Thursday, September 30, 2010

How Can this Not be Fun?

Our Baguettes were made today and it was wonderful.  The fantastic aroma of fresh baked bread X's 20.  Notice one of my three loafs is missing.  At the same time, we had to start our Sourdough Bread and a Brioche.

Brioche: (bree o ch) Rich yeast dough containing large amounts of eggs and butter. (we used 6 eggs and 12 oz of butter)

I am not a baker.  I have baked Trader Joe's Chocolate Truffle Brownie's.  It comes in a box, add oil and a few eggs, grease a pan and throw it in the oven and under cook it.  It's not very hard.  Bread from scratch using live yeast, a mixer or your hands, shaping your dough, leaving it to proof overnight is something I have never done.  There are 12 steps to making bread with yeast by hand.  Twelve!  Thirteen if you include the slashing of a baguette.  No wonder recovering from alcohol is so hard.  Was that step 7 or step 8 I just finished?  It is therapeutic if you know what you are doing.  I don't!   After all it's only been three days.

Chef True asked me today if I was having fun yet?  "Are you kidding me, I responded,  how can this not be fun?"

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

The Baguette

The French are somewhat weird on certain things.  I mentioned a few months ago that Marie-Antoine Careme way back in the 1820s could not sell soup at his establishment.  He was taken to court by the sauce guild and eventually won a decision to be allowed to sell his soup for a profit to commoners.  Known as a restorative, it later became known as the word we use today for "Restaurant".

The ever present baguette is regulated by the French Government.  It has to be a certain length (65 cm), it must have 5 slits cut into it and it must not contain any sugar.  The ingredients are regulated to bread flour, yeast, water and salt.  There are some companies in the USA that add sugar to the ingredients of a baguette.  I'm not sure if they are breaking some sort of international treaty, like using the word Champagne for sparkling wine that doesn't come from the Champagne district of France, or not.  But, if you travel to France, expect a baguette to taste the same anywhere you go.

We get to make these tomorrow.  We have made enough dough for three baguettes.  One to eat with lots of butter at school.  Two to bring home to share with family or friends.  Of course, it is a long train ride from Hollywood to Long Beach.

No guarantees two make it home.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Sugar Free is not all bad

Today was cooler. Yea!
We made Blueberry Muffins and we were supposed to make Brownies, but instead we made Peanut Butter Cookies.  The unsweetened chocolate didn't make it to the school in time. Tomorrow maybe!

We have to convert our book recipes every day by 1/2 or 1/4 depending on what we are making. Its part of our homework to convert the recipes.  Converting .75 oz of salt can be interesting, to say the least.  I bought a digital scale, but even with that, the measurements are hard to achieve.

Baking is about methods.  You can use the Cut Method, the Creaming Method or the One Stage Method, or the Sponge Method. Name a dessert or baked item and there is a method that goes with it.  We will learn the methods in due course during the next six weeks.

My cookies came out great.  I remember as a kid having peanut butter cookies with a fork crossed on the top of the cookie and a little bit of sugar on top of them.  That's exactly what we did.  We used the Creaming Method.

My muffins came out, shall we say, sugar free.  That's what happens when you see 6 ounces of sugar at your station that should have been sifted in with the other dry ingredients when using the Muffin Method.  This was discovered after the muffins were well on their way to baking in the oven.  Oh well!   Not as good as the Cheesy Jalapeno Shortcake Cookies that were made yesterday, but not all bad either.

Biscuit in a Basket

First day in Pastry & Baking and it was hot.  I mean scorching!  How hot was it? It was so hot that the thermometers in downtown stopped working.  It was so hot, we cooked our biscuits outside.  Cheese biscuits with jalapeno's, as if we needed the extra heat.  But seriously, the A/C stopped working in the baking lab and it was cooler outside than inside.

