Sunday, March 31, 2013

Reuben Burgers

Probably my all time favorite sandwich is the Reuben. A thick layer of corned beef or pastrami, Swiss cheese, mustard, sauerkraut, and thousand island dressing on grilled rye. Perfect with a good stout. I was planning on making burgers the other night, and saw I had pastrami and Swiss cheese in the refrigerator, and was inspired.

I seasoned a pound of hamburger with two tablespoons of mushroom ketchup, half a teaspoon each of garlic powder, onion powder, and paprika.

I grilled the burgers, and when they were almost ready, I layered on some of the pastrami and the Swiss cheese, to let the cheese melt over it.  Unfortunately, hamburger buns don't come in rye, so I used whole wheat. I toasted the buns on the grill. I put a thin layer of spicy brown mustard on the bottom bun. I layered homemade thousand island dressing, and warm sauerkraut on top of the burger.

To go with the burger, I wilted red chard with balsamic vinegar.




Thousand Island Dressing

1/3 cup mayonnaise
2 Tbsp. sweet pickle relish
3 tsp. ketchup

Whisk together all ingredients.

Happy Eating!

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Grilled Salmon with Sweet Soy Glaze, Coconut Glutineous Rice, and Curried Cauliflower

Salmon  is one of my favorite fish. It has a unique flavor, and a meatier texture than a lot of fish. It is quite versatile; it can be poached, broiled, grilled, sauteed, heck, it's even good raw as sushi, sashimi, or ceviche. I love to grill it. A three ounce fillet cooks in no time on the grill, and takes to a variety of flavors.

This time, I decided to use more Asian flavors. The spouse had purchased a head of cauliflower, with the intent that I make it curried. I wanted to grill the salmon, and made a glaze with sweet soy sauce, regular soy sauce, fish sauce, and lemon grass. The salmon should go on the grill top side down, and at a 45 degree angle to the grill bars. After about three minutes, rotate the fillet 90 degrees. This will give you nice criss crossed grill marks. As soon as you flip it, brush it with the glaze. I brush it with a second coat, just as I pull it off the grill. It will set nicely while the salmon is resting.

The only rice I had was some glutinous rice, so I made that with coconut milk, shredded unsweetened coconut, and ginger. The rice actually went really well with the salmon. It was slightly sweet, but not excessively so, and matched well with the richness of the salmon.

For my curried cauliflower, I saute the cauliflower in a little butter, then add curry powder, a little hot curry paste, and salt. It's important to not overcook the cauliflower. It should be al dente, but not mushy.


Sweet Soy Glaze

1/3 cup sweet soy sauce
2 Tbsp. soy sauce
2 tsp. fish sauce
1 tsp. dried lemon grass

Whisk together all ingredients. Let stand for 30 minutes before using.

Coconut Glutinous Rice

1 cup glutinous rice
1 cup coconut milk
1 cup water
1/2 cup shredded unsweetened coconut
1/2 tsp. ground ginger
1/2 tsp. kosher salt

Place all ingredients into a rice cooker. Cook according to machine's instructions.

Curried Cauliflower

1/2 head of cauliflower, separated into small florets
2 Tbsp. butter
1 Tbsp. curry powder
1 tsp. hot curry paste
1 tsp. kosher salt

In a heavy skillet, melt butter over medium heat. Add cauliflower, saute until mostly done. Add curries and salt, toss to coat cauliflower evenly.

Happy Eating!

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Pan Fried Chicken and Onion Rings

I love onion rings. Check that. I love good onion rings. I loathe bad onion rings. Unfortunately, good onion rings are hard to come by. They are not that difficult to make, but do require careful attention to the temperature of the oil.

In my last culinary class, we covered pan frying. The chicken came out OK, but the onion rings were not good. Most of the coating fell off, and they were limp and greasy. I was not happy. I thought I would try at home, and get everything right.

I used boneless, skinless chicken leg quarters. I cut each leg quarter in half. You could just use boneless skinless thighs, which are more common. Boneless reduces cooking time, and makes it easier to get everything cooked evenly. I placed the pieces between two sheets of plastic wrap, and pounded them to about one half inch thick.

In class, we used slightly different coatings for the chicken and onions. That was more complicated than I wanted to deal with for just the two of us. I used the same three stage method for both. Seasoned flour, beaten egg, seasoned bread crumbs. I used the same seasoning for both the flour and the bread crumbs. They were seasoned with cumin, chili powder, garlic powder, onion powder, fresh ground black pepper, and salt. If you are going to use the same coatings for vegetables and chicken, make sure to coat the vegetables first. That way you avoid potentially contaminating your coating with the raw chicken. Once coated, place the vegetables and and chicken in the freezer for ten minutes. This helps set the coating, and stiffens the food up a bit, making it easier to handle.

My original plan was two separate pans for the chicken and onion rings, but I only had enough oil for one pan. To compensate for that, I put a couple of plates lined with paper towels in a 250 F oven, so that I could keep everything warm will I cooked.

My pan would only comfortably hold three of the four pieces of chicken all at once. It's important to not over crowd the pan. Too much food will drag down the temperature of the oil, and everything will end up limp and greasy.

I'm happy with the results. The chicken turned out moist, with a nice crispy coating. The onion rings were tender on the inside, and crunchy on the outside. I made a spicy honey mustard dipping sauce to go with both. The honey mustard dip is spicy brown mustard, honey, cayenne, and garlic Tabasco sauce.


