Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Leaving on Jet Plane

Going to airport with family and my plane is already delayed 1 hour.  

It's ok, all  part of the experience.


Tuesday, December 28, 2010

East Coast Weather

East coast weather sucks!
My master plan to fly via companion pass real cheap went down in tons of snow and wind.    Trapped travelers got bumped to DC due to NY and Boston being closed.  Over 6,000 flights cancelled. Then they closed Dullis.   Game over!

Plan B was to purchase a ticket from Alitalia and pay as much as humanly possible for a round trip flight from LA to Rome, non-stop with two days notice.  Granted!!

So, I'll be a day later, over a grand shorter, but I won't hit east coast weather.

East Coast Weather Sucks!

Sunday, December 26, 2010

D-Day minus 2 to Italy

I have tentatively set up my departure for Tuesday morning @ 6 AM. I have two chances to get out in the morning to D.C. and catch the plane to Rome that gets me in at 7:15 on Wednesday morning.  Once there, I will find a ATM and get my Euro's, buy something small to get coins, get my train ticket to Poggio Mirteto, call and give Paola my arrival time so her husband, Franco, can pick me up at the train station and officially begin this leg of  my journey.

I already know I'll be working New Years eve as Paola has a large party planned for that evening in her restaurant.  As a cook, weekends and holidays no longer exist.  Except to work.


Saturday, December 25, 2010

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

A request! And, Merry Christmas!

It's been all of 4 days since I last attended class.  I miss it!  However, new challenges await yours truly.  Like getting to Italy during the holidays and avoiding winter weather.  I made a decision, probably not the brightest of decisions, but nonetheless a decision to fly to Italy via a companion pass.  In other words, going standby.  Good friend Joe  T. has graciously agreed to accompany me to Rome.   Due to his ability to go as a significant other to Cindi, who works or worked for United Airlines, he flies for free and I pay taxes and fees to fly.  This could turn out great as most times companions get to fly business or sometimes even first class.  But the risk to this reward is not being able to get out of LA before Presidents' Day.  Not really, but there are risks involved.

I met with Bill Disselhorst yesterday.  Bill is the liaison between the Italian Country Cooking school and Le Cordon Bleu.  He told of wonderful stories about Casperia and surrounding towns.  Visits to farmers markets that are really farmers markets and not somebody going to the LA Food District and picking up a few crates of food and calling it farm raised.  Does that really happen?  Also stories of gypsies and being ever watchful of your possessions.  Picking pockets is not a crime in Rome, it's a national pastime.  So I'll be zippered up and my head on a swivel while in Rome and on the trains.

So my request of you, my fellow blog followers, is to say a little prayer that the weather is decent, the companion pass thing works out and I get to Casperia fully clothed and with most of my possessions intact.

And, Merry Christmas everyone!

Friday, December 17, 2010

Clean and then its Break Time! Then off to Externships

My last day in Culinary Across Cultures.   So what did we do today?  We did what about 95% of all culinary students will be doing when they enter the culinary job market.  We cleaned the kitchen!

Some of the future Chefs who went along with me on this journey;

Sabrina, who just turned 21 yesterday.  She got a tattoo as a gift to herself.

Dena. Our life coach.  She provided us with her great desserts and upbeat personality for seven months.

Jose started every question he asked in this manner, "Chef, I have a question for you!"  Jose grew up in my old neighborhood, loves Tito's Tacos.

Richard, Justin in the back, Christian and Dave.  Never a dull moment with these four.

The Three Amigas.
Jenny, Sonia and Ruby.  The cause of more chatter and laugher than the rest of the whole class put together.

Our youngest chef.  Javi turned 19 last month.  He was my project throughout school. I'd ask him, "Javi, did you do your homework last night?  No, I was too tired. I'd tell him, "How can an 18 year old be too tired?"

My partner in the kitchen.  We never missed a day.  Yes, that is a Santa cap I'm wearing.

One Clean Kitchen!

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

The Ride!

I took my final exam today.  I can't believe I missed Sesame Seed Oil on the product ID.  I knew what it was, but just wrote down the wrong ingredient.  Shoot!

We mized out for our four dishes and were able to prep as much as we could do today.  So, tomorrow, I only have to brown my chicken for the Mole Poblano with Chicken, add the ham hock to the Split Pea Soup, make my Spanish Rice and my Gnocchi.

After 7 months, it's coming to an end.  This has been without a doubt, the best of times for yours truly.  From the Blue Line and Red Line train rides to the walk down Vine St. from Hollywood Blvd to Sunset.  To knowing the free samples guy at Trader Joe's to greeting the same pan handlers every day.  I do admit, I submitted and gave them loose change on occasion.

Walking down Vine St. for seven months, there are stars names on the sidewalk along the way to Sunset.  Names like, Art Linkletter, Michael Jackson, Julia Louis Dreyfus, the three astronauts who first went and landed on the moon (Armstrong, Aldrin and Collins).  The Three Stooges, the Beach Boys, Michael Landon and so many more.  One name always made me grin.  I didn't know who the person was. I'm wasn't even sure if it was a man or a woman.  But, like all the well known stars and entertainers on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, this person has their name forever entered on that famous walk.  The name reminded me of my sister, Toni and nephew, John who live in Yakima, Wa.  I saw it every day. The name is Yakima Canutt.

