Saturday, April 30, 2016

Salmon Mousse

Salmon Mousse
500 grams salmon fillets/scraps, poached in red wine, water, star anise, cloves, parsley
1 cup fish veloute (fish stock thickened with a white roux and seasoned with salt and pepper)
2 leaves of gelatin, softened
5 Tablespoons hot stock
1 cup cold whipped cream
salt, pepper, and dill to taste
Poach the salmon in the liquid until just cooked. Strain, break into pieces and place in a food processor with the veloute (both can be hot). Process until combined.
Dissolve the gelatin in the hot stock, then stir into the salmon mixture. Fold in the cream. Season to taste.
Pour a thin layer of aspic in the bottom of each mold, and place two mussels in. Top with the salmon mousse. Chill until firm, then unmold.

Friday, April 29, 2016

Caul Fat Terrine

What is caul fat, you say? That is an excellent question. To be honest, I had heard of it before but I had to look it up myself. Caul fat is also known as lace fat, mesentery, crépine or fat netting, and is the thin membrane which surrounds the stomach internal organs of some animals, such as cows, sheep, and pigs. It honestly looks just like lace, and is used to wrap items such as pork tenderloin and such, to add moisture. It is used much like barding, and a really common dish is called crepinettes, which are sausage patties wrapped in caul fat.
I had caul fat as a black box ingredient for a recent competition, and I had never worked with it before. I did a few quick experiments with it beforehand. I didn't want to take the easy way out and just use it to wrap something, I wanted to use it in a terrine. I tried wrapping it around the terrine to see what happened, but I didn't like to outcome. Although the lace was visible in some areas, it melted away in others leaving a greasy layer. Frying caul fat caused it to melt away as well. I decided to use it inside the terrine along with the ground chicken to replace the pork fat that would normally be used. This worked quite successfully! 

Thursday, April 28, 2016

Head Cheese

Head cheese is not a dairy cheese at all, but rather a terrine made of animal flesh (traditionally the head) set it aspic. It is a cold cut that originated in Europe. The process to make it isn't difficult, although it may be a bit of a turn off for some people. Head cheese is also incredibly cheap to make, because when you think about it - no one wants to buy pigs heads. It's not a prime cut at all.
To make head cheese, you take a whole pig head and use a blow torch to burn off any extra hair or fur that may still be attached to the skin. This smells REALLY BAD but you also do not want a hairy terrine. Next the pig head is boiled in a pot of water, vegetables, and aromatics, much like a stock, for six hours until it is tender. The stock is strained (and reserved) and the meat is taken from the head and chopped roughly. You can use as much or as little meat as you wish depending on how much head cheese you want. Pork cheeks and ears have many other great uses, and you may wish to omit the brain and eyes. Also try to trim off as much of the fat as possible, which can be used for something else. Be sure to remove the teeth as well!

The meat is then mixed with some chopped fresh herbs, seasonings of choice, and aspic to bind it, then set into terrine molds and chilled. It is sliced to serve, and it great with some crusty bread.

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Around The World Charcuterie Tasting

Recently I participated in a world wide charcuterie tasting. There were twelve different countries involved, with two items from each country. There was a variety of different foods, including sausages, cheeses, pates, smoked meats, and more.
 Most of the items were presented with or accompanied by other components such as breads, vegetables, fruits, preserves, and more.
Some of the dishes included: many different types of sausages, provolone cheese, quark cheese, ricotta cheese, goat's cheese, liverwurst pate, head cheese, meat pie, pita bread, rye bread, and lots more!

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Wild Game Tasting

The other week I went to a wild game tasting where several different types of wild game meats I have never seen, cooked, or eaten before (as well as a few I have) were cooked in varying techniques with varying accompaniments. Some of the game meats included:

  • Quail
  • Patridge
  • Pheasant
  • Magret (goose breast from a goose used for foie gras production)
  • Ostrich
  • Kangaroo
  • Wild Boar
  • Foie Gras
  • Horse
  • Bison
  • Elk
The various cooking techniques included: searing, sauteeing, roasting, sous-viding, baking, poaching, and braising.
Some methods of preparation included: burgers, soups, stews, hash, terrine.
Some accompaniments included: rice, mashed potatoes, gnocchi, bread, vegetables, chutneys, and sauces.

