Terrines Are Weird

This was a fun week of cooking.

Baking lab was cookie week. Our recipes were biscotti, sugar cookies, and butter cookies. Since they sell our stuff in the pantry and do not want to have hundreds of the same type of item to sell, anything that could have a different variation has set days when to do it. For my Wednesday lab, our biscotti varitation had white chocolate, cranberries, almonds, and lemon zest. As for the other two recipes, they were identical but each pair of students were only required to hand in one box of cookies.

So to begin we mixed the sugar cookie dough, then rolled it out and placed it in the fridge to chill. Next was the butter cookies. This was also quite similar to the sugar cookies and were just a matter of mixing. With those done, my partner filled a pipping bag with the butter cookie dough and I started to assemble the biscotti.

When the biscotti was finished we divided the dough ball into four and rolled logs out the width of the baking sheets and popped them into the oven.

As those began to bake for the needed half hour, I started piping out my butter cookies. We had already done this recipe in my first year, though that time was just rose buds. This semester we were to do rosettes and shells. The rosettes were quite simple, but the shells were actually more difficult than expected.


ButterCookies


As you can see my shell has a bit of a wavy looked to it. Chef said that this was because my hand was shaking just a little which is enough to make that effect. I suppose it will take practice to perfect this technique, and since my family enjoyed these treats I’ll have plenty of opportunities to try. Maybe I can even dip half of it in chocolate!

Once those were done and in the oven we pulled out the biscotti which had a nice creamy colour but was still just a very long baked log. So while we waited for it to cool down we pulled out the chilled sugar dough and began pressing out some interesting shapes. We did four of the traditional gingerbread man shaped cookies, eight butterflies, and my most favourite, eight piggies. Yup, little piggy shaped cookies. I loved them.

By then cookies were piling up everywhere. The biscotti cooling, the butter cookies crowding the corner of our table, and sugar cookies slowly making their way into the ovens. When things were finally a little organized, my partner cleaned up and I began mixing the icing. Again, not difficult. Throw it in the mixer and let it do all the work.

Finally the biscotti was cool and the sugar cookies were finished. Now I learned that day that biscotti actually means twice baked. So to finish them off we began cutting them into wedges that could stand and put them back in the oven to bake out the rest of their moisture.


biscotti


With the biscotti baking we began to separate the icing into little dishes and give them different colours. Our assignment was to make the piggies pink, to colour the butterflies anyway we wanted, and if we had time to decorate the men to look like ourselves. It was difficult but fun. I learned how to roll parchment paper into icing tips and to create a white wall of icing around the cookie so when you’re filling it in with colour it acts as a floodgate.

Mine came out alright. Nothing I would say is sell worthy, but good practice.

So with the sugar cookies drying, the butter cookies packed in boxes, we finally pulled out the biscotti and they looked pretty nice. I’ve never had biscotti before so they were quite different from what I am used to for a cookie, but the flavour was nice and had a nice lemony sweetness to it.

Next was our terrine lab. I must admit, none of us were really looking forward to it.

There was three terrines to be made. I started gathering vegetables for one of the recipes and just ended up making it, while the other two in my group each took on a recipe themselves.

For the vegetable terrine I was required to blanch leek, cauliflower, broccoli, carrots, okra, green beans, and shiitake mushrooms. After cutting everything up into their required shapes, like itty-bitty florets for the broccoli and cauliflower, I proceeded with blanching and getting the stock ready. That was really quite easy. I simmered a litre of water with the scraps from the vegetables the three of us had and added herbs. Anyways, once blanching and shocking was over I proceeded to line the terrine mold with leek.

Now it wasn’t just strips of leek. What we were to do is peel them apart and use our parrying knife to scrape out the membrane so the colour would be dulled and the piece wouldn’t be as thick. So after lining the mold I was to decoratively begin filling it with the vegetables we had. Since whole okra has a decorative centre I decided to place these more in the centre of the terrine while lining the bottom green and filling the inner edges with more brighter colours, like the carrots.

