Wednesday, May 26, 2010

No Soup for You!

Today was pretty cool. The soups weren't that delicious, but the responses we received from the chef were amazing. He told us that our Butternut Squash Soup with Caramelized Apple and Potage Cressonniére soups were "So good that they could be made and sold professionally right now." And aside from our portion size being a little small on our Purée of Green Pea with Minted Cream, it and our Caldo Verde were "Absolutely delicious." Three 20s and a 19. Great day. Also, for all my tailgate buddies, stay tuned for Roasted Kabocha and Butternut Squash Soup with Créme Fraîche - it's a beautiful Burnt Orange and White combo that will be amazingly delicious if we get a cold game. Tomorrow is Shrimp Bisque, Manhattan-Style Clam Chowder (with live clams) and Corn and Crab Chowder with Basil.

Chef Waggoner told a story today. He was working a buffet for some hoity toity party and Julia Louis-Dreyfus was there. He was serving the soup. When she arrived to his station, he said, "NO SOUP FOR YOU!" Hilarious right? She complained to his boss and he got written up. He claims that to this day, he hasn't seen another episode of Seinfeld.

(Yesterday's blog that for some reason didn't post)

We made Cream of Celery, Mushroom, and Broccoli soups today. Meh. They all tasted very celery-y, mushroom-y, and broccoli-y (resectively), but other than that, they were more an exercise in different methods than anything else.

The main event today was French Onion Soup. Wow. This is labor intensive and worth it! We started by getting some onions going in butter. While that worked, we fried some fresh baguette slices in clarified butter to make croutons. Yea. I know. Two and a half hours later, to beautifully brown, perfectly caramelized onions, we added chicken stock, veal glace, fresh thyme, and a little S & P. This went in a single-serve crock bowl. Then went in the croutons. Then we laid a few slices of gruyére over the top. Then it went under the salamander to get all GBD - golden brown and delicious.

As you can see, Chef Lange got into the soup before I could get a clean pic. But when he got through the cheese and crouton to see how deep and rich the brown color was on the soup, he said, "Now that's sexy," - referring to how far we were able to caramelize the onions without burning them. And I tell you what, this was delicious. It was also, according to Chef Lange, as close to a perfect French Onion Soup as a CA 101 team can get on their first try. 20 points. See ya tomorrow for Chilled Pea Soup, Butternut Squash, and something else.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Juuuussst Barley

I always thought I hated soup. At least, that's what I though. Turns out, I just hated canned soup. Because soup made with stock that I've created, and vegetables that I've cut, is delicious. Today we made soup and it was gooooood.

First we started a chicken consummé. Ever had chicken consummé? That crystal clear ultra chickeny flavor is not acquired prettily. Stock is combined with egg whites, ground raw chicken breast, mirepoix, salt, and some aromatics. It's a slurry of funky slimy stuff. That sits for 15 minutes and gets poured into a pot. As it comes to temperature, the egg whites and chicken begin to coagulate and, with everything but the stock, becomes a "raft". This raft eventually floats to the top bringing with it all the impurities in the stock. You cut a hole in the side and begin to skim stuff that gets pushed up to the top. As it simmers (about 45 minutes), it only gets clearer.

We also fired up a vegetable "stock" at the same time. I use the quotes because a stock is defined as having the bones of an animal in it. Vegetable stock has no bones, but we call it stock anyway. Why is the sky blue? Why are fat guys named "Tiny"? Moving on. After getting all these things going, we realized we had about 10 minutes to get our Clear Vegetable Soup and Mushroom Barley Soup up for our serving window. We had not started them. Ready? GO:

Get the barley in simmering water for Mushroom.
Mirepoix on the heat for Veggie.
Onions and carrot sweating for Mushroom.
Garlic to mirepoix for Veggie.
Mushrooms to onions and carrot for Mushroom.
Veggie stock to Veggie.
Chicken stock to Mushroom.
Into rocket hot bowls on doilies on plates.

