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.