The Internet being what it is, I looked up the name.  He was a rodeo rider back in 1920's.  Seems he got into movies as a stuntman and did stunts for John Wayne in the movie Stagecoach and for Charlton Heston in Ben Hur.  He actually staged the entire sequence of the chariot race in Ben Hur and received a cut chin as his stunt double when Heston's chariot jumped over a crashed chariot.  He received an honorary Oscar for his career as a stuntman.

Why is this important?  It isn't.  It was just a part of the experience of going to culinary school that had nothing to do with cooking and everything to do with the ride.

What a ride its been.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Dazed and conFusioned

Monday starts my final week of classroom work.  We did our last day of group work today which included Chicken paprikash, Gorgras Gulas, Etli Biber Dolmasi and a Romesco sauce.  Lots of Paprika, both Hungarian for the Gulas (gulash) and the Chicken Paprikash.  Etli Biber Dolmasi are stuffed green bell peppers.  I wanted to make that dish, but made the gulash instead.  Our results were OK.  My Gulash was a bit runny, needed to reduce a bit more.

We did Fusion Cuisine today. Fusion cooking is very popular today and started way back in the 1970's.  Wolgang Puk is a fusion chef with places like The Conga Room and CPK.  My fusion dish included the following; Seared Scallops with an aged dark Balsamic vinegar, Angel Hair Pasta sauted with a chili/garlic oil and Baby Artichoke Hearts with a Mango Salsa in a White Peach Balsamic.  It was really fun. The Chef gave me some good marks for my plating and scallops.  The mango wasn't very good, so the salsa was not very good.  He also told me that using the mango as a puree and adding it to a cream sauce for the pasta would have been more of a fusion cuisine.  But, for the first time doing this, I was happy with it.  I also made fresh pasta and my pasta cutter didn't quite cut the all the way through. So I had to reform the pasta dough and run it through again and then the pasta stuck together.  I was pulling pasta apart about 15 minutes before our window opened.  I got just enough to get a full portioned entree on the plate.

Tomorrow is our final written exam and our final prep for our final four course meal on Thursday.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

The Name Game

Friday we were back in Southeast Asia.  I wish I got frequent flyer miles with all the hopscotching across the world we're doing.  We started with a Chicken Satay with a peanut butter sauce, Gan bian si ji dou, which is a stir-fried green bean,  Goi Ga, a chicken and cabbage salad. A dish called Gaeng Ped Hoi Mang Phu.  Say that three times fast. It's Thai mussels with a coconut red curry sauce. It's really good. Then we finished it off with Dan Dan Noodle, not to be confused with Yankee Doodle and Tom Ka Gai. Dan Dan noodle is a pork stir-fry with lots of chilies and soba noodles. The Tom Ka Gai is a wonderful Thai chicken soup made with lemon grass, fish sauce, dried Thai chilies and coconut milk.   One of our group failed to show up so we were three making these dishes.  I made Dan Dan noodles and Tom Ka Gai and assisted on the mussels.

I named this entry "The Name Game" because as I was cooking, I was humming to myself the entire time in class that song.  You might remember it, it goes something like this:
Dan, Dan bo Ban, banana fanna foe Fan, fe fi fo fan, Man...DAN!   NOW TRY AND GET THAT SONG OUTTA YOUR HEAD.

I think my brain has turned into Dan Dan noodles!

Left to right: Tom Ka Gai soup, Dan Dan Noodle and Gan bian si ji dou.

Chicken Satay and Gaeng ped hoi mang phu.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

The Flying Mole Brothers.

As I stated yesterday, we fired all the mole's today with protein.  Pork, chicken, turkey and pheasant.  Except yesterday, we failed to make our Mole Poblano.  Somehow it got missed in all the excitement.  So we had to crank out one more mole and still get our six main dishes done as well as our Spanish Rice and Pico de Gallo.  I have to say, there was mole flying all over the place today.  Four groups of 4 making all the dishes required was a sight to see.  We got the all our dishes completed but we were just 1 minute late in making our window of 1 PM.  But the good news was Chef Romero was very pleased with all our plates, our mole's and even my knife cuts.  Sort of.  I am just not that good at consistent knife cuts.  This is what I like about Chef Romero.  He looks at my pico de gallo and says,  "Well these cuts are good, what happened to these cuts?"  We are talking about two types of onion cuts, tomato and serrano chilies.  Cut in 1/8" dice, sort of.  Picky, picky, picky!

One student, Leila, was leaving class and was covered in Mole Rojo.  Her jacket looked like she had been hit with a scatter gun of mole.   What's even more amazing, she had none on her apron.  How is that possible?  All in a days work!

Pics of Mole Rojo w/braised pheasant and Enchiladas in Salsa Verde.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Taking the path down to the Mole (mo lay)

Chilies came from the Americas and the Caribbean.  Spread throughout the world by the Spanish and Portuguese explorers, they were  primarily used for medicinal purposes early on, they found their way into cuisines and I cannot dream of country today that does not use chilies in some form or fashion in preparing food.  Except maybe Ireland.