Confidence is shot. Didn't even taste. One minute before our service window closes. Breathe. Fingers crossed. The chef tastes the soups. (The bowls are stained from getting scorched in the oven previously. They're not dirty.)

He loved em. Other than our cuts not being 100% uniform in the Veggie, we nailed them. 19 for Veggie and 20 for Mushroom. What?! Really?! Ummm....thanks? Maybe we should rush at the last minute for everything.

As the consummé continues to simmer and clarify, we prep the Minestrone. Mirepoix sweats. Elbow mac is al dente. Add garlic. Add zucchini and chiffonade of cabbage. Add chicken stock. Add tomato, minced parsley, and cannellini beans. Put mac in the bowl. Ladle soup over the top. Sprinkle with parmesan. Serve:

And that's what a "20" Minestrone looks like. BOOM!

Back to the consummé. Ladle out the soup into a coffee filter in a strainer into a new pot. Add five pieces each of perfectly brunoised carrots and celery to the bowl. Ladle the soup over that. In the end, it should create an absolutely clear, fat free, ultra chickeny soup. Ours, however, had an ever so slight bit of fat on top (probably didn't strain the chicken stock through enough cheesecloth). It also had a few flecks of debris (we're talking smaller than a fine ground pepper here - most likely something was left in the strainer). But the flavor was "excellent" and it was "perfectly" seasoned. We got a 17 :(

All in all, a pretty great day. Chef Waggoner even mentioned that two 20s, a 19, and a 17 averaged out to an "A" day and that that was great.

Cream of everything tomorrow. Mushroom. Celery. Broccoli. And French Onion Gratinée. I'll let ya know how that works out.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Butter, butter and more butter!

Sorry for the lack of posts over the weekend. I've had a ridiculous last few days. I spent six hours cooking at school Friday morning (tomato sauces and veloutés - pretty much aced it), followed by eleven hours waiting tables at Sito's, followed by six hours the Saturday morning at Uchi, followed by 5 more hours at Sito's, followed by five more hours at Uchi Sunday morning. Sheesh! I'm exhausted just typing all that!

Anyway. This morning we made Hollandaise and it's derivatives - Maltaise (orange-flavored Hollandaise), Beurre Blanc (shallot and white wine flavored butter), Bearnaise (tarragon and vinegar flavored Hollandaise), and Foyot (veal glace-flavored Bearnaise). None of it was very photographable, but it was fun. I did get whisk wrist from whipping eggs and butter into submission. I also consumed about 1/4 cup of butter (to date we've used approximately 100 pounds of butter in my class alone). Mmmmmm....butter...... We did really well on everything. A few, "a little thick"'s here and some, "a touch more salt" there, but overall, 18s and up.

Today's story is about dinner. It's been a while since I whipped up a nice dinner for the kids here at the house. I had time this afternoon, so I figured, "what the hey?". I hit up the ol' HEB and decided on tacos, but there was no flank or skirt to be found in the meat section, so I headed to the butcher. What was on sale you ask? Bison skirt steak. Yes please! So we had bison fajitas:

I marinated the bison in Tecate, lime juice, serrrano chilis, onion, cilantro, garlic, and soy sauce and grilled it. There's also sauteed onions and red bell peppers; roasted poblanos; a serrano-cilantro crema; tomatillo salsa; oaxaca cheese; and cilantro all on home-made flour tortillas. Yea. They were tasty. The bison could've been cooked just a touch more, but overall, still very nice.

We followed that up with this:

Strawberry-banana shortcake. Angel food cake; fresh sliced banana; freshly macerated strawberries; and home-made vanilla-orange whipped cream.

Also, a quick shout out and HUMONGOUS thank you to my pal Brittany. Thanks to her, I enjoyed some lovely chocolate truffles and pralines yesterday FROM SWITZERLAND!!!!

Man them Swiss know what they're doin!!!

Well I have to hit the books. Tomorrow we make chicken consummé. And vegetable stock. And vegetable soup. And mushroom barley soup. It's gonna be a long day (and hopefully a photogenic one as well!). See ya then!

