Tuesday, April 5, 2016

Official Graduation Evaluation

I received my official graduation evaluation in the mail. Everything is on track to graduate in June with Associate of Science degrees in Culinary Arts and Baking and Pastry. Assuming I pass this semester's classes.

Smoked Gouda with Bacon and Chicken Mac and Cheese

I've not always been the biggest fan of baked macaroni and cheese. Many times, the cheese flavor is just utterly underwhelming. I think two things contribute to this. First, is using a cheese that doesn't bring much flavor to the party, like mild cheddar or American. Second, not using enough cheese in the sauce.

I prefer to use a strongly flavored cheese, like an extra sharp cheddar, or a smoked Gouda. In this case, I had a some Yancy's Fancy Smoked Gouda with Bacon.

It's a nice semi-hard cheese that grates easily, and melts smoothly.

The process is fairly straight forward. You cook pasta to al dente, make a bechemel sauce and add cheese, then mix together, top with bread crumbs, and bake. I added some cooked chicken breast to make it a bit more main dishy.

To go with, I rough chopped some kale,and braised it in a little porter, seasoned with sea salt and some Trader Joe's Flower Pepper.

Smoked Gouda with Bacon and Chicken Mac and Cheese

10 oz. egg noodles
3 Tbsp. butter
3 Tbsp. flour
1 tsp. powdered hot oriental mustard
3 cups cream
2 medium shallots, minced
1 tsp. hot smoked paprika
15 ounces smoked Gouda with bacon, grated
1 large chicken breast, cooked and diced
salt and pepper to taste

3 tablespoons butter
2/3 cup bread crumbs

Pre-heat oven to 350 F.

In a large pot of boiling salted water, cook noodles to al dente. Drain and set aside.

In a large sauce pan over medium heat, melt butter. Add flour and mustard to make a roux. Cook, stirring constantly, until pale blond in color. Add shallots, cook briefly. Add cream and paprika. Reduce heat to medium low. Cook, whisking constantly, until thickened. Add half of the cheese. Whisk until cheese is melted and smoothly incorporated. Season with salt and fresh ground black pepper. 

In a ceramic lined cast iron dutch oven, combine noodles, sauce, and chicken.  Add remaining cheese on top. 

In a small pan, melt butter over medium heat. Add bread crumbs, Cook, moving continuously, until lightly toasted.

Spread toasted crumbs evenly over top of casserole.

Bake uncovered for ten minutes, then cover and bake for another 20 minutes.

Remove from oven and remove cover. Let stand for 5 minutes before serving.

Happy Eating!

Monday, March 28, 2016

Porter Marshmallows with Dark Chocolate and Smoked Serrano Salt

We recently catered a wedding Since the groom was a home brewer, I thought it would be nice to reference that in the food. So, for one of the sweets, I came up with a recipe for porter marshmallows. I thought they would be be enhanced with dark chocolate. I added a little smoked serrano chili salt. That tiny wisp of smoke and heat accented everything well.

I love homemade marshmallows. They have a much better texture than commercial ones; firmer mouth feel, not so sticky. The porter cut the sweetness as well, and giving a great depth of flavor.

It helps to open the porter and let it get a little flat before working with it.

To cut the marshmallows, it is helpful to have a pitcher of hot water, deep enough to submerge your entire knife blade. Dip the knife between each cut, and wipe clean and dry with a clean towel. Rub a little of the dusting powder over the blade before each cut.

I got my smoked serrano salt from Souper Dip.

Porter Marshmallows

Dusting Powder:
1/2 cup corn starch
1/2 cup powdered sugar

Whisk together corn starch and powdered sugar, set aside

.6 oz. powdered gelatin
8 oz. porter
12 oz. by wt. sugar
1 cup corn syrup
2 oz. by vol. water
1/4 tsp. salt

Stir together gelatin and 4 oz. porter. Let stand at least ten minutes.

Line a 8" x 12" pan with plastic wrap, and lightly spray with oil.

Combine sugar, corn syrup, and 4 oz. porter, water, and salt in a small pot over medium low heat. Cook, swirling occasionally, to 238 F. Move to the bowl of a stand mixer. Add gelatin. Whip on high speed until fluffy and cooled to just warmer than room temperature. Transfer to pan. Dust with cornstarch mixture. Press into pan to level.