Dried Chilies, smoked chilies and fresh chilies.  I'm sure most you know that chilies are rated for heat by the Scolville Scale:
0-5000 are mild
5,000-20,000 are medium hot
20,000-70,000 are hot
70,000-300,000+ are very hot - The hottest chili known is called the Ghost Chili.  Meaning you turn into a ghost if you eat one.

Today we prepped.  We prepped for some really good food.  First up were the mole sauces. Mole Poblano, Mole Negro, Mole Amarillo and Mole Rojo to name four.  We prepped for Enchiladas Verde, Chili Relleno, Pico de Gallo and Arroz ala Mexicana.

Thursday we fire.  Fire up the Mole Poblano with Turkey, Mole Negro with Pork, Mole Amarillo with Chicken and Mole Rojo with Pheasant.  Batter and fry the Chili Rellenos.  Make the Enchiladas, cover with the Salsa Verde I made. Make our own Spanish Rice (arroz ala Mexicana) and pico de gallo.

Then we eat.

Holy Mole!

You knew I had to say that, didn't you?

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Religion, Oils and Fried Chicken?

Monday was an interesting day. We had to make an emulsion for our salad.  That would be a salad dressing.  Our choice of ingredients.  I made an olive oil, champagne vinegar with a little garlic paste, salt, parsley and tarragon dressing.  Then we had to plate two different dishes on two plates exactly the same way.  So like, if you went to a restaurant with your significant other and both ordered the same thing, both plates would look exactly the same.  The food was what was interesting.  We had Pork Rillettes with Lyonnaise Potatoes for our first dish.  Pork Rillettes is sort of like potted meat.  It's shredded pork.  The potatoes are fried with caramelized onions.  Our salad was on the same plate.  Our second dish was a Norwegian potato, Smordampete Nypoteter, and Shrimp Beurre Monte.  Butter steamed potatoes and poached shrimp in butter.  I'll just say I wasn't happy with my plating and my salad tasted like salt lick.  But, my shrimp were killer.  Shrimp and butter is a no lose combination.

Today we made a North African Sausage called Meerquez Sausage packed in Oil.  We use lamb instead of pork, it's a Muslim religious thing.  I also made Bang Bang ji si.  It's a poached chicken breast that's shredded and covered with a emulsion of sesame seed paste, soy sauce, black vinegar, sesame oil, sichuan peppers and chili oil.  I added some chili sauce to kick it up a notch.  OMG, an Emeril reference.  It's served at room temp and garnished with scallions.  Also on the menu were Mongolian Beef, Som thum which is a unripened papaya salad, and just to make it interesting, deep fried Chicken.  This was suppose to be  about cooking oils and fats in Asia and Africa.  I'm not sure where the fried chicken comes into play here.  Our very nice Armenian lady made the chicken.  It looked great.  Unfortunately it was under cooked.  All except for one thigh.

Chef Romero was really happy with our plates and dishes.  We got done on time, everything tasted really good and we even had a few minutes to eat and enjoy our food.

Except for the chicken.

Som Thum Salad

Mongolian Beef

Bang Bang ji si and Fried Chicken

Friday, December 3, 2010


We continue our march of the Legumes towards the Americas.  Hoppin' John Cake is a bean dish with black eye peas and rice. It included bacon, onion and red pepper flakes.  Found in the Caribbean mostly, black eye peas are also very common in the South.   Moros y Christiano is black beans and rice dish. It's a play on the Mores and Christians?  Blacks and Whites!  Anyway, Split Pea soup, Succotash, Frijoles de la Olla (refried beans in lard) and New England Baked Beans also were included in our gluttony of legumes today.  

Feijoada was the last dish with beans.  It's not like any dish I have ever had, but I will put it high on my list of "must make again".  Standby for this ingredient list; Linquist, a South America sausage, smoke ham hock, bacon, pork shoulder, and lard.  Can you say, "pork fat is good?"  Feijoada does include 4 cups of black beans.  Beans never tasted so good.  I'll be paying the price down the road.  But for now, they are great!

I had to laugh at Chef Romero today.  Seven bean dishes to taste today times a total of 7 groups from the morning and mid-moring classes.  49 plates of beans and pork!
He was not in a festive mood today.

Pics of 6 of the 7 dishes.  No Boston Baked pics.

Please, no beans in chili.


Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Creature from the Black Eyed Legumes

Legumes are beans.  Many of you probably already know that.  I didn't until I came to school here at Le Cordon Bleu.  They are used in Asian cuisine as well as Mexico and other parts of the globe.  Maybe not so much in Japanese cuisine, but most other parts of Asia they are used quite extensively.  Today we made a Black Eyed Pea salad.  Chickpeas in a spicy Tomato Sauce.  A dish called Tok Dal that uses red lentils and garnished with Tamarind Pulp.  The menu was rounded out with what is becoming one of my favorite dishes, Hong Sao Rou, or pork belly in red cooked style. Red, used to describe this method, doesn't apply to the color red. It is the spirit of the color as the Chinese perceive it-indicating luck or, this this case, a method that is favorable. It's a braised dish that uses mushroom soy sauce, and because it has rice wine, ginger, a whole star anise, cinnamon and a bit of sugar, it is without a doubt one of the better tasting pork dishes I have every had.   And not spicy.  I got to make the Hong Sao Rou today.