Best biscuit of the day went to our senior lady student who mis-read the sugar amount and put 1/2 cup in her dough that called for .5 oz.  Cheesey jalapeno shortcake cookies.  Soon to be found in a neighborhood dessert store near you.  Talk about hitting all the palates of the tongue.  Chef True even said, "this is really good."  Chef True is one of our pastry chefs.  The aforementioned Chef A is also with us again for the next six weeks.

All in all, a fun, HOT day.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Algebra with Sugar on Top

Today we start our Baking and Pastry class.  You would think that this would be a great class; eating chocolate, making cakes and pies and bread.  In reality, its sort of like Chemistry and Algebra with sugar on top.  So much converting of recipes and weighing and measuring.  It only took me two years to get through one year of Algebra in high school.  Should be interesting.

Again, tons of homework.  I just printed out our syllabus and it is jammed packed with fun stuff.  We have a new chef and moved to a new class room. No stove tops, all ovens.  I have seen the students coming out of baking.  Mostly you can tell what they had been making as they wear it on their uniforms.  Baking must be messy.  I shall find out!

French cooking term of the day:
Paitissier (pat tee see ay)>Pastry Chef

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Au Revoir Chef A and Chef B

I said goodbye to Foundations III today.  But not without saying merci to our Chefs.  It was a great experience for us as a class and for me personally.  There is a good chance Chef Ashenbrenner will be our Pastry Chef, which starts next week.  Chef Brown may join us again for International Cuisine.

I certainly hope so.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Cuisines du Coeur

Well, I was able to pull off exactly what I wanted to for my final cooking practical.  We used our chicken that we had fabricated the day before.  Chef gave us a list of ingredients and said, "Make something!"  I requested one other thing that wasn't on the list, puff pastry. So he added it.  Oh, and peas.

So on my menu was Blanquette of Chicken Breast-Vol au Vent with peas and carrots in a Veloute' Cream Sauce and Pommes Gratin Dauphinoise Rounds.  Sounds good, doesn't it?  Its chicken pot pie with scallop potatoes. $19.50 or $8.95?  It's all in the presentation.

After our knife cut final, which I did OK in, we got right into it.  We had 90 minutes to make the window.  (it's an eternity) I had to mize all the ingredients first.  After which, I got started on the puff pastry.  Got that done and in the 400 degree oven.  Then I started my roux for the sauce, cut the potato for the gratin, chopped the garlic, thyme and mixed them together.  They too went right into the oven.  Things were going too smooth.  Oh yea, the roux.  I burned the butter.  Throw it out, start again.  Got the roux made and realized I had forgotten the chicken stock.  So many friggin things to remember.  I even had it written down and I forgot the stock!

So then I chilled, had some water, joked with Nancy across from me and just let it happen.

I must say the entire class did great.  Both Chefs commented on how good we all did.  They called it, Cuisines du Coeur, cooking from the heart.

What a great day!

Beets Me?

Sorry. It's been a hectic few days and I haven't been able to keep up.  Monday, we completed our last full day of production.  I completed the three dishes, but missed the last window by one minute.  The rest of the week are finals.

Tuesday we had our fabrication final; 1 chicken cut into an airline breast, breast supreme, a frenched leg, a boneless leg and thigh and a thigh with the oyster meat attached.
Also, we did one round fish; scaled, guts removed, two filets and the skin left on. I did really well on both

Then we had our written final. Won't know until tomorrow how I did. Felt good, but missed a few product ID's. Yellow Beets got me.

Tomorrow, we get to cook our chicken, anyway we want, using 2 of the seven Le Cuissons. We have a list of ingredients available to us and with that, make up our own menu, time line, mize en place list and a drawing of our plate.  We must match everything we say we are going to do.  "Really cool Stuff!"  We have 90 minutes to complete our practical and a 15 minute window to present our dish.

Wish me luck!

Friday, September 17, 2010

Pretty Cool Stuff

Friday was a good day.  It was a quiz and prep day, so no cooking.  I had to make Mayonnaise for the tartar sauce I made for the fried calamari we'll be doing on Monday.  I hadn't made mayonnaise since our third week of school.  That seems ages ago.