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Yummy and Delicious

"Brown sauce." It doesn't sound all that exciting when you say it like that. But try saying "Sauce Robert (roh-bare). Sauce Bordelaise. Sauce Chasseur. Or Marchand du Vin." Sounds a lot more appealing now, huh? That's what we did today. And here's what we did it with (speaker check - might be loud):

Mmmmmmm...... gelatinization! That's some of that brown veal stock (BVS) we started on Monday. The first thing we did was bring that up to a workable temperature. And then....

Espagnole. Start by getting some butter on the heat. We toss a mirepoix in there and sweat it a little. Then pincer (pon-say) with tomato paste until the paste is brick red. Then singer (son-zjay) with flour until the shine of butter is gone from the mirepoix. Now red wine and aromatics join the party. Simmer 30 minutes and now what do you have? A mother sauce. From here we went 4 directions with a possible 20 points per.

Sauce Robert. Sweat onions in butter with a pinch of salt. Once the shallots are just translucent, deglaze with white wine. As soon as the wine has reduced to almost a syrup, add dijon mustard. Stir in BVS, bring to temp. Now, monter au beurre (mount with butter) - take sauce off the heat and add what you think is too much butter and swirl the pan until it's successfully blended into the sauce. Taste. Season. Adjust. (TSA). Strain and serve. 19 - a little thin.

Marchand du Vin. Sweat shallots in butter with a pinch of salt. Deglaze with red wine. Again, reduce until almost a syrup, add BVS, monter au beurre, strain. We put this on a rocket hot plate and it broke. 16 - "plate killed sauce". Chef said it tasted like it was probably pretty good, but the butter separated from the sauce and ruined it.

Demi-glaze. We made our demi-glace/demi-glaze/"demi" with traditional preparation. We combined 50% Espagnole with 50% BVS and reduced it by half to create a wonderful meaty liquid. Nowadays the modern demi is just reduced BVS.

Bordelaise. This was fun. First, get a veal bone segment. Drop in rapidly boiling water for 10-12 seconds. WHACK it against the cutting board at an angle so the lovely morsel of fatty meat deliciousness sliiiiiides out. The marrow. Toss into a strainer with an equal amount of room temp butter and push em through! Slap that meaty butter on a piece of parchment and toss in the fridge:

NOW, sweat shallots in butter with a pinch of salt, add wine and thyme and reduce until almost syrup. Add demi. Monter au beurre with MARROW BUTTER!!!! Strain. Our sauce was about 60% butter. Chef's exact reaction, "That's yummy!" Yea. I made a chef instructor say "yummy".

Look at that sheen! 20 points - yummy.

Chasseur. Saute shallots in butter with a pinch of salt (see a theme here?). Add sliced field mushrooms, S&P. As soon as the mushrooms start to give off liquid, deglaze with white wine. As soon as the white wine is reduced, add demi and bring up to temp. Right when you're about to serve, add minced parsley and thyme. Give that a minute or so to blossom and monter au beurre. Add concassé tomato (Drop a tomato in rapidly boiling water for 45-60 seconds. Remove to ice bath. Peel. Cut out its insides. Fillet the tomato until there's nothing left but tomato meat. Square it off and dice the tomato fine.) Serve. 20 points - "delicious".

After Chef Waggoner tasted our Chasseur, he said, "This would be excellent with some chicken fricassee or" - the class next door in 102 was grilling steaks today. They brought some in for the chefs. He cut up a couple pieces of steak - "this." And he tossed it in our sauce:

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Sauce Boss

Day 3 of CA 101 was a blast. The next four days are all mother sauces (the 5 sauces that are the bases for pretty much every other sauce). Today was Béchamel - a sauce of white roux (equal parts clarified butter and flour) and milk. Once the roux and milk are combined, an onion with a clove and bay leaf attached are added and it simmers for 30 minutes. The sauce doesn't end up with any onion flavor, but merely a hint of the aroma. From here you can go a billion directions. We went three. Each with a possible 20 points. (we received 18 points for our plain béchamel - it was a little thick).