Giving us his critique is Chef Romero who rapidly has become my favorite chef instructor.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

A day in India

My wife Chris makes a great curry dish.  It's a creamed curry chicken with broccoli served over rice.  It has just enough curry to be flavorful.  I can't say that for Indian food.
India is a strange country.  They worship cows, so they don't eat beef.  The country is predominately Muslim, so pork is out.  Vegetable dishes are the order of the day.  And they use quite a few spices besides curry in their vegetable dishes.  I made Aloo Gobi today.  It's a potato and cauliflower dish that is slow cooked on the stove.  I cut the potatoes about a 1 1/2" dice.  About the same size of florets for the cauliflower.  Then the spices are added.  First you saute grated ginger and turmeric powder in some oil to make a paste.  Turmeric is more for the color than any flavor it may impart.  Add the potatoes and cauliflower.  Then you add black pepper, cayenne pepper and garam masala.  Garam masala is sort of a mixture of spices that is as individual to Indians as a finger print is to humans.  It is the predominate oder of India.  Added at the end are peas, more minced ginger and its garnished with cilantro.  It's unbelievably spicy.  I would cut down the cayenne to an 1/8 tsp instead of the 1 tsp in the recipe.

We also made a vegetable curry with taro. That's right, the root used for making Poi. It has coconut milk, carrots, eggplant and fried tofu.  It also has cayenne, and yellow curry paste. Man was that spicy.  I made the mistake of tasting it and it was fire hot, it burned my tongue, which made me gasp which made me inhale the sauce, which made me cry and sneeze at the same time.    Have your heard the expression, Sh*t or go blind?  I did both!

I'm sticking to that flavorful curry dish Chris makes.

Axis Bold as Shrimp Toast (a Jimi Hendrix reference)

Monday was another day spent in the far east exploring root vegetables of that region.  We made a Lotus Salad with the Lotus root.  This root is sort of a cross between jicama and a potato and is the root of the Lotus Flower. The national flower of both India and Viet Nam, its starchy and less sweet than jicama.  Chef sliced it very thin and deep fried it like a chip.  Then served a portion raw with a dressing of cider vinegar, salt, sugar, sliced green onion, minced ginger, a pinch of white pepper and sesame oil.   I liked the salad better than the chips.

I made Chicken Teriyaki and rice.  We also had something I had never heard of before, Shrimp Toast. No, it's not tiny pieces of fried bread.  A shrimp paste is made and spread on sliced baguettes cut on the bias and then deep fried.  Really good.  We rounded out our menu with a vegetable stir fry and a tempura sweet potato fry.

Chef said my teriyaki was too sweet, I disagreed and then he said that I should never salt the asian rice.  I thought it tasted great.  I'm getting bolder in my short time left in class.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

It's a small world after all!

Since announcing I was going to Italy for my externship, I received an email from Bill Baccus,  a good friend of the family.  Bill and my brother Jim are very good friends from back in their post high school days, and I have become close to Bill and his family over the last few decades.  Anyway, Bill knows this couple whom he met in Temecula.  They decided since their kids are away in college and business was slow, they would move to Italy for a year.  Hey, doesn't everyone do that.   Denise and Steve have moved to Spoleto, Italy which is about an hour and a bit from Casperia, where I'll be staying.  Bill told them about me, Denise emailed me, I responded and today we had my very first Skype conversation with Steve and Denise. What great people they are and they have extended to Chris and me their home when Chris comes to Casperia in February.  If nothing more than just to get our bearings while in Italy.

So my thanks to Bill, Denise and Steve and whoever is pulling strings from above for continually making this better and better.  (Thanks Mom)

I Hope that song isn't echoing in your head... It's a small, small world!

Denise and Steve have a blog site as well that talks about their stay in Spoleto. You should check it out.


Saturday, November 27, 2010

Italian Country Cooking

After announcing I would be going to Italy, I have had a few requests regarding information on the school I'll be attending. If you go to, there you will see what I will be experiencing in January and February.  I would love to invite everyone to Casperia, but the apt I'm staying in has only 200 Sq Ft. And that's in two stories.  There is a Bread & Breakfast place not too far away.  So if you want to come, please feel free.


Friday, November 26, 2010

The Pursuit goes International

After hemming and hawing for weeks about going overseas for my externship, I have completed the paperwork to go to overseas for six weeks.  When I first started school overseas externships were explained.  Had to have a passport, (got one, check) had to have a 3.5 GPA, (got a 3.92, check) and had to arrange transportation.  My first thought was France.  What other place would you go if you're enrolled at Le Cordon Bleu.  Then a classmate said he wanted to go to Italy.  That sounded more fun.  So I was talking to one of the chefs about that when another chef said that they were opening up externships for New Zealand.  Whoa!!  Travel to a place where English is the first language, maybe stay as long as 4 months, maybe move there, maybe, maybe, maybe.  Then I wrote my cover letter and explained my situation, accomplishments, age, dreams, etc, etc.  That age thing killed it.  Seems you can't be older than 55 to gain a student or work visa in New Zealand.   Hey, I wish we kept our immigration rules for coming into the USA as tough as NZ does.

