Cooking School Week 15
Cooking School Week 15 was a very demanding week, and I missed my first day of school Wednesday as I was sick. Run down, sore throat, and my stomach was a bit queasy to boot. My son had been ill for several days, and I’m lucky I wasn’t down for the count like him! After one day home, I felt well-rested and ready for more on Thursday. 🙂
Monday was the big day — PUFF PASTRY DAY to be exact. The end of Week 14 we’d made our doughs, did the (6) rollouts of the doughs, and wrapped them up over the weekend to tackle on Monday. I have to say, this was the most exhausting day of school yet. We were each told to use our entire batch of puff pastry dough and cut it out in a variety of shapes and sizes with different fillings, both sweet and savory. We made Gateau Pithiviers (frangipane filled pastry), Chausson au Pommes (mini apple turnovers), mini appetizers filled with chicken and mushrooms, as well as the dishes below. Everything pictured below was made by my well-floured hands. 😉
Napoleon filled with french pastry cream and topped with glace icing and chocolate. My favorite….hands down.
Bande aux fruits, or fruit tarte with almond frangipane filling. Delicious, yes, but it was no Napoleon. 🙂
Here’s an aerial shot just because I won’t be making puff pastry every day…
Salmon en Croute, or puff pastry wrapped salmon. There were caramelized leeks inside and lots of butter involved here. Luckily I had a green salad on the side. 🙂
I wish I had photos of the other pastries I made that day, but they were hauled off and saved for breakfast. It was a challenging day, but one of the tastiest as well. The payoff was taking a cake round full of napoleon and band aux fruits home!
Tuesday was a menu day with lunch guests. I wasn’t excited about the menu, mostly because there was — you guessed it! — more duck. I was working with two other classmates on the duck entree, which included duck sausage, polenta, and sautéed greens. We broke down the duck first, cut the meat into strips, seasoned it, and mixed it with some pork fat and meat that we had. We froze it, then ran it through a meat grinder. It was then made into sausages using hog casings and the KitchenAid sausage attachment. While my team members were on the sausage stuffing, I got on the polenta and finished up the greens. I have to say, that meal was incredible, and that sausage didn’t taste like duck! Below was our menu:
Frito Misto. Deep fried artichokes, fennel and lemon with homemade aioli. Of course the aioli was homemade…it’s cooking school! This was one amazing appetizer. I don’t eat fried food often, but I would if it were always this good.
Duck Sausage with Creamy Polenta and Sauteed Greens. There’s not really a way to plate sausage and make the dish look sexy, let’s face it. The taste made up for the appearance, and this dish got rave reviews from everyone. Yup…I surprised myself too, because I dug this duck sausage. 🙂
Babas au Rum was one dessert, which I’d never heard of. Basically, it’s a yeast cake with currants, soaked in a simple syrup with orange juice and rum. This was one of my favorite desserts out my whole time at school. I wish my photo did it justice.
Savarin, another yeast cake I’d never heard of. It was much like the first, just a different shape, soaked in a syrup flavored with Grand Marnier, orange juice, and vanilla bean. It was topped with whipped cream and apples. Ah-mazing! No, I didn’t eat one of each dessert — a classmate and I split each one. What do you take me for? Honestly, these cakes were so good I probably could’ve polished off both of them. 😉
Tuesday afternoon my instructor gave us a demo on cooking with alternate sources of protein like tofu, seitan, and tempeh. We sampled portobello mushroom with tofu scramble, a curry dish, and silken tofu hazelnut pie. The pie was great! I’m not a tofu person whatsoever, but I didn’t mind what I ate at all.
Wednesday I was out sick, and missed out on the tofu workshop. I also missed a great demo on Cooking of Thailand. I love Thai food! Ugh. At least I got the recipes.
Thursday I was back at it for menu day, and I was handed another entree that I had preconceived notions about once again. It was buttermilk fried rabbit, and I was certain that I wouldn’t be eating much of it. You know what? It was outrageously good! It was only 2 of us working on it instead of 3, and we had our work cut out for us. The rabbit had been marinating in buttermilk overnight, so we had to drain it and make a nice, seasoned flour to dredge it in. I’ve never fried chicken before…EVER…so I was excited and nervous all at once.
Raviolo was the first course. Homemade pasta filled with ricotta, spinach, and an egg yolk! Cut into it, and the yolk just oozed all over the dish as shown. So delicious.
Buttermilk Fried Rabbit with Potato-Parsnip Puree and Roasted Carrots with Buttermilk Sauce and seeds. This dish was so amazing, and I’m not just saying that because I helped make it. The recipes were phenomenal! Rave reviews all around again.
Dessert was Apple Gallette with Salted Butter Caramel Ice Cream. I had to take a photo of it in tact because it’s gorgeous!