Pan Fried Chicken and Onion rings

2 boneless skinless chicken leg quarters, cut in to two pieces each
1 small yellow onion, cut into 1/2 inch wide rings

flour coat:
1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
2 tsp. kosher salt
1 tsp. chili powder
1 tsp. garlic powder
1 tsp. onion powder
1 tsp. fresh ground black pepper
1/2 tsp. ground cumin

egg wash:
3 eggs, beaten

crumb coat:
1 1/2 cups dried fine bread crumbs
2 tsp. kosher salt
1 tsp. chili powder
1 tsp. garlic powder
1 tsp. onion powder
1 tsp. fresh ground black pepper
1/2 tsp. ground cumin

Dredge onion rings in flour mixture. Thoroughly coat with egg wash, shaking off excess. Cover and press with crumb mixture, to ensure complete and even coverage.

Repeat procedure with chicken. Place chicken and onion rings in freezer for ten minutes.

Place two oven safe plates lined with paper towels in a 250 F oven.  In a large fry pan over medium to medium high heat, place about one half inch of vegetable oil. When oil is hot, carefully lower chicken into oil. Be careful not to crowd food into pan. When chicken is golden brown on the bottom, flip over.When fully cooked, transfer to a plate in the oven.

Repeat same procedure with the onion rings.

Honey mustard dipping sauce

1/3 cup spicy brown prepared mustard
3 Tbsp. honey
1/2 tsp. Cayenne powder
3 splashes garlic Tabasco sauce

Whisk together all ingredients until smooth.

Happy Eating!

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Culinary Class: Pan Fried Chicken

In this class we covered another dry cooking method, pan frying. The difference between pan frying and sauteing is the depth of the oil. In sauteing, there was just enough oil to prevent the food from sticking to the pan. In pan frying, the oil should be deep enough to come half way up the food in the pan. It uses the heat of the oil to cook the food.

We made pan fried boneless chicken, using the leg and thigh. We pounded the pieces thin, and then breaded in a similar three stage process to that we used the week before. The chicken pieces were dipped in seasoned flour, then buttermilk, then seasoned bread crumbs.

Pan fried foods, just like sauteed ones, should only be turned once. It is important to carefully regulate the heat. Too hot, and the outside burns before the inside is cooked. Too cool, and you end up with pale, greasy food.

We had an Asian style dipping sauce to go with it. It was really good. It had a lot going on. Somewhat sweet, somewhat tangy, with a fair amount of heat.

We also fried up some squash sticks and onion rings. Those were battered in the same three step process. We used seasoned flour, egg, and panko bread crumbs. Panko crumbs differ in that they are courser, and lighter, than regular bread crumbs. This results in a lighter, crispier texture. The squash came out really good. I think we didn't have the heat high enough for our onion rings. They were a little greasy, and we had a hard time keeping the breading on them.

All in all, not bad. Hard to go wrong with fried chicken, though.

Dipping sauce recipe courtesy of Chef Joe Orate.

Chef Joe's Asian BBQ Dipping Sauce

3 fl. oz. ketchup
3 fl. oz. BBQ sauce
3 fl. oz. sweet chili sauce
2 fl. oz. white vinegar
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 cup minced onion
sambal to taste
Tobasco or other hot sauce to taste

Monday, March 18, 2013

Pastry Class: Practical Final Exam

I had my practical final exam for my pastry class today. We were supposedly given one of five recipes at random (I think I was targeted for a more difficult recipe), with just the ingredients, amounts, times, and temperatures (but no instructions), and had to make that item. I was given pate a choux, and had to bake cream puffs with it.

I was ready for the final. The two hardest recipes, the pate a choux and the chiffon cake, I'd practiced at home. Scones, chocolate chip cookies, and creme brulee I have made plenty of times, so wasn't worried about, much.

My puffs came out fine. While Chef James didn't explicitly give a number for the points for the final, I'll take the fact that he just gave me an off handed "you know what you are doing", and spent the evaluation period talking about the spouse's and my business plans to mean I got max points.

I also turned in my paper on my favorite pastry ingredient. I covered cherries, both sour and sweet. Actually, I hit the 500 word mark well before I'd said everything I was expecting to cover.

As it stands, I have 85/100 points so far. That leaves five points for the last paper and ten for the written final. I can't do worse than a B. I really want that A, though. Hell, I want the A+, not that it makes any difference on the GPA.

Chef James says they are planning on offering the chocolate class over the summer. I so want to take that one! I think it will be an important one for the tea business. They will be offering the bread class in the fall. That is another one I look forward to taking.

I'm more afraid of the cake and sugar classes. I'm a great cook; I am not much of a sculptor. They are required for the AA in pastry, so I will just have to get through them.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Pastry Class: Ice Cream, Frozen Yogurt, Sorbet, and Tuile

This was my last pastry lab. Monday I need to turn in my research paper on my favorite pastry ingredient. I will also take my practical exam. I will draw a random item from five things we have made this semester (cookies, scones, chiffon cake, pate a choux, and creme brulee) and make it. I'm fairly confident. I've made plenty of cookies, scones, and creme brulee, and I have practiced both the chiffon cake and the pate a choux at home. I need to spend a little time reviewing the procedures. We will be given a list of ingredients, and times and temps for baking, but not the instructions.

