Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Volunteering at Quail Hollow Farm

Today my friend Rachel and I went to volunteer at Quail Hollow Farm. We started at 8 AM, which meant we had to leave Vegas a little before 7.

We got there and were immediately put to work picking spinach. Their spinach is amazing; the leaves are huge. After that we were moved to radishes, which I'm not a huge fan of, but they are super fun to pick. Then we cut some lettuce and some Swiss chard, which is a huge lettuce with bright multi-colored stems. Last, we cut some asparagus.

Then it was time to assemble the farm baskets. These are the baskets that the people who have a share in the farm get every week. They are huge! Not only did they contain what we picked, they also had carrots, two kinds of turnips, and several other kids of lettuce.

The farm itself is amazing. We got to play with baby goats, and I petted a couple of cute pigs. There were crazy birds everywhere; chickens, roosters, some mean-looking geese, and huge turkeys.

We were there for six hours in all, and it was so worth it. I would go back there to help again. Their Wednesdays are insane!

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Organic Chicken for the Win

Alright, the chicken was good. It was damn good. We decided that organic is the way to go when we want a whole roasted chicken, which I actually do a lot.

For things like my shredded chicken tacos, I'll have to stick with the cheap stuff. It just makes sense when it's basically getting coated with cumin and lime juice. It would be nice if organic was more affordable, but at 400% or more of the cost of a factory farmed chicken, it just isn't.

Seriously, even the gravy was better. The stock I made from the bones was better.
Verdict: Organic is better, if you can afford it and you use all of the bird. It's not worth paying by the pound if you're going to throw away a pound of fat and bones.

If you're interested, the chicken I got was a Rosie's, which is from a farm called Petaluma Poultry. I enjoyed that because I once lived in Petaluma. It was one of the cheapest options for an organic chicken at Whole Foods, around $3.50 a pound, for $19 ish total. To put that into perspective, that will make at least three meals for the two of us, not to mention that I used the fat and the bones to make a pint of gravy and a quart of chicken stock that I feel like I basically got for free.

I think I'm going to go have some sauteed vegetables and gravy now. Yum.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Organic vs. Factory Farm

I just bought an organic chicken that cost me a shade over $19. It was just under five pounds.

Of course, I'll let you know how it turns out, but it better be damn good for costing five times as much as a "regular" chicken costs (two whole chickens for $7).

We'll see if I can get one cheaper at the farm on Wednesday.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Quail Hollow Farm

Next week I'm going to go check out and volunteer at the farm that my school gets their organic farm basket from. I'm thinking about buying a share for their spring/summer season and getting my own basket. I'll split it with a few friends, I'm sure. That's a lot of vegetables for two people to be eating in a week!

Here's their blog, which has a link to their website.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010


I've been refreshing the grades page on my student portal over and over, and they just popped up.

Hospitality and Restaurant Management: A
Contemporary Cuisine: A

and the one I was worried about...

Wine & Beverage: A


Monday, March 22, 2010

Nobu: Sashimi and Cod

I was really excited about today, to the point where I couldn't stop smiling. It was actually quite an easy day for how fantastic the food was.

For the cod, we marinated it in miso and sugar, and broiled it at 500 for three minutes on each side. I made a little salad to go with it: carrots, scallions, and avocado. It was good, so simple but so good.

Now, the sashimi. First of all, I love sashimi and sushi. Imagine how happy I was when I found out we were using my favorite fish- hamachi (yellowtail)! Oh, how I love hamachi. We thinly sliced the fish and arranged it on the plate, drizzled it with yuzu juice and light soy sauce, sprinkled sesame seeds, brunoised garlic, and julienned scallions on top, and then hit it right before service with some hot olive/peanut oil mixture to just sear the top of the fish. It was honestly one of the best things I've ever eaten, and again, so simple!

Classes are winding down; I turned in my final papers for Contemporary Cuisine and Hospitality and Restaurant Management, and I did my presentation for Wine & Beverage. Now all we have left is finals, and we're done!

Nobu is at the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino; I must get down there someday.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Wolfgang Puck and Mario Batali

Yesterday we made beef wellington and a seasonal salad, recipes from Wolfgang Puck. The wellington was a filet and a mushroom duxell (cream sauce) wrapped in puff pastry and baked. It was difficult to tell when the steak was done, so ours ended up medium-well instead of medium, but it was so good. The salad was just a bunch of vegetables, nothing fancy, but Chef really liked our plating.

Today was Mario Batali day, and we made mussels and lobster appetizers. The mussels were steamed, cleaned, and cooked in their own juice with white wine, onions, and tomato paste, served on a crostini. That appetizer was delicious.

For the lobster, we actually had to kill them, so that sucked. Chef said the most humane way to do it is to freeze them first for about ten minutes to retard their systems, and then just to cut them in half as quickly as possible. I made Ethan do it. I really don't think I can bring myself to kill something like that. Boiling them doesn't bother me, actually killing them with a knife really does. Anyway, we grilled the lobster tail and served it with an herb salad. Chef said we needed to brush the lobster with oil or something to make it nicer to eat. I think lobster is very overrated and I much prefer crab. To me lobster is mainly a vehicle for melted butter, as if I need an excuse to eat butter.