Monday, April 25, 2016

Free Samples

At the food convention I was at the other day, there were so many vendors set up and nearly all of them had at least one free sample to offer. There was a large variety and many options. Here is a taste of some things there:

An assortment of breads, rolls, cookies, and quick breads.

Italian sodas, ice cream sundaes, and cream puffs.

Different brownie types


Chocolate eruption cake...yummy, yum, yum

Chocolate squares


Sunday, April 24, 2016

Homemade Mozzarella

The other day I made homemade mozzarella! It was much easier than I thought it would be. Most homemade cheeses begin with milk, but this one was slightly different. It starts with fresh cheese curds. The process of making fresh mozzarella involves stretching fresh cheese curds. In order to do this, you have to pour hot water over the curds to make them pliable. I'm talking about boiling water, and then you need to use your hands to stretch the cheese out. So the entire process goes like this:

  1. Place cheese curds in a bowl.
  2. Boil a pot of water.
  3. Pour enough water over the curds to cover. 
  4. Use your hands to gather the curds into a pliable mass.
  5. Have a bowl of ice water nearby. 
  6. Dunk your hands in ice water as needed if the boiling water becomes too much. Go back and forth, back and forth.
  7. When the water becomes cooler, drain it out and add fresh boiling water.
  8. Keep stretching the curds until it becomes a smooth, elastic ball.
  9. Wrap the ball is plastic wrap and chill. Then eat as desired! The cheese is ready to eat immediately, and can be sliced, grated, or melted. It is great on pizza. For a little more flavor, the cheese may be soaked in a brine for a few days. It should keep longer that way as well.

Saturday, April 23, 2016

Dough Danish Turnovers

Going along with the same idea as those pie dough scraps from last week, here we have dough 'turnovers' or shortcut Danish pastries. We took the leftover dough from making a tortiere meat pie, and made mini turnovers and one large turnover. We didn't really worry about getting perfect triangles as we were just utilizing scrap dough anyway. 

Some are filled with dark chocolate chips, which melted just enough to form a nice filling but not enough to ooze out of the pastry. Some are filled with spiced almonds, some with crushed maple walnuts, some with cinnamon sugar, and some with a combination of those. They are simply sealed with water, but also could be brushed with egg wash or milk before baking to allow more toppings to adhere. They can be brushed or dipped in melted butter after baking to give them a little more flavor. This is a basic pie dough for a savory pie, so the dough itself is not very sweet, making it the perfect vessel for a maple glaze or a frosting as well.

Friday, April 22, 2016

Fruit Stock

So just the other day I was cutting up fruit for a fruit platter, and had quite a few extra fruit peels. I was about to toss them out, when I thought that was kind of a waste. After all, we save all the vegetable scrap odds and ends to make stocks, all the meat bones and fat and trimmings, why not fruit???
So I threw my cantaloupe peel, honeydew peel, lemon rind, extra orange slices I found in the fridge, and random grapes in a pot with water, along with some fresh mint, cinnamon sticks, star anise, and cloves for a little extra flavor. It didn't take very long to simmer to extract the flavor, not even two hours.
 I then strained the stock and tasted it. It was quite citrusy, like a light orange juice, with a hint of spice. I added a simple syrup with some maple, poured it over ice, and made a quick fruit punch. The flkavor will differ depending on what sort of fruit scraps you have - but don't throw them out! Fruit stock does work.