Anyway, we made a variety of churned frozen desserts. Each table made a different dessert. My table made chocolate malted ice cream. Other tables made French vanilla, black current frozen yogurt, green apple sorbet, and passion fruit sorbet.

I learned what the French in French vanilla actually means. There are two types of ice cream; French and Philadelphia. French has eggs, Philadelphia does not. French style can also be referred to as frozen custard.

Since French style ice cream has eggs, the base must be cooked to 180 F. This will ensure any nasty things get killed.

I personally prefer the richness of the French style. Ice cream without eggs just doesn't have the right mouth feel to me.

I love sorbets. I love fruit flavors, and particularly appreciate a well balanced sweet/tart combination. I like frozen yogurt that actually tastes like yogurt. I thought the black current frozen yogurt was the best. It had a very intense flavor, and a noticeably yogurt tang, but was still balanced.

The green apple was also very good. It had a great granny smith flavor, and they did a great job of capturing the color. That green is just from juicing the apples with the skin on, no coloring agent was added.

The passion fruit was probably a teaspoon of sugar away from greatness. It had a good flavor, but was a hair too tart, even for me.

The vanilla was a good vanilla, using bean rather than extract. Needed warm apple pie, though.

Our chocolate malt wasn't bad. We used mostly milk chocolate, with a little bitter chocolate to up the flavor. Malt is not one of my favorite flavors, though, so it might appeal to someone that really likes malted milk balls.

Tuiles are thin, crisp cookies. The name comes from the French for 'tile'. When just out of the oven they are malleable, and can be shaped. Probably the best known tuile to Americans is the fortune cookie.

The tuile batter is a thick paste that can be spread over a template or stencil. You can buy commercially made stencils, or cut your own out of food grade rubber or plastic.

Place the stencil on a silicon baking mat. Using a small spatula, spread the tuile batter over the stencil. Lift the stencil carefully.

Bake the tuile until light gold in color. Remove from oven, and shape quickly. If the tuile are too rigid to mold, return to the oven briefly to re-heat.

Tuile, like most crisp cookies, must be kept tightly sealed in air-tight containers. They will go stale quickly. They are often used as a garnish for plated desserts.

As always, all recipes are courtesy of Chef James Foran.


Vanilla Ice Cream

9 oz by vol. milk
9 oz. by vol. cream
100 g sugar
1 vanilla bean
15 g invert sugar
25 g corn syrup
6 egg yolks
pinch salt

Split vanilla bean in half lengthwise, and scrape out seeds. In a saucepan, combine milk, cream, sugars, and vanilla bean pod and scrapings. Scald milk over medium heat. Temper egg yolks by adding a little of the hot milk mixture to the yolks while whisking. Add egg mixture to rest of the milk mixture. Cook until mixture coats the back of a wooden spoon.

Remove from heat. Stir in salt. Strain. Pour into a metal bowl, and place in an ice bath. Allow to chill completely. Pour base into ice cream freezer, and follow directions for your machine.

Milk Chocolate Malt Ice Cream

12 oz by vol. milk
4 oz by vol. cream
3 1/2 oz by wt. sugar
6 egg yolks
2 oz by wt. milk chocolate , chopped
1/2 oz by wt. dark chocolate, chopped
2 oz. by wt. malt powder

In a saucepan, combine milk, cream, and sugars. Scald milk over medium heat. Temper egg yolks by adding a little of the hot milk mixture to the yolks while whisking. Add egg mixture to rest of the milk mixture. Cook until mixture coats the back of a wooden spoon.

Remove from heat. Stir in chocolates and malt. Wait for chocolate to melt, then thoroughly blend. Strain. Pour into a metal bowl, and place in an ice bath. Allow to chill completely. Pour base into ice cream freezer, and follow directions for your machine.

Frozen Black Currant Yogurt

16 oz by wt. plain yogurt
6 oz. by wt. black currant puree
4 oz by wt. sugar
1 oz by vol. corn syrup
tiny pinch salt

Combine all ingredients, whisk well. Pour base into ice cream freezer, and follow directions for your machine.

Green Apple Sorbet

20 oz by vol. fresh green apple juice
4 oz by vol. corn syrup
juice of 1 lemon
2 oz by vol. simple syrup
tiny pinch salt

Combine sugars, lemon juice, and salt. Clean, cut, and juice apples, adding five ounces  at a time. Strain. Adjust sugar or lemon juice as needed. Pour base into ice cream freezer, and follow directions for your machine.

Passion Fruit Sorbet

2 cups water
6 oz by vol. Passion fruit juice
6 oz by vol. simple syrup
5 oz by vol. corn syrup
tiny pinch salt

Combine all ingredients, whisk well. Adjust sugar as needed. Pour base into ice cream freezer, and follow directions for your machine.


4 1/2 oz by wt. butter
6 oz by wt. powdered sugar
4 1/2 oz by wt. egg white
5 1/2 oz by wt. sifted cake flour
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1/8 tsp. salt

In the bowl of a stand mixer, cream together butter and sugar. slowly add egg white, occasionally scraping down bowl.

Add flour in two stages. When smooth, add vanilla and salt. Cover and chill for 1/2 hour.

Pre-heat oven to 325 F.