After this was done, the stock was mixed with agar agar and gently poured in so everything was coated. I then pressed down on the top to compress everything and placed it in the fridge to begin the gelling process.

Now for my partners, they made the other two terrines that made us a little wary. One was ground rabbit with the centre filled with rabbit tenderloin and the outside wrapped with back fat. The other was ground pork mixed with pink peppercorns, rosemary, and pistachios while wrapped in bacon.

I dunno. None of those actually sounded appealing to my group and the others I chatted with. Perhaps it was the fact one was wrapped in back fat. Anyways, once they came out they all looked well made. The vegetable terrine I prepared looked decorative with the way I had placed the colouring, and the other two looked like cooked meat.

Our chef explained that terrines were actually a dying art. People don’t prepare them as much anymore because of how they are. One third pork fat, one third ground pork, and one third of another type of meat. Perhaps because of how people are looking at food these days they don’t like something that is jam packed with fat.

I wonder if people are modernizing the terrine so they are more appealing to a new age consumer. Perhaps instead of using so much fat they could look at using something else.

Anyways, that was my cooking labs. I’m really looking forward to baking the next few weeks since we’re working more with chocolate and taking on a gingerbread house challenge.

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Turkey: Hate or Love it?

It might sound like an odd question considering our ovens are jammed with these fat birds at Thanksgiving and Christmas, but hear me out.

I do a lot of thinking on the Go bus. I spend many hours on it and you can only see the same house so many times before you regularly zone out. Today while I was thinking about what I’d write I started thinking about turkey. We eat it at Thanksgiving and at the end of the meal say, “Oof. I don’t want to see turkey again till Christmas.” Or people complain that they have so many turkey dinners to attend to because of family.

Now my thought is if you love something you want to eat it as many times as possible. For me it’s chocolate, for my husband McDonalds. And eat it we do. So why do we, North America, claim to love turkey so much if all we end up doing is complaining about it at the end of the meal?

Is it the bird itself we do not enjoy, the tradition we’ve brought upon our own families, or perhaps we hate ourselves for packing it in like we do the turkey ?

Well there is my food thought of Wednesday. I personally enjoy turkey but can’t imagine eating it any other time other than the occasional hot sandwich at family restaurants.

Cold Weather Calls For Soup

Chicken noodle soup to be exact. With just about everyone getting sick and the cold weather setting in soup was the perfect thing to make on this chilly Sunday.

I have previously made soup in class so it wasn’t so intimidating to take on this recipe, but my major concern was the chicken flaking up in the stock and becoming little bits instead of nice square chunks.

To begin I decided to take on the vegetable version since just chicken and noodles seemed a bit boring and too much like cheap Campbell’s cans. Also, I didn’t need six litres and reduced the recipe down just to two, which made the grocery shopping a little easier to deal with.

The recipe called for the carrots and celery to be simmered in the stock till tender, so I decided to give it a nice appearance. For the carrots I made thin slices then punched out floral shapes for a little flair. I realize this reduces the yield of a carrot quite a bit, but I suppose if you’re visiting a nice restaurant they may do the same to make their recipe stand out. As for the celery I just small diced, too many odd shapes would make the batch look weird.

So while those simmered I boiled the noodles. Again I changed it a little. The recipes said egg noodle but I like bow ties. Bow ties are cool. Additionally another worry was the noodles being too soggy, so to stop this from happening I only boiled the batch for five minutes, just slightly soft with a noticeable crunch.

As the noodles cooled under cold water and the vegetables simmered, I diced up 100 grams of chicken breast that had been cooked the previous night and chilled in the fridge. I was surprised how nice the pieces looked. A sharp blade and cold meat really does make it easier to get the shapes you want compared to warm meat.

By now the vegetables were softened and the noodles were ready. So into the pot everything went.