Thursday, April 21, 2016

People's Choice Award: Cheesy Pasta with Bacon

This is the dish from yesterday's blackbox competition I promised I would share. In the limited time, space, and pantry I had, I tried to create a dish that the spectators would love, but also one that was refined enough that the judges would enjoy too. It seemed to be successful, I god a gold in the People's Choice Award and silver with the judges. Here is a general recipe as to how I remember making my dish.

  1. Grab A LOT of bacon and quickly chop it up. Throw it in a hot pan.
  2. Meanwhile, peel and dice five small red onions. Toss it in with your bacon.
  3. While that sweats down, mince up some fresh tarragon.
  4. Strain the bacon and red onion, reserving the bacon fat. Return the fat to the pan and add a cup of salted butter. Melt it.
  5. Add about a cup or two of all-purpose flour and whisk until you have a thick roux.
  6. Gradually whisk in one to two liters of whole milk and keep the heat on high, stirring often, to thicken the sauce.
  7. While sauce is on the go, cook your pasta noodle sin boiling salted water.
  8. Season your sauce with salt, black pepper, dijon mustard, tabasco sauce, garlic seasoning mix. Through some worchestershire and more tabasco sauce into your bacon and red onion.
  9. Cube up some cheddar cheese and throw into the sauce, reserving some cheese for the end. Melt it down a bit, then throw in some parmesan flakes as well.
  10. Melt the cheese into the sauce, and season it again.
  11. Strain your pasta and stir in the sauce and bacon and red onion. Stir in the extra cheddar and tarragon, reserving a little of each for garnish.
  12. Taste and adjust seasoning, consistency, and cheesiness and enjoy!!!

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Second Place In Blackbox Competition

Today I competed (again) in a blackbox competition. This competition was quite different from the last few I have done. It was me and three other competitors who traveled together to a food show in an arena about an hour away. We didn't really know what we were getting ourselves into, as little details had been divulged to us before the competition. However, from what we understood, we would most likely have about an hour to make a dish using limited ingredients provided to us on site. We would be on stage and on camera and were required to make one sample plate to be judged by chefs, and about one hundred small portions to be dished out to guests. We had inferred that our ingredients would most likely include cheese, milk, cream, and butter (as the show was sponsored by a dairy company), and probably dry pasta.

When we got there, we found a stage set up with four small stations, each equipped only with two butane burners, two pots, a whisk, spatula, spoon, tongs, cutting board, and oven mitt. That is all we had to work with. No oven, no sink, nothing else; and a very low table. 

 Our available ingredients were: tri-colored fusili pasta, mini shells, or cavatappi noodles as the base.
Dairy items included: shredded parmesan cheese, flaked parmesan cheese, block of medium cheddar cheese, 35% whipping cream, 3.5% milk, salted butter, and whole eggs.
Proteins included: sliced bacon, Italian sausages, chicken breasts
Produce included: red onions, celery, fennel, plum tomatoes, garlic cloves, oregano, parsley, and tarragon. 
Dry ingredients included: salt, ground black pepper, dijon mustard, tabasco sauce, worchestershire sauce, lemon juice, tomato sauce, garlic seasoning, pepper seasoning, olive oil, canola oil, all-purpose flour, and white vinegar.
That was it.

I am happy to say I placed second overall, and also tied for the People's Choice Award. I will share my dish tomorrow!

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Homemade Halloumi Cheese

I am going to be honest, I had never even heard of halloumi cheese before. It is a soft, unripened cheese that is usually brined. The process to make halloumi is relatively simple and only requires milk, and a little rennet; proper temperature monitoring, separating curds and whey, and pressing the cheese. The next day, you have relatively firm, tasty halloumi cheese. Halloumi is actually a good cheese for grilling - it holds up its shape enough but has a slightly melted texture that make sit great for hearty, grilled cheese sandwiches. It also has the ability to be crumbled like feta.