On a sheet pan lined with a silicon baking mat. Place tuile stencils on mat. Using a small spatula, smooth tuile batter over stencils. Remove stencils, and clean up mat.

Bake 5 - 10 minutes, or until lightly browned. Remove from oven and quickly shape, if desired.

Happy Eating!


Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Culinary Class: Sauteed Chicken Breast and Vegetables

In my culinary class, we are starting to work our way through the dry cooking methods. Last week was grilling, this week was sauteing. Saute comes from the French for 'jump', referring to the tossing of the food often done with this technique. Sauteing involves frying items over direct heat in just a little fat. With small items, the cook will often jerk the pan in rhythmic pattern to cause the pieces to jump out of, and back into the pan.

We started the class by doing the prep work for some other class, dicing a lot of carrots, parsnips, rutabagas, tomatoes, onions, and parsley. This was to practice our knife skills. As a computer geek, I immediately thought of it as distributed processing.

We then cut up the vegetables for our side dish. Onion, carrot, celery, two kinds of squash

After that, we broke down the chickens that we are using this week, and next. We saved the leg quarters for next week, and used the boneless, skinless breasts, and tenderloins this week. We sliced the breasts into pieces the same size as the tenderloins, and pounded them all flat between two pieces of plastic wrap.

We then breaded the chicken in the classic method. That involves dredging the chicken pieces in seasoned flour, then in egg, then again in seasoned flour.

We cooked the chicken in a little oil in a very hot pan. They cooked rapidly, about one minute per side. We then made a wine sauce to go with. After the chicken was removed, we drained the excess oil, then added garlic and onion to the pan. We cooked that for just a minute, then de-glaze the pan with a little white wine. We added some chicken stock, then let it come to a boil. We let it reduce a little, We then added some minced parsley, and returned the chicken to the pan. We let that cook a minute to re-warm the chicken.

I liked this. The chicken  was very tender. The wine sauce complimented the chicken very well.

We also sauteed the vegetables. The mirepoix (carrots, celery, and onions) was cooked first, then the squash. They were finished with a little parsley. They came out very nice, tender but not mushy.

Still working on real basic stuff, but at least the pace is picking up. We were kept moving until almost ten.

Wine sauce recipe courtesy of Chef Joe Orate.

Chef Joe's White Wine Sauce

1/4 onion, minced
1 Tbsp. minced garlic
3 oz by vol. white wine
1 pint chicken stock
4 oz by wt. butter, softened
1/2 cup minced parsley.

When finished sauteing meat, drain excess oil. Add onion and garlic to pan. Cook about one minute. Add wine to de-glaze the pan. Add stock. Bring back to a boil. Let reduce for a couple of minutes. Add butter, allow to melt. Add parsley. Cook briefly, then remove from heat and serve.

Happy eating!

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Pastry Class: Coffee Panna Cotta, Chocolate Mousse, Chocolate Souffle

Had my penultimate pastry lab today. The instructor realized we'd lost a class session due to the Presidents' Day holiday, and he hadn't scheduled enough time for the final. So, we had to condense three labs into two. Part of that was doing the creme brulee along with the tarts last class. We had to skip doing the bread pudding. That is fine with me, as it is one of my go-to desserts.

The other item that got moved was the panna cotta, which was added to today's agenda. We ended up making three very rich desserts. In addition to the panna cotta, we made a chocolate mousse, and a chocolate souffle. To garnish all these we made a raspberry sauce, and pecan brittle.

Panna cotta means 'cooked cream' in Italian. It is primarily milk or cream, and sugar. It uses gelatin to thicken.

Gelatin comes as a sheet, or as a powder. In either form, it must be bloomed before use. To bloom means to soak in ice water for about five minutes.

This panna cotta is flavored with mocha extract and vanilla bean, and is garnished with a raspberry sauce.

Mousse is French for 'frothy foam'. dessert mousses generally have whipped eggs or whipped cream to lighten them. This mousse has both.

This mousse uses sugar cooked to the soft ball stage (240 F) to cook the egg enough to be safe. It is flavored with dark chocolate, and garnished with a quenelle of whipped cream and minced pecan brittle.

This is a very simple dessert. It can be served by itself, or as one layer among many in a parfait. Panna cotta can also be used in that way.

The final dessert we made was a chocolate souffle. The name souffle comes from the French verb for 'to puff up'. A souffle has two components, a base that provides flavor, and whipped egg whites that provide leavening.

When the souffle is baked, the bubbles in the whipped whites expand, puffing up.

Souffles need to be served immediately. If allowed to cool, they will collapse.

We split this one open, and poured raspberry sauce inside.

Souffles are not that difficult. They do require an attention to detail. They are more of a logistics issue, in that they must be served right as they are made. They can't be made in advance.

As always, all recipes are courtesy Chef James Foran.


Coffee Panna Cotta

11 oz by vol. cream
5 oz by vol. milk
1 3/4 oz by wt. sugar
1/2 vanilla bean
2 tsp. mocha extract
pinch salt
2 sheets gelatin (or 1 tsp. dry gelatin)

Soak gelatin in ice water for 5 minutes. Drain and set aside.

Cut vanilla bean in half lengthwise. Scrape out seeds. In a saucepan, combine cream, milk, sugar, extract, vanilla bean (seeds and pod), and salt. Heat over medium heat until it almost reaches a simmer. Stir in gelatin. Strain into a metal bowl.

