Friday, February 26, 2010

Butternut Squash Soup and Stir-Fry

Today we had two recipes to make, so we decided that Gus and I would make the butternut squash soup, and Ethan and Justin would make the stir-fry.

The soup was so easy and so good. We just sauteed leeks, carrots, and onion, then added the spices and squash and sauteed those for a couple of minutes. Then we added stock and let it simmer until the squash was tender. We pureed the soup and blended in a little cream. Our garnishes were some creme fraiche, some caramelizes apples, and some homemade croutons that I fried in butter. It was delicious, which was Chef's reaction as well.

Stir-fry was fun because we got to use the wok. Our classroom only has one and my team had the foresight to grab it first. It had mushrooms, tofu, noodles, and an amazing peanut sauce with hoisin, soy, and Thai hot sauce. Chef really liked that dish, too.

I think this weekend I'm going to try to make a potato-parsnip pureed soup, similar to the butternut squash recipe. I'll probably use a little nutmeg instead of allspice.

We had a quiz today and I only missed one point! Aside from Monday, it's been a really good week!

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Middle Eastern Day

Of course I was happy about having a whole Middle Eastern day. We had to make pita bread and falafel, and when I saw the chickpeas and tahini I declared that I was also going to make hummus. We had some chicken in the walk-in that were for us to use, so I channeled my mom and made a lemon-herb marinade for it. One Chef looked at our stuff and said, "Well you definitely kept to a theme!" It was great.

Then, something interesting happened.

A guy came straight up to me in our kitchen, introduced himself as "Ben," and said Chef told him that I was a writer. I said I'm kind of a writer, and he asked why I was in culinary school. I told him, "so I can write about food!" and he asked if I wanted to be a chef. I told him not really, but I might do it in the short term until I get my writing career going. I even said something about wanting to be able to work from home. He asked about my experience and I said I had front of house experience, plus minimal cooking experience.

Then... he gave me his card and told me to email him my resume. I looked at his card, and he's the executive chef at an upscale restaurant in one of the Station Casinos. Maybe he was impressed by my honesty? I basically told him that there's no way I want to be a chef in the long term, and he still wanted my resume. I have no idea what that was about, but maybe I'll look into doing my internship there. He's the chef at the one Station Casino that is absolutely on the other end of town from me, but he might know someone at a closer restaurant. Time to beef up the resume and send it out, I guess!

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Quinoa Tabbouleh and Mexican Brown Rice

Today we cooked dishes with heirloom grains. It's a fancy word for organic. The brown rice we used was from a farm in Southern California, pretty close to here.

I'm sure you're all surprised that I, the Lebanese girl, volunteered to make the tabbouleh. Now, tabbouleh doesn't traditionally have quinoa in it, nor does it contain any sort of lettuce, but we are in a class called Contemporary Cuisine, so I tried to roll with it as much as possible. I ended up with a beautiful, delicious plate of tabbouleh and quinoa on a bed of lettuce chiffonade, garnished with thinly sliced cucumbers. I wish I had gotten a picture of it.

The Mexican style brown rice was more time consuming, only because the rice took over an hour to cook. I can't believe there is rice that you can boil for that long and it's still barely cooked! Brian made that dish, and Chef said it was the best one he'd had all day when he tasted it.

It was another really great day in class. Tonight for dinner I am making baby back ribs and gratin dauphinoise.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Salad, Salad, Vegetables

Today we had two salads on the agenda, plus a vegetable dish. We did really well today, and I'm a happy girl.

The first salad was to be a beet salad with greens and goat cheese, with a honey lemon poppyseed dressing. We used baby beets and roasted them with onions, sliced them, and arranged them in a circle on the plate. We mixed the beet greens with spinach, sauteed them, and placed them in the middle. The goat cheese was sprinkled over the top, and we sliced some pretty apple slices to garnish. The dressing was really great and the whole salad came together perfectly.

Our second salad was composed with four kinds of baby potatoes and an herb salad. I decided to make a red wine vinaigrette for it, and it turned out really well too. I can't believe there are so many great varieties of potato, yet we only see maybe three kinds in the store. Chef told us that the big farming businesses want to keep it that way, because it's cheaper for them to grow less variety.

The vegetable dish was supposed to be "Mixed grilled vegetables with herb puree." Chef said we didn't have to grill if we didn't want to. None of us thought that sounded remotely good, so we made a broccoli and onion gratin instead. Justin made a mornay sauce with some of the extra goat cheese we had, and it turned out really well. The tanginess of the goat cheese made the cheese sauce really interesting; it was delicious with the broccoli. We were the only group to do anything like that, and Chef was pretty impressed.

See what I mean when I said the day went well?

In Wine & Beverage, we tasted both cognac and rum, which was a little rough for an 8AM class. Cognac was actually fine, but I dislike almost all rum, so that was a bit much for me.

Did I mention that we got out really early today? Double double bonus!

Monday, February 22, 2010

Buckwheat Ravioli

Today we made buckwheat tortellini, so we could stand out from the other teams making plain ravioli. They were actually kind of gross and dry, and really needed some sort of cream sauce instead of the tomato mushroom sauce that I made to serve with them. My sauce was delicious by itself, though, so I took the extra home with me.

Soda day has been removed from our curriculum. I don't know how I feel about it, since I don't drink soda at all but still wanted to try some interesting flavor combinations. We were going to make a mango habanero soda (yes, we completely ripped off the idea from Buffalo Wild Wings).

Friday, February 19, 2010

Masala Murgh and Chucula

Today was supposed to be soda day, but that's been put off until next week. We made Masala Murgh, which is a chicken curry, today. We made it with seitan instead of chicken. Seitan is a wheat gluten protein substitute, and the texture is like very firm tofu. The curry sauce was great, and we added eggplant and fennel to make the dish more interesting. We added lemon to give a tangy aftertaste, which was a perfect touch.