So where am I going?  Casperia, Italy.  It's a school called Italian Country Cooking and it is located in a small village about 1 hour east of Rome.  In the dead of winter, I'll be learning all about using local ingredients, living in a 200 square foot apt and butchering the Italian language.  And hopefully some Italian meats.

I may have said this before, but this just keeps getting better and better!

Road Kill or Butterfly This!

It was a great Thanksgiving Day at our house.  Erin along with good friends Bill, Darlene, Eric and Timmy came over for some turkey and football.  I tried for days to find an ingredient that is used to make a Ballontine.  You may remember I made these with a boneless leg/thigh from a chicken.  It was stuffed and rolled with an item called, Caul Fat.  My plan was to butterfly turkey breasts, stuff them with a mushroom and sausage stuffing and serve Medallions of Turkey Breast Ballontine.  Seems the only way to purchase caul fat is in 10 pound bunches.  At $55 for 10 lbs, I changed the menu.

I butterflied the whole turkey and placed stuffing under the skin and then smoked it.  I can't take credit for the idea, that came from Bon Appetit magazine, however, it came out really good.  I had to laugh at the look of my turkey.  It looked like I found it after it had been run over on Bellflower Blvd.  Without the tire tracks!

Erin made great sides and four delicious pies.  Without a doubt one of the best Pecan Pies ever made and two Pumpkin Chiffon pies.

I guess the great thing about all of this is I never, ever would have attempted something like this before Le Cordon Bleu.  I have my lovely wife Chris to thank for allowing me to pursue this cockeyed passion and my chefs for giving me some skills.  

I hope your Thanksgiving day was one spent with family and friends as well.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Poverty Food

It's Tuesday and it was Fine Dining, poverty style.  What do I mean, you ask?  Cultures that don't have grains as a staple, use root vegetables.  Potatoes mostly.  Cold climate regions where simple dishes are put together with root vegetables, left over meats and salt dried fish.  First up was Gnocchi.  I love gnocchi.  Potato dumpling or pasta?  You can call it either way.  Fairly simple to make, easy to season and cooks up in minutes.

Then we made Borscht.  Made with beets, cabbage, leeks, onions and we throw in some brisket. That's the left over meat I mentioned earlier.  The broth is veal stock with sugar and red wine vinegar.  It needs to have a sweet and tart taste. Topped with a dollop of sour cream, it was very good.  And red!  We added a bit too much sour cream, as the picture points out.  If we had stirred it in the borscht, we would have had pink borscht instead of red borscht.  I like saying borscht.

I made Bolinhos de Bacalao.  A Portuguese dish of riced potato with onion, garlic, cilantro, parsley, some cayenne and completed with Salt Cod.  Salt cod is interesting as it is cod fish that is preserved with salt and can be kept for years.  It comes hard, then you let it sit in water to hydrate.  I just simmered it in water that just covered the fish until it softened and got flaky.  Then you put all the ingredients together and make balls.   Cod balls!  Covered in panko crumbs and deep fried.  I made an aioli for the dipping and they were excellent.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Creeping up on Crepes

Monday starts a short week for us, as it is for most people being that this is Thanksgiving week.  We made individual crepes.  Never really made crepes before.  It is a little more entailed than I thought, but once you get the hang of if, they go very fast.  The key is letting the flour, eggs, milk and a pinch of salt come together and then add about an ounce of browned butter.  The next key is letting this mixture rest for 30 minutes to allow the flour to be completely absorbed by the liquid.  The next key is to swirl the batter in your pan so that it's evenly distributed in the pan.  The last key is no color on the crepe is allowed. You can stuff it or top it with anything.  We used macerated strawberries and whipped cream.  Yum!  Lots of keys here for a crepe.

I made for the group Sopa (soup) de (with) lima (limes).  It's a chicken soup with roasted poblano chiles, roasted tomatoes, onions and lime.  It takes an hour and 30 minutes to make. You have to reduce the stock and you cook the chicken in the soup.  Mine was ok, needed to be reduced more.  Chef told me it needs to be a clear, fortified soup.  The flavor was good, but not fortified enough.  Our group also made pizza with homemade dough, vegetable egg rolls and spinach fettucini with shrimp.  Working with 3 men, we should have been done on time.  We weren't.  We were last and missed our window by 5 minutes.  Chef got on us for that.  "Even the older women are beating you guys," he said.  Ouch!

Friday, November 19, 2010

Up and Adam

Really, it is up and at 'em.  But my sister always thought it was Adam.  Hey sis!