We'll also be making Lamb Shish Kebab, Orange CousCous with a Yogurt Sour Cream sauce. As well as a Stir Fry and white rice.  And, last but not least, Ratatoulli.  I may be very full coming home on Monday.  The rest of next week we have finals.  Two practical or cooking finals, a fabrication final, both fish and chicken, a knife cut final and a written final.  For the practical finals, we get the list of ingredients the day before, we then have to come up with a hand written recipe, diagram the plate and then present it as we have described the plate to our chef.  Chef Brown is famous for this one quote. "Pretty cool stuff, eh?"

Actually, it is.

Making a dime...or 131 of them

Hey out there,
Due to the fact a few of you are clicking on the ads plastered all over this blog, I have pocketed a cool $13.10 in Amazon gift dollars.


Thursday, September 16, 2010

Making a Mousse of my Fish

French Cooking Term for the Day: Paupiette (po pee yet) Thin piece of meat or fish that is stuffed, rolled, tied and cooked.

Yesterday we prepped for fish. Salmon Mousseline rolled up in a Rock Cod Paupiette.  It's a poached fish dish that we served with sauteed asparagus and Quinoa with a Vin Blanc sauce.  Very classic French.  My sauce broke at the last possible moment, but Chef told me it was my best plating to date.  I'm not a fan of this type of poaching.  Plus, making the Salmon Mousseline is, well lets just say it's icky.  It tasted good though.

We also got to fabricate a Sea Bass.  It was my first attempt at filleting a whole round fish.  We had to scale it, or I guess it would be de-scale, anyway, remove the scales and take the guts out.  It's messy.  You finish and you're thinking, ok not too big a mess.  Then you look and you got fish scales on your face and fish guts on your shoes.  Plus I smell of fish.....still.

The windows were tight for these two entrees. I made the first with the Paupiette.  The Sea Bass came with a Sauce Choron. Which is a Bearnaise with tomato puree.  I couldn't get it to come together in time and missed only my second window since I started class. My second plate was 7 minutes late and it looked like I dropped it half way up to the Chef.  Plus, my tourned beets were undercooked and the fish was suppose to be skin side up, not skin side down.

So in one day I had my best plate and probably my worst plate.  I ate the sea bass (right side up), the quinoa and the rice pilaf.  It was still fun.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Sausage and Tums

Today we made Sausage.  Well, to be truthful, we made it yesterday, but we cooked it today.  I made breakfast sausage, which I served with hash browns, and a mushroom omelet with a mushroom sauce.  Sausage is made by grinding chunks of pork and pork fat. The meat needs to be very cold.  Then we add Quatre Epices and salt for seasonings.  Breakfast was served and it was good.

Then we made Italian Sausage.  Again, to be truthful, Chef B made the sausage, but we put it in the casings.  With this sausage, we made eggplant in tomato sauce and fried polenta. This was excellent!  Eggplant has not been my favorite, but when it is cut thinly, breaded and pan fried it is really good.  Of course, the tomato sauce might have something to do with how good it tasted.  Dinner was served and it was good too!

French cooking term for today:
Quatre Epices; (catr eh peace) A blend of 4 spices, black pepper, nutmeg, ground cloves and cinnamon.  Used in seasoning the sausages.  I guess you may have figured that one out on your own.  Chef B also used ground up red pepper flakes in the Italian Sausage. It was excellent.

Having breakfast and dinner in the span of 15 minutes is not recommended.  Just ask my stomach.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Hmmm, Chef WannaB goes Commercial

I signed up for Adsense.  They are links that are supposed to drive all you readers (14) to the listed sites.  I wanted to see how it looked.  So, if you would all be so kind to tell me what you think, I will either keep them or get rid of them.  It's your call.  Oh, by the way, I can make money from them too.  But, don't let that sway your opinion.

Friday, September 10, 2010

One is Enough

I love a four day school week.

