By Popular Demand

January 5, 2014

Hello out there. If there are any of you left.
Well its been a long time. Life has had its ups and downs. I have finished culinary school, my externship, and now I am at a full time job as a Chef. What changes you can make just by making choices that are true to who you are.


My journey in school ended back in August. I was sad to leave the friends I made there and more sad to leave the Chef’s and the fun I had there. But I have to say I still keep in touch with some of the Chef’s because they are wise, kind and have a lot of advice that I will gladly take. I went from school to the top French Restaurant in CT. I have to say nothing could have prepared me for that. I was excited, confident and willing to learn. I have watched my share of Hell’s Kitchen, Gordon Ramsey screaming at people but you can’t be prepared for it until it is actually happening to you by a scary french man picking through the garbage asking why you threw away that tiny piece pepper when it could be in the stock pot.
  Nothing could prepare you for that. Yes I had those days there. I got called “retard” “idiot” I messed up a lot, I got walked all over. But I did not cry(at least not there), I did not give up, I kept showing up 20 minutes early and kept on going. I threw up the first day from the heat in the kitchen, but then went back to work and drank more water to keep up. I sharpened my knives at home for hours so that when I showed up the next morning I would not be yelled at or my awful brunoise cuts. No one could tell me I could not do it. I watched them like a hawk and I never ever gave up.

I worked with all men. There was a woman there but she left and said she could not put up with it there anymore, that was my first week there. I worked in a huge kitchen, they actually had 3 kitchens. I worked in the main kitchen in the Garde Manger section, which means salads, appetizers, oysters, mussels, ect. I was trained by two men. One who had gone to my school and the other who had no formal training. Both were great Chef’s. Both very different. I related well with the Chef who had trained at my school because he was a bit OCD like me about being clean, doing one thing at a time and was ultra organized, we will call him Chef B. The other was all over the place, but great under pressure and had great knife skills that I could never match, we will call him Chef D. They both were there for years and had “their ways” of doing things. The hard part about this is they both trained me. So I was expected to learn what they were doing, but when I was with one of them do it there way and then when I was with the other one do it there way. It was confusing and could pretty much set you up to fail. It took a while to learn both ways and to decipher which way I would do it. I was never complimented, ever. Only criticized which is normal for my line of work.


Chef B taught me a lot not by telling me or showing me but just by doing it. I watched him and wondered why he did something and then by the end of my time there knew why he did it and understood it. With Chef D he taught me over and over and over again. Till my last day. Even my last day he was teaching me something that I got taught the first day. I would tease him and tell him I know this Chef D you taught me this months ago. But I kept my mouth shut for a long time muttering under my breath if I hear this one more time I am going to go nuts. By the time I left there I understood that Chef D did this more for himself then for me. At the time I took it personally and took offense to it, which you are taught never to do that but its hard not to sometimes. Chef D was insecure, he wanted to feel important,he wanted to feel smart so he taught everyone everything.  It made him feel better. He is the one that called me names and put me through a lot. He would insult me and in the next breath give me compliment. At the time I hated it, I hated working with him, but one day I broke and let him have it. He was in the wrong, he yelled at me. Mind you I was not new anymore I had done my time there and had kept my mouth shut long enough. This one day he was telling me I was wrong and to just move out of the way in the middle of the lunch rush. I ignored him and kept going, got my shit done and the sous Chef thanked me later or my hard work. He yelled at me and told me I was wrong. I was not and would not apologize. I would find out later on that he respected me for that. Its one thing to know your place, but another thing to allow someone to walk all over you. It is a hard balance to figure out in a kitchen. He gave me a hard time, but because of that hard time I became a strong Chef. A stronger person. In the past I would have let him walk all over me, to get his approval, to get him to like me but not anymore. You go through too much in life to put up with that shit. Life is short and you have to look out for yourself as much as others.
My last day at my externship was a sad day. Everyone there did not want me to leave. They wanted me to stay, even the old french man that I never understood and will always be afraid of. They offered me a place there but I declined it for an amazing job I will tell you about in my next entry. And wouldn’t you know it, but Chef D, the one that gave me the hardest time bought a card for me and had everyone sign it and he personally wrote me a note telling me he was jealous of me, my leadership skills in the kitchen and my new job. He admired me for standing up to him and gave me compliments about who I am as a person and my work ethic. I read the note and my mouth was wide open for 10 minutes. The man who was hardest on me, believed in me the most, pushed me the hardest and actually thought I was good in the kitchen. Who would have thought.
Just when you think life is too hard, it pushes you to the limits you did not think possible there is light. Nothing could have prepared me for what I went through but I wouldn’t want it any other way. It has shaped me into who I am and has made me capable in more ways then one.
 I will be forever grateful for my time there in the French Brigade.