Anyway, I made the trek to school today and attended the 6 AM class instead of my usual 10 AM class.  Not many folks on the freeway at 4:30.  The drunks are either home or in jail and the commuters are not quite on their way to work.  At least not from Long Beach.  The trip took less than 30 minutes from LB to Hollywood.  The early morning class or as it's referred to the "A Class" only has 11 students and one Chef.  My class has 21.  So the attention to detail is better by the Chef, the fighting for fire space is non-existent and there is no line at the dish station.  And, we got to sit down, eat our food in a normal sit down manner and still got the kitchen cleaned and out by 9:35.  My class is lucky to eat anything, unless it's on the sly and we usually are 10 to 20 minutes late in getting out.  It just that wake time that is a bit bothersome.

We made Tamales, Empanadas and Sopas.  I see why the little old Mexican ladies make the tamales.  It's hard, and tedious.  But I got the hang of it and got really quick.  I think it is better to spend the $10 to $15 bucks for a dozen.   One of the students made a killer salsa verde and I made guacamole.  Another student made lemonade that one of the girls said tasted like "ASS".  He didn't put quite enough sugar in it.  We all laughed and he was a good sport about it.  Just went back and made some more...with more sugar.

All in all a good day for me.  And Adam!


Thursday, November 18, 2010

Yes Masa!

Wow! It's Thursday night and I've missed two days of blogging.   Wednesday, I stayed late after school to help out on a bake sale for the Iron Toque Club.  I joined this club to help out some friends and it is suppose to look good on a resume.  Hey, it's an after school thing. I never did after school things when I was in school before.  Anyway, I made Chili.  About 4 gallons of it.  We sold it for $2.50 for 6 ounces.  That came with cheese, onions, sour cream and garnished with Cilantro.  Hot sauce was optional.  That's 512 ounces divided by 6 equals 82 servings at $2.50 comes to just under $180 bucks for the club.  Not bad!  Less expenses.
I got rave reviews for my chili from 4 Chefs and all the students except one. He said it needed more salt.  Bastard!

We made Thai food on Wednesday. See photo:

I made the noodles on the upper right and the pork dish on the lower left.  The dishes included Wor Tip or Pot Stickers, Fresh Shrimp Rolls from Vietnam, Phat Thai the center dish, Fried Rice Sticks Singapore style. Jar Jiang Mian, my pork dish and Soba Noodles, also my dish.  The ladies brought the place mats, fan and leaf.  We got very high marks, and it was delicious.

Today, one of our team mates didn't make it to school and we had to really scramble.  Making Spatzle, a pasta, sort of egg batter, sort of tear drop thingy that you put thru a perforated pan into boiling water and then saute in butter.  Tasted good, but it took me two tries to make it.  Two couscous salads with different types of couscous.  Pierogi, which is a German dish with potatoes and cabbage put into a dough and deep fried.  Germans have the worse sounding food. Spatzle, Pierogi?  We finished it off with homemade Fettucine Alfredo and Baklava.  My head is still spinning.

Tomorrow, it's Tamales, Empanadas and Pupusas, or Americas Masa day.

Who's your masa now?

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Glad to be out of the Middle East

We completed our trek through spice land, better known as the Middle East.  So many spices, so little time.  Wouldn't you know it, after using cumin, cayenne, tumeric, cinnamon, cardamom, cloves. ginger, nutmeg, corriander and basmati rice in my Lamb Gosht Pulao, my dish need SALT!  Salt brings all these together.  I knew that too.

Today we are doing American grains; tortillas (flour and corn), corn bread, Arepas, and Grits.  With Cheese!  To round it off, a little guacamole and salsa.

And what day wouldn't be complete without a little Jambalaya!

Rolaids, anybody?

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Across Cultures at Light Speed

Monday we take on North Africa, the Middle East, Turkey and Pakistan.  First Lebanon, where we are making Tabbouleh, a Bulgur wheat and Herb Salad.  Then to Turkey to make Pilav.  That's rice pilaf with currants and pine nuts.  On to Morocco to re-make Harsha, a simple flat bread made with semolina flour, butter and milk.  This time I use warm milk to make sure the yeast blooms.  Then on to Pakistan where we are making a very complicated lamb dish called, Gosht Pulao.  Many herbs and spices, Basmati rice which has to soak for an hour and marinated lamb which also needs to marinate for an hour.  All in a two and one half hour class. Oh, and a Matzoh dish that I cannot find a recipe for.  I believe that its located in Israel.  The dish, not the recipe.

I never wanted to spend too much time in the Middle East anyway.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Nothing So Cool!

While at school last week, these rolled onto the walkway between our class room and Arc-Light Cinema for a showing.  In case you're not sure what they are, we have a 1968 Ford Mustang Fastback and a 1968 Dodge Charger R/T.  If they look familiar, then this should clear up any confusion.

Bullitt had probably the quintessential car chase scene in a movie during the 1960's and forever gave us a green VW Bug shown being passed about 5 times during that scene.  
(note photo on poster, lower left with the black Charger airborne passing said VW)
What does this have to do with cooking?  


But it's so cool.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Ichigo Daifuku?

You may ask yourself, what the hell kind of title is that for a blog posting.  Well grasshopper, since we are still in Japan, I will tell you.

Ichigo Daifuku is a very common dessert in Japan.  It has become a popular dessert here as well.  Sweet bean paste wrapped around ice cream and then wrapped in rice dough call "mochi".  Ours were wrapped around strawberries.  We should have split one open for presentation.