First, the Mornay sauce - béchamel sauce with Gruyere and Parmesan cheese. This would be an excellent sauce to add to elbow macaroni for mac 'n' cheese. Or add some peppers and you've got some killer queso. 18 points - also a little thick.

Then we made Soubise sauce - onions gently sweated in very little butter with béchamel sauce added and simmered until the sauce soaks up the flavor of the onion. This would be delicious with a poached fish or a pork loin. 19 points - could use a little more salt.

Finally, the money sauce - Nantua. This sauce was slightly more difficult. We started by sauteeing some shrimp (shells on) in very little butter until the shells become just pink - we're not cooking the shrimp, just starting the cooking process. The shrimp get moved to a bowl. A little more butter goes in, followed by a little mirepoix. As soon as the mirepoix starts to color, pincer with tomato paste. As soon as the tomato paste is brick red, add two cups of water, parsley stems, thyme and pepper corns. Peel the shrimp, toss in the shells and let that stock simmer until there's very little liquid left. Devein the shrimp, slice in half along the vein cut, and hold for later. Once the stock has reduced, strain and cool. Combine with room temperature butter to create a compound shrimp butter. Put 4 parts béchamel and 1 part heavy cream in a pot and bring up to temperature. Add shrimp. AS SOON AS the shrimp begin to curl, remove the pot from the heat and stir in the shrimp butter. This sauce is slap-your-mother tasty! Put it on fish, eat it with bread, or just eat it with a spoon like we did. 20 points - nailed it.

"Why no pictures Luke?" you may be asking. Well, A) Béchamel, Soubise, and Mornay are all just white sauces, served on white plates, so there's not much to look at. B) These sauces all had specific times that they had to be finished and presented to our chef instructors. We (my random partner for the next three days, Mandi) had from 9:35 to 9:43 for the first two and got it in at 9:42. Then we had from 10:25 to 10:34 for the second two and got those in at 10:33. According to the chefs, we'll get better at consolidating our time as we go.

Tomorrow: Espagnole (brown sauces). See ya then!

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Stocks and Fonds

Yowza. I remember when I first started taking film classes at Texas. It was the first time that I ever recall being excited to go to school. After today, that seems miserable. I woke up at 4:53am - before my alarm went off - to get to class early. We get bonus points for showing up early to help set up prep. We get to claim our stations. We get extra face time with the chefs. And we get the first coffee. I've never been a huge coffee guy, but I have a feeling it will be what gets me through this class. Well, that, and the sheer joy of creating gourmet foods from scratch.

The base for most delicious soups and sauces is stock. Bones, water, mirepoix (carrots, onion, celery), and bouquet garni or sachet simmered for hours to create delicious meat-flavored liquid. Today we made chicken stocks in class. The mise en place:

Chicken carcasses, celery, onion, carrot, and sachet ingredients (cloves, peppercorns, bay leaf, thyme, parsley). There's also a few extraneous items on the tray that we got to play with whilst our stock simmered.

Once the bones have been blanched and rinsed, fresh water, mirepoix and your sachet has been added, there's about 3 hours to kill. Here's what we did to pass the time:

Those are fluted mushrooms, tournéd potatoes, medium diced carrots, julienned celery and carrots, very fine diced tomato, a tomato fillet, fine chopped parsley, and paysenned carrots. I can't wait until I'm really good at this stuff. Fluting mushrooms is a lot of fun and I'm pretty decent at it. I even had other people in class asking me how to do it.

We also roasted some veal knuckles until they were GBD - golden brown and delicious. Those went into the steam jacketed kettle. Then we deglazed the pan with red wine and a little water to get all the suc (brown bits of FLAVOR) off the bottom and that went into the kettle. Then we used some of the veal fat to caramelize the mirepoix to which we added tomato paste and that went into the kettle. By the end of class, this had begun to simmer and (presumably) continued to simmer until the PM class strained it. When we get there in the morning, we'll strain the brown veal stock that the PM class started. We will use this brown veal stock for a great deal of very yummy (and very fancy) sauces. Stay tuned for that.