Here are some pictures of what I did at the restaurant. I did not take many because I was too busy trying not to get yelled at.  :-)

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Here are some pictures from the past 3 months….

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Airline Chicken Breastphoto 5 (7)

Tomato Basil Soup

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Chicken.

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Learning to “Shuck”
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Shrimp Bisque, Lobster Roll

Orange Miso Salmon with Leek Mashed potatoes

Orange Miso Salmon with Leek Mashed potatoes

This above picture I won the school competition. You had to use Salmon, Orange and Leeks.

 

We went to the American Culinary Federation Competition last week. It was the regional competition in New York. There were over 10 schools there from the North East. Including Johnson and Wales, Culinary Institute of America, and Cordon Blu from Boston. We placed Bronze! It was the first time Connecticut has every placed in the history of ACF! We were so excited and so proud! They said we had the best Garde Manger platter as well. Lots of hard work paid off! Here are some photos…

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The Team!

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Here is our platter. This is an old French tradition, people do not actually eat this. It is all about presentation. It is made to serve, it looks hot but it is all cold food. Its all about placement, textures, technique, they can tell if it is cooked correctly. It is highly stressful, but very fun. If you can love something and hate something all at once it would be Garde Manger.

Here are some up close pics…

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Us working on it. The whole platter took 8 hours to do. We worked on it all night long. From 10 pm till 6 am.

We also had to make a salad, appetizer, entree and dessert in 75 minutes. Here are our plates…

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We did well. There was some fun, crying, fears conquered, Master Chef’s judging and lots of laughing. It was intense, but I think I learned more in those 4 days then I have these past 6 months in school. It was a great opportunity and I will never forget it.

Personally these past 3 months have been hard, wonderful, stretching and renewing. My heart is open to life, change, love, and going to new heights in all areas of my life. I am excited for what life has for me. But at the same time scared to death. I guess I will look back on this time and say, “God, Chris how did you do all that?” I know for sure I could not do it without my steps of Faith I have taken, God for sure, and a lot because of my family support. Without the help from people in my life like my mom and Z I would not be able to do everything I am doing right now. I am thankful and grateful for that. I will try to update sooner then later!

Love to you all

Buon Natale

December 26, 2012

Greeting Friends.

I hope your holidays were peaceful, loving and bringing great joy. Mine was sweet. Actually I can not remember a better Christmas day for a long time. There was only one bittersweet moment, but I am trying to stay positive and think on the goodness of that day.

We tried not making food the center of the holiday. A push for me, but a good one. Our day was simple. I made small spinach quiches in the morning. Dinner was manicotta, bread, asparagus and dessert was cookies and homemade Tiramisu. (that is small for me ;-)

Here are some moments in pictures of our holiday celebrations over the past month..

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Sweet moments, new traditions, old Christmas music and new. Meeting Santa for the first time. Not showing him how to open presents anymore. The pure innocence of him believing that Santa came and his pure joy. Cuddling up on the floor and opening up gifts. The warmth of this holiday has touched my heart and given me renewed hope.

Wishing you all a lovely few more days of 2012, and wishing you a happy, healthy New Year!

For some reason I can not even fathom that it is December already. I feel like the months are flying by. I was told this was going to happen when I got old…I guess I am old. It has been a very busy month in my world, and at the same time feels like time is passing too slowly, if this is possible.

I am currently sick with the flu. I know very appetizing of me to bring this up, but it got me here to update, so no complaining.