I made a main course dish called Pearl Balls.   Doesn't quite have the same ring, does it?
Ground pork balls with egg, a cornstarch slurry, chestnuts, ginger, scallions, soy sauce, sherry, sugar, salt and then coated in rice and then steamed.  Dim Sum comes to mind.  Nice plate!  Needs a dipping sauce, but it doesn't call for one.  Chef said, no!  Yes Chef.

Just so you understand, in Cuisines Across Cultures, we work as teams now.  We collaborate on some dishes and work on others by ourselves.  But, we do have to present them all together.  It's fun and more pressure.  Not only pleasing the Chef, but not letting down teammates.

Ichigo Daifuku for everyone as we killed this one.

If you knew Sushi, like I knew....

We traveled to Japan or Asia actually to take on Sushi.  Interesting fun facts.
Sushi originated in China, not Japan.  Sushi equates to seasoned rice.  Sticky rice uses rice vinegar, sugar and of course salt to help it become sticky and slightly sweet.  Hamaki or hand rolls did originate in Japan after WWII.  To make a Maki roll a tool called Makizu is used. That's the bamboo roll used to shape the rolls. The suffix (su or zu) refers to an item being a tool, hence Makizu.  The fish used in sushi was actually a preserving method.  This was accomplished by placing the fish in rice, covering completely and stacking subsequent fish and rice.  After three months, they would replace the rice (I would hope so) and re-stack the fish. Nigri is a single order of two pieces of fish and rice.  Nori is the kelp used in the Maki or Hamaki (hand roll).  All fun facts.

So we made Maki rolls, Nigri and because they ran out of Nori, I didn't get to make my Hamaki.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Lamb, the other dark meat!

Well, we never made it to the Caribbean.  The Jerk sauce just didn't get made. No Jerk sauce, no Jerk Pork.  The Cajon Shrimp from Louisiana was a big hit.  I got the sniffles and when you have the sniffles taste profiles are hard to determine.  Guess what, it needed more salt!  It was cooked to perfection and I'll take that.

Then it was off to Morocco and Tangine Lamb served with Harsha flat bread.  The lamb was great.  We work as teams in this class, and I had nothing to do with the Lamb except doing the mize en place for it.  I made the Harsha flat bread.  It's a yeast bread and I didn't allow the yeast to bloom by letting sit in warm milk.  Nowhere in the recipe did it say use warm milk.  If I was from Morocco, I would have nailed this one.  So the bread was just OK.

Then we did a Lamb Biryani that has twenty-three, that's 23 ingredients.  Its lamb cooked with basmati rice, apricots, potatoes, saffron, cinnamon sticks and 17 other things that I won't go into.  Google it!  It  looks like rice and lamb, because that's what it is.  Served family style, so you just pile it on a plate and we put some fine (fee-ney) herbs on top. Fine herbs are a french invention of Chervil, Chives, Tarragon and Parsley.  Finely minced.  Chef like it.  I thought it looked disgusting.  You be the judge as pictures accompany this blog issue.

Oh, and no trip to Thailand for the Curry Rice either.  But we did do a French omelet with fine herbs.  We made more herbs that we needed, so waste not, they went on the Biryani Lamb.   No pics.  You've seen one omelet, you've seen them all.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Cuisines Across Cultures

We met our new chef instructor today, Chef Romero.  He is a no nonsense chef and he made no bones about how very, very busy we are going to be for the next six weeks.  Our first day we made, Roast Leg of Lamb, butterflied and marinated with olive oil, garlic, rosemary, lemon zest with salt and pepper.  We also roasted a whole chicken with a compound butter.  And, made a Lomi Lomi Salmon salad.  That was after a cursory explanation of what was expected of us, grading and uniform policy, yada, yada, yada.  Then a demo on how to butterfly a leg of lamb and trussing a chicken.  Then we started production at 11:50 and had to be done by 1:15.   Luckily, we were in teams so it wasn't as dramatic as I make it out.  But we were cooking right out the gate.

Tomorrow, here is what we are making and miseing for:
A curry rice salad with shrimp - 10 ingredients
Harsha, a Moroccan flat bread - 8 ingredients
Lamb Tangine - 12 ingredients
Jerk Marinade for Pork - 13 ingredients
Cajun Spiced Shrimp - not sure because we haven't seen the recipe yet!

So we travel southeast to Louisiana, then down to the Caribbean, across the Atlantic to Morocco and then off to Thailand.  Across cultures and halfway across the world.

All in two hours.  This just keeps getting better and better.

Giving Back

Sunday I volunteered for an event called Alex's Lemonade Stand.  Alex was a child who had  contracted brain cancer.  She raised money to help pay the doctors who helped her by selling lemonade.  The first time, she presented a check to her doctors for $8.50.  Her last check presented just before she died at the tender age of 8 years old was $18,000 dollars.  This has been picked up across the nation by chefs and the food industry.  Locally, celebrity chef Suzanne Goins brought in twenty of the top chefs in the country to participate in this years event.

