Cooking School Week 19
The photo above was taken on my walk home just before the North Beach area. I love how dramatic the streets are — swooping downward then upward, one after the other. There’s no place like SF. 🙂 I’m finally catching up on my cooking school posts, mostly because I have no recipes lined up that I’m dying to post instead. I’ve decided that the last few weeks of school I’m going to do less blogging and concentrate on studying for my written and practical exams. Now that’s practical. 😉 I’m really down to the wire — my graduation is March 14! I’m feeling sentimental, but I’m ready to be done. I feel like I’ve learned what I wanted to plus so much more, and I’m in a really good place. Best. experience. ever. 🙂
Week 19 was a short week as we actually had a holiday for President’s Day. I really needed it! Unfortunately, my son got the flu Sunday night. He wasn’t better by Tuesday, so I stayed home from school with him. Obviously, this made my school week even shorter. On Tuesday, I missed a menu day and a demonstration on game birds and venison. I’m not big into game birds or venison! 🙂
When I came in on Tuesday I was given the recipes for the week. We were having a workshop in game birds and venison, and we were each to debone and stuff a squab, working in pairs on our stuffing and a side dish. You know what squab is right? Pigeon. I’d kind of forgotten what a squab was until later, or I put it out of my head so that I didn’t have a picture of a little pigeon in my head as I deboned it. Well, we used the bones to make a stock and an essence, and made a stuffing of leeks, kale, mushrooms, breadcrumbs, garlic, celery, and currants. The stuffing was awesome — I at least knew I’d eat that! We also made a sweet potato puree as a side, which was a highlight for me.
Here’s our dish, which came out very well. I did taste the squab, and it tasted a big like liver, which is never a good thing to me. Our instructor told us that it tastes like liver when it’s overcooked. Pretty much everybody’s squab tasted like liver. 😉 I ate the stuffing and the puree with the pan sauce, which was deglazed with Madeira…one of my favorite things to cook with. Minus the squab, this was a good meal!
I was pretty hungry by the afternoon since I hadn’t eaten much, and luckily we had a demo on Cooking of Northern India. The Chef was Laxmi Hiremath, who is the author of a cookbook titled “The Dance of Spices”. I helped her prep her dishes with two other classmates before the demo, which was fun. Her food was so warm and soulful — full of spice and and flavors. The chef started off by making her own homemade garam masala, which filled the room with a lovely spicy scent. She made a little tasting menu, and let us each roll out and fry our own balloon bread, which was so easy and so tasty!
This plate consists of what’s considered Indian street food — garbanzo bean curry, roasted eggplant with tomatoes, and the balloon bread. I loved each dish, and really could eat like that every day. To cool our palates afterward, we drank a glass of mango lassi, which was so thick and delicious with pure mango puree, buttermilk, and cardamom.
Thursday was a menu day where one of my classmates was chef. I was so excited about the menu, because it was chalk full of delicious dishes.
Clam Ragu with Bacon, Roasted Tomatoes, and Mustard Greens. I was assigned this dish, which I was very happy about. I’ve learned to love working with clams and mussels at school, and boy, do they ever taste good with bacon! This dish was fabulous.
Daube of Short Ribs with Horseradish Olive Oil Potato Puree, Roasted Broccoli with Garlic, and Spiced Caramelized Cauliflower. That’s a mouthful, and so was this dish! The meat was falling off the bone tender with a red wine sauce, and those horseradish mashed potatoes were some of the best I’ve ever tasted. I dub this as one of the best dishes we’ve had at school.
Tropical Pavlova with Passionfruit curd. The pavlova or meringue just melted in your mouth, and was like a gourmet marshmallow creme inside. The passionfruit curd was just delicious, and this dessert sent me to a tropical paradise. Heavenly!
Thursday afternoon was a demo on Gluten-Free baking, which I couldn’t wait for. I love dappling in gluten-free baking with different flours. I have a few family members that follow gluten-free diets, and I figure I can use less gluten as well. The chef was a former pastry student from the school. She made us (4) desserts, which we were to recreate the next day ourselves. I immediately knew what I wanted to do — the GF spice cupcakes with orange cream cheese icing. 🙂 I have to confess that I didn’t enjoy a few of the desserts, because they had a dry, almost grainy texture. The next day we made a few modifications to see if we could improve them.
On Friday, we each chose our GF dessert, and worked on various things for lunch, which was a big cassoulet. It was a pretty laid back Friday, which was a nice change of pace. We also had a blind wine tasting to get ready for our exam, since we’re expected to know the varietals that we’ve tasted and the region that each are from. I need to get studying!
Here are our gluten-free desserts out for presentation:
There were my cupcakes, apple pie, a fruit tart, and chocolate crinkle cookies. 🙂
Gluten-free Carrot Spice Cupcakes with Orange Cream Cheese Frosting. When I make carrot cupcakes, I like to throw orange zest in the frosting and the batter because it just freshens them up so nicely. My instructor had the great idea to top these with candied orange peel, and it was delicious. I added coconut to the batter, and my cupcakes were actually less dry, probably due to the extra fat from the coconut. They tasted more like muffins than cupcakes, but for a GF alternative, they were very good.
Fresh Fruit Tart with GF Almond Crust. This was actually one of my favorite GF dishes. Who can resist fresh pastry cream topped with juicy pineapple? The filling moistened the crust nicely, so this was very enjoyable. Beautiful, too, right? 🙂
This Apple Pie with GF Crust was a hit. The filling was made with the usual, with tapioca flour added as a thickener. The crust left something to be desired for me, but with that filling to soften it, it was delicious.
The bottom line for me was, I could tell these were gluten-free texture-wise, but if you need a GF dessert, it’s nice to have that option. There are some great GF cookbooks out there, and I borrowed one called Blackbird Baking from my classmate to make her a GF tiramisu for her birthday. The ladyfingers tasted better than regular in my opinion, although the batter was runny and hard to pipe. They just got cut up and smothered in custard, so who really cared? Not me. 🙂
Now, for the tips of the week. Since it was a short week, there were few:
- Alfonso mangoes are prized mangoes in India, which is a blend of rose, pineapple, and nectarine flavors. You can find alfonso mango puree at Indian markets, which is fabulous in mango lassis!
- You can make mashed potatoes beforehand and keep them perfectly moist and piping hot without drying them out. Simply have them heated until hot, then place in a pot on the stove top in pot of hot simmering water. They’ll be the perfect temp and texture for serving time! Thank heaven for the bain marie.
- If you need eggs to come to room temperature in a hurry, fill a bowl with hot water and place the eggs in it. They’ll be room temp in minutes!
- Eggs should always be room temp for perfect emulsification. They’re so much more homogenous when mixed with oil and fat at room temp.
- If you’re intimidated by making pie crust, you can start out by making one gluten-free. Since there’s no gluten in the crust, there’s no risk of overworking the gluten and making it tough. You could make the xanthum gum gummy if you over mix, which is used for structure, but there’s much less risk of that.
- You don’t have to chill GF pie dough because there’s no gluten to relax.
- Always bake pies in lower 1/3 of the oven so the bottom browns nicely. If it gets too brown, move it up or place a sheet pan beneath it.
- When going for a GF flour blend, King Arthur’s is one of the best.
Thanks for stopping by, and have a great weekend!