Friday, February 27, 2009

The Octofecta, or a whole lotta octopus.

For my new pal, PeeWee, Meg In The Kitchen presents...

Eight of the best octopus recipes available on the Interweb!

Why?, says you.

Why not!, says I.

1. Ceviche Tostada, or a veritable taste bud orgy!

2. BBQ Garlic Octopus, because you know how I love BBQ!

3. Octopus Tidbits I have a new kitten now. He gets a miniature can of Fancy Feast every night. The cans have names like "White Meat Chicken and Whipped Egg Souffle with Garden Greens" and "Wild Salmon in a delicate broth with Garden Greens." I wonder if he'd eat "Octopus Tidbits with Garden Greens"?

4. Char Grilled Baby Octopus I wish I had seen this last night when I went to Char Grill for dinner. I would have suggested it to Phil as a new menu item.

5. Greek Grilled Baby Octopus Salad, because nothin' says home cookin' like a bowl of grilled baby animals! Ooooh weeeee!

6. Jessicak61's Octopus Salad, a simple summer salad, or the reason Fall is my favorite season.

7. Octopus Grilled Very Tender Grill this to bring it to another level of goodness. Could that be an eighth level of goodness, Rita?

8. Croatian Dalmatian Black Risotto You will be relieved to know this recipe calls for octopus, not actual Dalmatians. Repeat: not actual Dalmatians.

I guess this is more of an octo-octofecta, right?

Now the more astute reader will remember my recent announcement of acceptance into culinary school and may, perhaps, look down their nose at my mocking of octopus recipes. After all, aren't chefs supposed to eat anything that doesn't eat them first? "BAH!" I say. That's why I'm going to be a pastry chef! Personally, I find octopus, squid and cuttlefish revolting, especially things with their ink in them. I feel that, as a human, I am high enough up on the food chain that there are certain things I don't have to eat. However, if anyone is "adventurous" enough to try these recipes DO report back!

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Ridiculously easy brisket

Sometimes a girl just needs some comfort food. Tuesday was one of those nights. I was in Kroger a couple nights ago and found a beef brisket just under three pounds for $5.65. Score! Tuesday night, I tossed it in the slow cooker. This is a modification of a recipe I got from Arthur Gordon in a Jewish cooking class at Williams Sonoma. The recipe given to me called for it to be cooked in the oven with a slightly different preparation.

Slow Cooker Brisket

1 beef brisket, size not so important, just as long as it fits in the crock

1 cup ketchup
1/2 cup A1 steak sauce
1/2 cup hoisin sauce
1 packet Lipton onion soup mix
1/2 small can tomato paste
8oz water (better if you substitute beer, but I didn't have any)

Combine sauce ingredients in crock of slow cooker. Stir vigorously with a whisk to combine. Add brisket, turning a couple times to coat well. Cook on high for four hours or low for eight hours, or until tender.

Now, if the brisket is too big to fit in the crock, you can cook this in the oven. In a large baking pan lined with foil for easy clean up (trust me on this), place brisket. Mix ketchup, A1, hoisin, tomato paste and onion soup mix together to make a paste. Slather half over the top (fatty side) of the brisket. Mix the other half with the beer or water and pour around the brisket. Cover with foil and bake at 350 until tender.

Here's the important part, people. Listen up, okay?


Did you get that? No salt needed. At all. The onion soup mix is salty. Wicked salty. Saves you a step and a trip to the WakeMed Heart Center.

Arthur Gordon's recipe left out the A1 and the hoisin, but I thought it seemed like fun. It was a good idea.

I would serve this with mashed potatoes and sweet and sour red cabbage. I changed up the red cabbage last night.

1 head red cabbage, sliced thin
1 yellow onion, sliced thin
1 TBSP minced garlic
1 1/2 cups of the liquid from the crock pot
salt and pepper to taste

Saute the cabbage, onion and garlic for 10 minutes. Add liquid, mix well, cover and simmer until tender.