While everything returned to a simmer I quickly tidied up and tasted the batch, then made my husband taste it because I wasn’t sure my taste buds were completely back. Well they were and it tasted great. Having the noodles firm when they went in was great because by now they had further softened up but not to a mush, and the chicken remained in tidy pieces.


Chicken Noodle Soup


As you can see in the picture the two different shaped items (carrots and noodles) gave the bowl a nice decorative look while you can barely see the chicken and celery through the stock. Next time I may add a couple of more vegetable types like peas and onions, but the only thing I would definitely change is to have crackers at the ready.

Tasty Mistakes and Meat

This was a great week but I don’t have any pictures to show for it yet, hopefully I will in a few days.

Wednesday’s baking class was all about making custards and sorbet. We had four recipes to make; raspberry sorbet, crème anglaise, bavarian cream, and bread pudding.

We first started with the bread pudding recipe where we used loaves previously made just for this and pear rolls that weren’t selling well in the pantry. As my partner chopped those up I assembled the liquid mixture of cream, eggs and sugar. Once the liquid was in a bowl I added melted dark chocolate to the centre and gently made circles with my spatula until everything was blended together. From there we simply poured the chocolate liquid on the chopped bread chunks and dried cranberries, mixed, and let it sit to absorb.

After that we added the ingredients for the sorbet to the ice cream machine. Quite a simple task. Just poured it in and let it go.

Next came the bavarian and anglaise. After a demo from chef I was a little nervous but actually tackled it really well. Chef wanted the anglaise to be creamy so it was a mixture of milk and cream that I warmed and added to the mixed eggs and sugar. Once everything was blended together I added everything back to the pot to cook until it started to thicken. As it reached the right consistency I poured it through a sieve and went about moving the absorbed bread chunks to pans to cook.

Now here is where my mistake popped up. A friend came over to look at my sorbet and asked why it wasn’t red. Instantly I smiled and said in a I know I’ve screwed up voice, “Because I used passion fruit puree instead of raspberry.” Well I went and told chef and she said it was her fault because she had all of the passion fruit puree stacked out in the open and it would be confusing. As a Canadian I went about saying it wasn’t her fault because it’s not like the substance is even red. So we had a good laugh.

Well during that time and popping the bread pudding in the oven my partner became upset because she over cooked her bavarian and turned it to scrambled eggs. The mistake was easily fixed since we just split the anglaise up and used it for our other needs. For the anglaise we poured it into litre cups and put it in the fridge for later use and the bavarian we folded it into whip cream and poured that into parfait cups.

For the end of class we got to each take home a pan of bread pudding, which turned out really delicious. The chunks of pear rolls gave it a sweet burst with the chocolate. We also got to eat some of the sorbet. Since they didn’t need my flavour we ended up eating it all and everyone said they preferred it over the raspberry!

Thursday was meat day and it was a very tasty day.


Sausages2


 

There were many different types of sausages we could make (breakfast sausage, hot Italian, pepperoni, salami, and English sausages), and since I was the only one early for my group I volunteered us for bratwurst. The whole class was actually really simple. The pork had already been ground up from our pork week so we only needed to grind the fat and mix in the spices.

To make sure it tasted alright we wrapped some of the mixture in cellophane and boiled it till cooked. Once done the chef and our group tasted it and agreed it needed a bit more salt. So after the adjustment we began the fun task of casing the meat. The whole thing can be done by one person, but this was our first time so all three of us worked on it. I turned the handled to feed in the meat, one person adjusted the casing as it came out, and another placed it on a tray and turned it carefully.

We made a double batch so we ended up with around 5-6 full casings that looked pretty decent. Once we tidied up a bit we began rolling the casings to make 6-inch links and started cutting them up and traying them. From the pile we picked the four worst and began the different cooking methods that we were set to do. Cooking in the oven at 275 and 400, grilling, and boiling.

Well once all four were done we had to agree that cooking them at 400 looked tastier than the other methods, but maybe if the sausage had some grill marks it would have been the other way around.