Monday, April 18, 2016

Bacon Maple Walnut Terrine

We had some leftover chicken forcemeat from various terrines so the solution was to use it up and make a few new terrines. To jazz up these terrines, we did inlays and outlays. Inlays are something that goes evenly through the middle of the terrine, but sometimes ingredients that are simply stirred into the terrine, such as nuts and dried fruits, are also considered inlays. Outlays are something that is wrapped evenly around the outside of the terrine.

One group did a mushroom inlay and golden beet outlay.
Another group did a meat inlay and cabbage outlay.
My group made a maple walnut butter to use as the inlay and double smoked bacon as the outlay. 

Sunday, April 17, 2016

Practice Plating

During some preparation times for yesterday's competition; one thing we worked on was plating. Plating sometimes falls under the wayside until you are n the heat of a competition, but it is something that is very important to think about in advance. It is best to have a plan for plating, that way you don't start plating the dish and realize you've run out of room, or you should have placed the sauce on the bottom instead of the top. Practice plates do not need to be done with the actual components. Sometimes it is sufficient to draw or sketch the plates - on paper, or on whiteboards so changes can easily be made. It is also possible to cover a plate with plastic wrap and draw on it with sharpies. 

However, it is often very helpful to see the plates in 3-D. This can be achieved by using various objects lying around, such as office supplies, but a common practice is also to make things called 'ketchup plates'. Chefs devise plates using random, common condiments such as ketchup, mustard, stale bread, vegetable scraps, and more to represent the components on their dishes.

Here, we were practicing the dessert plate. We did have the caramel sauce made as we had been practicing it, and we did have some strawberries, but we didn't have any of our other components. We ended up using random bread pieces and such we found near-by. Looks like an award-winning plate, does it not?

Saturday, April 16, 2016

Third Place In Doubles Competition

Today I participated in the doubles culinary competition at my school. Fifteen teams of two competed - teams consisting of one first year student paired with one second year student. I am happy to say that my amazing partner and I placed third overall! This competition was just like the other two I did at my school - four hours to produce a three course meal for six people. This time though, instead of getting a runner we had a partner to help us. I am very proud of what my partner and I accomplished tonight!
Our mandatory black box ingredients were mussels and whole halibut for the appetizer, pork tenderloin and ground chicken for the entree, as well as caul fat, asiago cheese, and fresh strawberries. In addition, we had to submit a recipe for our mussels in the appetizer. Congratulations to all participants! It was a very fun competition. :) 

Friday, April 15, 2016

Competition Prep

I've been doing more culinary competitions lately, and as I have mentioned before, they require a lot of advance planning and practicing. There is writing out recipes, time management sheets, ingredient lists, and equipment lists. There is practicing and trying out recipes and tweaking techniques. One other task is gathering up stuff needed for the competition. For example, the competition I am doing tomorrow has fifteen teams of two people, in very limited kitchen space. Therefore, equipment will be limited and the kitchen will be hectic and crazy. So this took a little more advance planning to avoid using equipment I know will be tough to fight for, and to schedule in a little extra time for running around.

Just to be on the safe side, my partner and I decided to take some equipment with us. Any outside equipment is allowed in order to ensure there is enough of everything to go around, provided it is only equipment that would already be available.
Pictured here, we brought: plastic wrap, aluminum foil, masking tape, food labels, miniature kitchen scale, timer, butcher's twine, miniature food processor, miniature blender, stopwatch, plastic bags, piping bags and tips, plastic lids for containers, and our own knives and specialty tools. We're prepared for this. Bring it on.

Thursday, April 14, 2016

Pie Dough Scraps

Remember the pate en croute from yesterday? It requires a big batch of pie dough because you have to roll it out to get the right shape, and then trim it to fit the pate. So there are a lot of scraps. Waste not want not - cut the leftover dough into strips and deep-fry them until golden and crisp. Then drizzle them with a little melted salted butter and add your favorite toppings....
1. Cinnamon Sugar - a classic
2. Crushed Maple Candied Walnuts
3. Grated Dark and White Chocolate

Just toss in the toppings, as little or as much as you like. Since the pie dough contains no sugar, savory applications would work as well. I recommend trying sesame seeds, spice mixtures, and parmesan cheese; or leave them plain and add dipping sauces such as barbecue, ranch, cheese, salsa, hummus, etc. 