Saturday, February 7, 2009

Breathing a sigh of relief.

When I started this blog recently, I had a secret. Generally, I am a good secret keeper. If you're upset or sad or something and tell me a serious secret, I'll take it to the grave. If we're talking about good news you're about to hear or presents I bought you, it kills me...KILLS keep quiet about it. This is something I get from Grami. I am relieved that I can finally reveal my secret today.

Yesterday I was accepted to culinary school.

I couldn't be more excited. I begin in the summer session at Wake Tech in the new Baking and Pastry Arts program. For those of you who don't know me outside this blog, I used to cook. Until the last few years, all of my jobs were in restaurants. I've always had a passion for food and cooking. Many, many moons ago, I quit school to start cooking professionally. I worked hard for a few years and eventually landed a Sous Chef gig at a local restaurant now defunct thanks to the raging coke habit of the owner. At that time, I knew I wanted to get into baking and pastry stuff, but there wasn't much here to speak of in the way of fine dining. At that time, the Raleigh food scene was still pretty pedestrian and a real "professional" kitchen was hard to find. I became frustrated and decided to go back to college. I graduated three years later, in December of 2000 and gave up on the cooking/baking dream. I have learned over the past few years that I am not an office person. I don't understand what most people do all day. It's hard to be creative in a cubicle.

A few years ago, my brother enrolled in New England Culinary Institute in Essex, Vermont. I've been hearing about the classes and the chefs for a while now. I had the opportunity to visit him last May, right before he took off for his internship in California. I got to sit in on a few classes and got a complete tour of the campus, including meeting most of the chef professors. I would be lying if I said it did not affect me. Perhaps not consciously at first, but it got to me.

I began researching culinary school last semester. I was taking another class at Wake Tech and saw the new B&P program on the website. I knew I wanted a dedicated B&P program, not straight culinary. I can't handle the butcher stuff. Unfortunately, this left me with few options, almost all private schools. Naturally, I looked at Le Cordon Bleu in Paris and the French Culinary Institute in New York City. My two biggest concerns were time and money. I loved that LCB and FCI were both 6 month programs. Both required moving, and I have a lease until December. Both cities are more expensive than Raleigh as well. LCB wants an application fee of 1500 Euros. FCI wants 500 dollars. If we remember back to our college application days, that's just to apply and doesn't guarantee admission. The cost of the program at LCB in Paris is actually cheaper than the other LCB campuses, with a cost of around $20,000. The total cost of the associate's degree B&P program at NECI is about $60,000. The FCI is around $35,000. Wake Tech's associate's degree in culinary or B&P is less than $5000. But it's also 2 years. Another thing to consider is my living expenses. I have a great apartment downtown for $615 a month. Because it's old, we have radiators. Because we have radiators, my only utility bill is electric and it's not been more than $35 a month. It's hard to argue with that! I was laid off last Friday and my last day of work is May 1st. With FCI and LCB I couldn't start until January because of my lease. What would I do until January?

In the end, I decided to sacrifice time over money. If Social Security is around when I'm 65, I don't want to use it to pay off student loans. As well, the improvement in the Raleigh food scene is astounding. I think it was Bon Appetit (Gourmet?) said Chapel Hill is the latest up and coming hot spot for food and restaurants. We now have choices. We have excellent bakeries and restaurants, so finding work while I'm in school will be easy. The bonus is that I'll come out with a lot of experience. One of the perks of the big name schools is the connections. My brother got an internship last July at a restaurant in California with two Michelin stars and three Mobil diamonds. His boss will be on Iron Chef in March. It turned into a permanent job and he's currently the assistant pastry chef. Do I expect that when I leave Wake Tech? Certainly not. But then again, I don't want to be famous, I just want to make croissants.

This blog will still have my recipes, but I will also write about my experiences in school. I take my first two foundation classes in the summer, Safety and Sanitation and Basic Culinary Skills (or something like that), then on to the fun stuff in the Fall full time.

Allez cuisine!