Chucula is a plaintain smoothie. We cooked the plaintain in water, cinnamon, vanilla, and brown sugar, and then mixed it with soy milk and ice to make the smoothie. We rimmed the glass with brown sugar to make it look great, and it was a really nice, interesting flavor that resulted.

It's fun and interesting cooking food that's vegetarian, and almost vegan (we used chicken stock so it wasn't vegan). Not that I would go that way, but not that there's anything wrong with that. Bonus points for anyone who gets the reference in the last half of that last sentence.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Indian Food

Today we made a vegetable tagine with cous cous and Indian spices. We used saffron, oregano, cilantro, and mint. It was a successful dish. We served it with a simple yogurt sauce.

We also made a lentil curry with tofu and vegetables, which I loved because I love tofu! We served it over rice. My first batch of rice burned because someone *ahem* turned the burner up, and in my haste to make another batch in 20 minutes I forgot to salt the rice. At least it wasn't burned, and I made a successful pilaf in 20 minutes. The rest of the spices were good, but no salt. I was so mad at myself; of course the batch that someone burned was seasoned perfectly.

We got a 4 out of 5. It was partly because of the saltless rice, but also partly because the curry was delicious, but not colorful enough. It was delicious; the four of us ate it in probably five minutes flat.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Lasagne, Flatbread, Tomato Soup with Grilled Cheese

Today my team rocked so hard that all Chef told us was, "Keep it up." He was really impressed, plus we were the first team to be done and have a clean table with beautiful plates. Plating dishes is really fun when we're allowed to get creative.

We decided to make our lasagne in a single-portion terrine, and we used the fettuccine instead of the flat pasta that's made for lasagne. We layered the pasta on the bottom, then the ricotta and the parmesan, then some tomato sauce, and we topped it with more cheese. We were going to unmold it but it looked so good gratin-style we decided to leave it in there. It did unmold successfully when we tried it after Chef looked at it, which was a nice surprise. We weren't positive that it would hold together, but it did.

The flatbread was basically made yesterday; we just had to bake it and add our toppings. We made four breads, two with the spinach and pine nut topping that we prepared yesterday, and two makeshift pizza style, with red sauce, jalapenos, mozzarella, and a little spinach. They were delicious, and Chef loved our plating. We cut the spinach flatbread into slices and placed them on a really cool curved plate. It looked awesome.

Finally, the grilled cheese and tomato soup. I made the soup pretty much perfectly. I always seem to end up working on the soup. Every group was having a problem with a bitter aftertaste, which I solved by adding sugar. I didn't let them in on the "secret" (It's not a secret; I add sugar to every pasta sauce, why not soup?) because I am mean like that. Gus made the grilled cheese sandwiches, which we used Gruyere cheese in. I made sure he buttered the hell out of the bread, and they turned out great, especially dipped in the soup. Our plating for that was a small coffee mug filled with the soup and a piece of roasted garlic in the middle of a long plate that held the sandwiches, quartered.

We start getting graded tomorrow, but I wish we had been graded today! We were nearly perfect. Brag brag brag.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010


Today our project was to make a vichysoisse, which is a cold potato leek soup. We actually made it at three different temperatures to see what taste difference we could find, and it was pretty enlightening. For example, the cold soup tasted the most sour from the buttermilk, while the hot soup tasted the most like potatoes.

We also started a flatbread that will have a spinach topping, but we didn't have time to proof it long enough, so those will be finished tomorrow. Yum!

Monday, February 15, 2010


I got As in both Psychology and Banquets & Catering!

New classes seem okay. I think Contemporary Cuisine will be fun and challenging, but I am not really looking forward to Hospitality & Restaurant Management. I can deal with Wine & Beverage.

Monday, February 8, 2010

Catching Up with our Grand Buffet

We've been busy preparing for our grand buffet, along with finals and all that. I helped make this on Friday.

It's a salmon covered in cream cheese and vegetable flowers. Isn't it pretty and gross?

I made my mussels and my fruit salsa today. The buffet is tomorrow, plus I'm in the middle of finals. It's been a wild week.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Tricolor Vegetable Terrine

I can't make my mussels or my fruit salsa for the buffet until next week, so I made the vegetable terrine today. A terrine is a dish that's basically a mousse pressed into a mold and then weighted down for a few days so it's able to be sliced when it's served. It can be made with anything, and we are making several for our grand buffet.

The vegetables we used are carrots, spinach, and a mix of cauliflower and turnip. The terrine is going to be striped in those colors, and it'll look pretty, but it seems like a lot of work for what is basically vegetable puree.

Other teams are making terrines of lamb breast, chicken, rabbit, all sorts of things.

Chef made us mussels today, since we are getting another batch for me to use next week. Yum!

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Final Buffet Prep

Today was pretty much a lecture day, but we got our assignments for the final buffet. I got steamed cold mussels with fruit salsa, which should be so good. I'm really excited to make it. Chef basically had me assign everyone's projects, which was great but annoying when people asked to swap.

I'm also in charge of the decorating, which Chefs are not going to help with this time. I decided that the decorating crew would be all five girls, and we chose a Mardi Gras theme over Valentine's Day. I'm nervous about being in charge of it, but we'll see how it goes. The buffet is next Wednesday.

Monday, February 1, 2010

Ice Carving!

Today I went from really not wanting to carve ice at all to having fun doing it. I wasn't in a bad mood, but if I had been, hacking at that ice would have been even more satisfying. I had a 150 pound block to work with.

I hacked away for two and a half hours. I made an E. You know what never occurred to me until today? It's hard to take a picture of ice.