Savoriesnsweets’ Blog

Archive for March 2009

When we started making sauces, things were all going swimmingly.  We made our lovely veloute, our creamy bechamel, and a flavorful sauce espagnol.  We cooled them all properly, stored them in individual containers and labelled them all.  These containers  went into the refrigerator at school on Thursday night and were ready for us to use today in class, so that we can make a few different compound sauces.  So what happened?  I get to school and I hear that the refrigerator went kaput on Saturday, thus ruining all our sauces.  Everything had to be thrown away!

We had to start from scratch.  We remade our bechamel and our veloute.  We then started on our classic tomato sauce.  Once we had those we were able to make our compound sauces.  Our sauce allemande was a little thin, but had a good flavor.  Our sauce supreme was excellent.  Unfortunately, our sauce mornay was undersalted and bitter.  The flavor of the gruyere cheese was too pungent and overpowering. Our soubise was also undersalted but had good texture.  And our creole sauce was spicy and salty and had a good texture.  When I tried other group’s sauces, I realized that our chef was right about the lack of salt in our sauce.  I definitely need to work on adding more salt and tasting my sauces more.

Unfortunately we didn’t get to make any fortified wine derivatives or sauce forestiere.  These are derivatives of demi-glace which we also made on Thursday.  Overall, I think we did well working as a group even though we were the last ones finished.  It was also very nice to come home with leftovers again.  I made a little bit of pasta and mixed the sauce supreme, which is a creme sauce, and the tomato sauce and then tossed them over some pasta. It was a yummy late night meal! Here’s my booty from class.

Sauces

Sauces

These sauces, clockwise from the top left, are Sauce Supreme, Sauce Soubise, Classic Tomato Sauce,  a blend of the supreme and the tomato sauce. Since we’re on the topic of sauce, I leave you with a video featuring a character named after one of the next sauces we’ll be making in class.

mirror-masksSo far, my own personal kitchen adventures have all been fairly positive.  I’ve rarely had an accident or really ruined a dish.  However, as I’ve become more adventurous and as I’ve been broadening my horizons as a culinary student, I’ve suddenly been experiencing my share of wonderful triumphs as well as tragedies.

Some of my triumphs include baking lovely home made bread, thanks to No Knead bread as well as some delicious banana bread. I can also include lots of yummy cookies–snickerdoodles, coconut macaroons, chocolate chip, melting moments and sugar cookies.  I did also make a great mac n’ cheese, thanks to Evil Shenanigans.   I also made a spicy seafood gumbo, with a roux from class.   And in class, I’ve made a really smooth and creamy bechamel sauce, a velvety veloute and a sauce espagnol!  Of course, I made these sauces along with my classmates and we were happy with our work!

Unfortunately, I’ve also experienced some set backs.  I’m still plagued by medium diced potatoes and carrots.  I STILL get oddly shaped rectangles and trapezoids.  My diced carrots often have curved edges as well.  I practice, practice and practice some more but progress is still VERY slow.  While practicing, I managed to slice through my thumb very badly.  I probably should have gotten a stitch or two to close up that wound, but I just patched it up tightly, took a break for a few hours and went back to practicing my chopping.

This weeked I also tried a few new baking endeavors.  I tried to make some apple pie. It was only OK.  I think I used too much lemon juice because I thought the filling was overly acidic.  I’m glad my boyfriend loves pie and still liked it!  To make up for this, I made another tarte tatin and that was delicious!  I adapted the recipe to have more of a traditional apple pie taste and I added some cinnamon and nutmeg.  It was really sweet, tart, and light with the puff pastry.

My next baking attempt this weekend was unsuccessful.    I tried to make Linzer Cookies which always look very pretty and delicate.  I thought it would be simple to make, but I had issues.  My first was with the nuts.  At first I burnt my almonds when toasting.  I didn’t think it was that bad so I still tried to peel them.  Then I tried one and it tasted burnt.  I then tried again with sliced almonds.  These didn’t burn, but the peels stayed on the edges of the slices.  I didn’t think much of it so I still used them.  When I finished the dough, it was almost a light brown surely due to the almond peels.  I refrigerated the dough in a rolled log.  I thought this would be fine since I didn’t have much space in my fridge.  When I went to roll out the dough, it all crumbled.  I tried to use the rolling pin and it did slowly come together again, but the dough was unusually tough for cookie dough.  When I tried to cut out the cookies, they kept breaking.  I didn’t know what to do, so I just tossed out the dough and decided I’d try again another day.

