New year, new class: Methods of cooking

fruit-plate-individualSchool is back in session and this quarter covers hot and cold methods of cooking. The first 5 weeks will be spent on cold food preparation, otherwise known as garde manger, and the last 5 weeks will cover hot food preparation. A sampling of the items we’ll work on includes sandwiches, canapes, pates, terrines, seafood platters, and salads; and methods such as stewing, braising, grilling, sautéing and pan searing. The menu of foods we’ll prepare is wide and varied, and a few of them, I’m not sure how I’ll get through. Terrine? Pate? Chicken liver parfait? Eeeeck! None of the above sound appealing whatsoever, but I’ve been surprised by things before, perhaps I’ll be surprised again.

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2014 year in review

2014 is coming to a close and I have a lot of work under my belt to be proud of. From getting this blog going to starting culinary school, I’ve learned and experienced a ton of new things.

There were plenty of successes but also some funny failures, all of which can be found right here on carrotstickstoyourribs.com.

Rather than waxing nostalgic and reliving all the fun memories, I’ll keep it short and sweet. Here’s a quick glance at the CSTYR year:

Most popular Instagram photo.

Most popular Instagram photo.

I thank everyone for your readership and I look forward to sharing and learning more with you in 2015! Here’s wishing you and yours a happy and healthy new year!

Honey-lime sweet potato, black bean and corn tacos

sweet-potato-tacoAfter many weeks of heavy, butter-induced French style cooking, it’s time to start eating a little lighter and healthier. I’m trying to squeeze in as much fruit and vegetables and salads as possible over the next couple weeks until school starts up again. Probably not great timing being the holiday season and there are so many yummy treats that are definitely not healthy, but any little bit helps, I guess.

If you feel like adding a little protein, shrimp would be great in these. I’d dust them lightly with the same mixture of spices on the sweet potato and saute them off in a skillet.

I used pico de gallo as a topping, but you could use a variety of any type of topping – cotija cheese, cilantro, salsa, hot sauce, anything.

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Fundamentals of cooking, the final two weeks

These last two weeks of class covered a wide range of topics from hollandaise, to duck a l’orange to French onion soup. I liked the hollandaise the least, and would say the duck was my favorite. I think I’ve only had duck a l’orange once in my life before, but what I made in class was sooooooooo good. I would actually consider making this again just for myself someday.

On hollandaise night, the chef broke my sauce on purpose, just so we could show the class how to save it. If you find yourself in this situation, toss another egg yolk over the heat (using a ban marie or a stainless steel bowl over a boiling pot of water) and then slowly mix the broken sauce into the fresh yolk. That should take care of it.

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Fundamentals of cooking, week 8

Tomato sauce is not the same as marinara. Say it with me – tomato sauce is not the same as marinara. If there is one thing that was made clear to me this week, it was this very point. On Tuesday night we made tomato sauce, as in one of the five mother sauces – not marinara. You can make marinara from tomato sauce, but it is NOT marinara sauce. Everyone clear on that point now? Good, let’s move on.

The other thing I learned about tomato sauce is that it’s really freaking good. It’s laden with animal product (salt pork, bones, chicken stock), but it is really flavorful. As much as I love to modify recipes, I’m not sure how I could possibly modify this into a vegetarian friendly version and keep the same depth of flavor. The deeper into this program I go, the more exposure I’m getting to a whole new flavor profile that I’ve been missing out on as a vegetarian. (Not to say that vegetarian food isn’t delicious or elegant or lacking in depth or complexity, it totally has all of that.)

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Gnocchi fail with roasted garlic béchamel and tomato sauce

Exhibit A - gnocchi mush.

Exhibit A – gnocchi mush.

Typically, our weekend is planned around “what’s for dinner”, and this weekend was no exception, even with the holiday mixed in. Inspired by my latest issue of Bon Appetit and the amazing tomato sauce I had left over from class, I figured why not make gnocchi!

Well, the culinary gods had other ideas. The sauce was not the issue, it was the gnocchi that foiled the plans. It started out easy enough, but I think I may have over cooked it because it turned in to a big mush ball. See exhibit A.

Time for plan B. This dish was always about the sauces to begin with, so all I had to do was get another pot of water going and boil whatever pasta I had in the house, which turned out to be about a cup of cavatapi and some lasagna. That’s not much but it would work.

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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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