Place bowl in an ice bath. Stir frequently, scraping down sides and bottom. When thickened, pour into ramekins. Chill until set, about two hours.

Chocolate Mousse

8 oz by vol. cream, whipped to very soft peaks
6 oz by wt. dark chocolate, melted
1 egg
3 egg yolks
2 1/4 oz by wt. sugar
1 oz by vol. water

In the bowl of a stand mixer, whip egg and yolks on high until they reach maximum volume.

In a small pan, combine sugar and water. Cook to 240 F.

Turn mixer to low speed. Pour hot sugar carefully in a steady stream down the inside of the mixer bowl. Once all the sugar is added, turn mixer on high and whip until egg mixture reaches room temperature. Turn off mixer, and remove bowl. Add cream and chocolate. Carefully fold until thoroughly mixed.

Pipe mousse into molds or cups. Cover with plastic wrap and chill.

Chocolate Souffle

7 oz by wt. bittersweet chocolate
1 1/2 oz by wt. unsalted butter
1 Tbsp. sour cream
4 egg yolks at room temperature
7 egg whites at room temperature
1/2 tsp. cream of tartar
2.3 oz by wt. sugar
pinch salt

Pre-heat oven to 350 F.

chill ramekins, and generously brush with soft butter. Coat inside with sugar. tapping out excess. Keep refrigerated until needed.

Melt chocolate and butter in a double boiler. Remove from heat, stir in sour cream. Set aside to cool slightly.

Whisk egg yolks into chocolate.

In the bowl of a stand mixer, whip egg whites until foamy. Add cream of tartar and whisk to soft peaks. Gradually add sugar and salt, then mix on high speed to stiff peaks. Fold 1/4 of egg whites into chocolate to lighten, then fold in remaining whites.

Pipe into ramekins. Bake until puffed. Serve immediately with raspberry sauce.

Raspberry Sauce

8 oz by wt. raspberries
2 oz by wt. sugar
1 tsp. lemon juice

In a small saucepan, combine all ingredients. Bring to boil, simmer for 3 - 4 minutes. Puree and strain.

Pecan Brittle

6 oz. by wt. sugar
2 oz. by vol. water
1 oz. by vol corn syrup
1 1/2 oz. by wt. butter
3 oz. by wt. toasted pecans, roughly chopped
1/2 tsp. salt

In a small saucepan, combine sugar, corn syrup, and water. Cook over medium heat until sugar becomes a medium amber color. Carefully whisk in butter and salt. Remove from heat, stir in nuts. Place between two silicon baking mats, and roll out thin. Allow to cool.

Happy eating!

Monday, March 11, 2013

Feeding Fen

This weekend, I was part of the team running the hospitality suite for the Condor Science Fiction Convention. We've been running the hospitality suite for the convention since 2002. Hard to believe it has been that long.

Mostly we provide water, soda, and snacks. We generally have commercial, pre-packaged foods. We make a few things ourselves, most notably hummus and sunshine spread (cream cheese with bacon bits and orange marmalade).

We had the opportunity to load in our stuff Thursday night. Last year was the first time a hotel let us do that, and it was really helpful. However, this year the suite flooded out due to the rain, and we spent the morning Friday in an emergency re-location to the suite on a higher floor. The bell staff was wonderful, helping schlep all the food and gear, but everything became scrambled in the move, so we had to reorganize all over again. This delayed our opening by two hours.

We did eventually get set up.  Our con Guest of Honor was Connie Willis, whose latest novels were about time travellers going back to the blitz in London in World War II. In honor of that, we decorated the suit along the theme of a air raid bunker. I found and had printed a number WWII posters, and another member of the team brought a lot of army surplus gear to dress the room.

Friday we had a cake and ice cream social in honor of Ms. Willis. One of the cakes we ordered had a dinosaur on it, which she loved. She was a delight, staying well beyond the mandatory time to chat with attendees.

Things were a bit hectic Saturday, as two of the team had a conflicting event out of town that they had to attend. We were able to get several volunteers to help. They worked very hard, and did a marvelous job. It was still, however, more difficult without people you have worked with for a decade, and who don't need any supervision.

Saturday afternoon, we had a special event. We had a 'tea' in the afternoon that we dubbed the 'Ration-ali-Tea'. The idea was that it was a tea during wartime. Everyone that came got a little scone. I used the recipe from my pastry class, but just plain. There is a war on, you know.

We also provided some little tea sandwiches. We had spam, ground groundnut(peanut butter), and American cheese. We also had some biscuits (cookies for you Yanks). The spouse made the cutest little ration books with the menu for the tea. I think people got a kick out of it, even if some didn't understand what we were doing with the theme.

I enjoy doing it, but it left me a little tired. The additional burden of the time change Sunday did not help. I was groggier and less alert than usual in class today.

Pastry Class: First Paper Grade

We got our first essays back today. We had to write on what it was like to be a pastry chef in a particular type of establishment, i.e.; restaurant, bakery, hotel, etc. I wrote on the responsibilities of a hotel executive pastry chef. We had to include biographical information on a chef with that job.

Turns out that my pastry instructor has worked with the chef I profiled. I suppose that shouldn't be surprising. I imagine that the world of high end hotel pastry chefs in San Diego is not that large.