This past month I had Chef Steve, he taught me a lot and many different things compared to my first chef. I am grateful for this. I like that we change Chef’s every 5 weeks. He took the time if you went out of your way to ask questions to be shown how to do things. For instance I had to make an Espagnole sauce, which is one out of the five mother sauces. He took the time to have me make it right, because I asked if I was doing it correctly. The great thing about this school is the help and the guidance is there if you ask for it, and you can learn a great deal if you take advantage of it. This sauce took time, patience and more patience. But in the end it was worth it. So there are 5 mother sauces, and he taught us to learn this BETH-V, which stands for Bechamel, Espagnole, Tomato, Hollandaise, and lastly Veloute sauces. I have had and or made these sauces before. But I did not know they were “mother” sauces and they “correct” names. By far the most difficult is the Hollandaise. This is the sauce you put on Eggs Benedict, which is an english muffin, poached egg, ham and then the sauce on top. From these sauces you can stem off and make other sauces for pretty much anything.

We also covered eggs. Lots and lots of eggs. I am pretty much all set with eggs, for a bit. My poor Chef is a vegetarian and had to spit out the eggs after he tasted it every time, now we have 15 people in our class so you can imagine it must have been awful for him. Also even if you aren’t vegetarian I am not sure you would want to eat all those eggs..

Here are some shots of this past class:

Here is an egg, that I had just put down into a skillet. You can tell it a very fresh egg because the albumen(the part surrounding the yolk) is very tight and not runny white. This is a grade A or Grade AA egg. They are the best.

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Here is a sunny side up egg. No flip, no color on whites, and yolk runny.

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Here is an over-easy egg. Flipped once, yolk should be runny and no color on the egg whites

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Scrambled eggs.

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Here is a poached egg. This takes technique. You get a pot of simmering water, with a small amount of vinegar and swirl it in a circle, drop the egg and see it come together(hopefully). It is so delicate and so delicious I must say. This is what you put on an Egg’s Benedict.

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This is how it should look like inside when opened:Perfection

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Speaking of Egg’s Benedict, here is mine..

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with the Hollandaise sauce on top.

Here is an Omelette with cheddar cheese, ham and onions

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Lastly for eggs(I told you it was a lot) here is the Chef’s Challenge; Frittata

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A Frittata is very much similar to an omelette, but better I think. You whip the eggs with some cream or milk, salt and pepper and set it aside. And then you choose what is inside. For this one I chose to saute some onions, garlic and olive oil. Then add some spinach as well in the pan. Then you add your eggs and scramble them a bit and then slowly allow it to cook a bit on the stove top. They will puff. Then once it was mostly firm I added some thin slices of tomatoes on top. Finished it off in the oven. Once it was done I grated some parmigiana on top as well. You can eat it hot, warm or cold. They are great for brunches because you can do them ahead of time as an egg dish. It is very similar to a quiche but without the crust.

On a personal note I have started interning at Caseus in New Haven, doing my cupcakes business, competeting in ACF in school, just got a Personal Chef job, and trying to get some more jobs as well. Oh and right I have a family! And they defiantly need some love and time. No wonder I am not even aware its December already.

Expect a Christmas festive post next time! Hope you all are enjoying this time of year. Christmas music is flowing right now while I write this. We are making gingerbread houses! My husband thought it was a big task to make the gingerbread…might have been but me buy graham crackers….no I don’t think so. We are setting up the tree, house and decorations this weekend. For the first time since my dad died back in 2001 we are setting up the Christmas village in our house. It is very special to my heart. This is something I did with my daddy since I can remember. He made this board to go under the tree and made a town with a school, country store, plaster made into snow, kids playing, snowmen, trees covered in snow. And the best part about it is his old train goes around the village as well. My heart will ache for my dad when I set it up, but my boys will bring me joy. My baby boy is going to love it and I can not wait to start this tradition with him. We also make lots of Christmas cookies and I am hoping we will get the to city to see the tree and Holiday window displays in all the stores.  Not much of this is planned, but I am hoping for it and hoping for a better year this year for my family and I. Enjoy this advent time everyone.  Peace and Joy to you and yours.