It’s always great having triumphs, but I’m always upset whenever anything I try to make either doesn’t work at all or just isn’t quite right.  It’s all a learning process and I do definitely feel like I am slowly but surely learning along the way.  Anyone know how to effectively peel toasted almonds??  Or how I can build up my knife skills so I can do a lovely, cubed, medium dice of my potatoes??  I’ll be chopping away trying to figure out the best way to do it!

In culinary school, being active as a student means more than just keeping up with reading and assigned problem sets.  It also means practicing knife skills and attending culinary demos.  Yesterday, I had teh chance to do both.

One of the first knife skills we need to master is making a medium dice of potatoes.  I’ve been working on this a lot.  As a matter of fact, I even peeled and cut an entire 5 pound bag of potatoes!  Unfortunately, I still can’t do this!! I keep making little rectangles instead of cubes.  And they’re always either too big, too small or uneven.  If anyone has any tips out there, I’d really appreciate them. In the meantime, I’m going to keep working at it.

Now that I had all these peeled and cut potatoes I had to figure out something to do with them.  Instead of just making regular mashed potatoes, I tried a new recipe from my textbook called Dutchess Potatoes.  It was actually really easy and very, very yummy!  I boiled the potatoes and put them through a food mill, as if I were going to mash them.  Then I added some egg yolks and butter and mixed them in.  For seasoning, I added some salt, pepper and nutmeg.  Then I put the mixture in a pastry bag and piped them onto a baking sheet and baked them until golden.  They were very rich and lucious!  Here’s a pic of my Dutchess Potatoes.

Dutchess Potatoes

Dutchess Potatoes

Once those were done, I headed to school to attend a demo entitled “A Celebration of Spring in Sugar”.  The chef, a well known pastry chef was illustrating different techniques for working with sugar.  She demonstrated how to cast sugar, how to blow sugar and how to pull a ribbon from sugar.  It was really cool to see these different creations all made from sugar!  She used the different pieces to make a spring bunny complete with easter eggs.  I don’t know that I’d ever want to work with sugar in this way, but it’s definitely beautiful and stunning work.  Here’s some shots I managed to get of the finished sculpture.

Sugar Bunny

Sugar Bunny

Complete Bunny

Complete Bunny

Bunny Eggs

Bunny Eggs

More Bunny Eggs

More Bunny Eggs

Bunny Face

Bunny Face

Since I do love baking, I spent my Saturday working on a few different things.  Of course, I made fresh bread for the next few days.  I made two loaves of the no-knead bread.  I think I’ve got this recipe down and I’m beginning to feel like maybe next time I’ll try something different…maybe…

I also tried a recipe for biscuits.  During the week I attended a food demo at school that was run by Nancy Olson from Grammercy Tavern. I hate to say that I’ve never been there and I only heard of it recently, but once I do have some time I want to go and check it out.  Chef Olson is the pastry chef there and she made some utterly fabulous desserts that she makes at the restaurant.  The first thing we had were bacon cheddar biscuits.  These treats were absolutely delectable with some crunch from the bacon while still very fluffy and creamy.  Next she showed us how to make chocolate pudding.  This seemed so simple I really wondered why anyone would want the stuff from the box!  It was also delicious! It was served with a simple caramel sauce topped with a pinch of salt and vanilla whipped cream.  The final dessert was a peanut butter semi freddo.  Since the peanut butter salmonella scare, she has started to make her own peanut butter in the restaurant and created this wonderful dessert.  It was rich, creamy, and not overly sweet!  I LOVED it all and since she was gracious enough to give us all the recipes, I had to try to recreate the bacon cheddar biscuits for breakfast today! My attempt wasn’t as good as hers, but it was still pretty darn close!  Have a look at my first ever bacon cheddar biscuits.

bacon cheddar biscuits

bacon cheddar biscuits

I was amazed how easy they were to make.  And they still were fluffy on the inside, a bit crispy outside and had a great flavor.  I did however scale down the recipe and made the biscuits bigger than the ones I tried at the demo, so perhaps that could account for the slight difference.

I then started on some coconut macaroons.  I got the recipe from Joy of Baking. They were a very nice treat!   The macaroons were crisp on the outside, not too sweet, great coconut flavor and moist inside.  I’ve never made macaroons before but now I can see why so many people like them!  Here’s some shots of my macaroons.