We only have one more cooking day left in Contemporary. After Spring break, we move on to Cuisine Across Cultures. I've seen them work; they do a lot of stir-fry.

Happy Friday!

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Michael Mina: Tuna Tartare and Pancetta-Wrapped Cod

I worked with Corrinne and Brian today because neither of my teammates were in class.

We got sushi-grade tuna to make our tartare, and it turned out so well. Tuna tartare is chopped up tuna, served raw. "Tartare" itself can be done with anything from fish to steak. For the tuna, we used pears, jalapenos, and pine nuts to make it interesting. I have leftovers. Nothing says, "I'm in culinary school" like having tuna tartare and a beer as my afternoon snack.

I was eating the tuna like sashimi while we cooked. Shh, don't tell.

The fish was great, but when is fish wrapped in bacon not great? We made a sauce for it with balsamic vinegar, sugar, shallots, and mushrooms. I will be making that sauce at home for sure.

Michael Mina is from San Francisco like me, so I was excited to cook some of his dishes today.

Happy St. Patrick's Day to everyone! I'll drink an Irish Car Bomb for my readers later tonight.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Thomas Keller: Lamb Chops with Cassoulet, Blini with Eggplant Caviar

We made a half-rack of lamb today, served with vegetables glazed with stock, and jus. It was delicious, but Chef had a problem with our plating. I guess we put too many vegetables on the plate. Oh well.

The blini were hard to make, but they were delicious. The potato flavor went really well with the eggplant and even the *gasp* bell peppers. The peppers were diced so small and cooked in stock that they didn't bother me. I'm pretty sure I've mentioned my hatred for bell peppers on here before; if not, here it is. I freaking hate bell peppers.

Team Awesome was down a member today, so two of us made these two dishes.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Sous Vide Chicken and Crepinettes

Today we did what we called a seasonal menu. On the agenda were two things: chicken cooked sous vide style, and crepinettes.

Sous vide is an interesting way to cook food. It literally translates to "under pressure." I must still know a good amount of French, because I knew that before Chef told us. You cryovac the meat with seasonings, like the lemon and herb we used today, and cook it in a machine that keeps water at a certain constant temperature. The meat is then finished in a pan to give it a good sear.

Crepinettes were lots of fun. It's basically a sausage stuffing wrapped in caul fat instead of a casing, and then pan-fried. We made ours with chicken, shallot, garlic, and some herbs, and shaped them into little meatballs. We served everything with a red wine-truffle sauce, which was amazing.

Other than those two things, Chef let us get creative. The first thing I did was grab a winter squash and get it roasting with butter, thyme, and seasoning. While the chicken was in the sous vide, my team decided on a squash puree, as well as some fried squash pieces and fried purple potatoes for garnish.

Chef's comment? "I got nothing to say; it's great." Team Awesome does it again.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Joel Robuchon: L'Oeuf and Roasted Chicken

Today was Robuchon day! I posted a while back when I went to his restaurant, but I didn't have either of the dishes we made today.

L'oeuf, which means "the egg," is a pretty complicated dish at Robuchon. We wouldn't have had time to make it so we made a super simplified version. I took on making the mushroom sauce; Justin poached the egg. We served the egg with the sauce over a parsley puree, and garnished with mushrooms and shallots. Chef said it was perfect.

Our chicken was perfect too! We had whole organic chickens, which we salted, slathered in butter, and seared thigh-side down. We turned the chicken while roasting four times, to get the nice sear on all of the skin. It's amazing what organic chicken tastes like. I wish it wasn't so much more expensive. It actually tastes like chicken!

I will be doing the slathering in butter thing at home. Oh, and I aced my quiz in the cooking class, and I feel really good about my Wine & Beverage quiz, which was on wine. That's a really good thing because I knew virtually nothing about wine going into the class, so I've learned quite a bit in just a couple of weeks.

Happy Friday!

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Bradley Ogden: Blue Cheese Souffle and Roasted Grilled Pork

Today we made dishes inspired by Bradley Ogden, one of which I actually ate when I went to his restaurant.

The boys and I split up again, so I made the souffle and they made the pork loin. Of course I was nervous about the souffle; they are prone to falling or sticking in the ramekin. None of that happened and my souffles came out perfect! I plated two of them on a long plate just like I had at the restaurant, with watercress in a wine vinaigrette, candied walnuts, blue cheese crumbles and dried apples. We used Maytag blue cheese today, and the flavors all went incredibly well together, just like I knew they would.

The pork loin was good. We made a jus for it using the pan drippings and adding mirepoix (just onions and carrots this time, no celery), straining it, and then reducing it. The jus was great but I wanted more than we made!

Apparently blue cheese isn't favored among my classmates, but I absolutely love it to the point where I happily eat it plain, so of course the souffles were great. And now it's obvious why I was so excited about today!

We have quizzes in two classes tomorrow, but that also means tomorrow is Friday!