When cool, dust a cutting board with cornstarch mixture. Turn marshmallow onto board. Cut into 1" squares. Toss with more cornstarch mixture.

Makes about 60 marshmallows.

Let dry for 2 days.

Temper 1 pound of 60% dark chocolate. Brush tops of marshmallows with tempered chocolate. Before chocolate sets, sprinkle with a few grains of smoked serrano salt.

Happy Eating!

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Lemon Marmalade

A friend has a lemon tree that is currently covered in lemons. She let me have as many as I want, as long as she gets some of the results.

So today I made lemon marmalade. It is a sweet - tart treat. I especially like it on thyme scones with a little Devonshire cream. It is a fairly easy recipe, though labor intensive.

I use a vegetable peeler to remove the skin, with as little white pith as possible. I then use a thin, flexible knife to trim off any excessive pith from the back of each piece of peel. I have a ultra thin Teflon coated sushi knife that is ideal for this. I then fine julienne the peel, and chop into about one inch long bits.

I make a simple syrup of two cups water and 2 cups sugar, then simmer the peel in that until it is soft and translucent, about one hour. Strain out the peel. Hold on to the syrup. A lightly lemon flavored syrup has lots of uses.

While that is goung, I remove the pith from each lemon, cut out sections, and squeeze the remaining core of as much juice as possible.

I weigh the resulting juice/pulp, and add one and a half times that weight in sugar. This time, frim 20 lemons I got 42 oz , so added 63 oz. sugar. I then add the peel.

I simmer the mix until it reaches 220 F.I then bring it to a rolling boil, and add a 6 oz; of  liquid pectin. I bring it back to a rolling boil for one minute. I remove it from, then put up in jars. I got 10 half pint jars, plus a bowl for immediate use.

Lemon Marmalade

20 lemons
1 tsp. sea salt
1 1/2 times the weight of the pulp and juice in sugar, approx. 60 oz.

Simple Syrup:
2 cups water
2 cups sugar

Using a sharp vegetable peeler, remove the skin from the lemons, trying to get as little pith as possible.

Remove any excess pith from the back of the peel with a sharp knife.

Cut the peel into a fine julienne, then cut into one inch long pieces..

Over meduim heat, combine 2 cups water and 2 cups sugar. bring to a simmer. Add peel, simmer until translucent and soft, about an hour. Strain out peel.

Using a sharp knife, remove the white pith from the lemons. Cut out segments, do not get any inner membrane or seeds. Squeeze out as much juice as possible.

Weigh out pulp and juice. Add 1 1/2 times that weight in sugar. Add salt and peel. Simmer over medium heat until it reaches a temperature of 220 F.

Remove from heat, can marmalade.

Happy eating!

Monday, January 11, 2016

New Orleans Inspired Dinner

Back in August, the spouse and I got a chance to take a mini-vacation in New Orleans. We ate some amazing food at some fantastic restaurants. A frequent customer asked me to make a meal inspired by our trip.

The menu I ended up doing was an appetizer of a savory asparagus cheesecake with jalapeño aioli, a shrimp bisque with a whole wheat cheddar Parmesan cracker, an entree of chicken en papillote with crab mushroom béchamel, braised chard, and green onion hush puppies, and vanilla bean ice cream with bananas Foster.

The appetizer was inspired by one we had at Dick and Jenny's. Mine was a cheesecake with ricotta, feta, and Parmesan cheese, and blanched asparagus. The recipe I started from is this one from Food.com

The crust is a cracker crust using whole grain club crackers. I blind baked the crust before hand, so that it would not be soggy.

It is garnished with a  jalapeño aioli, made from mayonnaise, roasted jalapeño, key lime juice, and sea salt.

I served the cheesecake warm. This resulted in a silky texture that was quite pleasant.The contrast with the crispy crust was spot on.

The soup is a shrimp bisque. The stock was made from about three pounds of crayfish shells, mostly heads, that I simmered for three hours, then ground up with an immersion blender and ran through my chinois.

This provided a solid base for the soup. I added green and red bell peppers, onion, and celery. It was seasoned with Old Bay seasoning, cumin, cayenne, and fresh ground black ground black pepper.

I pouched one whole shrimp per bowl in the stock for garnish,. The rest are cut up in small pieces, and added right before service, so that they were not overcooked.

