The shame of blogging.

I feel it.

At first you can’t deny your new addiction. You blog and blog all day and think “There is no way I will even fall off this particular wagon..” But then you are seduced by the cruel wench that is the business of life, and your lonely blog enters the sad group of wallflowers. The poor, the untended, the dead blog.

Not on my watch. I will at least keep this one on life-support. Like some selfish relative of a person in a coma- I will keep this bastard alive. So over then next few hours/days I will post in rapid succession my most recent journals from my American Regional Cuisine class which is taught by Chef Tommy Child.

Chef Tommy Child

This is near the end of the quarter and I have had nothing but in-kitchen classes this semester. It has been a great thing for me personally, as I hate classroom setting classes, but not so great for my blogging.

Lastly you will notice that these entries are much less technically detailed. This is because Chef Child was insistent that he was more interested in our ability to describe the food and its experiential qualities than with our ability to pick through the process and explain technique. I would have continued with my previous style, but this was easier- and between work, school, life, and all the other pop-ups it was hard to buck an easier solution to a compulsory activity.

The Best Food of the Quarter. Really…

Well if you are a clever one, and I am sure anyone reading this is exactly that, you will notice that I have skipped a week. I will gloss over it by saying that you will get the make-up post next week.

The good news is- this is some GOOOOOD stuff. Check it out.

Name: Brian L.
Week: 8
Day:1
Date:  5/24/2010

Menu: Sauteed Chicken Breast “Chardonnay”, Sauteed Beef Tenderloin “Au Poivre”, Whipped Herbed Potatoes , Glazed Batonnets of Carrots, Brussel Sprouts with Bacon

Standard of Cooking:

Sauteed Chicken Breast “Chardonnay”- This is one of those dishes that elevates extremely inexpensive ingredients. The breasts are removed from the carcass as is the wing up to the first joint. This gives you what was termed the “Airline Breast” This fabrications presents the bone in breast very nicely with its full skin and a frenched upper wing bone. Heating a pan of clarified butter until very hot and placing the chicken breast skin down until it takes a nice bit of light browning. Flip the chicken breast and repeat on the bottom side. Then place the breast, on a baking tin, into the 400* oven. The chicken will be done in about 10-15 minutes. In the mean time add the mushrooms to the pan, and cook until they render their juices and that juice is reduced by a little more than half. Deglaze pan with wine and scrape the fond. Add in the stock, demi-glace and reduce by half. Add in the cream at the last moment and adjust the seasonings. The chicken should be done! Plate it and completely cover the breast in the mushroom cream sauce. Viola! Chicken Chardonnay.

Beef Tenderloin “Au Poivre”- Nothing is more simple than beef and pepper. They mesh so well. This recipe is nothing more than nice tenderloin meddalions with a touch of mustard to help the cracked black pepper stick to the meat. Once the medallions are coated sear them off in a rocket hot pan on both sides and throw them into the oven for about 10 minutes or until at the desired doneness. I prefer rare plus to medium rare. Moo.

Outcomes: I know I keep saying this, but this was the best meal we have had at school so far. Everything was a delight to both cook and eat. The resultant dishes were worthy of a home rendition later in the same week!

Additional Information: I believe green pepper corns are some of my favorite things in the world. There have been so many times when I have used capers and found them just a bit too acidic; each of these times I wish I would have known about green pepper corns.

What I could have done to improve the outcome of the items I prepared: I could have been more precise on my cuts on the carrot dish. The results were still fantastic, but they could have presented much better with a little more attention to detail!

Personal thoughts: I love green pepper corns!

Continue reading

Roast Chicken and Film School…

Chicken+TV

Name: Brian L.
Week:6
Day:1
Date:  5/20/2010

This week saw my very first time cooking in front of a camera crew. This is one of the interesting parts of being at AiH. There are always film school kids setting up shots or walking around framing scenes. I think it’s great!

Iron Chef?

Today there was a crew set-up in the Courses restaurant to capture the culinary magic on DV cam. They probably didn’t know they were going to be primarily filming the fabrication of raw chicken- which doesn’t really look all that Rachel Ray-ish. (See how I worked that in?)

Menu: Oven Seared roast chicken, Pan Gravy, Sautéed Green Beans, Vichy Carrots, Wild Rice Pilaf

Standard of Cooking:

Oven Roasted Chicken- The real trick to this chicken was the wonderful seasoning rub that was applied before we trussed the bird. The goal is to get a very even coverage. Once the bird has been properly seasoned the trussing is a relatively easy step. I will add a video of this the very next time I roast a chicken at home. Our only problem was that the oven that we were using had a very hard time holding a 450*f temperature. This was a combination of sharing the oven with another team and some slow team basting that allowed the temperature to vacillate pretty wildly.