My first ever coconut macaroons

My first ever coconut macaroons

I also made some small, round cookies that are called Melting Moments.  I also got this from the Joy of Baking website.  When I saw the picture, I thought they were adorable all lined up and looking like they had just a light dusting of snow.  They were easy to make and when I tried one, it was firm to the bite, but melted in my mouth.  The name said it all.  Here’s a shot of some melting moments.

Melting Moments

Melting Moments

This was a great weekend for baking firsts.  Now, I have to get back to some class reading.

Spring is synonymous with new beginnings and March was a month full of new beginnings!  I haven’t blogged in a while because I’ve been working on some of those new things.  School this week was focused on poultry and meat fabrication.  Basically, taking the animal product in its most primal state and creating cuts that can be cooked in the kitchen.  After poultry we worked on beef and then veal.  I have to say this week, I can say that I’ve managed to do some complicated meat fabrications, including trussing, and I feel like I know what I’m doing.  That’s always a good feeling in school!

At home, I was also beginning to try a few new things.  While practicing my medium dice potatoes, (which is a LOT more difficult than it looks) I decided I should use up the scraps and make fries.  I did double fry and heat up my oil.  Unfortunately, my finished product was more greasy and clumpy than anything else.  I did however, make a successful batch of onion rings for the first time ever!  I had no idea how simple they were to prepare and it was great watching them puff up in the hot oil.  I now want to try to make some beer battered onion rings since those are my favorite. These sides went with the barbecue meatloaf I made for dinner.  It’s a simple enough recipe where I just take a pound and a half of ground beef and add some cumin, salt, pepper and a bit of cayenne pepper.  I also add an egg to bind it all together and about a quarter cup of good barbecue sauce.  The meatloaf is always really flavorful and moist every time I’ve made it.  This more than made up for having soggy fries.

While waiting on my meatloaf, I was working on a chocolate cake.  It was a simple chocolate cake, with a coffee flavored creme anglaise buttercream frosting.  I got the recipe out of Bakewise, a great book that goes into the science behind baking.  I really like how each recipe is broken down and explains different concepts.  It’s a great way to learn about science and have some fabulous dessert!

Not only were these recipes new to me, I also tried to decorate them using fondant.  I’ve NEVER EVER used fondant before and I’ve really only seen it on Ace of Cakes.   Yes, I’m a fan of the show and I do secretly just want to make cakes and decorate them all the time.  Alas, I’m in the culinary arts program, but I do think that’s the best way to get a well-rounded culinary education. Anway, my cake was very tasty–moist, yet very chocolatey.  And the coffee creme anglaise was a nice complement in flavor and texture to the cake.  The fondant was a different story. It was difficult to work with.  I had trouble getting it even and it broke in a lot of spaces.  I’m glad the cake tastes better than it looks.  I did try to have the cake look like a spring cake with some bright colors and a nice flower that I made from a cut-out tool. Here’s some pics of my first ever fondant cake.

View of the top of the cake

View of the top of the cake

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In this shot, you can really begin to see how uneven it really is and now I mangled the fondant at certain points.

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This is probably the most uneven part.  I couldn’t manage to cover the cake well.  I did 1 layer of fondant for both layers of the cake so it was rather heavy after it was finished.

Have a slice!

Have a slice!

One I cut a slice, I also really realized I didn’t level the cakes before icing or putting on the fondant.  Still, I’m glad it tasted MUCH better than it looked!

A lot of my classmates tell me that when they go home, they cook.  They re-do what we did in class that day or they work on other things they’ve wanted to try.  When I go home, I have to admit I want a change and I don’t want to cook.  I usually want to bake!  I’m sure there are many reasons for this.  I like to bake at night, when my house is more peaceful.  I’m interested in switching gears and trying something different.  And I’m usually interested in satisfying my sweet tooth with some fresh confections.  While I do love my Ben & Jerry’s, I love my home made cakes, cookies and pies even more!

The first thing I made last night when I got home was a chocolate chip banana cake.  It was a simple recipe I got from all recipes.  I topped it with some instant chocolate pudding.  I don’t usually do that, but I didn’t have the ingredients to make icing.  Unfortunatley, I didn’t really like how this came out.  The banana flavor was good, but the chocolate chips didn’t really melt well and were just these huge chunks.  It did look very pretty though.  Here’s a pic.