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Pate En Croute

Pate en croute, was basically the exact same recipe as all the other pates we have made. However this time, we also made a pastry dough and encased the terrine in this crust and baked it. I like pastry crusts, and love the ideas of dishes such as wellingtons and vol-au-vents. But it is extremely difficult to get the proper cook and texture on a crust of these items.

First, making the pie dough was not too difficult. Rolling it out was not fun though - trying to keep it in a perfect rectangle, as thin as the chicken skin, and uniform consistency all around. Then cutting it perfectly to fit the terrine mold with minimal overlap. Next, the top can be decorated with any cut-outs from the dough scraps. I simply put my name. Then two vent holes are cut into the terrine, which are filled with aspic after baking. The aspic forms a jelly layer between the pate and the crust, as the pate shrinks when it is cooked.

My dough ended up cooking okay. The ends were definitely not cooked through but they are normally discarded anyway. I would have liked a bit more color on my crust all around, but that is difficult to do without completely overcooking the meat. It was also difficult to release the terrine from the mold while keeping the crust completely intact. 

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Duck Roulade

Remember the Chicken Galantine I featured a few days ago? The pain-in-the-butt, tedious, time-consuming pate wrapped in paper-thin chicken skin? Well, this is it's cousin; Duck Roulade. Duck Roulade is essentially the same thing - a duck pate with an inlay or seared duck breast, rolled in duck skin that has been scraped until it is paper thin. The one main difference is that the duck roulade is roasted, whereas the chicken galantine is poached. 

The duck roulade is tied with butcher's twine to hold it together, rather than being wrapped in cheesecloth. It is then roasted in a pan containing mirepoix, herbs, and duck fat; and is periodically bated in the duck fat. This gives great color, flavor, and texture to the roulade, especially the skin, as it becomes crisp and noticeable in contrast to the skin of the galantine. So I much preferred this, and thought it was ALMOST worth all the work. Almost.
I found the duck easier to debone than the chicken, but that was possibly only because I had done a chicken the day before and they are very similar. However, the duck was much bloodier and gross. The duck meat was however, much more difficult to pull apart from the skin. It did not comes right off like the chicken, so it was tricky to pull the meat off without ripping the skin or leaving a lot of meat behind. The duck also needed much more scraping because the skin was thicker and fattier. 

Monday, April 11, 2016

Please Amuse My Bouche

Amuse Bouche is a French term literally meaning to amuse the mouth. It refers to a small, bite-sized creative canape, appetizer, or morsel of food presented to diners in fine dining restaurants at the very beginning of a meal, often followed by numerous other courses. It is a way of getting diners excited about the meal, impressing them and adding a little wow factor, giving them the best quality food for their money, using up extra product in the kitchen, showcasing a chef's creativity, and trying out new ideas. It is sometimes surprising how much flavor can be built in one forkful of food.
Jellied Asparagus Terrine, Crispy Bacon Curl, Saffron Aioli, Edible Flowers

Brussels Sprouts Three Ways: candied Brussels sprouts,
Brussels sprout chip, black garlic and Brussels sprout
aioli, pickled cranberries, spiced toasted almonds.
Miniature Apple Pie - shortbread crust, poached
cinnamon apple compote, candied pecans, microgreen

Herbed Goat Cheese on toasted Baguette with candied apple twist and prosciutto

Homemade Puff Pastry with Blue Cheese Filling,
Pumpkin Jam, Toasted Pecan, and Parsley

