Spice-crusted carrots with harissa yogurt

spice-crusted-carrotsI am about 4 dishes behind on the blog! I’ve been cooking as much as usual, but haven’t had as much time to follow up with a post. Of the dishes I’ve recently made, this one is a stand out and looks really beautiful on the plate.

I recommend doing a trial run if you plan to serve it for a party. It is a little labor intensive, but you can do some of the work ahead of time. Unless you have a huge skillet, you’ll want to take the time to find similar-sized carrots so they all fit and can cook in the same amount of time. Keeping the greens on is also key for presentation.

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Fundamentals of cooking, week 7

Shrimp with buerre blanc
Shrimp with buerre blanc

Things are getting saucy! That’s the best description for the last couple classes. We’re learning how to make the mother sauces, which are the backbone of many traditional and contemporary dishes. The mother sauces were defined by Auguste Escoffier in the early 20th century and remain staples of every kitchen (and culinary education) today.

In order to get to the sauce, you have to start with the roux. Roux is a combination that’s equal parts butter and flour, whisked together in a saucepan over mild heat to one of three consistencies and then added to the base of your sauce as a thickener. There’s white roux, which is the thickest, blonde roux that’s slightly thinner and brown roux, the thinnest of the three. Depending on the type of sauce you’re making, you will use a different roux. White or blond roux would be used for lighter sauces and brown roux would be used for the darker or brown sauces.

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Fundamentals of cooking, Week 5

Look at that brunoise!
Look at that brunoise!

Week 5 officially marked the mid-way point for the quarter. I’ve barely noticed the time going by, this has been so much fun!

This week we continued working with seafood and made one of my all-time favorite dishes, shrimp scampi. We also started to dig into working with butter, which is why scampi was the best choice possible. We clarified butter and made two types of compound butter. I never understood what the point of clarifying butter was, but you do it to remove the milk solids so you’re left with pure butter. It makes a difference in the end result of the final dish. You can pretty much use clarified butter in any instance you would use regular butter. (Except for baking, I am unsure if that’s an ok substitute.)

We also had an unofficial knife skills test. I use the term “unofficial” because it was a test for which we were evaluated, but this program is not a degree program, so grades don’t count. And boy am I lucky they don’t. The test consisted of trussing then breaking down a chicken into eight pieces, bone on the breast, and various cuts of different vegetables. I was a little intimidated about the chicken because I missed the demonstration class, so, never in my life had I broken down a whole chicken. I figured it couldn’t be that hard, just go for the joints. Turned out I was pretty darn close and did pretty good with my first few cuts.

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Gruyere and white cheddar macaroni and cheese

mac-n-cheese2Fall officially made its presence known this weekend. From a sleety, windy, freezing Halloween to being forced to pull out my winter jacket, everything screamed “hibernate”. I was up for the challenge – it’s been a while since the weather forced me inside for an entire weekend, so I decided I’d make this a practice run for the imminent, months-long winter isolation.

The first thing one must do when faced with such a challenge is to watch egregious amounts of TV, read and sleep. This doesn’t leave much time for an elaborate dinner, but that is fine because the only thing suitable to prepare in such a scenario is bubbly, warm, comfort foody macaroni and cheese.

If you have an hour, you can get this pulled together and get right back to binge watching/reading/sleeping in no time.

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Fundamentals of cooking, week 4

Striped bass and flounder. AKA. Bill and Phil.
Striped bass and flounder. AKA. Bill and Phil.

Here fishy fishy! That was the theme for this week’s task – fish Monday, fish Tuesday, fish everywhere. Monday’s class started with the demo on how to filet striped bass and flounder. These fish were chosen specifically because one is a round fish (bass) and one is a flat fish (flounder)*. I’ve never once touched a fish, living or dead so I was a bit hesitant to dig in there and grab one of these guys. But just like last week with the game hen, I sucked it up and went to work.

The technique is actually pretty simple – given that you have a sharp filet knife and know exactly what to look for. One cut at the tail, a cut just behind the head, and one smooth slice down each side to detach the filet. Not so easy the first time around, but we did the same thing on Tuesday and having done it two nights in a row helped – Tuesday was much easier. Not to say that I did a beautiful job, but it was easier.

What I’m loving about this class is that each week builds upon everything we’ve learned. We’re going through mirepoix like it’s going out of style and with each batch, my cuts are getting more and more precise. I executed my first totally perfect small dice on a carrot this week, and that felt awesome.

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