Friday, January 24, 2014

What we learned in culinary school this week: Week 3

This was sauce week. Mother sauces, reduction sauces, emulsified sauces and condiments.

There are five "Mother Sauces" and we need to memorize them. They are:

  • Bechamel
  • Veloute
  • Espagnole (brown sauce)
  • Tomate
  • Hollandaise

Hollandaise is the oddball in this group. The other sauces were created to be made in bulk. They can be refrigerated, then pulled out for use as needed. Hollandaise sauce, on the other hand, is high maintenance. You can't store it, it has to be made as needed. Which is a bummer, because I was hoping whip up a batch to take to my Mom to wean her off that crappy canned and bottled hollandaise she insists on buying in bulk.

All mother sauces (except of course for hollandaise) all use the same thickening agent: roux, which is made from equal parts all-purpose flour and clarified butter. A roux will thicken anything.

Speaking of clarified butter: You get about 60%-75% yield from clarification. Also, you can freeze clarified butter.

Always strain sauces.

Demi-glace is liquid gold.

When choosing a red wine for a reduction sauce, use a wine that is somewhat palatable and hasn't had sugar added (the school actually uses Charles Shaw, aka Two Buck Chuck, and our red wine reduction sauces made me fall in love all over again). If possible, use wine from the same region that your dish originated from.

You shouldn't spend more than $10 on a bottle of wine for cooking. If you use a $100 bottle of wine versus a $5 bottle of wine, the taste won't be 20 times better. The $100 bottle of wine will only taste about $10 better. Save the good stuff for drinking. Drinking wine is very different than cooking with wine.

Basic reduction sauce: 1 shallot minced, and 1 cup of wine. Reduce 50%-90%. Add 1 cup demi-glace, reduce to sauce consistency. Can do different amounts of wine/demi but should be 1 to 1 ratio. Can do 1/2 demi for thicker sauce. But wine, shallot and demi is the hat trick of reduction sauces.

Reduction = elimination of water through steam.

Then we moved on to emulsified sauces (mayonnaise, aioli, hollandaise) and learned that whisking makes your arm feel like it's going to fall off at the shoulder, especially when your aioli breaks and you have to do it again, plus you screw up your remoulade so you have to whisk up another batch of mayo on top of everything else.

Homemade mayo is isn't white like the stuff you buy at the store. It's yellowish in color due to the egg yolks and mustard.

"Garlic aioli" is redundant. Garlic is one of the ingredients in aioli.

Mother sauces galore.

Desired consistency of hollandaise, poured over
 a 1/2 lemon for demonstration.

Salsa verde.


Thursday, January 23, 2014

Dallas Stars troll the visiting Maples Leafs...and it's epic

So Justin Bieber was arrested this morning for DUI and drag racing and just generally being a punk-ass tool.  He even stupidly smiled for his mugshot, because he probably isn't taking this seriously at all.  He's a celebrity, so he may turn out to be right.

In or out of jail, he's still a target of mockery.  This popped up on the Dallas Stars' jumbotron during their game tonight versus the Toronto Maple Leafs:

The Stars have never been so well-loved by the rest of the league.

Pic snicked from NHL Humor on Twitter, but it's all over the place.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

I love how Sophie's animal hospital personalizes emails to us :)

Smile, Sophie!  Show us those pearly whites!

Forget her teeth.  It's those crazy eyes that worry me.

Monday, January 20, 2014

Three books I'm soooo looking forward to in 2014

Sounds like it's going to be a good year for books.  I'm sure there will be more, but for now these three are are on my must-buy list: 

February: Mad as Hell: The Making of Network and the Fateful Vision of the Angriest Man in Movies by Dave Itzkoff.  Just what it says, the story of Oscar-winning screenwriter Paddy Chayefsky and the making of his strangely prophetic film Network.

Self-described Writer, Actor & Tall Person John Cleese's memoirs are due out in September.  Hopefully this will include tons of behind the scenes goodies from Monty Python and Fawlty Towers.

Also out in September: The return of the Demon Dog, James Ellroy, with PerfidiaI blogged about this a couple months ago when it was first announced.  Perfidia will be the first entry in Ellroy's second "L.A. Quartet".

