Tuesday, September 30, 2008
There are many colorful and interesting stories I could tell from the overly eventful weekend, but for now you get just one: the cyborg. Yes, we did indeed encounter a cyborg at the Select Hotel in Tulsa, OK. I'm not sure how he infiltrated our group but apparently it had to do with another student speaking to him in German, which caused the machine-man to develop an afiinity for our entourage. As you know, cyborgs are multi-lingual. He was proud to share with our group that he had duped an unknowning human, who was also staying at the all too elegant Select Hotel, into an arm wrestling match, scheduled for precisely 12:30am that evening. The silly homo sapien had pushed a wager and would be into the cyborg for half a million dollars, should he lose. The cyborg told us of his plans for future upgrades in biofuel and hydraulic technology, to be installed by scientists in Japan in February of 2009 in return for 12.8 million dollars, but he was certain that his current system would be able to handle the engagement without fail.
After paying $20 for two cigarettes (apparently his lung system was equipped to filter nicotene), he noticed the arm of another member of my group, bearing a birthmark on the inside forearm, starkingly alike in shape, color, and location to a mark on his own arm (of course this was not a birthmark but most likely a scar from a prior battle or a manufacture flaw, of some sort). He immediately recognized the significance of this similarity: the cyborg was indeed an android replication of the student, sent from the future.
I swear that this was a real person, who really said all of these things and much, much more. I wish I was making it up...
Things I learned and/or realized from this trip:
I need sleep
Battered and fried Winsconsin cheese curds are insanely good
The spider-lady is a bitter person/arachnid
Cochin chickens have silly looking afros
Jesse breaths like he has a turbine engine in his chest when he sleeps, but doesn't snore
Non-stop episodes of The Sopranos in the back of an Escalade is the ONLY way to ride to Tulsa
Wednesday, September 24, 2008
blonde roux, used to thicken the bechamel for the pommes dauphinoise
brown roux, used to thicken the pan juices for the finished bourguignon
beef bourguignon, just before going into the oven (the carrots are hiding)beef bourguignon, right out of the oven
wilting spinach in garlic oil with shallots
plated dish. gotta love the maple leaf parsley garnish, guh...
brie en croute, I didn't pinch the dough tight enough, hence the sea of cheese
(reminds me of Primus)
Tuesday, September 23, 2008
Brie en Croute
Carrot Jus Lie (one of chef's creations)
Chicken Nouvelle (there's a lot more freedom with this one, we just need to display the characteristics of nouvelle cuisine)
The bourguignon and pate take hours to make so I'm not sure exactly how that will work out. If he gives us the full class time, 4.5-5 hours, then no prob. We'll see how he wants it. A couple of the dishes are simple, like brie en croute and ratatouille. If we draw one of the easy/quick ones then we might also have to cook another dish to accompany it, or we might have to get all Thomas Keller on it (like the ratatouille made in the movie by the same name, it was designed and created by Keller) and really try to impress the chef.
My eyes are stained red from lack of sleep; time enough for it in the grave but people have made comments. I almost always drink a full bottle of wine, and more, when I drink wine now. It's getting expensive. My dog still craps in the house on a regular basis, but according to my wife she's "gotten better about it." I don't iron my shirts for work anymore and I wear my slip-resistant kitchen shoes to the office, but I don't think anybody cares or has noticed - yet. If I keep this pace up, I will graduate culinary in 16 months. Might be better to kick back my class schedule, switch to mornings, quit my job with the credit union, and get into a kitchen somewhere. Right now I'd much rather be prepping veg than to fund another freaking loan. This way I'd have several certifications and a good amount of real world experience under my toque by the time I'm done, but I wouldn't be able to keep all my lovely corporate benefits up until graduation. We shall see, we shall see...
While macerating a bunch of garlic last night I let my attention wander to the person next to me who was telling me how they do it differently. When I looked back I found that my left index finger was missing a good portion of its fingernail and I was about to get blood all over the garlic. I grabbed a paper towel, wrapped my finger up tight and then finished the garlic. I got a bandaid for it later but I wanted to be sure the garlic was ready when chef asked for it. It's kind of funny looking and only really hurt when I went to shampoo my hair in the shower. I'll take a picture and post it, with pictures from the dinner I made Sunday night. I promise, pics are coming.
