Sunday, October 25, 2009

Tuesday, October 20th

Tuesday is my longest day on campus. Usually only a few noteworthy things happen to me. This past Tuesday was different. Here's my day, more or less.

1. Decided to take the bus to campus. Bus was taking too long. Drove instead.
2. Got back a quiz in Baking, 100%.
3. Took a quiz in baking, also 100%.
4. Breathed a sigh of relief when I learned my S&S quiz is the following week.
5. Made fantastic Chinese food in Basic Lab. I'll post recipes for you on Tuesday, too much studying to do until then. It was Chicken and Snow Peas in a spicy black bean sauce, Asparagus and Eggplant in oyster sauce and rice pilaf. We also made vichyssoise, but I was too full and have since forgotten about it.
6. Marveled at the unusually tiny class size in Basic lab. The undesirable folks have gone. Class and clean up went so well, we were out by 4:00 PM.
7. Got everyone in Basic lab class, including myself, to try frogs legs.
8. Had post-class beers with two classmates at Boylan Bridge Brewery.
9. Made plans with said classmates plus another to meet every other Thursday for dinner out or dinner in.
10. Went home and fell asleep.

Last Tuesday was a good day. The frogs legs were okay. It was hard to not picture the critter as I was eating it. It was a bit stringy, similar to catfish, didn't taste that much like chicken, in my opinion.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Green chefs

Here's an old article found my my internet-whiz mom on green chefs. This is a very influential group of chefs here, for more reasons than just their green-ness. Lantern, #7, is a small place in Chapel Hill, about 30 minutes away. They get great reviews. It's a cute place. I never think about going there though, since it's a bit far. Shame on me.

And for those of you not yet tired of hearing this...#12 is my brother's boss.

Monday, October 19, 2009

The Prodigal Niece Returns

For Fall Break, I went to Minnesota to visit family I haven't seen in nearly two decades. It was a fun trip. They were kind enough to roll out the snow for me. Twice. Thanks, family. They thought I was crazy. It was really cold! When I left NC, it was in the 80s with lots of humidity. I arrive in Minneapolis and it's in the 40s with no humidity!

We went to the Mall of America, which is larger than you think it is. You know it's big, right? Yeah, well, it's bigger than that. I must say that the shoe section of the Nordstrom did not fail to deliver. I deserve a pat on the back for my restraint.

We also took a trip to the...wait for it...Spam Museum. Uh huh. There is such a thing. It was a lot of fun. It's a self-guided tour, including a short movie. They cook Spam and pass out cubed samples served on pretzel sticks. It was my first time eating Spam, which surprisingly made out of pork shoulder, the same meat my beloved BBQ is made from, and ham. It's not actually made from the same creepiness found in hotdogs. And, it's surprisingly delicious! Who knew? I brought home three cans, Hickory Smoke flavor, Spam with Bacon, and Black Pepper, which is not sold in the US.

Here are a few pictures from the Spam Museum in Austin, MN.

I found this quote particularly meaningful as a culinary student.

A friendly reminder

Folks, I LOVE getting comments from readers, especially new readers. I really do. I don't love when readers post links about how we can strike it rich online. Seriously. If you feel the need to post this stuff, get your own blog. Any such comments will be deleted. It's bad enough you've found my email inbox, right?

The only spam that gets posted here is the kind that comes in a little blue can. Cheers!

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Cream puffs, eclairs, and seven swans a-swimming

In our last Baking I lab, we made pate a choux (pronounced pot-uh-shoe). You know, cream puff dough. I love cream puffs. I love eclairs more. It's a chocolate thing. I can't help it. I have a problem. Don't judge me. I'm weak.

So, as luck would have it, pate a choux is ridiculously easy to make. You have everything you need on hand in your kitchen right now. Seriously. Water, butter, flour, sugar, eggs. No joke. The choux paste (as they say in the biz) that you use for cream puffs is the same stuff you use to make the cute savory ones with cheese and herbs that get served with wine. Yum!

Our lab assignment included choux paste, chocolate ganache, and pastry cream. We had to make cream puffs, eclairs and swans. Swans! So tiny! So cute! So delicious!

I had to take a picture of this handsome devil. My friend, S., made him. Isn't he perfect?

I brought home my stuff. I shared it with friends. It would be dangerous to keep all this in my kitchen. Especially since I had to "test" about five eclairs before class was over. What? They were small! Besides, I like to think of it was quality control. They would have technically been unsaleable. It's a service I provide. I'm that kind of girl.

Without further ado, my goods from the cream puff lab.

Cream puffy goodness!

Miniature eclairs!

Okay, fine. Five swans a-swimming.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Pie. It's what's for dinner. And breakfast. And lunch.