We cooked our Rack of Lamb Persille' today. I changed up the potatoes and did Pommes Puree with Roasted Garlic and I had to make those baby cabbage thingys, Brussels Sprouts Paysanne. My goal, as stated yesterday, was to nail the sprouts. So I par-boiled them in salted water, shocked them in ice water. Then I sauteed the paysanned veggies in butter, added some fresh thyme, sliced up the prosciutto and crisped that up, added back the sprouts and seasoned the whole thing with salt and pepper. Not too complicated. I found the key to sprouts is not to over cook them. I seem to remember in my youth, they were always mushy. So, how did I do?

Nailed it! Chef told me they were excellent. So I ate one. That was enough.

French cooking term for the day:
Persillade (pear see yahd)-A mixture of parsley and garlic. We used this mixture with panko crumbs and I added chopped Rosemary to put a crust on the lamb.

We only have two more weeks of Foundations III. Next week we get to learn how to make sausages and do breakfast cookery. Denny's, here I come.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Makes you wonder sometimes!

Why is it when you mention something, it comes to pass? It's like when I play golf, I tell my self, don't hit this one right. So where does it the right. It's like the brain or the higher power up there doesn't comprehend the word "don't".

A few days ago, I mention how the chef doesn't like liver. In fact, he hates it. So what happens? He has to fabricate an entire liver, take off the membrane, slice it up. You could see he was starting to gag. But he can cook the hell out of liver.

If you follow this blog, in the same printing, I mentioned how I "don't" like Brussels Sprouts. Guess what we are cooking tomorrow? Yep, you got it, Brussels Sprouts Paysanne. So the goal is to cook the hell out them. Have the chef tell me, "these are the best sprouts I ever ate". Ya right. But, that's the goal. We shall see.

French term of the day:
Paysanne: (pay yee sahn) Vegetables cut into small, thin triangles or squares.

We cut the other vegetables that accompany this dish paysanne. Saute them with prosciutto and in butter. I'll eat those

Home Runs

Growing up, we ate a lot of cheaper cuts of meat. Liver, pot roasts, oxtails were always on the home menu. A special treat for me was lamb shanks. Then, a low cost lamb dish, braised with vegetables and served with boiled potatoes. My brother, Jim, was famous in our family for being able to remove every bit of meat, connective tissue and collagen off a shank. Nobody could do it better. Lamb shanks today are considered a high end meal at most french restaurants. We made Lamb Shank Provencal style, which is a braised shank and a wonderful sauce made with concasse(con cas say) tomato, onion, garlic and chopped up black olives. The braising liquid is then added to the vegetables and served on top of the shank. We also made Risotto Milanese. That's with Saffron soaked in the chicken stock and finished with Parmesan cheese and butter. These are considered comfort foods in France. Rustic in plating, but very high end in the flavor department.

Also on the menu was Blanquette of Veal Vol au Vent. Vol au Vent is french for "blown in the wind". (French cooking term for the day) Leave it to the French to make it sound good. In this case, it's a puff pastry filled with the Veal, a great cream sauce made with the poaching liquid, veloute and a liaison of egg yoke and cream. This tastes absolutely fantastic.

The detail in today's blog is brought to you because I knocked both these dishes out of the park. Made the time windows and got great reviews from my chef.

It's ok once in a while to boast. I'm boasting today!

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

All Good

Back to school after a Labor Day weekend. First thing I noticed, the trains are full again. Standing room only riding up to L.A. You hear more talking. Kids love to talk. Commuters are plugged in to iPods or reading. Some conversations are funny, some are disturbing. Two young men were talking about doing prison time. Reminiscing about friends no longer here, either dead and buried or behind bars. On the other hand, two young black girls were excited about going back to school. Seeing old friends. Two distinct and different sides to riding the rails. All a part of commuting in Los Angeles through South Central.

The burnt pot incident at school was only discussed for a second. Another apology from Chef. (enough already) A prep day, we sort of eased back into school. Today, we have two braises going. One is a Lamb Shank, and the other is a veal dish served in a puff pastry. Chef A surprised everyone with tuna melt on crusty french bread and a student made a peach pie for all to share. I had purchased some ice cream for a cake Chef A made last week, and there was enough left over for the peach pie.