Oh yea, that "exciting meeting" that I had last week was excellent. There are still some wrinkles to be ironed out, but hopefully I'll be making a really exciting announcement in the coming weeks. NO SPOILERS PLEASE from those of you who have heard things. Tomorrow is béchamel day - white cream sauces. Yum.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Chef Waggoner & Chef Lange

Lab C.

My home for the next 6 weeks. Monday-Friday from 630am to 1130am. As you have seen over the last 6 weeks, I have been super pumped about this day.

Today was mostly formalities - kitchen etiquette, "clean-up after yourselves", "show up to class", etc. My new chef instructors, Chef Waggoner and Chef Lange, are super cool. They appear to be very knowledgeable (based on one day) and are quite entertaining. Tomorrow we will actually be cooking!!!! We're going to caramelize veal knuckles and mirepoix for veal stock that will simmer until the PM class strains it (~8hrs). We will, in turn, strain the PM class' stock the next day, that will have simmered all night and so on and so forth everyday so that we have fresh (and excellent) veal stock for class. We're also going to make a chicken stock throughout the course of class tomorrow. While that simmers (~3.5 hrs) we will run the gauntlet of knife cuts: medium dice, small dice, battonet, brunoise and julienne of carrots, chop and slice onions, mince shallots, tourné potatoes, fluting mushrooms, emonder and concasser tomato, paste garlic, and chiffonade herbs. AAAAHHHH!!!!!!!

Also, SUPERBONUS!!! Chef Waggoner was all, "I know this class is early and you guys are hungry. If you want to bring in a box of cereal and keep it here to eat, that's fine. We have coffee, help yourself to that. And this is a kitchen guys. We have eggs and stuff. Make an omelet if you want. We have polenta, AKA grits. As long as you're here early and clean up after yourself, go ahead." ARE YOU KIDDING ME? Although it does make sense that we bought all this food with tuition, so we should be able to eat it.

Chef Waggoner is also planning to grind into our brains the importance of organic and local ingredients. Hippie. However, he did share some new info with us. Do you know how bananas are shipped? They are picked green, stuffed in a sack, the sack is filled with pesticide (a pesticide that is 1 chemical strain away from the nerve gas they used in WWII), and it is shipped to the U.S. Buy organic bananas. Tomatoes are also picked green, boxed up, shipped to a warehouse, blasted with a chemical that turns them red, and shipped to grocery stores. Buy organic tomatoes. No more diet sodas for this guy. According to Chef Waggoner, the FDA's #7 side effect of aspartame (the sweetener found in most diet sodas) is death. Death. Maybe this whole "hippie" thing IS all it's cracked up to be. I'll be eating organic and local as much as possible from here on out. Sure it'll cost more, but what's more important? Money, or being alive?

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Se Magnifique!

Ummmm...... turns out I love French food. Whoda thunk it? We started with appetizers outside on the patio:

Escargot a la Bourguignonne

with parsley butter sauce
Yep. Snails. They were absolutely delicious and then we soaked up the butter with bread. Yowza.


steamed artichokes with drawn butter
Really the artichokes were a vehicle for the butter. Also, I was not aware at first that you are supposed to just run the artichoke through your teeth and peel off the pulp. I chewed and I chewed.

Charcuterie Plate
duck mousse, paté, and confit
We spread each on a tasty baguette. Man was it gooooood!

French 75
gin, lemon juice and champagne
An incredibly refreshing beverage that I had never had before. Winner!

Inside we ordered a great bottle of wine and ran the gauntlet on dinner:

Confit de Canard

duck leg preserved it its own fat
Best thing we had. No question. It was absolutely excellent.

Fillet de Poisson

snapper with buerre blanc served with haricot verts

Second best thing on the menu. Extremely good.

