Sunday, April 27, 2014

What we learned in culinary school this week: Week 15

All over the place this week. Chef decided to have us do a seasonal vegetables refresher course on Monday and Tuesday. Then we did quick breads on Wednesday and brunch on Thursday. Our Friday lunch was breakfast to order and then the school had a famous pastry chef doing a macarons demo Friday evening and I volunteered to help prepare food for the guests attending that event. Whew!

California Chopped Salad. A terrific, light,
refreshing spring/summer salad.

Bruschetta with Fava Bean Puree. A great way to
get people who hate bean (me) to eat them.

Mushroom Bourgignon. HOLY MOTHER OF GOD
this is one of the best things we've ever made. I
LOVED it. So substantial, you don't miss the beef.

Haricots Verts. Another way to get me to eat beans.

Zucchini Fritters with Minted Creme Fraiche.

Asparagus Polonaise.

We also made Green Bean Salad with Pesto, Spring Vegetable Fricassee, Cauliflower Couscous with Quinoa, Eggplant and Porcini "Meatballs" and Zucchini Spaghetti with Pesto, among others.

Quick Breads:
We went over various leavening agents whose properties are very scientific, so it's a good thing I wrote them down because I don't retain that stuff. Long story short - baking powder and baking soda are not the same thing, so don't get them mixed up. In fact, there's a lot of science in baking that I will not bore you with here.

Most baked goods are non-perishable, but taste will deteriorate over time. When measuring brown sugar, the question is always how tightly it should be packed into the measuring cup. The answer: tight enough to hold its form, but should fall apart when tapped. Unlike cooking, measurements in baking must be precise. High end baking is done in weight, rather than volume.  And yes, the toothpick method for determining the doneness of baked goods is legit!

Also, you want to let breads and muffins cool completely before cutting into them, or you lose a lot of moisture.

Apple Streusel Muffins.

Bacon Cheddar Buttermilk Biscuits.

Banana Bread. Waited until it was completely
cooled before cutting it. It stayed moist for a week.

Pumpkin Chocolate Bread.

You want stuff that you can keep and serve at room temperature.

Fruit salads and platters - you can use less ripe, less expensive produce for salads. Cut up into pieces and add a dressing. For platters, you need the pretty, good quality stuff.

If your recipe calls for room temperature eggs, rather than waiting on them (or if you forgot to set them out) put them in a bowl, cover with warm water and they'll be good to go in a few minutes.

Asparagus Frittata with Fresh Herbs and Goat
Cheese. After taking this picture, we were informed
that we can't use fresh basil for garnish. Too
valuable to waste, I guess. Still, look how pretty!!!

Pommes a L'Huile. Hands down the best potato
salad I've ever had. Will be making this one again.

Fruit Salad with Yogurt Poppy Seed Dressing.

Smoking trout for the Smoked Trout Hash.

Sour Cream Coffee Cake.

Brunch is served!

Saturday, April 26, 2014

French Macarons with Jacquy Pfeiffer

Award winning baking and pastry chef Jacquy Pfeiffer conducted a demo and book signing Friday evening at the school. Along with a couple of my classmates, I volunteered to prepare the buffet that was set out for attendees.

Chef Jacquy Pfeiffer recently released The Art of French Pastry, which recently received a nomination from The James Beard Foundation (the Oscars of cooking). He is also the co-founder of The French Pastry School in Chicago. He has a very thick French accent and a very quick wit. Our work done, we got to hang out and watch his demo of French Macarons. I need to get his book.

Grilled Bread with Trout, Tomato and Chives
Grilled Bread with Fava Bean and Pecorino
Grilled Panini
Fruit and Cheese Platters

My fava bean and pecorino work station ready to go.

Ready to be served.

The trout with tomato and chives. I thought it
turned out really pretty.

Lunch #6

Yesterday's lunch service was actual breakfast made to order. Guests were given a slip of paper with their choice of entrees, which were served with potatoes and biscuits.

We were assigned to particular stations. I wound up on crepes. My partner was better at them, so she cooked the crepes and I plated them. We had also made the biscuits earlier, and I whipped up the cream for the crepes.

Choice of Breakfast Entree
(Vegetable Scramble, Omelet, Blackberry Crepes,
Eggs Florentine, or Eggs Benedict)
Buttermilk Biscuit and Potatoes

Crepe pans at the ready!

Plating for Blackberry Crepes entree.

Quite the crowd.