Monday, September 22, 2008
I used the weekend to practice the French dishes we've been learning about in World Cuisine. We have a practical this Tuesday and we haven't had any really opportunity to practice during class. My wife invited a coworker and her fiance to come over for dinner last night and the three of them were my guinea pigs. This was the menu:
Appetizer (was too much to be called an amuse bouche)-
Chicken Pate with Red Onion Marmalade
Boeuf Bourguignon, Pommes Dauphinoise, and Wilted Spinach with Shallots and Garlic Oil
Brie En Croute with Blackberry Coulis
I took pictures of everything, they'll get posted later. It was a lot of fun cooking all this food. I didn't run into too many problems except that I didn't have a food processor. I called my chef at school and he said it was okay to swing by there and use the Robocoup, which worked out well for the pate. Speaking of which, the start and end of this meal featured my two new favorite things: pate and brie en croute. This is a problem, though, because they are both loaded. I call pate a "heart attack loaf." And baking a big wheel of cheese in pastry dough and smothering it with jammy sweetness? Forget about it... Not that the beef or potatoes were any better. The sauce/gravy for the beef is thickened with brown roux, which is just butter and flour, and the potatoes were baked in a bechamel with a ton of gouda and gruyere cheese. But hey, we had spinach, right!?!? That's healthy! You gotta love the French. It's all about butter, cheese, and cream. At least for cuisine classique. We didn't dive much into nouvelle because chef is a haute kind of guy. I believe our studies turn to China after the French practical exam so hopefully that will be a little kinder to my arteries.
Monday, September 15, 2008
On Friday I made risotto Milanese (w/ saffron), chicken glace, and sauteed chicken breasts with beure blanc. I have pictures but I'll have to post them tonight. We continue our study of sauces tonight in Foundations and tomorrow we continue through our Study of France in World Cuisine. I really hope we dig deep tomorrow night because, after one week of studying France, I don't feel like I've learned much of anything about the country.
Friday, September 12, 2008
Last night we started off with another wine tasting. The purpose of this tasting wasn't really to analyse the wine but rather to practice how we taste and to continue to develop a platform that will help us identify wines. The guest sommelier was great. He really explained everything in a way that you could see, smell, and taste what he was talking about. I'm going to keep a copy of my notes from that class in my truck so when I go out and have some wine I can refer to it and keep practicing my tasting and developing my palate. We had a Cotes du Rhones and a Bordeaux, which were both great but I prefer the Bordeaux for sure.
After the wine we went into the kitchen and made Arrancine, which is Italian. Don't ask me. We're supposed to be studying France but the chef has other more important priorities, apparently. He's a great chef and I love his classes but I don't really feel like I'm learning anything about France yet, and we only have a few more sessions to cover the country before we have a practical and move on to the next country. He keeps saying that we're really going to bust through some hardcore French stuff soon. I hope so. I really want a grasp on France the same way Chef Matthews gave us a grasp on Italy.
Anyway, here's to the weekend. I'm going to clock some hours helping out for an event at school to help pay down my tuition and do some cooking at home as well. My b-day poker tourney is tomorrow also, so it's going to be a busy weekend, but it should also be a lot of fun.
Thursday, September 11, 2008
I was a bit early to class and the chef walked in while I was talking with another student. I was telling him what an awesome read The Physiology of Taste is. On the first page of the first chapter Brillat-Savarin discusses the senses. He names the traditional 5 senses we all know and then he defends his idea of the 6th sense: phsyical/sexual desire. His defense runs along the lines of purpose. The function of all the senses is to allow us to interact with the physical world as well as to gratify us. Physical and sexual desire does this a way unique from the other 5 senses but is still very powerful and so should be put into it's own category, according to him.
Anyway, my brain is tired so that's all I've got for now. We've been crazy busy at work and I just smashed all my old records for number of loans and dollar amount funded in one day. Time to recoup a bit for the next hour and a half before heading back to school.
Tuesday, September 9, 2008
Sunday, September 7, 2008
low country fish stew-
I used the fumet I made with the fish bones, and chunks of the meat that I scraped from the skin and carcasses, along with some basic mirepoix, to make this soup. It probably cost all of $3.00 to make when you break it all down. I used too much fennel, though. sadness
Like I said, I wish I had some much cooler pictures and stories to relate from some crazy Polish chef and a rediculously huge and cool wedding reception prep, but instead my weekend was just relaxing and easy. So those are the kind of pictures and stories you get. Next time I'll work the dang reception.