Steak Tartare

hand-cut ground all natural steak served cru with a raw egg on top
Too much garlic, but fun to try.

served with crispy skin, crispy capers and grilled asparagus
This was really good, but I eat a lot of salmon, so after awhile farm-raised salmon is farm-raised salmon.

Royale with Cheese

fresh ground all natural Angus beef with butter lettuce, roma tomato, and aoli on baguette
Yep. They had a 1/4 pound cheeseburger. You know what they call that in France?

eggplant, red bell pepper, squash, heirloom tomatoes
Really nice.

It was Natalie's birthday, so of course, we had dessert... s. We ordered both the Creme Brulée and Tarte d'Eva (chocolate pear tart). No pictures because I was out on a phone call when they arrived. HOWEVER, rest assured that I had both and they were both delicious.

I almost forgot the

South Austin Speedball

espresso, kahlua, frangelico, stoli vanilla
Man oh man is this a tasty libation. I just may have to get an espresso machine and a fully stocked bar.

Overall, this was a ridiculous meal. Three appetizers. Two salads. Six entrees. Two desserts. Two adult beverages. Wiiiiine. Simply excellent.

This is how I get down on duck confit. Classy.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Le Dîner

So I had the day off from school today - the other kids were taking Speech and Reading finals and I am not talking those classes. I am done with Sanitation. Monday I got ServSafe certified - which basically means that I should be able to pass a health inspection if I was running a kitchen. I took my Sanitation final yesterday and got a perfect score. So my final grade in that class is a 101.2. Yeah. I more than aced that class.

I did head up to Uchi again today. However, when I arrived, there was about 30 people in that tiny kitchen - apparently they were testing new recipes for the new restaurant. So I was assigned, once again, to micro-brunoise garlic, which I'm getting pretty good at (oops! "at which I'm getting pretty good"). Kaz, the sous in charge of prep today, has me do garlic every shift we work together. I don't mind it. His reasoning is to get me proficient and good at it and it's working. By the time I finished that, the whole prep list was done, and I was free to go. Not too bad.

Tonight, we're off to have straight up French food at Justine's Brasserie down on the East Side. I'll try to take some pictures and let you guys know how it turns out. Au revoir!

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Mom's Day

Here's a picture of Mom with the spread. Sorry it came out a little blurry, Mom! (click the picture to see full size)

Happy Mother's Day!!! I hope all you moms out there had a great one and all you kids out there at least called your moms! Me? I trekked it to Brownwood with Seth and Lucy to make a lovely lunch for my mom, but let's start with yesterday:

Uchi, again, was a blast. I told Jay I was going to have to take off a little early since I was heading out of town. He was totally cool about it and said it wouldn't be a problem. So I got to do a few new and different things. I made the spicy krab mix again, but before I could do that, I had to make the spicy mayo. I also made fish sauce and ponzu sauce. I finished the day off with an old favorite: yucca chips. I filled a box of those and headed out.

We rolled in to the BWD to find that mom had prepared an excellent dinner of pork tenderloin, spinach salad with avocado and strawberries, and good ol shells n cheese. Mmmmm!! It was tasty! That was followed by a piece of yellow cake with chocolate icing and strawberries and whipped cream while we watched UFC 113 - great fights btw. This morning Seth was kind enough to prepare a nice breakfast of bacon and eggs (with help from sous chef Lucy!). A great start for the day.

Now to the lunch: First, I pounded out the chicken breasts to an even thickness so they could cook uniformly (and quickly). Then I rubbed them with fresh chopped rosemary, salt, pepper, garlic, lemon juice, and olive oil and into the fridge for 3 hours. I tossed fingerling potatoes with bacon grease (from breakfast), salt, and pepper and roasted them for about an hour (which turned out to be about 15 minutes too much). I sliced eggplant, zucchini, onion, red bell pepper, and yellow squash (from PawPaw's garden), brushed them with olive oil, sprinkled them with salt and onto the grill - they were finished with a light brushing of balsamic vinegar before hitting the table. The steaks were grilled with straight up S&P. Nothin else. Now for the sauce. I minced a couple shallots very fine and sauteed them in butter. Once slightly browned, I hit the pan with some red vino. Reduced by about 75% and added the demi-glace (cheaters demi from Central Market - basically concentrated demi-glace to which you add hot water, but it was recommended by Chef Porter and was very good). I reduced this a little farther and finished with a little butter for richness and gloss. I did stray from the traditional Bordelaise in that I did not add diced bone marrow. Maybe next time.

