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methods & madness…
class 10: seafood – coming out of your shell

Meyer Lemon Rosemary Shrimp | She Paused 4 Thought

Recipes & Ramblings from Chef School

What a huge learning curve I had this week with shellfish. If you read last week’s blog, you know that I am a Midwest farm girl who had no experience with fins, scales, and particularly things that carry a house on their back! After this week’s class however, I am shocked at how easy most shellfish are to cook.

Shellfish are categorized according their skeletal structure:

  • Univalves – Single-shelled mollusks
    e.g. abalone, sea urchins, conch, escargot
  • Bivalves – Mollusks with two shells joined by a hinge
    e.g. clams, mussels, oysters, scallops
  • Crustaceans – Jointed exterior skeletons or shells
    e.g. lobster, crawfish, shrimp, crab
  • Cephalopods – Mollusks with tentacles attached directly to the head
    e.g. octopus, squid/calamari, cuttlefish

Buying Shellfish

When buying live crab or lobsters, look for movement. If you buy them frozen or pre-packaged and they are still moving—run.

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White Chocolate & Apricot Scones

white chocolate and apricot scones

I think everyone has their favorite “go-to” recipe. You know the one that won’t let you down when you get in a pinch. This is mine. I can almost make these scones in my sleep… in matter of fact I think I did. Somewhere between spending 6 hours in my car driving all over LA in Friday rush hour traffic, and several hours in ER with a friend, I squeezed baking these treats in.

What was the baking urgency? The LA Food Bloggers Cookie & Cookbook Exchange hosted by In Erika’s Kitchen. It was great to meet other fellow bloggers and chow down on some of the best cookies I have tasted in a long time. Check out Dorothy’s blog Shockingly Delicious to see gorgeous photos of the event.

White Chocolate & Apricot Scones

Adapted from Simply Scones Cookbook
Makes about 2 dozen or so.

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/3 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 cup unsalted butter, chilled
  • 1/2 cup heavy whipping cream
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 6 ounces white chocolate, finely chopped
  • 1 cup finely chopped dried apricots
  • nutmeg – optional

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
  2. In a large bowl, stir together the flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt. Cut the butter into 1/2-inch cubes and distribute them over the flour mixture. With a pastry blender or two knives used scissors fashion, cut in the butter until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs.
  3. In a small bowl, stir together the cream, egg, and vanilla. Add the cream mixture to the flour mixture and knead until combined. Knead in the white chocolate and apricots.
  4. On a lightly floured work surface roll out the dough to a thickness of about 5/8-inch. Using a 3-inch heart-shaped cookie cutter, cut the dough into hearts. Gather the scraps of the dough together and repeat until all the dough has been used to make the hearts. Sprinkle with nutmeg (optional).
  5. Transfer the hearts to an ungreased baking sheet and bake for 15 to 20 minutes or until top is lightly browned.
  6. Remove from baking sheet to a wire rack and cool for 5 minutes. Serve warm, or cool completely and store in an airtight container.

To Freeze:
Wrap the unbaked scones tightly in plastic wrap and aluminum foil and freeze.  Bake the still-frozen scone hearts about 20-25 minutes.


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Wild Mushroom Crostini

Wild Mushroom Crostini

PHOTOGRAPHY BY: CATHY NELSON ARKLE

This recipe comes from week 7 class of Pro Chef classes at New School of Cooking in Culver City, CA. We made several fall dishes that week, and this recipe is such a fabulous appetizer that I wanted to share it with you. Wild mushrooms usually can be found at your local farmer’s market or higher end grocery stores.