Saturday, September 6, 2008
That's later though. Today, I reduced my stock, which I will do something with tomorrow. I also made pizza for dinner, with a few friends over, and I made a marinara for my wife. She wants something to throw on some frozen ravioli she bought for lunches this next week. I told her I'll make raviolis but I just haven't gotten around to it yet. Here are some pictures:
Sauteed chicken tenders. I used these as a topping on one of the pizzas I made: parmesan, garlic cream sauce pizza topped with caramelized onions, diced chicken tenders, and fresh tomatoes. Delicious.
Mise en place for the marinara
The meez cooking
I neglected to take pictures of the finished pizzas but I'll get some pictures of the finished marinara tomorrow, along with whatever else I cook. It will probably involve some sort of chicken dish and a low country fish stew with the tilapia I fileted last week. I gotta get that stuff cooked and outta my fridge by tomorrow.
Friday, September 5, 2008
But now, I gotta get back to work. I've got a HUGE stack of loans to work on (zzzzz) and my mind is already on 5:30. I just need to get through today so I can go home and relax from this busy week. And it's my b-day! So maybe I'll take a nap and then convince the wife to take me somewhere nice for dinner. I haven't had much time to even think about it so I don't have anything planned; I'm really just looking forward to some r-and-r.
Thursday, September 4, 2008
I'll probably post more details about the practical tomorrow but I'm pretty tired now so...
Wednesday, September 3, 2008
I really read up on my stocks and sauces the past few days and made sure everything was straight and fresh in my head. It felt good because a few of the other students were a little lost on the stocks and I was able to kind of direct them and provide information. For instance, they wanted to blanch the chicken bones for the brown stock, which is a horrible thing to do. You want to roast the bones and get them nice and caramelized and browned to add color and flavor to the stock. If you were to blanch them first they would be all wet and so would not brown properly, or at least they would take forever to do so. They also wanted to saute the mirepoix for the white stock, which is another horrible idea. At any rate, we all did well and it felt good to really contribute.
As far as my individual tasks, those went well too. The chef loved my chicken and potatoes. I browned the chicken in a saute pan and just slightly undercooked it so that I could throw it into one of the ovens at low temp and let it finish cooking slowly. This way it didn't dry out and was nice and hot when I was ready to plate. Then I took the potatoes, which were a brunois cut (small cubes) and pan fried them in some butter and oil. I got them just crunchy and golden brown then took them out and seasoned them with S&P, oregano and chili powder while they were still wet with the oil, that way the seasonings get all soaked up into the potatoes. Chef also said that my beure blanc was great, but it is where I lost a couple of points. It was a bit dark in color and beure blanc should be anything but. It should be light colored, shining, and smooth. I figured out later that it was the ground black pepper I used. Instead, I should've used white pepper or whole peppercorns and then strain them out. Oh well, he gave me a 10 out of 10 on everything else. (woot!)
We also lost a few points as a class for a few minor infractions regarding safety and sanitaion. I figure I got anywhere from 92-96%, which is fine by me. As long as I can score an "A" I'm happy. Now I gotta prepare myself for tomorrow nights practical: Italy. This is the World Cuisine class and we will draw dishes at random that will be either fresh pasta and sauce, pizza of some sort, polenta, or risotto. Everything will need to be made completely from scratch and I'm not sure how much time we'll have, which is tricky when your making doughs that will need to rest and things like risotto. But overall I feel pretty ready on this one because of the practice I got over the weekend, so we'll see how it goes.
First, the 75 year old. This is a crotchety old man sitting by the fire complaining about all the whipper snappers. He doesn't care what anybody thinks about him. He knows what he knows and who gives a hoot what you think? He's been around a long time. He has experience, wisdom, history, etc. He's got stories like you wouldn't believe but he's not particularly friendly so it's going to take some coaxing and some listening before you get to hear them. This characterizes the wines of Piedmonte. They've been doing it the longest and the wines in Piedmonte are the most complex and have the most to them, but you can't just walk right in and understand them. They are going to take some studying and coaxing before you can really get into them. There's a further breakdown of Piedmonte because of how complicated their wines are, but I won't get into that now.