Anyway, I got an A on the paper. Now to write the second one, due in one week. We have to write about our favorite pastry ingredient. I hate to write about something too common when writing a research paper. I want it to be interesting and informative for the professor.

I think I will be writing about sour cherries. Sour cherry pie is my all-time favorite pie, and pretty much impossible to get on this coast. Canned sour cherries are just becoming available again. Most of the canned cherries were grown in the Balkans, and when the wars erupted there, the orchards were devastated. It takes decades for fruit trees to become productive. I can't get the five pound cans I used to, but I can find one pound jars.

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Pastry Class: Fresh Fruit Tarts and Creme Brulee

In today's class, we made two classic desserts; fresh fruit tarts, and creme brulee. I love both of those.

The fresh fruit tart is a butter rich almond flavored crust, with a thin layer of white chocolate, vanilla pastry cream, and fresh fruit with an apricot glaze. The crust is blind baked. Blind baking is baking a crust without a filling.

Once cool, it is brushed with a thin layer of melted white chocolate. It makes a moisture resistant barrier, which keeps the pastry cream from making the crust soggy.

The tart is then filled about 2/3 full with the pastry cream. The pastry cream is essentially a thick vanilla pudding. We used vanilla beans to get the vanilla flavor.

Your choice of fresh fruit is then layered over the pastry cream in a decorative pattern. We had mango, orange, kiwi, blackberries, strawberries, and red grapes to work with. The fruit is then brushed with a layer of warm apricot glaze, which will prevent oxidation of the fruit. It also gives a shiny, glossy finish. Finally, the tart is dusted lightly with powdered sugar.

Creme brulee is a rich custard with a thin layer of caramelized sugar on top. I love creme brulee, as I do most puddings and custards. It has this reputation as an ultra chic dessert, but it is ridiculously easy to make. A little attention to detail, and a blowtorch, are all it takes to make creme brulee.

You make a custard base of dairy and egg yolk, bake it in a water bath, being careful not to over cook it. When cool, sprinkle with a little sugar, and carefully caramelize the sugar with a kitchen torch. That last step should not be done until just before serving. If let to sit for long, the sugar will draw in moisture, and get gooey on you.

As always, all recipes courtesy of Chef James Foran.


Almond Tart Shells

7 oz by wt. butter
2 1/2 oz by wt. powdered sugar
1/4 tsp. salt
1 egg
1 egg yolk
11 oz by wt. all purpose flour
3.2 oz by wt. almond flour

Sift together flours, set aside. In the bowl of a stand mixer using a paddle, cream together butter, sugar, and salt. When smooth, add egg, cream until Incorporated, then add egg yolk and cream. Add the sifted flours in two stages, scraping down bowl between stages. When dough is smooth, form into a flattened disk, wrap in plastic wrap, and refrigerate for one hour.

Once dough is chilled, work briefly with hands to soften.  On a well floured surface, roll out to 1/8 inch thick. Cut rounds large enough to line tart molds. Carefully press dough into molds. Freeze until firm.

Line shells with foil, and fill with dry beans or pie weights. Bake in a 350 F oven for 10 minutes. Remove from oven, remove foil and weights. Return to oven, bake another 5 minutes, or until; golden brown. Allow to cool.

Pastry Cream

16 oz by vol. cream
1/2 vanilla bean
1/8 tsp. salt
7 tsp. corn starch
3 Tbsp. pastry flour
4 1/2 oz by wt. sugar
2 eggs
2 egg yolks
1 3/4 oz by wt. butter

Sift together flour,corn starch, sugar, and salt. Whisk in eggs and yolks.

Cut vanilla bean in half lengthwise. Scrape vanilla bean, place scrapings and pod in milk. In a sauce pan over medium heat, bring milk and vanilla just to just below a simmer (scald).

Temper milk into egg mixture. Add tempered egg mixture to milk. Over medium low heat,  continuously whisk mixture until it thickens and has reached a boil when you stop whisking. Continue whisking and cook another 30 seconds.

Remove from heat, whisk butter. Strain, cover directly with plastic wrap, and chill.

Creme Brulee

12 oz by vol cream
6 oz by vol milk
2 1/4 oz by wt sugar
1/2 vanilla bean
7 egg yolks
pinch salt

3 tsp. sugar for topping

Cut vanilla bean in half lengthwise, and scrape. Combine cream, milk,  sugar, and vanilla in a pot over medium heat.  Bring to a scald, remove from heat, and let stand 5 minutes. Temper egg yolks with milk, then mix with cream mixture. Add salt.

Strain. Place 6 four ounce ramekins in a pan. Fill ramekins about 3/4 full with custard. Add hot water to pan, covering ramekins about 2/3 up the side. Cover pan tightly with aluminum foil.

Carefully transfer to the oven. Bake at 300 F 30 to 35 minutes. Custard is ready when it jiggles firmly.

Cool custards. When ready to serve, cover top of custard with a light coat of sugar. Use a kitchen torch to heat sugar until caramelized.

Happy Eating!

Culinary Class: Grilled Chicken with Spicy Compound Butter, and Marinated Grilled Vegetables

Last week we covered the wet cooking methods of boiling and simmering. This week we turned to a dry cooking method, grilling. Grilling is cooking by radiant heat from below the food. To illustrate the difference, we cooked over both a gas grill, and a charcoal grill.