To go with the soup, I made whole wheat cheddar Parmesan crackers. They had a robust texture that held up well to the soup.

For the entree, I made chicken en papillote with a crab mushroom bechemel. It's a fun way of cooking. En papillote is French for in paper. The food is wrapped in parchment paper, and  baked in a hot oven. It steams in the envelope.

To go with, I braised white chard with apple cider vinegar. That gave it a mild sweetness to counterbalance its natural mild bitterness.  It was cooked with bacon and onion. 

I also made green onion hush puppies, because, really, what is more quintessentially New Orleans than hush puppies. Crispy outside, light and fluffy in the middle, with a hint of heat from a little cayenne.

For dessert, I made bananas Foster over vanilla bean  ice cream. No pictures, my phone died before I could get any. Great flavors of rum, banana, brown sugar, and spices over a good quality ice cream. Didn't have time to make my own, unfortunately.


Savory Asparagus Cheesecake


5 1/2 oz. whole grain club crackers
2 1/2 oz. butter, melted and cooled
2 eggs
spray canola oil

Pre-heat oven to 350 F.

Use spay oil to generously grease six 4 1/2" ramekins.

In a food processor, grind crackers very fine. Add butter and eggs. Process until smooth. Press dough into ramekins. Bake for ten minutes. Remove from oven, let cool.


1 bunch asparagus
1/2 medium white onion, fine diced
8 oz. ricotta
8 oz. feta
1 oz. grated Parmesan
3 1/2 oz.heavy cream
2 Tbsp. butter
2 eggs
salt and pepper to taste

Pre-heat oven to 350 F.

Cut tips of asparagus 1" long. cut an additional 1" of stalks. Blanch asparagus pieces in lightly simmering salted water until al dente. Shock in ice water to stop cooking. Select twelve tips to leave whole. Set those aside, fine dice the rest of the asparagus pieces.

In a skillet over medium heat, melt butter. Saute onions until tender. Add diced asparagus, saute lightly. Add cream. and turn down to low.

In a large bowl, whisk together eggs, ricotta, and feta. Temper cream mixture, and whisk into cheese mixture. Season to taste.

Ladle custard into ramekins. Add two
asparagus tips to each ramekin. Sprinkle tops of custard with Parmesan.

Place full ramekins in a shallow baking dish. Add hot water to half way up the ramekins. Bake until custard is set, about 20 minutes.

Remove from oven. Let rest about 10 minutes. Gently run a knife between crust  Slide cheesecake from ramekin, plate and garnish with jalapeño aioli.

 Jalapeño Aioli

1/2 cup mayonnaise
1 medium  jalapeño
1 tsp. key lime juice
salt to taste

Roast  jalapeño in 350 F oven until blackened. Shock in ice bath. Peel, de-stem, and de-seed. 

Blend together  jalapeño, juice, mayo, and salt until smooth.

Shrimp Bisque


3 lbs. crayfish shells
5 quarts water

Simmer shells in water for three hours. Using an immersion blender, grind up shells. Filter through a chinois to remove shell bits.


1 qt. crayfish stock
1 lb. shrimp tails without shells
1 red bell pepper, diced
1 green bell pepper, diced
1/2 medium white onion, diced
3 stalks celery, diced
3 strips bacon, diced 
2 tsp. Old Bay Seasoning
1/2 tsp. cumin powder
1/4 tsp. cayenne powder
salt and pepper to taste

In a pan over medium heat, render fat out of bacon. Add vegetables, saute until tender. Add stock and spices, bring to a simmer.

Take six whole shrimp. Poach in soup until cooked, about 3 minutes. Remove and set aside.

Dice remainder of shrimp. Add to soup. Simmer until done, 

Ladle soup into bowls. Garnish with whole shrimp and cheddar Parmesan cracker.

Whole Wheat Cheddar Parmesan Cracker

4 oz. grated sharp cheddar
2 oz. grated Parmesan
3/4 cup whole wheat flour
1/4 tsp. dry mustard powder
1/4 tsp. sea salt
1/8 tsp. cayenne powder
2 oz. butter, softened
2 Tbsp. cold water, plus more if needed

Combine Cheese, flour, and seasonings in a food processor. Pulse a number of times to combine ingredients.