The other day I passed by the Powerball sign, and I dream’t what I would do if I won, like I always do. And I have to say for the first time in my life I would not change a thing. I mean yes I would buy new things and all that, of course! But I have to say I would still go to culinary school, and pursue what I am doing. That made me very content and very happy of where I am right now for the first time in a long time.  :-)

There is so much to share, it has been a very busy several weeks. I did compete in a competition in the school several weeks back. It is the ACF competition that students take part in, in March. You compete against other students in the New England area. You compete in cooking, baking, skills and other culinary challenges. I arrived very nervous that day and felt very much with an overwhelming feeling like I was “not good enough to be there.” People seemed confident and arrogant. There was about 15 other students in a small kitchen. We had to share counter space, ovens and stove tops. It was tight and I think they did that on purpose, so that they could see you move in the kitchen and how you handled yourself. They gave us time to prep our station, sharpen our knives, and set up our sanitation. They gave us a half of chicken to work with and other pantry staples. Not much to work with. I was hoping and praying for arborio rice, so I could make a risotto. But alas there was every other rice, but that one. So I moved on. I took a chicken thigh and leg and I stuffed the inside of the skin with a mixture of butter, minced garlic, thyme, rosemary, olive oil and pieces of lemon. I stuffed that all under the skin and also on the outside of the chicken. I seared the chicken on the stove just till browned and I set it aside. Then I took some potatoes and boiled them for mashed potatoes. I steamed some brussel sprouts as well. I put the chicken in the oven at 400 degrees with out 20 minutes left on the timer. While that was cooking I prepped the mashed potatoes and seared the brussel sprouts with butter, shallots, garlic till they were caramelized nicely. Once the mashed potatoes were all set, I put them in the oven to stay warm. I went to check the chicken in the oven with less them 10 minutes left in competition. I went over and the oven had been turned down to 200 degrees. I was not happy! I asked everyone who had turned down the oven, and they should notify everyone of doing that. No one answered of course. I told the chef, he said get it done. So I put my chicken in the convention oven at 400 degrees and prayed it would be done in time. I prepped my whole plate and waited till the last minute left to see where the chicken was, it was at 160 degrees. 165 is done for chicken. I was nervous but thought it would cook another 5 degrees while resting on the plate, the chef there confirmed that. I took a quick picture so you all could see and I presented it to the Chefs!

Here is it:

They tasted, while we cleaned, and then they called us all in in random numbers to tell us who won and who would not be competing. I was the last of four in the room waiting, and then the Chef’s came into our room and told us we had made it! That we would be competing in March for the regional competition. I was shocked. They said my chicken was perfectly cooked and delicious. They loved my mashed potatoes and said my brussel sprouts were okay, but needed some more work. They were impressed how I handled myself in the kitchen with what had happened. I was so worried that my dish was too simple. Because it seemed like to me that all the other students were doing fancy dishes with sauces and all that. I went very simply. That is how I cook, how I was taught. That my friends tells you to go with what you know, what is right to you, stay true to yourself.

Here are some other dishes I have been working on in class as well:

These are from my first class.

Poached Pear in Wine, Apple Pie with Fresh Whipped Cream and a Lemon Tart

This is my final pratical exam. You had to do certain cuts for the Chef and present them to him. I did great. :-)

This is a simple risotto I made for one of my classes. Chef asked what is the most important ingredient in risotto. I said wine? Butter? I kept guessing all the ingredients, he said “No Christina, its LOVE, and there is a whole lot of love in this risotto!”

I guess I did good!

Here is me making Hollandaise sause! Which came out great.

And then here is some mayonnaise down below I made as well. You would think these things were easy to make, but no. They are not easy at all. They take time, skill, lots of whisking and lots and lots of patience. But in the end it is very worth the work.

When we were learning about grains, we made some pasta and this is my pasta dish that I created. Its a linguine with a simple marinara sauce.

This past week we are working on salads and sandwhiches, cold and hot. We made all sorts of salads and we got to use fresh tuna! I have had tuna in the past, but it was over cooked and not good at all. Well I had some this time and it was amazing, raw in the center and melt in your mouth good.