We marinated and grilled some zucchini and carrots. We did not get to make the marinade ourselves, as it needed time for the flavors to blend. I liked the marinade. It was flavored primarily by vinegar and yellow mustard, with some garlic, Worcestershire sauce, jalapeno, and parsley. It also has a fair amount of oil.

He had us grill the vegetables five minutes on each side. This was perfect for the zucchini, a little too little for the carrots. I think the carrots could have used another minute or two on each side.

We  made a compound butter to go on both the vegetables and the chicken. We mashed together butter with onion, garlic, sambal chili paste, a Thai chili, lime juice, and parsley. It was very tasty, although I would have liked more heat, the chili was hardly noticeable to me.

Before grilling the chicken, we brined it for a while in a simple brine of water, salt, and pepper. I love brines, they definitely help make poultry moist and flavorful. I have posted a much more complex brine before.

We also dusted the chicken with a simple dry rub of salt, pepper, granulated garlic, and paprika. This was a good, solid, basic rub. We grilled the chicken for about ten minutes on a side. It took just a little bit more than that on the charcoal, they had the grill set a little high above the coals.

Once the chicken was removed from the grill, we smeared it with the compound butter.

The chicken cooked over charcoal had more smokey flavor. Charcoal does have that advantage. Gas, however, is easier, in that it does not take long to come up to temperature. Cleanup is also easier on a gas grill, since there are no hot coals to dispose of.

This was not a particularly challenging exercise for me, as I am no stranger to the grill. I have demonstrated that on numerous occasions.

All recipes courtesy Chef Joe Orate.


Chef Joe's Marinade for Grilling

1 cup salad oil
1/4 cup white vinegar
1/4 cup yellow mustard
1 Tbsp. minced garlic
1 Tbsp. Worcestershire sauce
1 Tbsp. salt and pepper (combined)
1 Tbsp. minced parsley
1 Tbsp. minced jalapeno

Whisk together all ingredients.

Chef Joe's Spice Rub

2 Tbsp. salt
2 Tbsp. granulated garlic
1 tsp. paprika
1/2 tsp. black pepper

Combine all ingredients.

Chef Joe's Chili - Lime Compound Butter

1/2 lb. butter, softened
1 oz. by wt. minced onion
1 Tbsp. minced garlic
1 Tbsp. sambal chili paste
1 Tbsp. minced parsley
1 Thai chili, minced
juice of one lime
salt and pepper to taste

Mash together all ingredients, until smooth.

Monday, March 4, 2013

Pastry Class: Pear - Almond Galette, and Pithivier

Last Monday in my pastry class, we made puff pastry. Since we had the mid-term last Wednesday, we didn't get to make anything with it until today. We got to make two things, a pear - almond galette, and a pithivier.

A galette is a flat tart, while a pithivier is a filled, domed pie. For both of these, we made a frangipane, a filling made from almond paste, butter, and eggs.

Before we started, we divided the dough in half, and rolled each half out to a 12 inch by 16 inch rectangle. Those were placed in the freezer to stiffen up.

For the galette, we first docked the rectangle of pastry. Docking just means poking a lot of little holes in a pastry. We used a roller docker, which looks kind of like a torture device. It is a cylinder with prongs, attached to a handle. Rather than buying one, you can just stab the dough repeatedly with a fork.

Once the dough is docked, cut into rounds. Pipe a little of the frangipane in the center, and spread it to about 3/4 inch from the edge. The sliced pear is arranged on top of the frangipane. The pear is then brushed with melted butter and sprinkled with vanilla sugar. When baked, the puff pastry puffs up around the pear, providing a little crust.  Once cool, the pears recieve a light coating of apricot glaze, and then the whole thing is dusted with confectioner's sugar, and some finely chopped almonds. The glaze helps prevent oxidation of the fruit.

Chef James wanted us to start thinking beyond the baking, and consider the whole dessert. So, he had us try our hand at plating. We made a caramel sauce, which we put on the plate in a decorative pattern, and then taught us how to make quenelles of whipped cream. I made a braided pattern in the caramel.

The caramel was fairly simple, just sugar, water, and corn syrup cooked until  it achieves a medium amber color. At that point the caramel is removed from the heat, and cream is added. When it calms down, butter and salt are added, and brought back to a boil, briefly.

The pithivier is really simple. It's a round of puff pastry, with a mound of frangipane, and covered with more puff pastry. We used an egg wash to seal the rounds together.

We cut the edges in a petal like shape. For decoration, we incised curved lines into the top pastry.

The pithivier is baked until golden, then pulled out of the oven. The top is then brushed with a light coat of corn syrup, and put back to produce a crisp, shiny coat.

I like this puff pastry. It was both crisper and flakier than any commercial puff pastry I have used.

Both the galette and the pithivier were great. They were rich, and just sweet enough. I don't like overly sweet pastries.

As always for the pastry class, all recipes are courtesy Chef James Foran.



4 oz by wt. almond paste
4 oz by wt. butter
1 oz by wt. sugar
1 egg
1 tsp. vanilla extract
3 Tbsp. all purpose flour
pinch of salt

In the bowl of a stand mixer using a paddle, cream almond paste, butter, and sugar until smooth. Add the egg and vanilla, and again process until smooth. Finally, add flour and salt, and cream until smooth.