French cooking term for the day:
Veloute' - (ve loo toay) One of the Primary sauces made with stock and a blond roux.

We're using this sauce today with the Veal dish, adding a liaison of cream and egg yoke.

All Good!

Sunday, September 5, 2010


We worked hard all week. Our dishes are more complex and challenging, but we were coming together as a class. Our chefs noticed this and applauded our efforts. It only took one student doing one thing on Friday to put a large dent in 3 weeks of very hard work. Our chefs are approachable, encouraging and demanding. They know what the world we are entering is all about. There are only two things that really set them off. In this modern world, you can probably guess one of them. Cell phones. We have had students dismissed for the day for using cell phones during class time. Amen I say. The other is leaving work for others to complete. "Clean as you go, don't drop off dishes to be cleaned by someone else", is the mantra we hear every single day. Friday it happened big time. A burnt pot of Carnitas left for someone else to clean. I mean it was scorched. Chef asked who it belonged to, nobody spoke up. I could see the disappointment and the anger rising. This was not going to be pretty. After what seemed an eternity, still nobody spoke up. After chastising the entire class, Chef threw down the pot into the sink and as misfortune would have it, sprayed out burnt pork and grease on three students. Not what chef had intended, but it happened none the less. Anger turned to disbelief on chefs face. From scolding us to apologizing in a nano second. I felt so bad for chef, but there was nothing to be done. He left, told the dean of the school what he had done and left for the day.

We all received an email yesterday apologizing to each of us again for his actions. My email response was that it was us who need to apologize to both chefs. Actions sometimes intended to inspire or create learnings go awry. This was the case Friday. If I find the ass who didn't speak up, I will rat him out to every student and he or she will wish he or she had fessed up.

I also told him, next time, make sure the pot is empty before throwing it into the sink.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

You can't live on French Cuisine alone

Thursday was a mize and prep day. Friday we'll be making Carnitas tacos, a Salsa cruda, a Black Bean cake, Corn with Poblano Chiles plus Avocado Quenelles. We have four hispanic students in class. Our Chef is half hispanic, so they gave up a great tip for making Carnitas. For the liquid used to cover the pork butt, incorporate Coke a Cola. It has to be Coke and not Diet Coke. So Ruby, one of our latina chef wannaB's, is going to bring some Mexican cola because it has more sugar and is really good for the Carnitas.

Oh, will be making a NY Strip steak, maitre d' hotel butter and Twice baked potatoes too.

French Cooking Term for the Day:
Maitre d'Hotel-(may tra d ho tell) Head of the hotel, person in charge of seating in a restaurant. Also a compound butter made with chopped parsley, lemon juice and white pepper.

It's the only thing we are doing tomorrow that uses a French term.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Not so Sweet

Today was Sweetbreads and Rabbit production day. After Chef's demo for Sweetbreads, the faces on the students who (WERE FORCED TO EAT) the thymus glands of veal were priceless. Afterwards, most agreed they were not so bad. Good even. The rabbit and carrot pasta was received much more agreeably.

My Sweetbreads were not crisp enough. They needed to be more like chicken McNuggets. My Maltaise sauce was a bit green because of beating the hollandaise too vigorously with my whisk in the stainless steal bowl. Even the blood orange didn't help the color. An average dish for me. They tasted ok.

My braiser rabbit with mustard was delicious. My sauce could have been a bit thicker and my pasta stuck together. Chef told me when you store wide noodle pasta, you can't bunch it up. It needs to be laid flat with paper towels between layers. But Chef also told me, "I would eat this, all of it".

All in all, a fun day and I learned some cool stuff.

Tomorrow, Carnitas, YES and a test, yuk!

French cooking terms for today:
Lard (lahr) Solid fat from pork
Larder (lahr day) to lard, to insert strips of pork fat into lean meat.
Lardon (lahr doan) A small piece or strip of slab bacon
All have to do with pork fat.
Does it get any better?