I made pesto for the first time ever. I loved it. I can not wait to make it again.

First you put in your pine nuts, 1 clove of garlic and then mash it up with some olive oil.

Till it looks mashed up

Then you add your basil and mash it up more adding more oil, salt and pepper and lemon juice to taste.

There it is. It was very good, some might say too much garlic. But I liked it. But I have garlic running through my pores, so do not trust me with the whole garlic issue! ;-)

We also had to set up a sandwich display. I decided to make a club sandwich, a coleslaw, french fries and lastly a sandwich I came up myself.

Here is my coleslaw I made. I took purple cabbage, green onions, red bell peppers, carrots and chiffonade them all. Then I tossed them with mayonnaise  vinegar, sugar, salt and pepper and a few other ingredients. It was amazing, I loved it. I presented it on top of two pieces of toasted french baguette.

The French fries I made as well. I had my friend made the paper funnel to hold them.

These were my fun interpretation of cute club sandwiches  I put bacon on top to give them even more height.

Lastly our whole platter. I also made the sandwich on the bottom right. It was a french baguette with sopressata, provolone cheese, Pesto I made and roasted peppers. It was delicious.

It has been a great several weeks. I have learned a ton and I am enjoying myself so much. I will update sooner then later. Till then take care and eat well.

Yes Chef

October 15, 2012

Well it is my 4th week in at Culinary school and I gotta say I love it.

We have been working on more cuts; small, medium, and large dice. Batonnet, Julienne, Brunoise and other. So I am defiantly the geek in the class with the ruler measuring each cut! My group makes fun of me. But I do not care, I love it.

We also have been working on something called a Bouquet Garni. It is basically a bundle of herbs and vegetables usually tied together with string and mainly used to prepare soups and stocks. The bouquet is cooked with the other ingredients, but is removed prior to eating.  Here is what it looks like:

That day we made vegetable stock and then the next day we made a minestrone, not how I would make it, but I kept my mouth shut. :-)

The following week we started to work with other foods, potatoes, apples, root vegetables  beans and other. I made the chef mashed potatoes, he like them and did not criticize it. I took that as a compliment. One girl in my class made something and he did not like how it was plated and refused to eat it. I felt bad for her.  I had time that day to make something else, so I also made him Apple fritters. I have never made them before, but I grew up on corn fritters. I made a ton of them for the class, and they were all gone before we left..I guess they were good.

Here they are:

Throughout the year there are competitions inside the school and regionally. The other day the head chef came in and asked our chef who has the best knife skills in our class. My friend in the class told me that he pointed to me. The head chef came over to me and looked at my knife skills and also went through all my cuts and told me one out of the 20 were good! It humbled me right away. He told me to come later to his office. So I did and he told me that he would like me to try out for the regional competitions that major schools compete in, including CIA and Johnson and Whales. I was honored because usually they do not allow people in my class to apply because they are not skilled enough. So that night I went home and wrote the essay to see if I could get in. Two days later I got this!

It says if you can’t read it, that I made it through the first round and they want me to compete this Friday among other students in a mystery basket cook off! If you have seen chopped, that is basically it. I am so excited and soooo nervous! But hey what do I have to lose? If I do not make it I will learn and gain experience in it for next time. I will let you know how it goes!

I also applies to another competition they have once a month. They give you three ingredients and you have to come up with a recipe from those ingredients. This months challenge was Goat Cheese, Apples and Bacon. So I thought long and hard on those ingredients, tried coming up with cupcakes or something weird. But I finally came up with a pork tenderloin stuffed with Goat cheese and bacon with a side of apple Chutney. I also made my mashed potatoes to go along with it. I thought it came out delicious. So I entered that recipe as well.

My son helped me make the pork. Here we are tenderizing(or hammering as my son would say) the meat.

Here is the pork tenderloin. I also included the recipe for you down below. (the picture looks like the pork is not cooked, trust me it was at the correct temperature! Not sure why the picture looks like that.)