Saturday, January 18, 2014

Reason to celebrate

So I've made it through the first two weeks of culinary school despite the fact that it's kicking my ass.  I've been seriously surprised at how exhausted I am at the end of each day.  One day I just came home and slept for a few hours.  But it's all good.  We had our first notebook check yesterday and Chef was apparently blown away by the fact that I included pictures with my notes.  Everyone is always taking pics in class, so I thought everyone would do it, but apparently I was the only one.  Here are some of them:

Our first benchmark test: knife skills. I feel like
this looks better than my actual skills at the moment.

We have very nice, very sharp knives and despite a couple of close calls the first week, I managed to make it to Day 9 before I actually drew blood and had to bust open the first aid kit.  Band-aids are covered with finger cots, which are these rubber things you roll onto your finger like a condom (like so) but ours are blue.  Kind of hilarious, but we can't have band-aids coming off and getting into the food.

And now for the celebration part!

Friday, January 17, 2014

What we learned in culinary school this week: Week 2

This week, we finished stocks and moved into soups. And learned that:

Stocks are always defatted.

Consomme is to die for.

When catering, prep as much in advance as possible and do as little on site as possible, because you don't have as much control on site.

Rendering = removing moisture.

Veal stock in progress.

French onion soup.

Tortilla soup fixings.

Tortilla soup.


San Francisco clam chowder.

Best tomato soup I've ever had.

Thursday, January 16, 2014

What we learned today: The Vitamix

Two things we learned about using the Vitamix in school today:
  • Always start on low. NEVER start on high.
  • A lot of recipes predate the horsepower of the Vitamix and this can be a problem depending on the ingredients involved. Case in point: creme fraiche. Vitamix will whip it into butter. If you need to add creme fraiche, hand mix it in after the other ingredients have been Vitamixed.
Image snicked from Vitamix website

Friday, January 10, 2014

What we learned in culinary school this week: Week 1

Started with knife skills.

This was Chef's demo. Mine wasn't quite so neat
and uniform.

We made stocks. Lots of stocks. Vegetable stock. Chicken stock. Mushroom stock. Fish stock. Lobster stock. Roasted stocks. White stocks. Brown stocks. And because we learned stocks we also learned about mirepoix.

The school generates its own stocks and we'll be using them a lot, so we'll be making more in the future.

Chicken stock.

Brown chicken stock.

Lobster for lobster stock. Boiling lobster isn't as
traumatic as people think. There was no drama, just
popped him into the pot and pulled him out 7 minutes
later. The shell went into stock and the meat became
delicious lobster salad sandwiches for lunch.

Pots and pans: Stainless steel is best, because it's non-reactive to metal on metal. Stainless is shiny, like a dime. Aluminum (duller in appearance, like a nickel) is reactive to metal on metal, which means it can affect the taste and appearance of the food. For example, if you use a metal whisk to stir milk in an aluminum pot, the reaction will turn it gray in color. Very unappetizing. You would want to stir with a wooden spoon in an aluminum pot. Or just go with stainless. Examples of high-performance/quality are All-Clad (stainless), Le Creuset (cast iron covered with enamel) and copper.

Class dismissed!

Monday, January 6, 2014

My vision is a little blurry

Our first assignment (given to us at the orientation in November and due the first day of school) was to write a vision statement explaining why we're here and what we hope to get out of the school.  Here's mine:
I'm entering this program without concrete plans for the future. I'm here partly because of my very positive past experience with the school, which has stoked my love for cooking and inspired me to consider making it more than just a hobby. 
At the very least, one idea I do have for this training is to write and publish cookbooks. I love to write and self-publishing is a no-brainer these days. Assistance with how to promote self-published books is all over the internet, with a big assist to social media. I feel that if I had the expertise to create recipes, then this is the least I would be able to do with it in the future. 
Beyond that, what I would like to get out of the program (besides the knowledge, skills and enjoyment) is a clearer idea of additional opportunities available when I've graduated. I feel that this is something that will happen as I progress through the program. 
I attended a number of recreational classes at New School in 2013 and absolutely loved each and every one. In addition to the actual cooking, I was blown away by the amount of knowledge I gained in each class. How to buy, what to buy, nutritional information...when I think about how much I learned in each recreational class, the idea of what I could learn attending five days a week for six months is kind of ming boggling to me. The knowledge I've gained from the classes I've taken so far has made me want to learn more, and based on my experience I'm confident in the school, its instructors and its methods.