Next we proceeded to cook them all to an internal temp of 165, chill, and package them in bags of eight to be sold in the pantry. Additionally we got to take some home and try everyone else’s. It was like visiting Costco’s and chowing down on samples. By the time we left class I was almost too full to have anything for lunch.

As for our retail class my group made pear and cranberry jam and pulled pork. Not much really happened since the pears and cranberries just needed to be chopped up and boiled, while the pork shoulder we had needed to be rubbed down with spices and the shoulder from the previous day pulled apart and mixed with BBQ sauce. It had to be the most dull assignment ever. Two of us began pulling apart the 16 lb. shoulder enthusiastically. After an hour we were bored and it felt like the shoulder had not grown any smaller. Later we began to recruit others who finished their jobs to help out. It took around 2-2 1/2 hours to rip it apart and it was a relief when we were finally done.


Pulledpork


 

By the end we added our rubbed down shoulder to the smoker, had the pulled pork vacuum packed, and all the jam jarred. As I left class I had half a loaf of farmer’s rye bread, bag of pastrami, 4-inches of pepperoni, and 6 bratwurst sausages. I could have made a meal just from that! It really was a great day though and I felt like I learned quite a bit.

Dressing Up Food For Halloween

Has anyone else noticed those little cookbooks that come out around the start of October? They’re usually bright and coloured with pictures of Halloween symbols and images of food donned with Halloween decor. As a kid I loved them. I would get one every year or so and look at all the pictures of food I wanted to make.
Occasionally I did try a few. Simple things like a cupcake or a cookie batter that is shaped into something creepy. I had never tried anything very intimidating, like the cake pops decorated into mummies and witches.

Recently I looked through the books and wasn’t that impressed. It had nothing to do with poor recipes, but they just didn’t seem as special or tough anymore.

Before starting school I didn’t even try them because they seemed like they would be impossible for me to make, now I know they may take time for me to perfect but they aren’t something impossible. The whole purpose of the books is so anyone can follow along and make their own version of the recipe. Just about anything can be turned into something spooky, like perhaps making tortilla chips with herbs and vegetables to colour them black and orange and then adding guacamole for a dip.

Well I hope you have a great Halloween and make an excellent dish to eat!

Fevers and Food

Well this week went a little better than the last. I went to the clinic Monday for my sciatica and got some lovely pills that made the pain go away, but while there I suspect I caught something because during my Thursday morning class I was in agony. So after a painful two hour trip home I got into bed and had my high fever taken care of by my husband and mother. I am still feeling pretty bad but my fever has gone down and I wanted to tell you all that I did this week!

So I’ll first begin with yesterday’s class since it is more fresh in my mind. We were required to make carbonnade flamande with venison, rabbit with mustard, and bison short ribs.

The rabbit needed to be deboned, the venison shoulder cut into one-inch chunks, and the bison short ribs cleaned up and cut individually. As I worked on the prep for the carbonnade and mustard, my partner took apart the rabbit and cleaned up the bison ribs. After we finished we ended up switching recipes. I continued on to make the rabbit while she started the ribs.

By then I was feeling pretty ill and didn’t notice she had finished searing the bison quickly and vac packed them for the immersion cooker. It was quite interesting since our chef told us they would be in there for 20 hours and had some from the class on Wednesday for us to try.

After some help from chef I browned the rabbit, added the additional ingredients of herbs, wine, and chicken stock, and began to let it braise as I continued on to the vegetable cooking for the meal.

A few of the things we needed were kale, sunchoke, and carrots. The kale was easy enough and was to be cooked like spinach, while the sunchoke we boiled like a potato and mashed it with butter and cream. I’ve never tried sunchoke before but it was actually pretty good, the flavouring was similar to a potato with a hint of turnip.

After those were ready the rabbit had reduced enough to be moved to take-out containers and all we needed to wait for was the carbonnade. It had only been an hour since we had put it in the oven so we ended up tidying up and taking a small break.