Chefs giving back of their time, their food and their talent was very evident yesterday as many of the nations top chefs were there donating all of the above for the cause of finding a cure for brain cancer.  I'm not sure how much was money was raised for this event.  I do know that a magnum bottle of wine, signed by all the chefs was auctioned for $2000.  That was the least amount spent on any auction item.  The highest amount paid was $38,000 for a home cooking event by one of the chefs.

I ask that you check out Alex's Lemonade Stand on-line.  You don't have to donate, but see how one extraordinary little girl made and is still making a difference.  If you want to donate, that's OK too.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Fight On - USG?

Patissier and Baking have come to a crashing conclusion.  I got a B on my final written exam.  I received 93 points on my three desserts out of a possible 100.  So all in all not too bad.  Therefore I earned an A in the class.  My current GPA is 3.92 - My grade in cake decorating is well below that.

Did I tell you cake decorating is not my strong point?  After struggling to make the frosting yesterday, my frosting today came out great.  But, a Celebration Cake has to have a celebratory message on the cake.  I gave you three guesses as to what message I might use.  It wasn't Happy Birthday or Bon Voyage.  No, I went the college rah rah route.  Being a USC football fanatic I placed their "Fight On" motto on the cake. (So Dumb)  Javier, my 19 year old classmate asked, "what's USG?"

Anyway, I didn't bring home the Chocolate Tart I made.  I gave it to a Foundations II class to enjoy.  The Souffles do not travel well at all.  But, I was bound and determined to bring home this sorry ass cake.   So I boxed it up in the only box I could find (too big) and taped it up and made a handle.  I was riding down the escalator to the Red Line train and the handle broke and the box went tumbling down the escalator, end over end landing upside down. Sigh!  Lucky for me, a trash can was at the bottom of the escalator and that's where it's sitting right now.  When you see the cake, you'll agree it ended up in a deserving place.

Let them eat Cake!

Tuesday, my plan was to complete six items in preparation for the final presentation today on the Celebration Cake.  Buttercream frosting isn't hard to make.  It is important to follow the correct procedure in making Buttercream.  I didn't and no manner of trying to fix the initial mistake worked.  So 30 minutes before production was to stop, I gave up on the fix.  We make an Italian Meringue that is slowly incorporated into whipped egg whites.  You need to cool the meringue before adding the 1 pound of butter and emulsified shortening.  I didn't!  I made butter cottage cheese.  It looked as bad as it sounds.

So today, I need to make the frosting again.  Place a crumb coat on the cake and chill the cake and then frost the cake, decorate the cake and put a celebratory greeting on the cake.

I'll give you three guesses what that greeting might be.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010


Our last three days in Pastry began with the written final.  I know I missed some of the product ID's.  Almond meal, missed that one, I put down bread crumbs.  Sea Salt, missed that one. Wrote down Kosher salt. I also missed Bread hook.  That's an attachment for mixers that we use to make bread.  I called it a hook.  That's a bonehead mistake. I guess they all are bonehead mistakes come to think of it.

Then it was on to the pastry practical.  I made the Buttercream cake, Short Dough or Pate Sucree and I made my Creme Anglaise.  Today I will be very busy,  I need to bake the Pate Sucree shell, cool it, make the Chocolate Ganache filling, cool it and then present it.  I also have to make my Buttercream frosting, cut my cake in half, and put a crumb coat on the cake.  Make a Chocolate Souffle and present that with the Creme Anglaise.  Two presentations and step two in completing my Celebration Cake.

These are fun! Even for celebrating boneheads.

Friday, October 29, 2010

That's a print!

Been a bit busy so forgive me for not posting for a couple of days.

I left off with the sauces we made and the promise of making Chocolate Souffles.  Well, I did it.  Made a souffle that rose about 5 inches.  Quickly put some powdered sugar on top and put 2 oz of Creme Anglaise in a small mize cup and quickly took it up to the Chef.  It came out great. My sauce was creamy and the souffle was cooked perfect.  Then I went to take a picture of the other souffle I had made at the same time and it had collapsed onto itself and looked so bad, I didn't take the picture.  Those suckers deflate quicker than a tire blowout at 70 MPH.

I also plated my Cheese cake for the Chef it also came out very good.  I used the Raspberry and Chocolate sauce for that plating and forgot to get a picture.  There seems to be a running theme here.  Me, food and pictures, not so good.  I did get picture of a Sacher-Torte:

Not mine, but this is what I made and it looked just like this.  This is Chef's.  His hand work was much cleaner than mine.  But, I had 12 servings with Sacher spelled in Chocolate on each slice.  So I thought I would show you what a real life Sacher-Torte looked like.

Today we made Focaccia bread, Pita bread and Hummus.  Not really worth taking pictures of these.  You can see them at Trader Joe's or any grocery store near you.

With Halloween this weekend, we get to study for our final exam and do our prep sheets for the last Practical Exam to be presented on Tuesday and Wednesday.  Presenting a Souffle, with Creme Anglaise, a Chocolate tart, not Torte, in a crumb crust and a Celebration Cake with Buttercream Frosting. With any luck, I'll get some pictures.

Scary thought!