Overall, I would say it was a great lunch. I will definitely try it with the bone marrow next time, and I'll probably use strips or ribeyes instead of sirloin, but everyone really seemed to enjoy it, so I guess not too many adjustments are necessary.

This is the final week of classroom classes for this block!!! I take my ServSafe exam in the morning. Then Sanitation final on Tuesday. Off Wednesday. Basic Cookery Quiz #2 Thursday. Basic Cookery Final Friday. It's going to be a busy week. I also have what could turn out to be a VERY exciting meeting tomorrow that could result in some even more exciting news - I'll keep you posted on that. That's it for now.

Friday, May 7, 2010

Ecuadorian Shrimp Ceviche

"Mirepoix! Mirepoix! Roux, roux, roux!
Chop em up! Dice em up! Throw em in the stew!"

Apparently that was the cheer for the hockey team at CIA when Chef Porter was in school. I just thought that was interesting to share. We did our group presentation today in Basic Cookery. I'm not sure if I told y'all about that or not, but my group did our presentation on Chef Stephan Pyles - "The Father of Southwestern Cuisine" out of Dallas. The presentation went pretty well. We were required to provide some sort of visual aid. So we made Ecuadarian Shrimp Ceviche:

Here's the recipe. Instead of the popcorn we fried up some blue corn tortilla chips (as you can see in the photo). Mmmmmmmm...... it was tasty! Everyone in the class LOVED it, including Chef Porter, who asked for seconds. BOOYAH!!!

We started talking about stocks and sauces today - YAY! Apparently this is day 2 stuff in labs (1.5 weeks away!). This is one of the [many] things that I am really looking forward to in school. I feel like knowledge of stocks and sauces will really elevate my cooking. Can't wait.

Ventured over to Madam Mam's for dinner with my pals Nacho and Summer. I haven't had much Thai food and I'm wanting to really try new things and new restaurants. I'm going to try to set up some kind of informal message board or something where we can all start dialoguing about new restaurants and cuisines and stuff. Stay tuned for that. But for now, let's play "Name That Dish". I'll give you the ingredients of the dish I had for dinner, and you tell me what it was:

Thai coconut soup w/ lemongrass
Magrood leaf
Thai pepper
Lime juice

I'll even give you a hint with a picture:

The first person to name it will get a taco. Make sure you check out Sunday's blog, I'm making a nice dinner for my mom for Mother's Day.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010


So I decided to whip up a nice little dinner for the roomies last night:

Sauteed chicken breast (lightly dredged in seasoned flour) and a white wine pan sauce (white wine, chicken stock, shallots, garlic, fresh thyme, and butter) with yukon gold mashed potatoes and a vegetable medley (zucchini, yellow squash, red onion, red bell pepper, roasted carrots and turnips). Winner. HOWEVER, I just grabbed a random bottle of cheap white wine for the sauce - Beringer Moscato (and all the whinos go "WHAT?!?!"). Moscato is a sweet wine. Super sweet. The sauce actually worked out really nice with all the other ingredients countering the sweetness, but I sure did pour myself a glass of that stuff to drink. It was like drinking Kool-Aid with dinner. Yowza! We followed that with some vanilla-poached pears (recipe courtesy of Alton Brown). Which were also sweet, but delicious.