Wild Rice Pilaf- Wild rice is a delicious dish that has more character and complexity than I would have ever imagined. The process for cooking the rice is exactly the same as other long cooking rice. Sweating the onions and cooking the rice in a combination of stock and water would help a lot. All there is to do is cover the pan with a piece of tin foil and keep it in the over for about 45 minutes. The grain should be al dente, but is easily undercooked.

Outcomes: As stated with the chicken we ended up with a slightly raw bird at the end of the allotted cook time. This wasn’t a problem, all we needed to do was carefully carve the bird and sauté the quarters in some clarified butter. The result was actually very tasty and is something that I will do in the future.

Our wild rice was not completely al dente and could have been perfect with another 10 minutes in the oven. Next time I wont rush the rice at all.

Additional Information: This day was spent on Thursday with another class that meets in the Courses restaurant. Though a much smaller kitchen there was plenty of room to get the job done and the people were very nice.

What I could have done to improve the outcome of the items I prepared: I should have been more careful making sure the oven door wasn’t kept open so much and that the rice stayed in until it was completely cooked. The outcomes were still tasty though.

Personal thoughts: Trussing a chicken is worth the extra effort as it presents better and is more moist.

The A-I-Houston Treat *jingle*

#@&$ San Francisco

Name: Brian L.
Week:6
Day:2
Date:  5/11/2010

Menu: Rice Pilaf, Risotto, Steamed Rice, Polenta, Spaetzle, Spaghetti Carabonara, Fresh Tagliatelles

Standard of Cooking:

Risotto: This is a simple dish that can add a lot to a roasted meat dinner. All you need is Arborio rice, onions, white wine, and some chicken stock. Over medium heat sweat the onions in some clarified butter without coloring them at all. Then add in the rice and coat the whole mess of it with the fat in the pan. Add in your white wine and stir well. Now, over the course of the next 35 minutes or so you stir and ladle the chicken stock into the risotto. The starches will slowly develop out of the rice and you will have a creamy, rich, pasta-like rice dish. Make sure you season it and be careful not to overcook the risotto.

Spaghetti Carabonara: Can you boil water? Can you make bacon? Good- you’re more than halfway there.

Start a pot of salted water to boil and add in your spaghetti. While that cooks render some chopped bacon in a large pan. Combine Eggs, heavy cream, and Parmesan cheese in a bowl and hold onto it. When the pasta is al dente strain it and throw it into the pan with the rendered bacon. Get the whole pan very hot and quickly add in your wet mixture. The goal is to cook the eggs in the mixture to produce a creamy, rich sauce. You can help out the finished product with some extra cream. Serve it with some extra cheese, or even a fresh egg yolk on top!

Outcomes: Though our risotto was over-cooked I was aware of the problem that made that happen and will not let it happen again. If we are going to hold the risotto, it should not be in the over.

Additional Information: I need to learn how to make fried chicken that tastes as excellent as what was served in class! More to come on that.

What I could have done to improve the outcome of the items I prepared: I should not have kept the risotto in the oven after it reached ¾ doneness. I should have kept it off of the flame and then reincorporated another cup of stock over high heat and attention.

Personal thoughts: This was a delicious day of class. Not only were all the dishes good, but the fried chicken that was also prepared was magnificent.

Weekly Summary: This week was not a dieticians dream, but it was an important look at some of the most prolific side dishes. Potatoes are delicious and versatile, not to mention incredibly cheap. We should all have some on hand and properly stored they can last quite a while. I believe that any restaurant menu should have some innovative takes on potatoes to offer their clientele- it’s always a crowd pleaser!

The Potato Man Cometh

Darth Tater or Storm Tuber?

Name: Brian L.
Week:6
Day:1
Date:  5/10/2010

Menu: Duchesse Potatoes, Croquettes Potatoes, Lyonnaise Potatoes, Gnocchi, Pommes Chateau, Pommes Anglaise

Standard of Cooking:

Gnocchi is a great place to start. Get some mealy potatoes (Russets or others that have that grainy texture) and boil them until they are just tender. Pull them out and peel them with the back of a pairing knife. Once those are peeled force them through a food mill or a ricer. Don’t have a ricer? No problem; Use a sieve or colander.  Press them all out onto a sheet pan and pop that bad boy into a 350* oven for about 15 minutes or until the potato is dry to the touch.

Throw it in a bowl, crack in an egg and blend in the flour. Lightly knead the mixture on a floured surface for about 2 minutes… Just to get the ingredients generally incorporated. Don’t go crazy, or you will have some chewy gnocchi.