Friday's baking lab found me with a working camera battery and pie. Three pies, to be exact. We had three hours to make three pies. I was done first. No comment. Because of the instructor, a lot of people have been dropping the class. Unfortunately, it's almost all of the good people. So, I am left with people like the grandmother of 8 who forgot to put flour in her cookies and the Art Institute drop out who asked why we don't use baking soda in bread three weeks into class. Sweet. I spoke to another one of my chefs before Fall Break about this instructor. He offered to speak to the department head. Apparently, I am not the only one who has complained. The good news is that she won't be back to teach again. But I digress.

Here are my pies.

Apple pie (My illustrious instructor was kind enough to demo on MY pie how to cut the top. This was not my decision. Thus is the problem of being finished first.)

Cherry pie

Coconut cream pie

I brought home the coconut cream pie. I shared a piece with Mary Jane and have been powering through the rest. My love for pastry cream is strong. I make good pie. I make good pie crust too!

Pie crust is deceptively simple to make and homemade tastes infinitely better than store-bought. You mix a lower-gluten flour with a little sugar and a little salt. Cut in the butter. Add just enough ice cold water to bring it together. Roll. Done. You have pie. I suggest adding a little sugar to a dough to be used for savory pies as it helps in browning. It will not make the dough sweet, but it looks nicer.

I found this detailed recipe on Epicurious for pie dough. The only thing I'd do differently is to add maybe two teaspoons of granulated sugar to the flour as well, again, for color, not taste.

I don't recommend making the dough in a food processor since you have a lot less control. I really do prefer to mix and knead my doughs by hand. I find I have a better sense of when it's ready with my hands than by sight or smell. This pie crust recipe would be great for a chicken pot pie too! We've got some serious fall weather going on here. That would be great today.

I encourage you all to try pie dough soon! Report back with the results! I'd love to hear how it goes!

Speaking of going, here's what's left!

Fresh pasta, exploding blenders, and I need more practice shopping.

Since my last post, I got As on both tests, in Basic and Safety and Sanitation. I wish purchasing was going so well. Ugh. I hate the online class format. It's just basically read the book, answer questions and take a quiz. I much prefer to be lectured at by a teacher. I have a meeting with my teacher on Wednesday to discuss what I can do, review the two quizzes I bombed, and whatever else comes to mind. I'm sure I'll do just fine in Purchasing, I just need a little reassurance right now.

You'll have to use your imagination on the next part. I've been having some camera battery issues and thus, I am photo-less.

A couple weeks ago in Basic lab, we tackled soups. We made consomme, a flavorful, clarified broth. If you make a stock, it's usually a bit cloudy. To clarify it into a consomme, you add clearmeat to it and simmer. Clearmeat is a mixture of lean ground meat (the same flavor as the stock), mirepoix (carrot, celery, onion), lightly beaten egg whites, and an acid (we used a bit of tomato paste). You mix it all up raw (it's really gross), add it to cold stock, and put it on the stove. Once it comes to a boil, you turn it down to a simmer and leave it alone. The clearmeat mixture cooks and attracts impurities from the stock. It floats to the top and forms a "raft." The raft cracks naturally and acts like a filter. It's super cool! Making consomme was one technique I was most excited about learning. You end up with this crystal clear broth with a big flavor. Ours was beef. All I could think when I tasted it was that's what I want next time I'm sick. Yummy! If you try it, be sure to season the consomme with kosher salt! The iodine in other salt will make the consomme cloudy and all your hard work for not! This lab was particularly interesting because it was very apparent who the serious students were. We were the ones standing over our pots talking about how cool this process was. In the soup portion of this lab, we made a cream soup. I chose cream of mushroom. I put my hot soup in the blender, whizzed it up, then set the blender on the counter to take the lid off. I went to pick it up and the bottom of the blender stayed on the table. You know the bottom part that screws on so you can take the blades out? Yeah. Somehow came unscrewed or something while I was blending. Soup went everywhere! It was awesome. Especially since it was my lunch. Luckily, about 7 people in my class offered to share theirs with me. I should have gotten a picture of that mess. Too funny.

In Basic lab, we also made fresh pasta, the week before Fall Break. We made miniature veggie lasagnas in ramekins. CUTE! We also made ravioli and tortelini. The tortelini was so much easier than I thought it would be. We had three fillings we had to make, to be shared by our table. There were three of us at my table, the same three people from the previous week's sauce lab when we made communal tomato sauce. I made the goat cheese stuffing for the tortelini. I used goat cheese, cream cheese, garlic, shallot, mint, tarragon, basil and parsley. It was very good. If I'm not mistaken, this was the first lab we've had all year without a clarified butter sauce!