Goat Cheese and Bacon Stuffed Pork Tenderloin with Apple Chutney and Garlic Mashed Potatoes

 

Pork

  • 1.5 lb Pork Tenderloin
  • 6 slices of bacon
  • 5 oz goat cheese
  • ¼ cup fresh flat leaf parsley
  • 3 TBS Olive oil
  • Salt and pepper

Apple Chutney

  • 1 Apple(empire)
  • ¾ chopped red onion
  • 1 TBS Salted butter
  • 1 Lemon(enough juice for 1 TBS Lemon juice)
  • 1.5 TBS Red wine Vinegar
  • 1 TBS Honey

Method:

Preheat oven to 450 degrees F

Cook the bacon, until crisp. Set Aside.

Mince up your parsley. Set aside.

Now that the bacon is cool, give it a rough chop with your knife. Then take your goat cheese, bacon and parsley and mix all together in bowl, set aside while you prep your tenderloin.

Take the pork tenderloin and butterfly it long ways. Open it up. Put saran wrap over it and pound it out well. Salt and pepper it. Add your goat cheese mixture to the tenderloin.  Now wrap the twine around the tenderloin to keep it shut. Coat the tenderloin with olive oil, and then salt and pepper again.

In the same pan you made the bacon in sear the tenderloin on all sides. Once that is done place in pan and put in oven at 450 degrees F for 20-30 minutes until it comes out cooked at 165 degrees F.

Now chop your onion. In same pan from before, add butter. Add onion and cook for 5 minutes. While cooking chop up your apples, add apple after the 5 minutes and cook that for another 5 minutes, or until the onion and apple are soft.  Turn heat up on high, and then add the lemon juice and the red wine vinegar. Then add the honey.  Stir on high for 5 minutes.  Once brown and looking good, turn on low till ready to serve.

When the tenderloin is done; take it out and let it sit for a few minutes. Then serve in medallions over the mashed potatoes and then top it off with the Apple Chutney.

Next week is my last week in this class. Then I will be taking a final exam and final practical for this specific class. The exam will be mostly on history of culinary arts, sanitation and safety practices in the kitchen. The practical will be mostly on cuts and precision in the areas we learned in the kitchen.
I am looking forward to the next class, I believe it is fish and poultry and how to fabricate and fillet. That will be for another 5 weeks.

So far so good. I am enjoying this journey and taking in every bit. I am trying not to worry about the money I have spent(more liked borrowed) to do this. You only live once and I am done waiting.

Hope you try the recipe! Till next time..

Sometimes life …

October 2, 2012

Sometimes life hands you lemons. They say to make lemonade. I say go to culinary school.

Life has handed me some trials this past year to say the least. Many have been there for me. But three things have given me peace during this time.

God, my son and cooking/baking.

So with trials, comes change. Anyone who knows me, knows I hate change. But I must say that change has become my new best friend. I guess Darwin would have called me an adapter. Here I am again coming to you with news, big news.

I started culinary school a week ago! How exciting right? It started just as an idea, and then it became a life of its own. My dream became a reality. That is the thing about setting your mind to something, you can make it becomes realty if you love and care about it enough. That is my plan on a lot of things in life.

As you know my life has been mostly surrounded with baking these days with my side business of cupcakes. But as you all know my passion is cooking. 

So why culinary? It is time. It is time to look out for me. It is time to stop dreaming and start doing. I figure you only have one life to live, so better start living. And I am, the best I know how.

So now I am taking you on a journey with me through culinary school. Fun, aye? I think so. To me it does not even feel like school. Time flies for me, and I have to bite my tongue sometimes because I am aching to ask more and more questions in the class. 

So I am in a 1 year culinary program that will take me from learning the start of culinary back in the ancient of days to where cooking is today. It is a full accredited program and then I signed up for the Italian program as well, which is an additional 9 weeks of just Italian cooking. From Pasta’s to wines to classic Italian dishes. Then after that, you go to Italy for 4 months. Yes I said it folks. I am going to Italy for 4 months. :-)  The 1rst month you study at a school in northern Italy with other international students. Then they send you on an externship for the other 3 months in a place you would like to study under someone. So if you want to learn about Sicilian food, you go to Sicily. If you want to learn pizza, you go to Naples, and so on. I am thrilled, excited and scared to death!

