Well, I figure since I am too ill to produce a video today, I will at least update the blog. I realize that most of my energy has gone into the YouTube channel, but I hope you are all enjoying it as much as I am. It’s really been a lot of fun so far thinking of things to teach, and the best ways to cram it into a short video.
That being said, school has been taking up a lot of my time and it’s about to get a lot worse. By worse, I mean for my free-time, not for my actual life. I just finished a term where I was in Cuisines Across Cultures, which is exactly what it sounds like. It really opened my eyes to many different cuisines from around the world, and the different grains and things other regions eat. It’s already changed the way I shop for food since I have purchased different kinds of flours, both kinds of couscous, quinoa and other things and stuff. It’s exciting to try these new things and it’s fun to eat something different other than rice or potato.
I’m sure I’ll cover couscous in a video coming up because it’s a great grain, cooks quick and sops up flavors very nicely. Quinoa is another one. Slightly harder to find, but it’s one of the few grains that’s actually a complete protein, that is: a protein that includes all 17 of the essential amino acids… You could technically live off of quinoa, not that you’d want to though.
I will take this time right now to fill you in on my practical exam from the last class, since I was freaking out over it for weeks, and I happened to do quite well. We had to pull a secret ingredient out of a hat on Tuesday, then make a menu that included that ingredient three different ways on three different plates from three different cultures. Catch all that? My head was spinning too. Nobody knew what sorts of ingredients we would be given. I drew potatoes. Now, at first glance, I was excited… But as I delved deep into the recesses of internet recipes, I realized it was gonna be a little harder than I thought. BUT! I persevered and created three dishes representing those three regions.
First, I made vichyssoise. It’s a potato and leek soup that’s served cold. Not very difficult, but it’s all about technique to make sure the flavor is right. Being that it’s cold, you have to over-season it while it is warm because the cold deadens your palate a little bit. Mine was a little too thick, which I knew but didn’t have time to fix. The chef told me that it was “damn good” with the exception of it being a touch too thick. It really did have a great flavor, and of the 4 or 5 times I have made this soup, this was hands-down the best. In fact, this soup didn’t even compare to the other ones I made. I was happy.
My second plate represented Ireland where I made a boxty…it’s a potato flatbread, that gets cooked like a pancake. In fact, it looks like a pancake, but it’s formed into a dough, not a batter. I minced up some scallions and put them in there. I served that with a grilled flank steak and grilled carrots. The bread had really good flavor, the steak was cooked beautifully and I was particularly proud of my carrots. I cut them into rectangle shingles and blanched them in boiling water to cook them through… then grilled them right before serving to heat them back up, and give them nice grill marks. I’ll use that technique again. Here’s the kicker though…my chef only ate the boxty. He commented on the steak and carrots and how they were cooked nicely and presented well, but only ate the bread and graded me. Oh well. I got a good grade so that’s all that matters.
Finally, I made gnocchi with shrimp in brown butter sauce, representing Italy. This was my first time making gnocchi ever. I had to make it from memory. I did well 🙂 My only problem was that after I boiled them to cook them, I sauteed them in butter to crisp them up a little bit, but left them on the heat just a bit too long. One side of most of the dumplings were at least slightly burnt. I would say that this was my least successful dish, but that’s not to say it was bad necessarily. I nailed the technique, just overcooked them a bit. I plan on doing these in a video in the future since they are much easier to make than I thought, and they freeze well… So you can spend an hour making the dough and rolling them out, freeze them, and then in the future all you have to do it boil them and they’re good to go.
Did I mention that I only had 2 hours to do all of this? Did I also mention that it had to all be from memory? Yeah, I think I may have forgotten about that. Regardless, my freaking-out for the weeks was simply over-reacting since I exceeded my own expectations and was left with some really good food to eat that night. I then proceeded to come home and drink a few beers to calm my nerves.
Now I am moving into Wine and Beverage and Contemporary Cuisine classes. In the former, we have no fewer than 3 or 4 tastings (of both wine and beer), and the latter… well in the latter we don’t use any animal proteins and we’re basically stuck with vegetarian, vegan and “other” types of food. It will be interesting enough I suppose, but I’m just not that excited about it. Hopefully my mind will be changed in a few weeks.
So that’s it for now. Please keep an eye on my YouTube channel and continue to spread the word if you can. The more people watch it, the more I am excited to continue doing it and trying new things. On the horizon I’ve got stuffed hamburgers, homemade french fries and grilled pizza. Just to give you a little teaser 🙂Stay positive, love your life and play with your food.