By then I was feeling worse and had to refuse the different recipes we had just made, but everyone said the food was tasty. There was comments that the rabbit tasted like chicken and that the venison was hard to describe.

In the end everything looked great. We sent down a container each of kale, mashed sunchoke and carrots, with carbonnade to be sold in the pantry.


MousseCake


 Wednesday was baking and I actually did really well. Baking has never been my strongest subject so to follow the instructions of a pastry chef has really helped improve my work. This week we made blueberry mousse cake, chocolate mouse cakes, and chocolate roses.

For the blueberry cake our chef wanted to show us a simple egg free version because so many people have egg allergies these days which meant we would be using gelatin as a stabilizer.

To start we cut out a circle that was slightly smaller than the pan we had with the chocolate cake we had made a few weeks prior. And then using a ruler cut out lines from stripped cake to place around the edge as you can see in the picture above. Once everyone at the table was ready we then moved on to making the mousse. It wasn’t too difficult since we used a mixer to whip the cream, melted sugar with puree and gelatin, then folding the mixture into the cream to keep it fluffy. Afterwards we divided it up and filled the cake rings until it reached just below the stripped cake top.

From there we moved everything into the blast freezer and began to cut circles out of the mango gelee they made the week before. As I was not there last week my friend let me use some of hers. By the time we cut circles and tidied up we were able to grab the now frozen cake and move to the next step. With the gelee circle we placed it in the centre of the cake and then added the rest of the mousse and again put it in the blast freezer. I love that thing. Whoosh, frozen.

The next step was to melt what was left of the gelee and begin the next mousse cake. Again we did an egg free mousse but instead of needing gelatin, the chocolate itself would be the firming agents as the mixture would cool. Once we finished folding the chocolate into the cream we divided it up into two piping bags with no tips. Using round silicon moulds we filled most of it with mousse then the centre with caramel. On top we added a small chocolate cake circle and also added it to the blast freezer. From there we grabbed our blueberry mousse cakes and added a layer of the melted gelee to give it a decorative top plus it also helped protect the mousse from drying out.

By now chef was moving us on over to making chocolate roses. If you were finished with your cake she suggested you should started trying to warm up you pieces so they were moldable. I’ve never felt anything like it food wise. The chocolate didn’t feel normal since it was so hard, and when becoming pliable in your hand it didn’t melt. It was also entertaining as chef gave us a demo on how to make the roses and all the students were needing chocolate in their hands as they watched.

The instructions she gave looked simple enough and seemed to just require patience. First we were to make a teardrop from a marble sized piece, and then continue with petals by smoothing the chocolate on the counter until it was petal shape and begin wrapping it around the top.


ChocolateRose


As I worked on mine I was happier and happier with it. I personally think it came out lovely and still have it in my fridge. As for the chocolate mousse cakes, while working on the roses we also needed to take time to come up front and put on a chocolate glaze chef had made. Some of the things she was looking for in marking our products was that the cake came out round and smooth, meaning we had properly piped it into the mould.

Well mine came out beautifully and after I added the glaze they looked quite delicious. I was so happy that we got to keep half of them while the others were going down to the pantry to also be sold.


ChocMousse


(The one on the right isn’t a bite mark, I accidentally booped it as I was trying to put the other one in my take home box. There was three in total plus half the cake I made.)

I must admit I really enjoyed the class. Chef said my cake was beautiful, her only comment was that the top layer of gelee was a little thick, but other than that everything went great. Also I really clicked with the modeling chocolate, it seemed most of the class had a hard time putting together their rose. I wouldn’t mind trying it again with other shapes and maybe trying to perfect the rose making.

By the way, if you’re ever in the Whitby area you should check out our pantry. Parking is free if you’re a customer and tell the cashier from what I understand and the food we offer is pretty cheap for what we’re actually making. The other week we were selling two frenched lamb racks for $14.00 while I found just one for sale at Metro for $23.00.

