Cooking School Week 6
This photo was taken right by my cooking school. It’s in a hilly area as you can tell, and there are exceptional views of San Francisco all around. The weather is just baffling me! It’s so unlike SF. If you follow me on Instagram, there was one foggy morning yesterday. It was so foggy that my hair was damp by the time I got to school and the frizz just took over my hair. Thank goodness I have to put my hair up at school. 🙂
This week was VERY busy as we had to bake off cookies for a food shelter dinner, help our teacher make apple crisp for a benefit for about 200 people, and we had a very popular Italian chef come for a demo Wednesday where there were 10 guests other than my class present. I barely got any photos until Thursday!
Monday was part two of preserving. Weeks ago we did jams, jellies, chutneys, pickles, etc., which included my Plum Conserve. This week included salt preserving as well as smoking. We made homemade cheeses, yogurt, cream cheese, smoked duck, salmon, and chicken to name a few. I was tasked with making fresh mozzarella and preserved lemons. The lemons were super simple, but the mozzarella required a lot of attention as it needed to remain a temperature of 88-91 degrees in a pot of water for a few hours. It was a fun process, and yesterday it was ready to be stretched and formed into balls of cheese. I should have photos of it for you next week. 🙂
Tuesday we had a very special lunch guest. He was introduced as Chuck Williams, and he was an adorable 98 year old man. Over lunch, we heard Chuck’s story. Come to find out, he was the founder of the Williams-Sonoma store (hence the Williams in the name). He mentioned that he called the store Williams-Sonoma as he used his last name and his store was originally located in the town of Sonoma here in CA. He moved it to San Francisco next to Elizabeth Arden where all the wealthy women had their hair done, and the rest is history. He was such a nice gentleman!
Our lunch was one of the best ever, and thankfully I was able to photograph it.
Tornedos Henri IV, or filet mignon over toast, with béarnaise sauce. The toast absorbed the juices from the meat, which kept the plate looking nice and clean. Ingenious, right? It was served with an artichoke filled with Pommes Parisienne, or fried balls of potato.
Dessert was souffle panache, which was a coffee flavored soufflé on the bottom, vanilla on top, with nut praline in the middle. I prepared this, and when it came out of the oven it was gorgeous, just gorgeous. As it sat, it deflated. 🙁 I served the owner of our school and Chuck Williams and the owner said, “Oh, I wanted your soufflé”, because she saw it come out of the oven. I said it was mine…it deflated. My ego deflated just a little bit right there on the spot. 😉
Wednesday we each got a whole chicken to break down and prepare. I made Chicken in Vinegar, which I had no time to photograph, but I was so happy with it. The chicken pieces were pan fried, and cooked in a red wine vinegar and tomato sauce. I will be making this some time, so be on the lookout for it.
Wednesday afternoon Carlo Middione, a well known Italian chef and cookbook author came to do a demo for us. I was asked to be his sous chef, and I was so nervous. As I mentioned, there were 17 people in the audience. Carlo had a multitude of recipes that required a lot of prep, so another classmate had to help, too. It was a great experience, and I did settle down once we got into it. He was such a patient, wonderful chef, so I was happy to assist him.
Thursday I was tasked with Whole Wheat Buttermilk Bread and the appetizer salad. We had a former student and her sister come for lunch, which was one of my favorites (again). 😉
This is the smoked duck and orange salad with hazelnuts, which was what I prepared. This was not the salad I plated, as mine had all been served up to others. I’m not normally a duck person, but it was pretty delicious smoked with the tangerines and citrus dressing.
The photo doesn’t do this pan fried swordfish with pickled tomatoes and couscous justice. This dish just bursted with flavor from the pickled tomatoes, and the swordfish was breaded and cooked just perfectly. The couscous was the perfect side to soak up the pickling liquid. Delish!
Dessert was dulce de leche profiteroles with milk chocolate sauce. I just love choux pastry desserts! 🙂
Friday was a big eating day. We wine tasted and tasted our homemade cheeses and smoked meats. Our appetizers were so tasty.
The smoked salmon was atop my whole wheat buttermilk bread, which tasted great. I’ve never been that into smoked salmon, but this was incredible!
The smoked chicken with spicy apple chutney and baguette was utterly delicious as well. I could eat that chutney right outta the jar!
For lunch we tasted four different dishes. I was already full on the app’s.
Maatar Paneer, with homemade paneer cheese. This Indian dish was full of curry flavor and that homemade cheese…just irresistible. So irresistible I only nibbled on the other dishes and had two helpings of this.
Salmon “soup” with fresh pasta and cream sauce. A bit rich for me, but the homemade pasta was lovely.
It was also meringue day. Meringues have never been a favorite of mine unless it’s atop a lemon pie. We had three very different meringue desserts, and they actually changed my opinion.
I made these miniature raspberry vacherin meringues, which had ground almonds in the meringue. The almond really helped add texture and cut the sweetness some. I actually enjoyed these, and was happy with how they turned out.
Our instructor made these adorable fresh fruit meringue baskets full of whipped cream and strawberries. They were delicious, but very sweet. I could certainly see these at a bridal or baby shower, or Mother’s Day celebration. Who could resist?
Last, and certainly not least, we have hazelnut dacquoise. THIS was to die for. The meringues were baked with chopped hazelnut, and it was served with a cocoa nib cream that was out of this world. I really want to make this — it was just heavenly.
Tips of the week:
* If your heavy whipping cream is going to go bad, make creme fraiche out of it as it keeps for weeks!
* Any time you’re making a super flavorful main dish, serve a very simple or plain side dish like rice pilaf or mashed potatoes or there will be too much going on flavor-wise in your dish.
* Making roasted chicken or thinking about your Thanksgiving turkey? Do a dry brine. Salt between the skin and breast, all over the bird, and inside the cavity and refrigerate covered with plastic wrap for up to 4 days. This will result in very moist meat!
* Always remove the chicken tender from the breast meat when cooking chicken breast so it cooks more evenly.
* When meat begins to come away from the chicken bone, test for doneness as it’s getting close. Fully cooked is 165 degrees.
* Coconut oil is great to fry with as it can withstand very high heat.
* Grind rice or dry grains in your coffee grinder after grinding spices in it to help remove spice flavor.
* Super fine sugar is great for meringues as it dissolves quicker. You can make superfine sugar by processing or grinding granulated sugar.
* When meringue is done whipping, hold the whisk attachment or beater upside down with meringue on it. If the top inch doesn’t budge, it’s ready.
* If meringues weep during baking, it means the sugar wasn’t dissolved.
* Always add a pinch of cream of tartar to egg whites while beating as it helps stabilize.
And the most important tip of the week:
* NEVER apologize for your food. We all have an image in mind of what we want our dish to look like, but nobody else knows that. 9 times out of 10 people love the dish and pointing out flaws only calls attention to it when it’s not necessary, and makes people think you’re probably picky about what they’re serving you. Makes sense doesn’t it?
Have a great weekend everyone!