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Rick Moonen: Calamari and Scallops

Rick Moonen, and his restaurant RM Seafood here in town, are known for their longstanding belief in sustainable seafood. I've been to RM Seafood and never regretted it for a second. I ordered the cioppino there, and it contained the biggest and most delicious mussels I've ever had.

Our dishes today were fried calamari with two different aiolis, and scallops in a mushroom cream sauce. The boys took over the calamari while I whipped up the scallop dish in about 20 minutes. They were still working, and I had leftover scallops, so I made another batch. Chef liked everything we made today. We didn't get a "perfect" but he said everything was seasoned nicely and was delicious.

I am so excited for class tomorrow.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Daniel Bouloud: Tart Tatin

Today we started the segment of class where we focus on a chef and their recipes each day. Today was Daniel Bouloud, and we made a signature dish of his: Tomato Tart Tatin.

It was a puff pastry round, topped with goat cheese mixed with mascarpone and cream, topped with roasted tomatoes, topped with pistuo sauce, topped with caramelized onions and a mini-salad. Pistuo sauce is like pesto without the garlic. The mini-salad was frisee lettuce, tomato, mushroom, and kalamata olive, tossed in lemon and olive oil.

The dish was amazing. Chef's comment? "Perfect." My team finished with about half an hour to spare, too.

Monday, March 8, 2010


First of all, we had our midterm today. It was easy.

Secondly, the great news: We got new groups today which will take us through the end of class! Chef picked the leaders based on grades, and the leaders got to choose their two teammates. Well, guess who has the highest grade in the class and got first pick? I chose Justin and Ethan, and I am thrilled with my picks.

We had a few things to work with today, all of which lent themselves to Indian food, so we went that way. We made a curry with tempeh and cucumber and a lentil puree. I went a little crazy and made a soymilk lassi type drink, with cucumber and jalapeno. Chef said it was good and he liked the idea, but it needed salt. I've never made lassi before so I didn't know that, but Chef said he liked my creativity. We also made parisienne squash (like melon balls) and topped them with ground pistachio, which went over so well that Chef said he was stealing the idea!

Overall, today was great. Isn't that awesome for a Monday?

Friday, March 5, 2010

Stir-Fry and Fajitas

...with seitan, of course. Both dishes were the usual suspects, but I made some stir-fry for myself with extra pepper sauce and no bell peppers. I got to use the wok.

I hate bell peppers so much.

We took a quiz today in Contemporary Cuisine and I aced it, which I'm happy about. It's also Friday, which I'm very happy about. I have a friend in town, so if I get to a special feature this weekend it will be a small miracle. We'll be busy doing the brewery tour of Vegas.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Burgers and Mac n Cheese

Don't get too excited; it's vegan burgers and vegan mac n cheese.

The burger was a patty made with the seitan we made yesterday, the product that's mostly wheat gluten. We added some cayenne and some extra garlic. To make them at least a little bit unhealthy (read: delicious) we pan fried them in a pretty good amount of oil. My team served ours with two different "mayos" made out of tofu: one garlic "mayo" and one spicy pepper "mayo." It was actually really good. We made waffle fries to go with the burger.

The "cheese" for the mac n cheese was ground up almonds, nutritional yeast, and a few other products. I didn't make it because I was working on the burger. It was okay, but it didn't taste like cheese, which I was expecting.

We served our panna cotta today. It was thickened with agar agar instead of egg, and I thought it made the dessert way too gelatinous.

I'm pretty sure I've lost a couple pounds because I've been eating mostly vegetarian, which I really didn't expect. I'm still not sold, either.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Vegan Peanut Butter Cookies

Today we made seitan and panna cotta, but those are for tomorrow. The only thing we got to actually finish today were our peanut butter cookies.

We used an egg substitute, vegan butter, and soymilk. Soymilk may be gross on its own, but the cookies turned out amazing. They may be the best peanut butter cookies I've ever had, but take that with a grain of salt because it's not my favorite cookie by far. They were how I like them, just really soft, barely cooked.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Garlic Knots, Farro, and Pizza

Today we used a new grain called Farro, and cooked it like risotto. It turned out pretty well, and is really filling. We added a little bit of sundried tomato to ours.

Our garlic knots turned out perfect. We made a garlic sauce for them instead of just having them swimming in butter, and the sauce was almost as good as butter is.

We had a little dough left over so we made a sundried tomato pizza, which was surprisingly delicious. I like sundried tomatoes but I've never had a pizza where they were the only topping.

I know it doesn't sound too exciting, but that's because you probably don't have leftover garlic knots and pizza in your fridge, and I do.

Monday, March 1, 2010

Vegan Corn Chowder

Today we made vegan corn chowder with tofu as a thickening agent to replace the cream. We added carrots and red peppers to the recipe, and with the corn, tofu, and purple potatoes, it was really colorful. Chef was proud of us for going beyond what we had to do, and when he tasted it, he said, "Perfect."

It was pretty tasty.

Tomorrow we are switching teams, and I am not happy about my new team. I'm going to try to stay positive and realize that I will have to just take the lead and give small jobs to a couple of the new team members.