Banana Chocolate Chip Cake

Banana Chocolate Chip Cake

At this point in the evening, I was recruited to help with preparing a pernil.  A pernil is a traditional Puerto Rican roast pork shoulder.  I worked with my mom to prepare this.  After rinsing the pernil in cold water, she made incisions in all sides of the pernil.

Pernil Incisions

Pernil Incisions

Then she prepared the rub.  She used salt, pepper, oregano, olive oil and vinegar.  She mixed them all together into a coarse paste.

Pernil Rub

Pernil Rub

At this point, she worked the rub INTO the incisions she made into the pernil.  This will serve to flavor the meat all around and will also have a tenderizing effect.

Inserting the rub INTO the incisions made on the pernil

Inserting the rub INTO the incisions made on the pernil

Once the rub was worked into all the incisions, rub it all over the meat.

Prepared Pernil

Prepared Pernil

At this point, the pernil is covered and put in the refrigerator overnight.  We cooked it today, covered with aluminum foil for about 2.5 hours.  Then, it was uncovered for about another hour to brown and develop a nice, crunchy skin.  It was moist and delicious! 🙂  If you’re interested in seeing more details about the preparation of this fabulous meat, check out this video:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=A2M-l2Y8crk.

While that was going, I decided to try making a traditional tarte tatin.  I used a recipe from Fine Cooking.   This was difficult and labor intensive but it was very yuumy.  One thing that I should note was that I did NOT use the apples that were recommended in the recipe and I’m sure that’s why the texture was a bit off–I used macintosh apples really because these were what I had on hand.  I also used puff pastry for the crust.

First I peeled and cored all my apples.  Since I was short on apples, I also used a few pears.

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I then cooked the apples in the sugar, butter, salt mixture until tender.

Cooked Apples

While that was going, I rolled out my puff pastry.  I’ve never worked with puff pastry before and I never realized how delicate it is!

Puff Pastry

Puff Pastry

When my apples were cooked, I put them into my tart dish.

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Then I covered the entire thing with my lovely, delicate puff pastry and put it in the oven.

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The tart came out beautiful, puffy and golden brown.

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Then I inverted the dish to reveal the fruit inside.

Finished Tarte Tatin

Finished Tarte Tatin

This was a lovely dessert! The texture could have been better, but it was still really good and the crust was delicious!

After I was done experimenting at home, I went off to school where I learned how to truss and fabricate poultry.  We trussed chickens, cut the legs and wings, created a supreme cut and a payard cut.  We did the same thing with a duck.  It was actually really fun and for the first time in culinary school, I felt like I knew what I was doing!  It was great! 🙂

cartoon_lobster_thoughts

Today was shellfish day at school.  I was excited since I’ve never worked with these creatures before although I have heartily devoured them.  I was shocked to hear that there was one person in my class who HATES all fish and shellfish.  When we asked him what he’s tried, he said he never tried it, but just never liked it.   Another student told him he should at least try everything, even starfish assholes!

First, we prepared a white mirepoix and started making a shellfish stock using shrimp shells.  Then using the stock, we made a shellfish soup.  We spent a considerable amount of time just working on our soups, skimming the surface and tasting to ensure everything was fine.

Then we got to the shellfish fabrication.  The first thing we prepared were lobsters.  The lobsters were live.  Apparently, they have to be live in order to ensure freshness and to get the best meat.  Well, we were all taught how to slaughter the poor things in a “humane” way by piercing the brain with our knives.  My poor lobster was squirmy, but I apologized and then proceeded to slaughter him as quickly as possible.  Then we separated the head from the tail and removed the claws and crawlers. We also had to remove the gills from the head area and slit the tail in half to remove the intestinal tract.

After that, things were much simpler for a while since we just scrubbed some clams and mussles (not forgetting to take off their beards), deveined and shelled some shrimp and fabricated some squid.  The squid were messy but not too bad.  The next challenging bit was shucking the oysters.  Oysters are TIGHT and strangley shaped!  I never worked with them before and I’ve only eaten them once raw.  I’m not a fan of eating them raw, so I passed them on to some classmates.

I was happy to come home with some nice hearty seafood soup!  I was also glad to come home with a small medley of seafood ready to use!  Unlike that one student in my class, I do enjoy seafood, but I don’t enjoy killing my own. I hope I don’t have to do that too often.

Anyone have any ideas for how to best use a small mixture of seafood consisting of 1 lobster tail, 4 clams & mussels and 4 shrimp??