Archive for March, 2011
Yep, last night was beans night. Our instructor demo’d various cooking methods for various beans and we sampled 6–count ‘em, 6–bean dishes. Well, I don’t want to say too much but suffice it to say that, collectively, we students could’ve probably flown to Europe for free. Here are the dishes we had:
Aduki and Butternut Squash Stew
Red Lentil Soup
Black Soy Bean Salad
Yes, I’m a day early. But why not? Some people get really into this holiday, so I thought I’d post something about it.
St. Patrick’s Day is over a thousand years old, but Americans tend to commemorate the day with lots of food and alcohol. The holiday honors the 5th-century Brit who brought Christianity to Ireland, so because of its religious overtones and solemn occasion, the only treat allowed then was bacon and cabbage, because Lenten prohibitions on meat were waived on this day. Food was so not really a part of the tradition of this holiday that up ’til the 1970s Irish pubs were closed on the day, by law.
But the holiday acquired its more celebratory tone in the US. Irish immigrants started expressing their patriotism in 1762 with parades and parties. Initially shunned by non-Irish (probably fueled by a bit of bigotry), the number of Americans with Irish roots created a 20th-century surge among Irish Americans.
Authentic Irish spreads would include soda bread and stew, and though a few first-generation immigrants clung to the bacon and cabbage thing (updated to include corned beef, which was cheaper and sold by their Jewish neighbors in New York’s Lower East Side), the foods of choice were almost universally green. The struggle to find safe food dyes is a whole other story.
So if you join in on St. Patrick’s Day — even if you’re not Irish — have fun!
Some people really get into it, as you can see:
Saturday’s class at the Natural Gourmet Institute—It was grain day and we had to cook and taste a whole bunch of grains—rices, bulgur, millet, quinoa, kasha, couscous (although not technically a grain)—ad naseum. I never thought I’d be sick of the sight of grains, but halfway through the tasting, I was grained out. I felt like a zombie, just mindless and stupefied: “Grains! Grains!”
But the most important thing I learned about grains: If you want fluffy grains, start with boiling water, not cold water. All these years, I’ve started by combining rice with cold water, the way most people do. With rice, it’s always a 50/50 prospect of getting fluffy grains. Well, as soon as I have time to cook some up, I’m going to try using boiling water and see what I get.
I finally relented and entered the 21st century…I’m now on Twitter. You can follow me at Mizchefcooks. Just click on the Twitter link on this site. Thanks!
I wanted to share something with you guys. I found this site–Fast Food News–and I found it…um…educational. Apparently, McDonald’s is now gettin’ fancy and offering an Angus Chipotle BBQ Bacon Burger. Sounds good, right? Well, in case you’re interested, HERE’S the nutritional breakdown.
Warning: Read at your own risk.
Hi, all. It’s been a long, long week. I’m finally getting over a virus that knocked me on my butt for the last couple of weeks, so my head is clear for the first time in a while. This week’s classes were fun and informative.
Saturday, lunch and dinner were delicious. We got to roast up a lot of yummy veggies—including butternut squash, potatoes, parsnips, mushroom, and carrots, plus baked apples stuffed with walnuts and raisins. We braised shallots, fennel, and endive, and made some really good baba ganouj with seasoned pita chips. (We broke up into four groups to make all these items and, judging from the instructor’s comments, I think my group made the best baba!)
We also did an experiment with mashed potatoes. The four groups mashed up some potatoes, each group using a different implement: a hand masher, a ricer, a food processor, and a food mill. The rule of thumb about not using a food processor to mash potatoes proved true—that group wound up with gluey, nasty potatoes. All the others turned out pretty well.
On Wednesday, we had a food service lecture, which was an overview of place settings, how to serve, and the different styles of service. There are several different types of service: American, French, Russian, Wagon, Butler, Family Style, Buffet, and Fast Food/Cafeteria. The last three are obvious styles that everyone understands, but I didn’t know about the others.
These are the definitions of each style, in a nutshell:
American—Food is made completely in the kitchen and the server brings out finished food.
French—Food is partially prepared in the kitchen with final preparation done in front of guests.
Russian—Food is placed on a platter. Server then transfers the food from the platter to the guests’ plates.
Wagon—Server finishes preparation at the table. Almost like French but faster. Gives the illusion of French style. (Ex: carving the meat at the table, but no actual cooking). Also refers to the fact that food is brought out on a wagon for guests to choose from.
Butler—Combination of Russian and family-style serve-yourself.
Family Style—Large platters set on table; guests serve themselves.
Buffet—Food is prepared ahead of tine and served from steam tables.
Fast Food/Cafeteria—Self-service, pre-cooked.
Then we took a look at the different protein groups (where cooking is concerned)—that is, fish, poultry, ruminant meat (animals that chew their cud), non-ruminant meat (pigs), and dairy. It was a long night.
Anyway, I’m trying desperately to catch up on my sleep. Don’t ask me how or when I’m going to do that. So, that’s it for now. Have a great week.
Culinary School—Week 5
Hi, gang. I’m into week 5 of culinary school. It was rough for me because I was sick, but I was able to get through it because, fortunately, my classes were mostly lectures this week. That really helped me energy-wise. Plus, handling knives while hopped up on Dayquil is not a good idea.
So, this week, we had discussions about quality ingredients and some “science” of cooking, an herb and spice lecture, and grain identification, as well as our first quiz. The quiz was on sanitation—the hazards chefs need to worry about and food-borne illnesses, how they are transmitted, and the prevention thereof. (I got 100, by the way. Woohoo!)