan was to keep things simple and to cook things that I knew how to cook well.  I was nervous about today and didn't want to think of crazy new ideas and then get flustered and mess up.  This was the first opportunity I was given to present a dish to Chef Chris that I could call my own, so I wanted to impress him with the skills and techniques I have learned thus far in culinary school.

Once I decided on my menu, the rest of class was a breeze.  Everything turned out perfectly and I presented a beautiful plate to Chef Chris that I was proud of:(Sauteed breast of duck with a red wine & rosemary reduction; Glazed carrot rondelles with orange zest; Rice Pilaf with fresh herbs and a brunoise of red and yellow bell peppers)

Chef commented that I cooked and seasoned everything very well.  He gave me suggestions to make the dish even better, but was impressed with what I served. 

While I was cooking, I was a little insecure because I thought my dish was going to be "boring", but I was happy that I contained my composure and executed every component very well.  Tomorrow will be my chance to add some more creativity and perhaps challenge myself a bit more!

Knife Skills

Friday, April 16, 2010

Today we completely skipped the lesson on Thomas Keller and had a full knife skills lesson. I mentioned last night that I was kind of bummed about this because Thomas Keller's recipes looked amazing. However, I trusted Chef's opinion that it was not a good lesson and the recipes don't turn out that great. After all of the wonderful food this week, it would have been a real disappointment to end the week on a bad note.

Not to mention, we all needed the knife skills practice. After 3 weeks in Module 4 where we rarely took out a cutting board, our knife skills were lacking. It is essential for a great chef to have adequate knife skills. So, this class was very helpful!

Obviously I wasn't going to take a picture of everything I chopped up today, so there aren't as many pictures as usual on this post. However I did catch a pic of the amazing heirloom tomatoes we had in the kitchen today. These were incredible!!! Just look at the shape of the one in the middle and all of the ridges. One of my favorite things about summer is the sweetness and freshness of heirloom tomatoes. We made a delicious tomato water out of these heirlooms that can be used for sauces, soups, etc.

Basically we spent all four hours chopping away, from mincing garlic, shallots, and herbs, to creating the revisited tourne cut. Ugh how I hate tournes!!! We also practiced making bouquet garnis and sachet d'epices. I enjoyed today's lesson more than I thought I would!

This weekend will be spent experimenting with some recipes for graduation. I brought home some special ingredients from the kitchen to aid in this experimentation :) Hopefully it'll turn out great so that I can bring it in to class for Chef Chris to try on Monday!!

Modern Culinary Masters-- Daniel Boulud

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Today was the best day of my life.

Just kidding, although I did have a wonderful day. Whenever we ask Chef how he's doing, he always responds "today's the best day of my life" in a serious voice. I love it.

Before class I stopped at Starbucks to eat my lunch and have some tea. I had the lovely pleasure of meeting Edward, the man who sat next to me and decided to strike up conversation. Actually, that's an understatement.. he actually decided to tell me his whole life story. I learned about his long trips to Mississippi and what he likes to do in his free time on the weekends. Things got weird when he asked me if I wanted to listen to his ipod with him, so I chugged my tea and bolted. He gave me a Lifesaver mint as a parting gift..... weird.

I got to class nice and early to help set up the kitchen. There is a lot of prep to get the kitchen exactly how Chef likes it. Once we went over the recipes, Kim and I started working on the Soupe au Pistou. The soup used vegetable stock as a base, so we decided to "fortify" the stock that was given us by adding more vegetables, herbs, and spices to it. This increased the depth of flavor, which really affected the outcome of our soup.

The soup required a lot of prep work and chopping. It is basically a French version of minestrone, so we prepped a lot of different vegetables and aromatics. Once our soup got going, we made an awesome pesto sauce to top the soup with. We made this sauce to taste by blending fresh basil, parmesan cheese, lightly toasted pinenuts, and garlic. While these ingredients were pureeing, we streamed in extra virgin olive oil. After adding more cheese, pine nuts, salt, and pepper, this pesto was perfect! It was the perfect topping to our soup.

We also changed the recipe of our soup a bit by adding tomato puree. This added a nice sweetness and made the broth my hearty. We also added some torn basil for a bit of freshness. The end result was perfect. Chef complimented us on our soup and even said it was one of the best minestrone soups he's tasted... I'll take it!

Matty and Allison made a Crisp Paupiette of Sea Bass with Red Wine Sauce. It was a beautiful presentation and a very delectable dish. The sea bass was coated with paper-thin slices of potatoes and sauteed until the outer layer of potatoes were crispy:

Rob and Nora made the Baby Chicken and Squash Casserole with Rosemary. They also dried some tomatoes and used it as a garnish. This was another wonderful dish!

The other groups made some other impressive dishes. My favorite was the Jerusalem Artichoke Soup with Sage Croutons:

Obviously, I also loved the Lobster Ravioli on Spinach Leaves in a Ginger Cream Sauce:

Lamb Chops with Lemon -Pignoli Crust and Oven Roasted Vegetables:

Billi-Bi Cressonniere
(Vegetable cream soup with mussels):

Maine Sea Scallops in Black Tie
(Layers of scallops and black truffles in puff pastry):
Creamy Rabbit Casserole with Nine Spring Herbs:
After making these recipes, I am dying to go to Daniel Boulud's restaurant (appropriately named "Daniel") in NYC.

I was kind of bummed because Chef asked the class if we would want to skip Thomas Keller's recipes tomorrow and have a class of knife skills. Most of the class said they wanted the knife skills lesson. The recipes for tomorrow looked sooo good. Oh well, at least I'll get some much needed practice. Chef said that we can make some of the recipes, although we will spend most of the class on knife skills. At least tomorrow's FRIDAY!!!!

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