Caramel Sauce

5 1/4 oz by wt. sugar
1 Tbsp. corn syrup
2 oz by vol. water
4 oz by vol. cream
3/4 oz by wt. butter
1/4 tsp. salt

In a bowl, combine sugar, syrup, and water. Transfer to a saucepan. Bring to a boil over medium heat. Brush down sides of pan with water two or three times to remove any stray sugar crystals. Cook until sugar solution is a medium dark amber color.

Remove from heat, at cream in three stages while whisking vigorously. Add butter and salt, return to heat until sauce just comes to a boil. Remove from heat and cool.

Pear - Almond Galettes

1/2 recipe of Classic Puff Pastry
1/2 recipe of frangipane
5 pears, peeled, cored, and sliced
4 Tbsp. melted butter
5 tsp. vanilla sugar

Dock pastry, then cut out ten five inch diameter circles. Arrange circles on a parchment paper lined baking sheet.  Pipe frangipane into centers of circles. Spread evenly to within 3/4 inch of the edge. Arrange pear slices on circle, being careful to keep pears at least 3/4 inch from the edge. Brush pears with melted butter, and sprinkle liberally with vanilla sugar.

Bake in a 375 F oven until golden brown. Cool completely, and brush pears with an apricot glaze.


1/2 recipe of Classic Puff Pastry
1/2 recipe of frangipane
1 egg, beaten
1 oz by vol. light corn syrup

Cut two 7 1/2 inch circles from pastry. Place one on a parchment lined baking sheet. Pipe on frangipane, and smooth into a dome, careful to keep the frangipane 1 inch from edge. Brush edge with beaten egg. Press to seal. Use a 5 1/2 bowl to press over pithivier to make a dome shaped middle. Scallop edges. Using a sharp knife, incise curving lines radiating out from the middle, careful to avoid cutting all the way through.

Bake in a 375 F oven until golden brown, approximately 45 minutes to an hour. Remove from oven, brush top with corn syrup. Turn oven to 425 F. Return pithivier to oven, bake until corn syrup creates a shiny, golden crust, about 3 - 5 minutes.

Happy Eating!

Pastry Class: Mid-term Test

We took our mid-term test for our pastry class last week. There were 40 multiple guess questions, and five essay questions. The essay questions were about explaining various methods we had covered so far. The multiple choice questions also covered the methods, also technical things like flours, leaveners, and meringues.

I'm happy to report that I aced the test. Not sure, but I may have been the only 100%. Thank you Navy Nuclear Power School for teaching me how to answer an  essay question.

Apple - Pecan Stuffed Pork Chops with Cumin Mashed Potatoes

I had some lovely boneless, thick cut pork chops that were just begging for stuffing. I made a stuffing of coarse bread crumbs, chopped pecans, onion, and diced apple.

To stuff a pork chop, use a sharp paring knife to cut a pocket into one side of a chop. You want to cut to just about 3/4 inch from the other sides. Be careful not to cut all the way through. Press the stuffing mix into pocket, until the chop bulges a little, but the opening of the pocket will still close.

I grilled the pork chops to medium well, and finished them off with a glaze of apple cider and sweet soy sauce. I augmented the glaze with some ginger and cinnamon. Once I had good grill marks on one side, I flipped the pork chops and brushed the cooked side with glaze. I brushed the chops two or three times, before removing them from the grill.

To accompany the pork chops, I made cumin mashed potatoes. I added a little non-fat Greek yogurt and a little cream. The spouse mashed the potatoes, and had the patience to get them much smoother than I usually do.

For the vegetable, I sauteed some chard leaves in a little bacon butter. I finished the chard with a splash of apple cider vinegar.

I was really happy with this meal. All the flavors complemented each other well. I got the pork chops to a perfect juicy doneness. I was able to allow them to rest long enough to not be dry.

The bacon butter was a gift, so I do not know what the exact recipe is. One that seems like it should get the right results is here.


Apple - Pecan Stuffing

1/2 cup coarse dried bread crumbs
1/2 cup finely chopped pecans
1 apple, peeled, cored, and diced
1/2 small yellow onion, diced
1 Tbsp. olive oil
4 Tbsp. chicken stock

In a skillet over medium heat, cook the onion in the olive oil until tender but not browned. In a bowl, mix together crumbs, nuts, onion, and apple. Slowly add stock, until mixture is moist, but not wet.

Apple Cider Vinegar - Sweet Soy Glaze

1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
1/4 cup sweet soy sauce
3/4 tsp. ground ginger
1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp. fresh ground black pepper

Combine all ingredients in a small sauce pan over medium heat. Cook until glaze has reduced by half, and has started to thicken.

Cumin Mashed Potatoes

6 small russet potatoes, peeled and diced
1/4 cup non-fat Greek yogurt
2 Tbsp. heavy cream
2 tsp. ground cumin
salt and pepper to taste

In a stock pot with plenty of water, boil potatoes until tender. Drain, return to pot. Add yogurt, cream, cumin, salt, and pepper. Mash until smooth.

Chard with Bacon Butter

6 cups roughly chopped chard leaves
2 Tbsp. bacon butter
1 Tbsp. apple cider vinegar

In a stock pot, melt butter over medium heat. Add chard, cook, stirring until chard starts to wilt. Add vinegar, and cover. Reduce heat to low. Cook until chard is completely wilted.

Happy Eating!