Next, you have the 55 year old mad scientist. This is "Doc" from Back to the Future. He's older, he has some experience and wisdom, but he's also crazy. He still has some energy and is just a complete wacko - but also a genius. No one knows why or how he does the things he does but the results are always spectacular. This characterizes the wines of Veneto. Take for example the very city of Venice. It's a city built on the water! Why did anybody even consider building a city on water when there was plenty of available land all around them? The answer - because they could. It's crazy but it's also genius. It's one of the world's most visited cities for its beauty and grandeur. The same is true of the wines from Veneto (the region that Venice is capital of). The early producers needed to figure out a way to ship their wines around the world. The wine needed to withstand the voyage, wherever it was going, without turning to vinegar. So what does a mad scientist do? He experiments and he plays with the chemical aspects of the wine. They left the grapes on the vine a little longer, then they took them in racks into their barns or wherever to let them raisinate, and THEN made wine with them. Doing this made an extremely potent and acidic wine that could withstand trips all around the world. This wine is Amarone. It was originally a very bitter wine because of this process, which they have since refined a great deal. So the base wine they were making was Valpolicello, which they then casked and aged to make Amarone. The first was cheap and simple while the latter was expensive (due to the process) and strong. They wanted something inbetween so again the mad scientist kicks in and says "let's take the cheap stuff and age it in the casks we used for the good stuff." The result is Ripassa, and let me asure you that if you have not already had a Ripassa, you should. It is fantastic and much more affordable than an Amarone.
The third generation is the 35 year old suave lover. This guy is at the top of his game. He's had enough experience and time in life to build some resources and obtain some success. He's got all the latest and greatest technology. He uses his skills in marketing and business to be the best, because he also loves to party. He's that rich and successful guy speeding down the highway in his convertible with the music blasting, sunshades on, and a pretty girl riding shotgun. This is Tuscany. The tuscans are the best at what they do and they know it. They use all the latest technology. They break down wine with a scientific approach, but not like the mad scientist would, this is all business. He wants to know: what sells, what works, what doesn't work, why does it work, how can I make it work better, how can I be more successful? All the wine in Tuscany starts with the Sangiovese grape, which is now grown in many other parts of the world. But, Sagniovese that is made in Tuscany is Chianti. Centralize it further into Tuscany and age it 9 to 12 months and you have Chianti Classico. Take the Classico and age it another 3 years (at least) in oak and you have Chianti Classico Reserva, which is a remarkable wine. And its no wonder that Chianti is the most popular wine in America. The genius behind its production and marketing has made it so. But the business man is never satisfied. Success only brings a desire for more success. The 35 year old suave lover knows that Chianti is good, but it isn't great. It isn't bold and huge like some other wines. So what do they do? They makes deals and bring in grapes from California and other places. They mix the wine: 90% Sangiovese and 10% California Cabernet. And how does it do? It sells like crazy. So next crop they take it further: 80% Sangiovese and 20% Cabernet. Again - genius; they make a fortune. They keep going and experimenting and this is how we have Super Tuscans.
Obviously there is much more than this. We did not even discuss the 4th generation: the 15 year old kids. This is the category chef gave to southern Italian wines (everything south of Tuscany). As you might imagine, these wines aren't complicated. They are refreshing and crisp because the kids are closer to the meridian and they just want to get out to the beach and play.
And Piedmonte? There are six wines from Piedmonte that we discussed in class and I might go into that later, but this post is long enough already and I should get back to work. Let me just say this: they are worth looking into. They are the best of Italy. The oldest, the most complex, and also the hardest to understand. "King" Barolo? I certainly don't understand him... not yet anyway.
But it's a great way to learn isn't it? Now, instead of memorizing regions and names you have ideas of characters. It's easy to remember and envision. It also gives you a better grasp of a culture that is slippery at best. The Italians are all about passion and character. You have a system for defining my wine? Screw you! My family has made this for x number of years and I say what it is! Hehe, okay so that's a bit much. But it's kind of true. Consider how they name their wines. Most of the time, it has nothing to do with where it's from, what grape was used, or even who made it. It reflects their character and they name it whatever the heck they want.
Monday, September 1, 2008
Cooking the polenta
Okay, this next picture needs a little more explanation. I finished the roulades in the oven then took out the pan, set it on the stove to make the sauce, and told myself "this pan is hot, don't just grab it with your hand." So what did I do? I grabbed it with my naked hand not 30 seconds later. I should really listen to myself a little more. Anyways, I couldn't let a little burn keep me from finishing the job so I whisked butter into the sauce with one hand while running my other, burned hand under cold water. The wife got a good laugh out of it: