February 25, 2012

hot expo

After sandwich/nacho station I moved to the hot expo position in the Latin Quarter. This meant that I did expediting for the hot line, which meant yelling out ticket orders and sending hot food down to the expo pickup (who would then hand the food to customers). Besides this yelling/delivery duty I also took care of miscellaneous accoutrements, which included deep-frying a bunch of things. Like churros (which is just pâte à choux in an elogated shape).

frying churros

These I would finish in a cinnamon sugar mixture.

cinnamon sugaring churros

I also fried/salted tortilla chips for nacho station. It's amazing how much better freshly fried tortilla chips are compared to the bagged kind. The prep station cut up tortilla rounds for me every day.

frying tortilla chips

I also fried french fries for our lomo saltado dish.

fries & chips

I also fried papas rellenas, or breaded mashed potato balls with a ground beef mixture inside. These went out with chipotle mayo dipping sauce.

tacos & papas rellenas

I also fried fish for fish tacos, which in our case is breaded mahi. I also garnished tacos - fish tacos would get coleslaw and salsa fresca, while the beef/chicken/carnitas/veggie tacos would get shredded cheese, roasted salsa and lettuce. Then I would add sliced radish, pickled jalapeño, lime wedges and cilantro. So much color.

fish tacos

This was my mise-en-place, with all the sauces and garnish ingredients. Oh and also salad ingredients for our Mexican salad - romaine, cherry tomatoes, tortilla strips, queso fresco, scallions and avocado dressing. So authentic, I know.

hot expo mise-en-place

sushi again

In Garde Manger Chef Oakley decided to let us take a break from station assignments, and to spend a class making sushi. It was very similar to the sushi workshop I attended last semester, so I didn't document much of the process at all, just took pictures of the few rolls I made.

This was shredded rock crab with avocado. I added a line of sriracha to spice things up.

rock crab avocado roll

This was spicy tuna with tobiko.

spicy tuna tobiko roll

This was a cucumber shittake tobiko avocado roll. I had to take the avocado out in order to roll it up - that's how full it was.

mushroom cucumber avocado roll

Since I was hungry, I ate each roll almost as soon as I made it. We were supposed to cut the rolls up and present them. Here are Chef's:

chef's sushi assortment

Lastly, we made nigiri. I thought the three pieces I made looked like a family.

nigiri family

pâte à choux revisited

Since I didn't document the first class of Advanced Baking, I wanted to revisit the lesson at home. I tried to make pâte à choux (and build a croquembouche) for Valentine's Day, but sadly I failed and the cream puffs came out like cream flats.

My friend offered me the pâte à choux recipe from his work so I gathered the courage to try again. First I combined 1 cup skim milk, 4 oz butter, a pinch of salt and two pinches sugar in a pot. This was simmered until the butter was completely melted. Then I took the pot off the heat and added 1 1/4 cup flour, then worked the mixture with a wooden spoon until a dough was well-formed. Then I added 4 eggs, one at a time and mixing very well between each. The pâte à choux ended up looking like this (it should slide off the spoon, albeit slowly):

pate a choux

Without a piping bag I resorted to making a hole in a ziplock baggie and putting the piping tip through it. Made little dollops for cream puffs.

piping pate a choux

These were baked at 350°F for 45 minutes, until puffy and golden brown. I was so excited to see them come out like this.

baked pate a choux (cream puffs)

Sadly, when I tried to remove them from the parchment paper, the bottoms came off. This meant I couldn't really pipe cream (or rather, Cool Whip mixed with raspberry puree) into the insides, but I resorted to filling them with a spoon instead and placing them bottoms down into a bowl so the broken-ness wouldnt show. Then I piped melted chocolate and sprinkled powdered sugar over.

cream puff dessert

Next time I'm going to bake them on a silicon mat and see if the bottoms come off unharmed.

making truffles

After the demo, it was our turn to make chocolate. Marianne and I started with truffles. I made the ganache, which consisted of 4oz heavy cream, 1oz light corn syrup and toasted coconut bits brought to a simmer, then poured over 8oz of white chocolate and mixed together.

coconut white chocolate ganache

While she tempered dark chocolate, I tempered white chocolate for decor work.


Succeeded in making white chocolate curls and a decor piece (from spreading it over patterned acetate paper).

white chocolate decor

Once Marianne was ready we coated a truffle mold with dark chocolate. Of course I had chosen the fleur de lys truffle mold, which was the hardest shape to fill, EVER.


Once that was done we piped the coconut white chocolate ganache in and covered it.

ganache filling

Sometime after that we discovered that our chocolate had come out of temper, and I freaked out thinking our truffles wouldn't unmold/would just be ruined. Chef told us to throw the mold in the fridge, and about 15 minutes later came the moment of truth.

moment of truth

I was apprehensive but all the truffles in the mold came out, thank goodness.

fleur de lys truffles

Here's the assortment of truffles made by all the teams in class.

truffle assortment

My three favorites were the ones with lavendar, raspberry and passionfruit ganaches. I made coconut because the truffles were for my mom :)

chocolate demo

In Advanced Baking we're moving into the candy/confections section of the course. To start us off, Chef Mark introduced us to chocolate work - making truffles and various types of decor. The foundation of all of this is tempering chocolate.

Chocolate (more specifically, cocoa butter) contains fat molecules capable of forming different kinds of crystal bonds, but it's only when beta crystals bonds are formed (at a certain temperature) is the chocolated considered tempered - a stable form which allows the chocolate to harden and contract and take on a glossy shine.

Tempering chocolate starts with melting chocolate in a double boiler - at least one pound's worth so the temperature of the end mixture won't fluctuate too rapidly. After all the chocolate is melted (usually at about 120°F), the mixture is cooled by one of three methods: block (introducing a tempered block of chocolate, a quarter of the mixture's weight), seeding (similar to block except it's bits of chocolate that's introduced to the mix), or tabling (working the chocolate over a cool surface like marble). Once the chocolate is cooled to about 80°F, it is warmed up a bit (to 86-90°F) and kept at that working temperature. If the chocolate isn't kept in that range, it will either form lumps and harden (too cool) or the beta bonds will break apart (too hot). As you might guess, the process is rather tricky.

tempering dark chocolate

Chef Mark demonstrated the tabling method (also the most messy). His trick for the chocolate to stay in working range was to keep the bowls on heating pads (the ones you can buy for cheap at a drugstore).

filling truffle mold

With the tempered chocolate he coated a hard plastic truffle mold (available online here). Excess chocolate was poured out since it was just for coating.

filling truffles

Then the truffles were filled with a ganache mixture (made from chocolate, cream and light corn syrup). The truffles were then sealed with more tempered chocolate and left to cool/set.

truffles unmolding

We knew when the truffles were ready to be unmolded by looking at the bottom - the ones which had contracted away from the mold were ready.

chocolate cigarettes

Then Chef moved on to decor work. To make these chocolate cigarettes he laid down a strip of white chocolate, combed through it with an adhesive spreader (available at hardware stores), then spread a layer of dark chocolate over it. Then he took a bench scraper and angled it 45 degrees into the strip, scraping forward in one quick motion so the chocolate came off the marble and curled into a cigarette.

dark chocolate lines

Then there were chocolate ribbons/curls, made by spreading chocolate over acetate tape and combed through with the adhesive scraper. The tape was looped over and left to set - once the chocolate hardened the tape could be peeled off and the chocolate curls were left.

dark chocolate ribbons

Then Chef demonstrated designs on acetate paper. An easy one was the marbled design, which involved dripping different chocolate lines haphazardly on the sheet, then spreading more chocolate over those lines.

chocolate swirls

Here's the finished marble design, with the acetate paper peeled off.

marble design

Chef had used a heart-shaped cookie cutter on the marble design before the chocolate set, so after it set he was able to pop those pieces out. Here's a broken piece that's still very pretty:

marbled chocolate heart cutout

Patterns can be created by spreading the chocolate over all manner of surfaces. Chocolate over bubble wrap yielded this honeycomb design. Ingenious, and very cool.

dark chocolate honeycomb design

Chef says the hardware store is the chocolate maker's supply store, but you can really find inspiration anywhere.

February 24, 2012

arepa special

arepa plated

When I was backpacking in Europe over winter break, I crashed with friends and friends of friends to save money. By chance I stayed with a Columbian guy named Fernando in Amsterdam, and the night I arrived he taught me how to make arepas from scratch.

There was no real measuring involved, just four ingredients: corn/masa flour, butter, salt, and hot water. And a lot of kneading. I enjoyed the experience a lot, so for Latin Quarter specials I naturally thought I would try again, this time on my own.

Without any native Columbian experience I consulted some recipes online for measurements, and settled on: roughly 2 cups masa/corn flour, 2 tablespoons melted butter, 2 big pinches of salt, and 2 cups hot water. Mixed everything together and kneaded the dough hard, then pinched off dollops and patted them flat between the palms, then rounded the edges. The dough rounds were then placed on a flat top griddle, flipped every few minutes until both sides were browned. I was really afraid that I made the dough wrong, since the rounds felt very fragile, like they would break apart. Thank goodness it worked out.

For the filling I used leftover chorizo, shredded chicken breast, mozzarella and black beans. Heated/melted everything together.

For a sauce I wanted to make chimichurri, because the last time I had chimichurri sauce it was so delicious I knew I had to make it as soon as I got a chance.

I made a modified version of this recipe: I used equal parts parsley and cilantro (about a fistful of each), and also added some dried oregano and sugar. I also made the sauce an emulsified one (dripped in vinegar with all of the rest of the ingredients in the food processor spinning). The sauce came out tasting stronger (in the mustard sense of strong) than I remembered - maybe it had to do with the emulsion, or maybe just because it wasn't accompanied by a well-marbled steak. I had Chef Morse taste it though, and he gave the OK, which was a huge relief.

chimichurri sauce

To serve, I cut each arepa open, coated the insides with chimichurri sauce, then stuffed it with filling and garnished with diced tomatoes. The combination worked really well together. My only complaint was that the arepas were a lot thinner then they should have been - ideally the outside would be crispy and insides soft. Mine were so thin they didn't have an inside, they were just like crispy flats.

arepas ingredients

In the end I sold out of all the arepas I made. There was one guy who ordered two at once, and I remember seeing him sitting down to eat them. It was a strange and kind of exciting feeling, to watch someone buy and enjoy something you made. Definitely different than feeding someone you know, but a satisfying feeling nonetheless.

chinese chicken porridge

chinese chicken porridge

Growing up my mom would always make what she called "cantonese porridge" (otherwise known as congee, jook, or 廣東稀飯) when I was sick. It became my equivalent of chicken noodle soup, so whenever I'm sick I try to drag myself out of bed to make a big pot of it.

Before culinary school this involved buying a rotisserie chicken, cutting it up and simmering it in a pot of water with rice thrown in. My culinary school experience has upgraded that process a bit, and recently I made some of the best porridge I've ever tasted, so I wanted to share.

whole roasted chicken (half the meat cut off for other dishes)
scallions (white and green parts separated)
shittake mushroom stems
ginger, sliced
garlic cloves
cooked rice (~4 cups)
half a napa cabbage, diced
salt & pepper

First I heated about a tablespoon of oil in a stockpot, and used it to sautee the aromatics (scallion stems, mushroom stems, ginger slices, and garlic cloves). I just used what I happened to have lying around - nothing is really essential but I do to prefer to have ginger since the Chinese claim it drives away colds.

After about a minute of sauteeing, I fill the stockpot about 2/3 of the way, enough to submerge the chicken carcass. I put the lid on and brought the mixture to a boil, then lowered the heat down to a simmer.

Then after about 30-45 minutes (the vegetables can't simmer beyond that because they'll disintegrate), I scoop the chicken carcass and the aromatics out (except the ginger), then dump the rice and cabbage in. I also pick the meat off of the carcass and return the meat bits to the pot. Then I let the mixture simmer more.

After another 30 minutes the rice should be sufficiently mushy to be considered porridge. Depending on what consistency you like your porridge, you may have to add more water and/or let it simmer more.

At this point I turn off the heat and mix in chopped scallion (the green parts). Serve yourself a bowl and eat it while it's hot!

kale salad (that's surprisingly delicious)

My garde manger team consists of 7 people. First up for us, compound salads. In one 3-hour class period we had to turn out two compound salads. So we split up into two teams. My team did a kale salad, recipe here (courtesy of Chrissy).

The salad consisted of kale, strips of purple cabbage and granny smith apples, pancetta bits, candied pecans, shaved parmesean (we didn't have pecorino) and chive. I was responsible for the pecans, which involved a different candying method than what I did for PCR salad station last semester. Back then I had to candy walnuts, and that involved tossing walnuts in a butter/brown sugar/honey mixture. This time I wet the pecans, then tossed it in a confectioner's sugar mixture. The coating on this was a lot lighter - guess it really depends on what you like.

kale salad mise-en-place

I also grated the parmesean with a microplane grater - which made it very light and fluffy. Reminded someone of dandruff when sprinkled... but um, it tasted like heaven.

mixing kale salad

The originally involved pancetta grease, but the grease became little globules of fat and broke up the dressing (might have had to do with the caper brine), so Jason made an orange vinaigrette.

To fancy it up I decorated the bowl with kale and cabbage leaves:

kale apple salad

Only too late did I realize that the salad we made wasn't actually a compound salad because it had greens. It's okay though, the other half of the team made a grain and bean salad from the CIA Garde Manger book, which legitimized us.

grain and bean compound salad

However, despite being a faux pas, the kale salad tasted great. I was worried about the kale being bitter and too hard in texture (considered blanching it), but the vinaigrette really softened it up and took out the bitterness. Consider making it the next time you want a crunchy (think cole slaw) type salad that's diverse in flavor and extra good for you. People just don't eat kale enough and this salad could change things.

garde manger preview

Garde Manger, French for "keep to eat", commonly refers to the cold kitchen (salads, cold appetizers). In larger operations it involves buffet and elaborate presentation pieces. In my interpretation, garde manger also involves recycling leftovers, keeping scraps and recombining them into something different (terrines seem to be a perfect example).

Chef Oakley has us divided into stations: pâté/terrines, sausages, open-face sandwiches and compound salads. But before setting us to work he demo-ed most of what we would be doing. First up, meat terrine:

making meat terrine

It literally contains everything: cold cuts, ground meat, pork loin, dried fruits, madeira wine (brandy would be even better). It's encased in a layer of dough so it's almost like a pie. After being baked and cooled, gelatin is injected, which fills all of the gaps. Here's the finished product, cut into slices.

Chef also made vegetable terrine with marinated/grilled vegetables. Everything was layered and compacted, just like meat terrine. The gelatin, however, was sprinkled as a powder between the layers - since the vegetables Chef used produce water when baked, he said that would activate/bloom the gelatin.
making vegetable terrine

Chef also made hot dog from scratch, which didn't taste like the industrial hot dogs because it lacked that characteristic springy/chewiness. It was more like the original frankfurters, fattier/richer tasting, more like actual meat. Sadly, I kind of missed the industrial hot dog taste.

making hot dogs

Lastly Chef demo-ed a compound salad, which is a salad without greens. He made the best cous cous I have ever tasted - flavored with orange zest and cinnamon, fluffy (having been lightly raked with a fork after cooking), and combined with diced cucumbers and toasted almonds.

cous cous salad

Demos, although helpful, mostly had us standing around while Chef worked. Can't wait to get hands on!

February 12, 2012

puff pastry

Chef Mark's Advanced Baking & Pastry class is very structured, not unlike the beginning pastry experience I had with him first semester. Every one or two weeks we explore a different topic: first pâte à choux (which went undocumented for lack of camera), then puff pastry.

It doesn't surprise me that puff pastry is one of the hardest things to get right - puff pastry was always one of my favorites because the puff just seemed so magical. And previous I had been limited only to the commercially-made kind in the freezer section, which, as I learned, is made with shortening and contains none of the real butter taste of real puff pastry.

Making the dough is similar to making the croissant/danish dough from first semester. There's vocabulary that's particular to puff pastry, however. There's the dough part (mostly flour, some butter) called détrempe, and there's the butter part (mostly butter, some flour) called beurrage, and the combination for the finished dough package is called a paton. Here's me making détrempe and looking very happy because I love kneading things:

making puff pastry dough

Here's chef sandwiching the beurrage between the détrempe.

sandwiching butter between dough

After that the edges are sealed to lock in the butter (there's a number of ways to do this but the sandwich method is the simplest).

butter locked-in

This is sheeted long and folded in four for a total of four times (with a half hour rest between each sheeting and folding). Which means that by the time it's done, the puff pastry dough has 512 layers (2 original layers in the sandwich x 4 x 4 x 4 x 4). Butter between each of those layers means that when the dough is baked, butter melts and generate steam (due to high heat, which is why puff has to be baked at over 400 degrees), which leavens the dough naturally and allows it to puff so much.

sheeting puff pastry

Chef taught us to many different shapes to make with our dough. He also made a pithivier cake, which is just like the French gallette des rois (king cake) I had in Paris.

puff pastry creations

Some of the shapes Marianne and I ended up making were in honor of Valentine's Day. Others were just because I liked them (palmiers, which involve puff pastry dough coated with sugar on both sides, the folded up and cut into thin sections). I added cinnamon to the sugar though, as a variation.

pithivier & palmiers

The finished product was a little flat. Our beurrage had been too soft, as it oozed out of different spots each time we sheeted the dough. Chef was right, puff is one of the hardest things to make.

baked puff pastry creations (mine)