The first week has been good so far. A lot of orientating to the new school and things that you need to know in order to do well there. My hours are Monday through Thursday 8 am till 12pm. It works well with my schedule and leaves me plenty of time for my precious son. Monday and Wednesday you have class. Then Tuesday and Thursday you are in the kitchen learning what you have basically just learned the day before in the classroom setting. 

The first couple kitchen settings we were orientated with the kitchen, the equipment and how basically how things worked. These past two sessions we are a lot more fun! We tasted different things and started to work on our knife skills. With our program we receive a knife set, a beautiful knife set. So sharp and so beautiful, as one only who is in love with cooking would appreciate. 

We are learning all different types of cuts. I have to say it is a lot harder then I thought it would be. Especially for someone like me, a perfectionist. Now these cuts, lets take one we have been working on, is called a small dice. It is a square shape cut. 1/4inch square all the way around. And our Chef actually takes a ruler and measures out your cuts. So the day after I saw that I went to the store and bought myself a ruler so I did not have to share with my classmates! Today the chef was watching me over my shoulder and said, “Are you seriously measuring each cut?” I looked up at him, in confusion and said; “yes!” what else am I suppose to do? I am waiting for him to scream at me and throw dishes, this is how I pictured culinary school, but I must say he is very easy going and kind.

I think I am going to not want to cut another carrot, onion or piece of celery ever again because that is all we do now. I think we seriously cut and practiced for at least 3 hours today on just those things.  Chef encourages us to take pictures of our cuts so we can see our progress and also put them in our portfolio for future reference. So here are some pictures from the last couple of classes;

 

Here are two of my knives, a paring knife(small one) and a Chef knife(also known as a French knife)

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This is a small dice cut; a basic knife cut measuring ¼ inch × ¼ inch × ¼ inch.

 

This is a head of lettuce that had to be cut into Chiffonade. This is is a knife technique used for cutting herbs and leaf vegetables such as lettuce into thin strips or ribbons.

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This is the same thing, but using spinach instead of lettuce.

Growing up I always cut towards myself, towards my fingers. I always watching my Nana cut towards herself, and used her chest kind of like a cutting board. That is still how I cut garlic a lot. It is going to take a lot of practice to not do that anymore. This is a new way of cutting for me, but I am eager to learn!

I am thankful for school, for the distraction from life. The goal I have in mind is bringing some hope in this darkness I have experienced. It is bringing me joy. Culinary school is a breath of fresh air and not to mention when I am in the kitchen it makes my days fly by! 

More to come!

French Onion Soup

April 19, 2012

My husband had many request for his birthday, but the first one was “French Onion Soup.”

You ask and you shall receive, especially for a birthday!

I love french onion soup and I created my own recipe by researching many recipes and came up with one that I love, and I think everyone enjoyed.

Ingredients:

  • 10 Vidali Onions
  • 6 TBS butter
  • 2 TSP salt
  • 4 Cups of white wine
  • 20 oz of  canned beef consume
  • 20 oz chicken stock
  • 20 oz apple cider
  • Bouquet garni of Thyme, parsely, bay leaf
  • 1 loaf of hardy country white bread
  • Cognac, a splash
  • Combination of Gruyere an Fontina Cheeses, shredded

Start off by chopping all those onions! Its gonna be a pain, but get through it. Keep your onions in the fridge till you cut them and face down when you cut them so you wont be too many tears. Do not worry I too was in tears and took breaks.

Once you have then chopped I got out my electric skillet because it was the largest pot I had to hold all these onions! Melt the butter and then add your onions to the skillet or pot.

The trick for keeping it seasoned well is to salt the onions each layer you put them in. Now do not stir the onions for a good 40-50 minutes. Let them be.

After they have sweated out a bit then you can start to stir them every so often, use your judgement, but I stirred them every 25 minutes and then every 10 once they got closer to being done.

Do not worry about burning them.

While these are cooking, go ahead and get your herbs ready to go. I bring all my herbs in during the winter months and keep them in my house. I have Rosemary, Thyme, Sage and Oregano.

Put them in a cheesecloth all together.