Sunday, January 5, 2014

Ladies and gentlemen, presenting the world's smallest goalie!!!

Staples Center frequently hosts short but entertaining battles with kids hockey teams between periods at Kings games.  The Brother and I always find them adorable and love how much fun the kiddies have skating on the same ice as their NHL idols.  We've seen some ridiculously cute little hockey players, but at last night's first intermission featured the littlest goalie we've ever seen.  And we've seen some little guys (and girls) out there, but then this happened:

The chick in the shot and her beret aren't giants, they just look that way because TEENY TINY GOALIE!!!

 The best thing about this kid was that he meant business out there.  Just look at that concentration.

 He made a pretty big save too, although I didn't get a picture of that.

Seriously, microscopic goalie makes that chick look like a giant, but she really wasn't.  Also, she had a really awesome Stanley Cup Champions letterman's jacket that I totally coveted, but I digress...

 Action shot!!!

His work here is done.  Your move, Jonathan Quick.

Seriously, they make goalie gear that small?

We just loved this little guy to death.  Hopefully, some day in the future he'll be between the pipes for the Kings, although by that time I'll probably be too old and senile to know what's going on when he's making huge saves.

Saturday, January 4, 2014

More beachy words of inspiration!

Based on personal experience, if you have a shell in your pocket you'll also have sand in your pocket :)

H/T to Beach Cottage Life on Facebook.

Friday, January 3, 2014

Food for sleepless thought

I have terrible insomnia.  I'm not really sure why.  Often there are nights like the night before last, when I just couldn't shut it down until about 3:30 am even though I really, really wanted to go to sleep.  It's like my brain won't take a break.  From a creative standpoint that sounds awesome, but the reality is that it sucks and I'm bloodshot-eyed and ineffective and yawning constantly the next day.  I've never bought into the tortured artist thing anyway.

And then when I do actually sleep, there's last night and what that "sleep" brought.

I start culinary school on Monday and although I'm terribly excited about it, I've also started to kind freak out about it a bit this week.  Not in a debilitating meltdown way, but in more of an I can't believe I'm actually getting to do this thing that may change my life that I've been wanting to do for a while and now it's actually here kind of way.

So last night, as I slept fitfully (a phrase writers never tire of) my ever helpful insomniac brain came up with this nightmare scenario: I arrive for my first day of culinary school not only without my chef's jacket (a rather important piece of the uniform we were given at the orientation a few weeks ago), but I've also forgotten the notebook they gave us at orientation, where in addition to the vast importance of our uniforms, we were also impressed with the need to take notes and document like crazy.

And just for good measure, for some reason I also show up for class barefoot.  No idea how that got in there, as the required rubber-soled shoes part of the uniform was never a problem (thank you my latest pair of Nikes).

I woke up traumatized and tired.  Thanks brain, you heartless bastard you.

Years ago, my Dad informed me that I'd inherited my lousy sleep patterns from him.  He gave me an over-the-counter pill to help me sleep, supposedly so effective that I could cut the thing in half where it was scored down the middle and still achieve the desired sleepy results.  I tried it once and while it worked, I was so disturbed at how difficult it was for me to get up and go after that drugged, sleep-filled night that I never tried any sort of sleeping pill again.  There was just something creepy about the effect and how little control I had over it.

But then there's the insomnia thing, which I also can't control.  But at least I can own it, I guess.  So silver lining, sort of.

Sort of.

One of the things on my to-do list this weekend is ironing my chef's jacket, releasing it from its folded up, creased, plastic wrap enfolded newness, so that on Monday morning I'll look as professionally presentable as possible.  The importance of a clean, professional appearance was impressed upon us newbies at the orientation.

With that in mind, I just can't wait to see what horrific, fabric burning, apartment scorching scenario my brain will come up with over the next couple of nights.  Hope not.  Maybe sometimes ironing can just be ironing.

But insomnia and my overactive imagination...

Thursday, January 2, 2014

Life lessons from Albert Einstein

Some more words of inspiration for the new year:

Well, the man was a genius.

Wednesday, January 1, 2014