After our guests are gone, it's lunch time for us
culinary students. Food service really works up
an appetite!

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Fishy advice

This article on Buying and Storing Whole Fish from Saveur covers points about buying fish that are pretty basic, but it probably doesn't hurt to have the periodic reminder.

They also have this great advice on storing your beautiful, fresh fish once you've brought it home:
Store whole fish in the coldest part of your fridge wrapped in parchment or butcher's paper on a tray of crushed ice. Make sure the fish does not come in direct contact with ice, which can cause frost damage. Change the ice frequently, as melting ice will waterlog the flesh, deteriorating the flavor and texture.

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Cakes of L.A.

Via LAist: Awesome cakes of L.A. landmarks. Per the article, the cakes were created for a fundraiser for Mattel Children's Hospital UCLA. Cakes included the La Brea Tar Pits, Capitol Records, the Paramount Cakes and Beverly Hilton Hotel.

I can't imagine the amount of time and work that went into these cakes. They're just gorgeous.

Image from the article.

Monday, April 21, 2014

What I learned today: "Breadcrumbs" is one word

So sayeth my spellcheck when I was retyping today's recipes. It's bread crumbs on the recipes, but for the sake of not having to look at any more squiggly red and green lines than necessary, I'm going with breadcrumbs.

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Saturday, April 19, 2014

2014 Los Angeles Times Festival of Books - More books!

The sparse non-food related book haul from this year's FOB:

Los Angeles Noir ($15.95 from Sisters in Crime) and Los Angeles Noir 2: The Classics ($15.95 at Mysterious Galaxy Bookstore), both edited by Denise Hamilton
I'm not sure how I don't already own these two books, but that situation was rectified on Sunday. The first installment features short stories that take place in locales from San Marino to Hollywood to Pacific Palisades to Belmont Shore, with a number of stops in between. Contributors include Michael Connelly and editor Denise Hamilton. Bonus: Hamilton was at the Mysterious Galaxy booth and autographed the book for me (To Melinda - Enjoy these dark tales). The second installment features short stories from such greats as Raymond Chandler, James M. Cain, Walter Mosley, Ross Mcdonald and James Ellroy.


I've always been fascinated by the fine line between homage and plagiarism. This little book takes the approach that "nothing is original" and that's it's okay to be inspired by the works of others. It includes other nuggets of inspiration to give your creativity a boost, while also stressing the importance of having a well-rounded personal life as well as an artistic one. 

My final purchase was a $3 book of crossword puzzles from the Bargain Book Warehouse. Plus, I also got the obligatory annual commemorative FOB mug and refrigerator magnet. After that, I gave my credit card a few days off to recover from its exhausting weekend.

This was my third consecutive FOB I've attended, and it was a big improvement over last year, mainly because the weather cooperated, unlike last year when it was scorching hot.

And the USC campus is as beautiful as ever:

The 2014 L.A. Times Festival of Books - Cookbooks and the Cooking Stage

Now that I've had a few days to recover from the Festival of Books it's time to review my FOB purchases. Let's just say I went in hoping to show some restraint and failed miserably. Here's this year's haul, beginning with books by two chefs who made appearances on the festivals' Cooking Stage:

L.A. Son: My Life, My City, My Food by Roy Choi with Tien Nguyen and Natasha Phan ($29.99 at Book Soup)

L.A. native and food truck maestro Roy Choi was interviewed by Pulitzer-winning food critic Jonathan Gold of the L.A. Times. Some highlights:
  • When Choi arrived at CIA (Culinary Institute of America) at age 26, he was keenly aware that he'd already lived a lifetime (which included alcohol and gambling issues, stealing from family members and rebelling against his upper-class upbringing) while his classmates - who were all in the 18-19 year old range - were just beginning theirs. He was also always on alert that CIA was his last chance and that he couldn't let old, bad habits ruin that for him. He would go on to graduate near the top of his class.
  • Compared attending CIA to being at Hogwarts. (Gold: "But every class is potion class.") Choi said the school "fit like a glove".
  • Choi was recruited to coach actor/director Jon Favreau for his role in the upcoming feature film Chef. He made Favreau work full shifts in one of his restaurants and was impressed by how quickly he caught on. He attributed this at least partly to the facts that actors need to be able to absorb information quickly when researching roles.
  • At one point in his career (pre-Kogi) he found himself cooking at a hotel in Lake Tahoe. Despite the fact that he never meant to work at a restaurant, he decided to go all in and be the best hotel chef he could. He eventually worked his way to cooking at the Beverly Hilton.
  • Considers Los Angeles and its diverse neighborhoods to be part of the reason that Kogi was successful. Despite constant criticism of the city being too spread out, Choi feels that's a big reason he could pull off the food truck. He said that only in L.A. could he park his truck by some railroad tracks behind a warehouse in Santa Fe Springs and send out a message on social media to promptly attract hundreds of diners. Today the Kogi trucks (all four of them) make regular stops in areas like Whittier, Granada Hills, El Monte, City of Industry and Signal Hill, as well as hipper venues like DTLA, Venice, Coachella, Pasadena and the Yahoo! Center in Santa Monica.
Choi is colorful and passionate not only about his food, but also about his diverse, fascinating city. It was an impressive and inspiring interview. Ye stirred and may have rekindled a love of L.A. that has been falling away for me the past couple of years. His book is a combination autobiography, cookbook and celebration. I'm only partway through it, but recommend it highly.