And wrap them up!

Once the onions have reached their perfection: See below.

Go ahead and add the white wine, turn heat on high till wine turns into a syrup consistency.

Now you are going to add the consume, chicken broth, apple cider and the herbs to the skillet.

Reduce the heat and allow to simmer for 20-35 minutes

Toast the bread slices and cut them out perfectly for the bowls you are using. Shred the cheese at this point as well. Set everything aside so you can assemble when the soup is ready!

Season with salt and pepper and a splash of cognac at the end. Remove the herbs. Now you are ready to ladle the soup in each person individual bowls, then place the bread and then cheese on top!

Its amazingly rich and warming for the soul. I hope you enjoy!

My Boys 2nd Birthday Party

January 23, 2012

I guess some people think I am crazy. Some must think I am fun. And some may think I am talented.

I just do it because I enjoy it and I love to celebrate people.

What am I talking about?

My extreme amounts of planning, baking, cooking and event party planning.

I start months before. What the theme is. What I will cook, how I will cook it. What time I will cook it, the ingredients, the time it will take. I think about everything, you name is I do it. Its ridiculous and people think I am crazy. But it gives me a little high, it gives me something to look forward to when I am blue. And I think for the most part people seem to have a good time when I do it.

The Event? My sons 2nd Birthday Party. I was planning on doing a Firetruck Theme, but changed because his love for tractor took over his life a couple months back.

I had been planning on doing it the Sunday before my sons real birthday, so I thought Sunday ok we will do brunch. Fun and then people can get home early and settle in not too late so they can be rested for their Monday.

I had a lot of help from my family, thank God. I do not know how I do it with a toddler running around wanting my attention constantly. But somehow I do.

I wish oh wish I had a camera when my son saw the Tractor cake I made for him. He was so happy and his face was so precious! He looked up at me and said, “Tractor Cake!!” He loved it and wanted to play with it instantly. But like a good boy he waited till all the company saw it and waited till after we sung to destroy that tractor in under 1 second flat. All worth it just for that joy in my son’s face.

Here are some pictures from the day.

I started the Tractor on top of the cake first, it took a while. I made it out of rice krispie treats, covered it in frosting and then fondant on top. Here is part of the process:

Then I just put together the tractor with icing, toothpicks and other devices to keep it together!

The tractor cookies I also made weeks in advance. Used a tractor cookie cutter and royal icing.  And put them in the freezer.

The Brunch:

I made homemade Blueberry muffins and lemon Poppyseed muffins with a glaze on top

Beautiful warm popovers

Spinach cheese mini Quiche’s

Bacon

Zucchini and Goat Cheese Frittata

Waffle Station

Mini Ham

I also made a brunch cocktail. It was a pomegranate, cranberry juice Processo drink. Very Good.

Blowing out the candles!

Tractor=Destroyed!

Cake=Yummy!

The top cake I made was golden yellow cake with a chocolate frosting. The bottom cake I made an ultra moist chocolate cake with the same chocolate frosting.On top of both those cakes I put a layer of ganache which added a deep richness to it. I also think the layer of ganache helped the cake stay very moist as well. I made the cake 2 days in advance and it was not dry at all.

This party was very fun. My son had a blast and was so excited after it was over he did not sleep for his nap. :-) That is when you know its a good time.

Some of you may think I am crazy for doing all this work for a two year old. But I love it, take joy in it and I wanted to celebrate something that is so special to me, my son.

Happy Happy Birthday My Sweet Little Man.

A going away party

October 19, 2011

We had my sister-in-law live with us for about a month and it was very fun! We were sorry to see her leave us. So we threw her a going away party. We did it at a local Vineyard where you can bring your own food as long as you get some wine from them. No problem there. It was a beautiful day with friends, family and of course food.

We decided to mostly do a variety of cheeses and breads for food.

I also made an orzo salad.

And of course I made dessert…

Raspberry Cupcakes with cream cheese frosting.

It was a lovely night at a great place to have a party. Everyone who is around or lives in CT should check out Gouveia Vineyards in Wallingford, CT.

A beautiful sunset to end a great day.

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