It doesn’t get much better for me than an apple dessert with a soft, buttery crust and homemade ice cream. Really.
Thursday afternoon we had a huge treat — a cheese course with a cheese monger that knew her stuff. I was so full from lunch, then this plate of the dreamiest cheese ever was placed before me:
At 12:00 we have our soft cheeses, then the semi-hard from 12:15 – 12:35, then the hard cheeses from 12:40 to 12:50. We were told to taste just the center or core of the soft cheese first, then the outer interior, then the rind, then all together to get the full effect. Just so you know, I did not eat this entire plate of cheese as good as it was. 😉
Friday was a really fun day. It was global breads day, and we worked on our lunch menu and wine tasted as we usually do on Friday. I volunteered to make English Muffins — I wanted that job! I really enjoyed making them for the first time and can’t wait to do it at home. Other classmates did homemade Naan, pita bread, and lavash. So delicious!
Here are the bagels, which my instructor dubbed the best to come out of the school kitchen. Good job to my classmate, because they were perfect!
And here are my English muffins. I loved ’em! 🙂
And now, here are the tips of the week, with a few extra from last week as promised:
- When making homemade pasta, it’s important to let the pasta rest on the counter after cutting or it will be slightly gummy instead of chewy or al dente.
- The stems on kale are fibrous, so they should be cut out from the bottom to the upper center and discarded. The stems on Swiss chard aren’t as fibrous, so they can be left intact.
- To extract pomegranate arils, cut a circle around the bloom on top and remove it. Score two sides all the way down with a knife, careful not to cut through to the fruit. Crack the pomegranate open, and remove some of the white pith. Whack the pomegranate with a wooden spoon over a bowl in the sink and the arils come out like magic!
- When poaching fruit like pears, use the liquid to make flavored simple syrup or even caramel. This is a great way to add a layer of flavor to desserts and other dishes!
- When a cake shrinks away from the sides of the pan during baking, it’s done.
- When stuffing meat, the stuffing must be cold going in.
- Always add lemon zest to stuffing as it adds just a little brightness to it.
- When brining meat, the meat and the brine must both be very cold.
- Think of spices as “the little black dress”. Less is often more, and you don’t want to overdo it.
- When making gnocchi, the potatoes should be baked and never boiled, as boiled potatoes retain too much liquid. We don’t want watery potatoes for our gnocchi!
- Don’t add all the flour at once to the gnocchi — leave out about 1/4 cup and see if it’s enough first. The dough should be sticky, not dry.
- Just because the gnocchi float during cooking doesn’t mean they’re done. Cook an additional 3 minutes or so depending on the size. It’s best to do a trial run with one before adding them all to the pot.
- When rolling puff pastry, always keep the layers lined up.
- Puff pastry should always be folded like a business letter in thirds.
- The thinner the puff pastry dough is rolled out, the more it puffs.
- If puff pastry dough won’t hold it’s shape during rolling, place it in the fridge for a bit and let the gluten relax. It will be like a new dough again.
- If you ever make homemade puff pastry, use the best quality butter you can find, like European style . Puff pastry is all about the butter, so make it the best!
- When buying puff pastry dough, make sure it’s made with pure butter (Pepperidge Farms is not)!
- Dough must be chilled 30 minutes after it’s worked every time…no exceptions. Roll it out, chill. Cut it out, chill. Chill, chill, chill. 🙂
- Use puff pastry scraps to make cheese straws or Palmiers!
- Always brush heated jam over the top of fruit on your tarts to make the fruit shiny and keep it from drying.
- Whenever using tomatoes in a dish and they’re not in season, always add tomato paste for extra flavor.
- Wiping mushrooms with a damp towel to clean them discolors them. Just go ahead and give them a rinse under the sink!
- If you ever burn onions or other bits during cooking, the entire dish will have a bitter taste to it and it can’t be fixed. It’s best to start over.
- Dijon mustard is used in vegetarian cooking to replace egg emulsifiers.
- Always cut cheese in the shape that it’s in, for example, if it’s a round wheel, cut it into a triangle so the rounded edge is intact. It’s always a good idea to leave the rind on, which are edible, so that people know what they’re eating.
- Never cut cheese too soon as it hardens quickly. If it’s hardened, turn it over and eat from the center on the other side and it will still be completely fresh as it wasn’t exposed to air.
- Cheese aged after 60 days has no more lactose, so lactose intolerant people can safely enjoy it, and semi-hard and hard cheeses have no lactose either. I had no idea!
- Mold is healthy if it’s an earth tone color. If it’s a bright, day-glow color, it will make you sick.
- When baking bread, the salt is often added after the bulk rise as it can kill the yeast.
Thanks for reading all about my adventures, and have a great weekend! 🙂