Add butter. Plus until dough resembles course crumbs. Add water, one tablespoon at a time, processing until dough just sticks together. If too dry, add additional water, 1/2 tsp. at a time.

Form dough into a ball and wrap in plastic. Refrigerate for two hours.

Pre-heat oven to 375 F.

On a floured surface, roll out dough very thin. With a fork, poke holes in dough at regular intervals. Using a pizza cutter, cut into diamonds. Transfer to a silicon baking pad lined sheet pan. 

Bake ten minutes, or until crisp and lightly browned.

Transfer to parchment paper to cool.

Crab Mushroom Bechemel

3 oz. butter
1 oz. flour
8 oz. mushrooms, sliced thin
3 oz. canned crab meat with juice
3 cups cream
salt and pepper to taste

In a saute pan over medium high heat, melt 2 oz. butter. Saute mushrooms until tender. Set Aside.

In a sauce pan over medium heat, melt remaining ounce of butter. Add flour, cook until light brown.

Add cream, whisking in until well incorporated. Bring to a simmer, stirring constantly. when thickened, Add mushrooms and crab. Set aside.

Chicken en Papillote

3 large boneless skinless chicken breasts
crab mushroom bechemel

Pre-heat oven to 450 F.

Cut breasts in half lengthwise. Pound each half breast to 3/4" thick.

Cut six 10" hearts out of parchment paper.

Place each half breast on a parchment heart. Cover with bechemel. Crimp paper closed around breast. 

Put packages on baking sheets. Bake for 15 - 20 minutes.

Green Onion Hush Puppies

1 cup cornmeal
1/2 cup flour
1 egg
1 cup buttermilk
3 green onions, sliced thin
1 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. baking soda
1/4 tsp. cayenne powder

canola oil for frying

Whisk together all ingredients.

Heat oil to 365 F. 

Drop batter by spoonfuls into hot oil. Fry until golden brown.

Happy Eating!

Wednesday, January 6, 2016

Penultimate Semester of Culinary School

Got my grades for my next to last semester in culinary school. Finished with two A+'s and three A's.

Paid for my final semester, which completes registration. One last semester to grind through. One work study, probably will be TA'ing a healthy cooking class, and one mock restaurant class.

Glad to see light at the end of the tunnel, and feel relatively sure it isn't an oncoming train.

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Renaissance Marmalade redux

So last year, about this time, I tried redacting a recipe for marmalade from a early 17th century cookbook, the 1609 edition of Hugh Plat's Delights for Ladies. While inspired by the original, I altered it a lot to resemble a modern marmalade more.This year, I decided to try to follow the recipe more closely.

Modernly, a marmalade means a preserve with shreds of peel. This is not the meaning in the renaissance. Then, it meant a sweet congealed paste of fruit and sugar. Since it is cooked as whole fruit and strained, there is no peel in the result.

The original recipe was: TAke ten lemmons or orenges & boyle them with half a dozē pippins, & ſo draw them through a ſtrainer, then take ſo much ſugar as the pulp doth wey, & boyle it as you doe Marmalade of Quinces, and then box it vp.

 Since the recipe calls for either oranges or lemons, I wanted to try lemons this time. Also, I used Granny Smiths last time, and they never disintegrated. This time I used Red Delicious, which fall apart more easily. The lemons I found were a little small, I felt, so I used twelve instead of  ten.

For good food safety, I canned using modern water processing technique with modern jars and seals.

Because it is cooked with the lemon pith intact, it retains a fair amount of bitterness, but not in an unpleasant way. There is definitely a lot of pectin, it set up solid easily. 

Since it calls for even weights of pulp and sugar, I can't tell you exactly how much sugar. Expect around 45 ounces. My first batch weighed in at 43 oz., my second at 49.85 oz.

Hugh Plat's Apple Lemon Marmalade

12 medium lemons
6 large red delicious apples
sugar to match weight of pulp
1 tsp. salt

Cut lemons and apples in eighths. Put in a covered pot over medium low heat. Simmer until apples disintegrate. 

Press through a colander. Weigh resulting pulp. Combine with equal weight of sugar, and return to stove over low heat. Add salt, simmer and reduce. Marmalade will darken. 

Press through a strainer. Return to the stove on low heat to stay hot while canning, Can using water process or pressure canner.

Happy Eating!