Taming the Feast: Ben Ford's Field Guide to Adventurous Cooking by Ben Ford and Carolynn Carreno ($34.99 at Book Soup)
Ford demo'd a couple of the recipes from his book (Bacon-Wrapped Quail with Pickled Jalapeno Stuffing which he served on Cornbread and Sausage Dressing). The demo was followed by a book signing. Some highlights:
  • His restaurant, Ford's Filling Station, began raising their own pigs, goats and sheep about five years ago. He believes that raising the animal builds a reverence for it, so it's no surprise he is also a believer in using all of the animal.
  • He was asked about his culinary influence and cited his native California as well as his wife's home state of Texas. He also cited his mother as an amazing home cook and early influence, so much so that he will be co-writing his next cookbook with her.
  • Ford's Filling Station (opened about 8 years ago) was the first gastropub on the west coast.
  • Someone asked him the strangest thing he'd ever cooked and the answer was beaver tail. He said it was not a pleasant experience.
  • Ford's Filling Station currently has two locations (Downtown Culver City and the Delta Terminal at LAX) and is about to open Filling Station number three at the Marriott at L.A. Live.

Taming the Feast is a 280 page behemoth, a coffee-table book among cookbooks, but worth every penny (and will be a lot cheaper on Amazon when it's released to the public on May 6). Each section features a large-scale feast with a preparation timeline, a smaller home version (the "tamed feast) and uses for leftovers. Influenced by his father Harrison Ford, who worked as a carpenter before Star Wars made him a movie star, the book also includes instructions and illustrations for a number of DIY projects including building a roasting shed, cinder block grilling pit and clambake barrel. Ford's is a hands-on approach to food and its preparation as a passionate family and community experience.

While Chef Ford was relaxed and chatty onstage, he was decidedly reticent one-on-one, so no, we didn't have a conversation about me being in culinary school. I'm not terribly outgoing myself, so it wasn't like I was going to initiate the conversation, plus it seemed like they wanted the signing line to move quickly, so I got my book signed and moved on. Still thrilling.

Translation: To Melinda - Make cooking an adventure! Ben Ford

The Little Paris Kitchen: 120 Simple but Classic French Recipes by Rachel Khoo. ($10 at Bargain Book Warehouse)
I'd caught Rachel's show The Little Paris Kitchen on The Cooking Channel recently and fell in love. I had no idea there was a corresponding cookbook. Rachel is from London, but fell in love with French food and life during a trip to Paris. She moved to Paris and enrolled at Le Cordon Bleu. The book is an extension of the simple but elegant approach showcased on Rachel's show.

Cake Couture: Modern Sugar-craft for the Stylish Baker by Annie Dam ($5 at the $10 or Less Bookstore)
Photograph-laden (which I love in a cookbook) with lots of instruction on technique, as well as recipes. I may decorate a decent looking cake yet.

Chefs on the Farm: Recipes and Inspiration from the Quillisascut Farm School of the Domestic Arts by Shannon Borg and Lora Lea Misterly ($5 at the $10 or Less Bookstore)
In addition to having as many photographs as possible crammed in, I'm also a big fan of storytelling in cookbooks.  Chefs on the Farm is broken into sections of seasonal foods, the importance of which has been pounded into us in cooking school.

