Cooking School Week 9

transamerica bldg

Last week I finished my 9th week of school.  Many people were surprised that we weren’t off school last week, but I said we’re the school that barely sleeps.  This is a fast paced program, people! 🙂  We did have a short day on Wednesday, meaning we got out around 12:30, but boy was I slammed with Thanksgiving prep from the second I walked through the door.  I made my turkey stock that night, and got to work on my sky high key lime meringue pie (coming soon!), and my apple cranberry pie bars.  That was all I could muster, so the rest waited until the next day.  Did you get any time off last week, and did you host Thanksgiving??  My inquiring mind wants to know. 😉

Last Monday we kicked off the week reviewing classic French sauces:

  • Bechamel
  • Veloute (béchamel with stock)
  • Demi-glace
  • Mayonnaise
  • Hollandaise

It was a workshop day, and we had ten recipes to crank out and try.  It was a very busy day, and we were expecting lunch guests.  I had zero time for photo ops, but we made the following dishes:

  • Chicken Pot Pie (veloute)
  • Crab cakes Remoulade (mayonnaise)
  • Spinach roulade with tomato sauce (béchamel)
  • Cauliflower with sauce mousseline (hollandaise)
  • Filet of sole dugiere (veloute)
  • Beef bordelaise (demi-glace)
  • Pommes Anna — a buttery layered potato side dish
  • Pork Chops charcuterie (demi-glace), which was assigned to me.

The demi-glace sauce is very complex with a mire poux of onions, celery, and carrot cooked in butter and made into a brown roux.  Beef or veal stock is then added, and it’s reduced down with a bouquet garni, porcini mushroom, and tomato paste.  It has a deep, concentrated flavor.  It turned out great, and I was happy!  The meal was incredible that day, and I wish I had photos. 🙁  We made madeleines and biscotti that afternoon for the next day, which was fun.  I’m not sure about madeleines…I try to like them, but they just don’t do much for me.  What do you think about them?

Tuesday was another round of duck and some salt cod appetizers.  I somehow knew I was going to be assigned another whole duck, and I said bring it on.  I broke it down much faster, gave the breast meat away and braised (8) duck legs for Duck Legs with Roasted Pears and Onions.

braised duck legs

roasted pears and onions

Duck legs take forever to cook, so we used a pressure cooker.  The results were phenomenal, and now I want a pressure cooker!  The duck legs were braised in red wine and they were really delicious.  I’ve said it before, I’m not a duck fan and would never order it in a restaurant, but this was good!

A classmate cooked the duck breast in a cherry sauce, and it was very tasty.

Duck breast with cherry sauce

The side dish was one that I’ve never had before — a pasta called Fregola.  It’s tiny and round, and it was addicting.  It was served with toasted almonds.

toasted fregola with almonds

Dessert was Strawberry Carousel Cake, which is mostly white chocolate and whipped cream.  It’s very pretty, but it was a bit sweet for me with all of that white chocolate.

strawberry carousel cake

The next dessert was a meringue cake with strawberries, cream, and dramatic chocolate “fans”.  It was delicious!

baccone dolce

It’s almost impossible not to crack a meringue cake, so imagine trying to cut this bad boy! 🙂

After all the gluttony during the week, and more gluttony to come on Thursday for Thanksgiving, Wednesday was grains and legumes day, and I was thrilled.  We’re talking quinoa, farro, barley, couscous, beans, lentils, and so many vegetables that I love.  We drew for dishes, and I picked Cauliflower and Red Lentil Curry, which was good, but I felt it needed something.  Below is a not-so-great photo of my dish:

cauliflower and red lentil curry

Other dishes included:

white bean and porcini mushroom gratin

White Bean and Mushroom Gratin — YUM!

couscous salad with kabocha squash and cranberries

Spiced Couscous with Winter Squash and Cranberries

warm farro and mushroom salad with sherry vinaigrette

Warm Farro and Mushroom Salad

chickpea and sweet potato koftas

Chickpea and Sweet Potato Kofte with Yogurt Herb sauce

I wasn’t able to photograph the amaranth soufflé, warm lentil salad, and warm quinoa salad with apple and pear (one of my favorites), but don’t be surprised if you see one or more of them in future posts. 🙂

Tips of the week:

  • Cook quinoa the same way as pasta.  Boil a pot of water, pour in quinoa, and boil for 11 minutes exactly.  Rinse and drain in a fine mesh strainer.  Perfect quinoa!
  • If lentils ever stick to the pan while cooking, simply remove from heat and let them steam covered, and the moisture will remove it from the bottom of the pan (unless they’re burnt, of course!).
  • Never chop mint ahead of time as it turns black.
  • When cooking vegetarian, always layer flavors as much as possible to make the dish more interesting.  Toasting spices is one way to do this!
  • Beans should never be soaked at room temperature as they could ferment and sprout.
  • Soaking dried beans speeds up the cooking time but isn’t necessary.
  • When soaking dried beans, add about 1/2 tablespoon salt per every 1/2 gallon of water.  The salt in the soaking liquid is absorbed by the beans and makes them creamier with a softer interior.

It was a short week, so that’s all the tips from last week.  🙂


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