Wild Mushroom Crostini
Author: 
Recipe type: Appetizer
 
This is a very impressive and tasty appetizer.
Ingredients
  • 2 shallots, minced
  • 1½ ounce butter
  • 1 tablespoon cognac (substitute pear, peach, or apricot juice)
  • 1 tablespoon champagne vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
  • salt and pepper
  • ¼ cup creme fraiche
  • 1 lb. fresh wild mushrooms
  • 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 teaspoons chopped thyme leaves
  • 2 teaspoons chopped marjoram ( I used fresh oregano from my garden)
  • 3 cloves garlic, sliced
  • sliced baguettes, brushed with olive oil and lightly toasted in oven
Instructions
  1. Sauté the shallots in the butter until browned. Add the cognac. Flame. Remove from heat. When flame subsides, add the vinegar, lemon juice, and creme fraiche. Season with salt and pepper. Set aside.
  2. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
  3. Remove any hard or dry stems from the mushrooms. Use a pastry brush to remove any sand or dirt. Cut into ¼″ slices. Toss the mushroms with the olive oil, herbs, and garlic. Season with salt and pepper. Put them into an earthenware baking dish large enough to hold them in one layer.
  4. Roast mushrooms until tender and juicy, about 15 to 20 minutes. Add to the shallot mixture. Return to the oven and cook another 5 minutes. Adjust seasoning.
  5. Serve on top of toasted baguette slices.
Notes
Cook time: 30 mins Serves 8-10

This recipe was wildly popular with my holiday guests.

Enjoy!
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methods & madness…

class 2: stock & sauces

PHOTOGRAPHY BY: CATHY NELSON ARKLE

Recipes & Ramblings from Chef School

This week we actually got to get our hands dirty…as well as my once perfectly white chef coat. Stocks are a messy business, at least when I am involved. I learned so much this week in class, yet it didn’t prevent my homework disaster. Let’s start with what I learned.

Lock, Stock and Barrel

Stock is basically simmering various ingredients in water to extract their flavor. We touched briefly on broths. I have always used the words “stock” and “broth” interchangeably, until this class. They are similar in technique and cooking time.

The difference being stocks are made with bones, and broths are made with meat with salt added. Stocks are thick and gelatinous like jello when cooled because of the collagen that is extracted from the bones. Pure broth will stay liquid when cooled and can be served as is.

Stock is a blank slate of sorts, and considered a starting point for other dishes like soup, and sauces.

“AFTER BEING IN CAMBODIA, NO DEAD FISH CAN SCARE ME!”


There are basically 4 things needed for stock.

Bones – The best bones are veal knucklebones or chicken necks and wings because of their high collagen content.

Mirepoixmeer-pwah It a mixture of 2 parts onions, 1 part carrots & and 1 part celery.  Note: Cut veggies on the bias to extract more flavor.

Water – Best if filtered and cold. Certain proteins will only dissolve in cold water; this also keeps your stock from getting cloudy.

Fresh Herbs & Spices – Traditionally they are tied in a cheesecloth bag that is known as a Sachet d’Épices sa-SHAY DAY-pees that translates to “bag of spices” in French.  A basic sachet: 5-10 peppercorns, 5 sprigs thyme, 5 parsley stems, 1 bay leaf, 2 whole cloves.

In class we were divided into groups to prepared Chicken, Fish, Brown & Vegetable Stocks. Rona, another classmate & I were assigned to the veal brown stock. Good thing little Rona has some big muscles because the pan of bones was too heavy for her wimpy partners. Because of the time frame we were only able to get halfway through making the stock. The recipe can be found on Rona’s blog.

The Mother Lode…

One of the secrets of becoming a pro chef is learning to make all five of the “Mother Sauces”. Master these and you will be ready to prepare hundreds of variations on the classical French repertoire.

5 Mother Sauces:

1. Béchamel (bay-shah-mel) white sauce made with milk and a white roux

2. Veloute (veh-loo-TAY) based on a white stock and thickened with a blonde roux

3. Brown or Espanol based on brown stock and thickened with a brown roux

4. Hollandaise (HOL-uhn-dayz) is an emulsion of egg yolk, butter and lemon or vinegar  (short of time…try this recipe)

5. Tomato based on tomatoes

I roux… how about you?