Ice Cream Treats: Easy Ways to Transform Your Favorite Ice Cream Into Spectacular Desserts by Charity Ferreira ($5 at the $10 or Less Bookstore)
Just what it says: an array of ice cream treats including drinks, sundaes, parfaits, sandwiches, cakes, pies, sauces and toppings, along with home made ice creams. Bonus points for the sundaes combination charts.

Sicily by Editors of Phaedon ($10 at the $10 or Less Bookstore)
We recently covered Italian and French regional cooking in school. In both countries food varies from region to region depending on local weather, soil and resources, so I've been on the lookout for cookbooks addressing this.

The Country Cooking of Italy by Colman Andrews (with a forward by Mario Batali) ($15 at the Bargain Book Warehouse
The cover may look stuffy, dated and kind of boring, but this is a huge, hardcover book that comes out of the gate with a colorful, beautifully illustrated map of Italy's regions and the foods that define them. Lots of pics of Italy and its foods, past and present. Covers antipasto, soups, pastas, seafood, poultry, rabbit, pork, lamb, goat, game, produce, desserts and so much more. I'm really looking forward to diving into this one.

Food Lovers' Guide to Los Angeles: The Best Restaurants, Markets and Local Culinary Offerings by Cathy Chaplin ($16.95 from Book Soup)
Usually when you see these types of guides at a discount vendor, you can count on it to be outdated or at least not the latest edition, but this is a 2014 1st edition so I grabbed it. Covers the San Gabriel Valley to the coasts and everything in between. Also includes recipes from local eateries including Border Grill, Good Girl Dinette, Mo-Chica's, M.B. Post, Kogi and more. This will come in handy when I graduate and can start checking out local places when I'm no longer being stuffed daily at school.

Lemonade and Iced Tea by Fred Thompson ($5 each at the the Bargain Book Warehouse)
Each of these contain 50 recipes for enjoying these two refreshing drinks in a variety of ways, including the basics, lots of different fruit combinations and some adult beverage options. The books are small but colorful and packed.


Sweet on Texas by Denise Gee ($7 at the Bargain Book Warehouse)
I found this one late in the day on Sunday when I was really trying not to buy any more books. I made the mistake of flipping through it and couldn't pass it up. In addition to big, glorious pictures for almost every single recipe, it contains such intriguing treats as Deep-Fried Coca-Cola, Margarita Snow Cones, Gingerbread Pancakes, Ancho-Choco Truffles, Sweet Pineapple Tamales with Cointreau Cream, Hatch Chile and Avocado Ice Cream, and Cherry Dr. Pepper Cupcakes.

The Golden Book of Chocolate by Barron's Educational Series ($7 at the Bargain Book Warehouse)
300+ chocolate recipes. 'Nuff said.

The Complete Idiot's Guide to Wine & Food Pairing by Jaclyn Stuart and Jeanette Hurt ($5 at the $10 or Less Bookstore)
Because this isn't my strong suit.

Knife Skills by Marcus Wareing, Shaun Hill, Charlie Trotter, Lyn Hall ($4 at the Bargain Book Warehouse)
Because I need to work on my knife skills. This small book contains a ton of information on different types of knives and other cutting accessories, knife care and how to cut a variety of food items, including fruits, vegetables, meat and dough. Lots of pictures demonstrating techniques that will come in very, very handy.

I actually managed to buy a few books that weren't food related. Next post...

Monday, April 14, 2014

Spring break this week!

There will be no food service this week - we are on a much-needed break this week. At the beginning, when I saw the break on the schedule, I was actually kind of bummed, but at this point we kind of need it. The work is fun but intense.

As an added bonus, it will also give me a chance to recover from the L.A. Times Festival of Books. More about that (and my book buying spree) later, when I've had some rest.

Sunday, April 13, 2014

What we learned in culinary school this week: Week 14 (Part 2 - France)

Like I mentioned in the previous post, I missed Thursday. The France section was like Italy - divided into North and South. We had a rough day because we were the bread (pullman loaf) to make Apple Charlotte.

I didn't really think the Apple Charlotte was worth the trouble, not to mention that it's just made with plain bread. That's not the kind of thing I think about when I think of French baked goods.

The beginnings of an Apple Charlotte. You get the

The cheeses went over a lot better:

Paillaisson de Pommes de Terre Aux Poireaux
(Straw Potato Cake Stuffed with Braised Leeks).
Took a while to cook, but it was really good.

We also did crepes. Harder than they look!

Crepe pans lined up, ready for duty!