Roll out the dough into a .75” diameter pin and cut 1” segments. Place each ball on the back of a floured folk and with one finger lightly flick the balls or dough off. It should make a little divot from your finger and texture the back with a folk imprint.

Throw them in a pot of salted boiling water for about a minute (or until they float to the surface) then pull them out and sauce them. Yum!

Croquette Potatoes: These are some extremely easy to make twists on the everyday potato recipe.  Make the potatoes exactly as we made them above for the Gnocchi, but after you pull them out of the oven add in: butter, egg yolk, and seasonings. Mix it together and either roll it out gently on a floured surface or fill a Zip-Lock bag with the mixture, cut off the bottom corner, and pipe it onto a floured surface.

Heat up some oil to 350*, pull out your flour and breadcrumbs, and beat an egg. Roll the potato bombs into the flour, then the egg wash, then the breadcrumbs. Throw them right into your oil and fry until golden brown. Remove them from the oil and drain them on a paper towel or a wire rack. BAM- the best tater-tots you have ever had.

Double Plus Ungood

Outcomes: The Lyonnaise Potatoes were a disaster. They were literally the biggest failure that I have ever been involved in during Culinary School. I cut them improperly, I browned them incorrectly, I added the onions when they were not completely cooked. It was proof positive that failures can and will happen in the kitchen. The good news? They still tasted good due to all the butter and seasoning- they just didn’t look professional.

Additional Information:

Potato Gnocchi: Making pasta sounds intimidating sometimes. But it really doesn’t have to be scary at all. You don’t need special tools or a Italian Passport, you just need to experiment with it.

What I could have done to improve the outcome of the items I prepared: I should have been more careful when reading the recipe for the Lyonnaise Potatoes and probably talked to the chef about the dish, because I was obviously confused.

Personal thoughts: Stick with the dishes you are making even if they seem to be going down-hill fast. As long as you haven’t overcooked or over seasoned he dish you can still work with it to make sure that it is tasty. Change the name of the product and serve it with a smile. Only Chef Pierre will know the difference!

Eat Your Veggies

Name: Brian Laney
Week:5
Day:1
Date:  5/03/2010

Menu: Grilled Vegetable Skewers. Braised Greens, Sautéed Green Beans, Roasted Acorn Squash, Broccoli “Hollandaise”, Tempura Veggies, Sautéed Spinach

Standard of Cooking:

Grilled Vegetable Skewers- Making sure that each vegetable is cut and portioned properly will ensure each separate vegetable on the skewer gets cooked to doneness at the same time and has equal opportunity for grill contact. If you have a 2” hunk of zucchini next to a 1” mushroom- not only are you going to have either a raw zucchini or overcooked mushroom when you are done grilling, you are never going to get a grill mark on that mushroom. Season them all before assembly to get an even coating and to cut down on the amount of handling of the completed skewers- the more you mess with them the more likely the veggies are to start spinning on the skewers.

Braised Greens- The most fun I have ever had with a mustard green. What did we learn? The traditionally long cook time in a acidic bath leads to some really terrible looking grey-tinged greens. By adding a little alkali (baking powder) to the water you can cut down on the cook time significantly as well as preserve an appetizing color. I substituted salt-pork for ham hock and added bay leaf and peppercorns to the water to add depth of flavor. In the future I will use the smoked hock, as it bring gelatin to the party and thickens the broth.

Sautéed Greed Beans- These beans need to be properly par cooked in a boiling pot of water to get them most of the way to doneness before holding them for the quick cook and service. The beans will not cook to doneness in a sauté pan without coloring; this was something that my group struggled with. Keep an eye on them, particularly if you are cooking them in a rendered fat- they will brown quickly and loose their pristine presentation.

Outcomes: All of our dishes with the exception of the Skewers could have been a bit better. There was everything from a lack of color to just a bit too much and also a lack of seasoning according to Chef Pierre. I tend to disagree a bit in regards to Salt- as I believe it to be a slightly overused seasoning. I would rather taste the vegetables natural bricks and acids then have my palate subdued by added salt.

Additional Information: The cooking of vegetables is typically a much more relaxed adventure. They are at once more difficult to master and easy to work with. There is nothing more pleasant than having a whole meal that can be prepared on one cutting board and a couple of pans due to the complete lack of cross contamination concerns. There is also some wonderful things that can be done to surprise even the most passionate carnivore.

What I could have done to improve the outcome of the items I prepared: I should have been a bit more forward about the par cooking of the beans. They should have stayed in longer, but I can’t butt into every single thing that happens at our table.