Salmon and Cream Cheese Crepe with Cucumber Spaghetti and Spiced Mayo

Sunday, April 10, 2016

Pate de Campagne

In English, country pate. Which is a forcemeat pressed into a terrine mold and baked in a waterbath. It gets in name from its coarse texture, which is acheived from grinding the meat only once through a medium plate.  It usually contains a small amount of liver, some fat, a panada, pate spice, and meats of choice. Inlays (such as seared meats or vegetables), outlays (such as blanched cabbage or bacon strips), and stir-ins (such as sauteed mushrooms, chopped nuts, or dried fruits) are also possibilities to enhance flavor, texture, and appearance (if you ask me, it could certainly use it!). Like I said before, meat terrines are not my cup of tea - both flavor and texture-wise. But I can appreciate the art of making them and the applications they have on menus. 

Saturday, April 09, 2016

Bacon, Bacon, Bacon

Homemade bacon is not difficult to make. You simply need pork belly or pork loin and some seasonings, salt, sugar, etc. Peameal bacon is a type of back bacon made from lean, boneless pork loin. It is less fatty and more like ham. It gets in name because it is usually rolled in cornmeal.
Raw and cooked peameal bacon

This one was done with a dry cure

This one was done with a wet cure

This is just regular bacon, well actually, it's double-smoked

Friday, April 08, 2016

Chicken Galantine

Here is something a little different. My first time making a galantine, or a traditional terrine of any sort really. And I kinda hope to never have to do it again. A galantine is a forcemeat wrapped in the skin of the dominant meat and poached, traditionally served cold.

So what does that mean? It means you have to debone a chicken from the back, keeping the skin completely intact. Then the skin has to be spread out thinly and scraped of every gram of fat until it is paper thin. This is obviously extremely difficult to do without tearing the skin, so to make things a little easier while simultaneously prolonging the experience, you can freeze the skin, scrape it for five minutes until it thaws again, and repeat 600 times.

Next, the breasts are heavily seasoned and seared, then sliced to be used as the inlay.
The dark meat is ground with pork fat, seasonings, and binders to make the forcemeat, whose flavor is tasted by poaching a small amount.

Place the forcemeat in the skin, trimming off the extra. Make an indent and lay the breasts in it, and cover with forcemeat. Then wrap this roll in cheesecloth, secure with butcher's twine, and poach. Chill, then slice thinly and serve.
The result? Pictured above. Is it worth it? In one word, I would say, no. The incredibly thin skin surrounding the forcemeat either ends up barely even detectable, or too thick to chew through. It's also rubbery and not crisp since it is poached. It adds zero flavor to the entire mix. The foremeat itself is ok, it could be seasoned as desired, but it could easily be made from any scrap meats and cooked without the skin. Is it worth all the extra labor time, money, and effort? No. Do restaurants do this anymore? Not really. It's a really old, classical way of doing things. But then again, I am not a fan of most charcuterie items to begin with - just not my cup of tea!

Thursday, April 07, 2016

I'm Sorry But I Really Like Fruit Salad

Actually, I'm not sorry at all.
This is a typical breakfast bowl for me. Fruit salad is the best -
healthy, sweet, and delicious. It's a great start to the day,
especially with 7am classes. And I can pile A LOT
of fruit into a small bowl. It's an art, and I have mastered it.
Artistically arranged fruit platters such as this one are nice,
but I prefer a big bowl of fruit where they are all mixed
together, sharing flavors and juices, and you can dive in
with a spoon and take a lot at once.

Of course fruit-on-a-stick, chocolate-covered at that,
is 100000000 times better.

This is what I'm talking about.

What a lovely fruit display.

This is pretty and easily dig-in-able as well.
Let's skip the yogurt.......

So colorful, so ripe, so juicy!

A big bowl of fruit.....and sometimes you just need to
add a side bowl of granola.

Of course fruit on a brownie pizza crust drizzled with even more chocolate
ain't bad either!!!! :)

Or supplement a good amount of fruit
with chocolate - souffle and ganache on pancakes.
Balance the meal out with a fried egg of course.

Pretty, but too pretty to eat!