Dining Out Constantly

This summer we finally celebrated our honeymoon and went to Disney World for a week with a free meal plan. I’ve never been on a vacation so long without a kitchen, and by kitchen I mean a propane cooker at a campsite. So I was pretty enthused about being able to try new foods everyday with our table service meals

Since my husband likes buffets I made reservations for a few. 1900 Park Fare, Hollywood & Vine, and Akershush. To my surprise, the first two I was displeased with and thankful we had the free meal plan. Both buffets seemed very similar. At Park Fare the string beans had way too much salt in it, and Hollywood the option of desserts were basically vanilla and the size of a sample cup. I felt the fee you’re paying for is that Park Fare is character dining, and Hollywood is available because you couldn’t get into the Brown Derby.

Now Akershush was pretty good for what I had. You order an entree and help yourself to appetizers. Since it was Norwegian cuisine I tried different types of cheese, salads and meats, but very little since I was excited for my meal; Traditional Kjøttkake. When the meal came I tried a bit of everything first. Norwegian meatball, mash potatoes, vegetables and lingonberry sauce. On its own the sauce wasn’t my thing, but mixing a bit with the potatoes was actually quite tasty.

For the rest of our table service meals we had plain sit down and order meals. We checked out Tony’s and The Plaza Restaurant. Both were excellent but my favourite had to be the Plaza. Great food, excellent milkshakes, and a nice view apart from the huge fence currently obstructing some of the view. For our quick service meals we checked a couple of places but regularly ate at our resort for breakfast or lunch.

Now even with all the good food available I really started to miss home food after a few days. It can be tiring dining out every meal with children screaming or people having extremely loud conversations next to you. And sometimes you want to say, “I want chicken pot pie, stuffing and mash potatoes.” But you can’t since they have chicken and fries.

So it makes me wonder, even if a restaurant makes really good food could I stand to eat there every night? Could you?

Munching Down On Parmesan

I love going through Professional Cooking For Canadian Chefs. I find so many different interesting recipes that I want to try and reattempt with their version and this time I decided to try chicken breast parmesan. I have previously made a Weight Watcher’s version but never an actual proper recipe, and not that WWs isn’t proper, but it’s low fat. Bleh.

Anyways, to start with I assembled the flour with salt and pepper then a separate bowl for the milk, egg, and parmesan. Afterwards I went between the task of making clarified butter and pounding the chicken flat. Clarifying I’ve already done quite a few times in class, but chicken flattening not so much.

On my cutting board I set up a piece of chicken and covered it with parchment paper thinking it would help protect the chicken from the cheap plastic mallet I purchased from Metro. After about 4-5 hits I noticed the spikes were mutilating the paper and the breast. It looked odd. The breast was massacred at parts even though it was technically flattening. So the next piece I gave up on the paper and used the edge of the mallet so the spikes wouldn’t hurt the meat. Well it worked. Yet later on when I decided maybe there was an easier technique I found this video which actually gave me good tips for next time.

My next move was to begin boiling water while pan frying each side of the chicken until it was a nice golden brown. With the first flip of the pieces I was pleased to find an appealing texture of golden cheese on chicken. I then decided to continue cooking in the oven like a small blurb on the recipe suggested while I tidied up and started the spaghetti and sauce.

After 15 minutes in the oven everything was ready for plating. My family and I found the recipe quite yummy. The mixture of the breading with cheese was delicious, and we found that the chicken was tender and moist.


ChickenParmeseana


It wasn’t exactly a hard recipe to try considering the week before I had cooked an entire turkey dinner (minus the burnt dressing), and before that pies, but it was still good practice for something I had not made before. Next time I would definitely follow the advice from the video I found on flattening the breast, yet continue finishing it off in the oven since it made for spare time for additional items to be prepared.

Sick This Week

Well I didn’t go to school Wednesday and Thursday. I was having sciatica pain along my right leg which made it unpleasant to walk, stand, sit and sleep. Great.

I shall resume food education again next week and hopefully catch up on all the cool things I would have learned.