Personal thoughts:

In vegetables in general the trick is to cook them until they are al dente (to the tooth in Italian) and in a manner that best showcases the products textures and flavors. While a Green Bean is revered for its sweet crispness a roasted squash should be soft and buttery. Knowing these differences and finding the proper balance is an important part of being a good chef.

Real men DO eat quiche

Breakfast or brunch are the best possible places to have some adventures in your kitchen. There is a wide variety of acceptable dishes that can really make your morning. Don’t stick only with bacon, ham, and eggs. Shake it up and make something interesting!

Also remember that I put all of the recipes into the box that is just to the right of this column. So all of the recipes that I talk about are there for you to look over and, hopefully, use this coming weekend to have an adventurous home brew culinary school adventure of your own.

Week:4
Day:1
Date:  4/26/2010

Menu:
London Broil with Maitre d’Hotel Butter
Rosemary Shrimp Kabobs
Poached Eggs (Eggs ‘Benedict’)
Rolled Omelette
Omelette Soufflée
Fritatta
Hard boiled eggs
French Toasts
Bacon on a sheet tray
Fried Eggs SU,OE,OM,
Crepes
Quiche Lorraine
Hollandaise

Don’t worry- were not going to go through all of it!

Standard of Cooking:

Eggs- Yea don’t laugh, this is a very important topic around a professional (or any) kitchen. And there is more than one way to skin every single one of these cats. There are serious contradictions between every theory that we heard.

failed attempt=eating success

I will focus on the poaching, as it is SUCH a great way to enjoy the egg on some toast or completed Eggs Benedict. Buy a dozen eggs and be brave!

Poached- Start by bringing your water to a boil and adding .5 oz. of any vinegar (preferably a clear or light-colored one). Drop your heat and allow the water to settle under a boil. If you are trying to make a large amount of poached eggs rapidly then try gently sliding the egg that has been broken into a small cup into the still water. Repeat in each of the four quarters of the pan. Take care not to let it drop quickly the goal is to let that hot water coagulate the proteins together, and not to make egg drop soup.

Want to make this a sure thing on a lazy summer Sunday? Stir the pot and create a gentle vortex. Slide your egg directly into the center of the swirl. The motion of the water, coupled with your vinegar water will keep a nice tight poached egg. Cook for about 4 minutes, or until the white is opaque but the yolk is still runny and amazing.

Quiche- Real men DO eat Quiche. The 1980’s rocked for some reasons, but this book was not one of them. Quiche is an amazing way to use your leftovers and enjoy an amazing breakfast or brunch.

Ingredients:
Pie Shell (and a pound of dry beans to keep it from shrinking)
~3 cups of meat or veggies or both- diced (should cook down to 2 cups)
3-4 eggs – depending on size
1/4 cup of milk or cream
Salt and Pepper – TT

  1. Buy or make pie shell.
  2. fill the shell with some beans (to keep it from shrinking up in the oven) and throw it in the over for 20 min @ 350*f
  3. grab any veggies or meats that you have in your fridge and dice them up roughly. You want about 2 cups worth. Throw them into a pan with a bit of oil and sauté them until tender.
  4. Grab 3 or 4 eggs and pour in a touch of milk or cream and whisk until frothy. Mix in some cheese… any cheese at all. Salt and pepper to taste.
  5. Throw the leftovers in the pie shell and then pour the eggs right over them. Shake the pan to settle the eggs into the voids.
  6. Into the oven @ 350*f for around 50 minutes or until a knife stuck into the center comes out clean- like no egg.

NOTE: Don’t have a pie shell? No probs bro! Make your Quiche in a greased skillet, and you have a frittata- man, you ARE good.

Go experiment with this. It’s pretty much fool-proof and you can really get some great flavors out of your refrigerator.

Additional Information: My biggest pit fall of cooking eggs is that I have a long-standing habit of cooking them at far to high of a temperature. Medium heat and some time will make your eggs, particularly omelets and over-easy, much less likely to brown and stick. Oil your pan and don’t rush things… delicacy people!

Outcomes and Critique: Everything was wonderful when we ate. The only things that you might have trouble with is bringing everything to the table at the same time at the right temperature and moisture level.

HOT TIP: Do you have a cast iron skillet? Heat that up in the oven while you’re toasting that pie shell and pull it out when things start finishing. Place it under a towel and then place the dishes that you are wanting to hold over in… cover them with a bowl and you will have a back-ally holding area. Sweet.

What I could have done to improve the outcome of the items I prepared: Everything went extremely well. I would have made sure that I grabbed a better skillet for the eggs, one without scratches all over the Teflon. Non-stick stops being non-stick when you lose the coating.