We got our quizzes back in Sanitation today. 107. BOOM! Nailed another quiz. We talked about pest control. We got an amusing story about finding a cockroach in some rice at a Chinese joint; a story about how at one place she had to run to the back of the dry storage to turn on the lights and it took her about an hour to get up the courage to do so because she could hear the mice scurrying; but we did not get the great rat story Miss Jane had promised. So, needless to say, I was a little bummed about that. See ya tomorrow!

Monday, May 3, 2010

Baby Octopus Pops

It's been a few days huh? My Basic Cookery mid-term came back with a 94.5 on it. Not too shabby, but also not a 100. Again, this class is getting more and more interesting. We started talking about calculating food cost and how to determine menu prices and things of that sort. REALLY fascinating stuff! You may ask, "Hey Luke, how come my Paris Texas Platter from Kerbey Lane costs $7.25?" Well I'll tell you, good friend.

In most cases, restaurants are shooting for around 30% food cost (FC), 30% labor, 30% other (rent, bills, etc), and HOPE for a 10% profit. All we are concerned with here is the food cost. So assuming Kerbey Lane is shooting for around a 30% FC, here's the formula:

30% FC = cost of ingredients / $7.25

So, after a little algebra, we have determined that the cost of the ingredients to make your delicious (and highly recommended) Paris Texas Platter is about $2.17. So then you assume that about $2.17 of labor went into the meal and $2.17 went to keep the lights on and the remaining 74¢ is the profit they turned. Now of course, this is just an example. What you do is run a lower food cost % on menu items with cheaper ingredients (eggs, beverages, booze) and a higher food cost % on items with more expensive ingredients (steak, steak, steak) to balance out the FC of your whole menu.

Then it was on to the really fun stuff. Mise En Place - everything in it's place. This is basically having all your ingredients prepped before service. If I order a chicken breast with a nice little sauce, they're not going to break down a whole chicken for my meal - although sometimes it seems like they are if it takes really long. The chicken will have already been broken down into breasts, thighs, legs, wings, bones, etc, earlier that day. The shallots and garlic will be minced. The stock will have been prepared. They only thing they'll probably have to do is chop some fresh herbs right at the last second so they are as fragrant as possible.

Then we watched a lovely video from the American Culinary Federation on the parts of the knife, types of knives, proper knife handling, and proper knife care. They also covered, very basically, some of the types of knife cuts - dice - S, M, L, brunoise, fine brunoise (which I have been referring to as micro-brunoise); sticks - batonnet, julienne, fine julienne; tourné - a 2" sort of football-shaped cut of a root vegetable that has 7 sides and flat ends; rondelle - basically a coin shape or round on a bias in varied diameter or thickness; paysanne - 1/2"x1/2"x1/8" round, square, or rectangular in shape. I can't wait to start making these in class (2 weeks til the kitchen!!)

Saturday I was at Uchi again. I made tempura sauce. I made baby octopus pops - skewered marinated baby octopus - which was funny since we had just talked about baby octopus a few days before. I made the spicy krab. I prepped some more fried green tomatoes. And, you guessed it, more yucca chips. And it took three weeks, but I finally got my first bloody cut. I pushed the limits and thought I could get one more chip off a chunk of yucca on the mandolin and SLICE! - put a nice cut in my thumb. It turned white. Then got hot. And then came the red stuff. I quickly and quietly made my way to the sink to wash it. Then to the first-aid kit for an alcohol wipe, gauze, band-aid and a finger cot. I never really hurt that much because those mandolin blades make a razor blade look like a spoon. I've kept it clean and freshly bandaged, so I'll live to play another day.

I burned through another pre-reviewed Sanitation quiz today. I should get over 100 again since this one had a bonus question worth 7 points. I'll let you know. Miss Jane usually gets quizzes graded same day. We buzzed through floors, ceilings, walls, and equipment after the quiz. Tomorrow though, we talk pest control. Miss Jane has offered up 100 extra points if anyone can top her rat story - which leads me to believe that it cannot be topped. I'll relay the story tomorrow.

I'll try again to get back in the daily habit so I can not type 15,000 word essays. Later!