Then there is the business of roux “roo”. It is a thickener for sauces & soups that combines equal parts flour and butter. If you have ever made Mac and Cheese (and I don’t mean from the box) you have made a roux.

To make a basic roux, use equal weights of fat and flour. Four ounces of fat and four ounces of flour equal about 8 ounces of roux. If you don’t own a kitchen scale, one tablespoon of flour equals about ¼ ounce. One tablespoon butter = ½ ounce.

We had a cooking demonstration of Béchamel Sauce and then released to make a Veloute, which was easier to make than pronounce.

At the end of the evening we sat down to eat Macaroni et Fromage (okay, it was Mac n’ Cheese) with a green salad.

“Sauces are the splendor and the glory of French cooking” – Julia Child
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Homework Assignment – A Disaster in the Making

This week’s project is to make the Mac and Cheese. Sound simple? Not so much for me. The first dilemma was how to make breadcrumbs from scratch. I had to enlist the help of Rona for this one (see recipe below). I should have stopped there and had breadcrumbs for dinner. It would have been glorious.

But instead I continued on and somehow managed to mess up the Mac and Cheese. I did my Mise En Place before I started like I learned last week. But I decided to make a few substitutions, as well as talk on the phone while I cooked.  Because I am a girl, I know how to multi-task. And as an artist…I enjoy taking creative liberties. But, when you are learning something new, make the recipe as-written, next time – alter it to your choosing. I am leaving the re-engineering of recipes to my expert cooking school partner Rona.

Needless to say, I had to throw out the whole dish (after we ate two servings) and try it all over again.  This time I had my friend Terese help keep me on track while I cooked it again.

Following the directions with the correct ingredients paid off big dividends this time.  We had two helpings and my husband ate three, which tells me it was a huge success.
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Today’s Featured Recipe:

You can easily cut this recipe in half.  Stay away from using any stringy cheeses.

Mac and Cheese with homemade bread crumbs

Macaroni and Cheese

From New School of Cooking
Serves 6-8

Ingredients

•  3 ounces unsalted butter (6 tablespoons)
• ½ c flour
• ½ tsp. cayenne (start with ¼ tsp and add to taste)
• Salt and pepper to taste
• 4 ¼ c hot milk (2% will work)
• 1 lb. extra sharp cheddar cheese, grated
• 1 lb. macaroni, cooked according to package
• ½ c breadcrumbs *see below for recipe

Preparation:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Melt the butter in a heavy saucepan over low heat.  Add flour and cook, stirring constantly till light brown, about 3 minutes. Stir in cayenne, and season to taste with salt and pepper. Whisk in hot milk, ¼ c at a time, and cook, whisking constantly, until sauce thickens.

Add cheese one cup at a time and stir each additional until incorporated into the sauce.  Reserve the last cup of cheese.

Combine the macaroni with the cheese sauce. Place half in an 8×11” baking dish.  Sprinkle remaining cheese over pasta and add the rest of the pasta.  Distribute the breadcrumbs over the top.  Bake until crust is golden and interior is hot and bubbly, about 30 minutes.

Homemade Breadcrumbs

  • Put four slices of bread (your choice) into a food processor, and pulse for about 10 to 15 seconds. (Approx. 4 slices of bread will make one cup of crumbs.)
  • To sauté fresh breadcrumbs, heat olive oil (or butter) over medium heat (1-2 tablespoons of oil for every cup of breadcrumbs.  When the oil is hot, add some finely chopped garlic cloves and fresh herbs (thyme, parsley or rosemary) and stir for a few minutes.
  • Next, add the breadcrumbs, tossing until evenly coated.  Sauté the crumbs until they are golden brown, and then allow them to cool.

If you would like to get more creative with your Mac and cheese, check out these recipes.

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Lesson learned:

Even if you can’t pronounce it, you can still make it.
And just because you can pronounce it, doesn’t mean you can make it.
…and then, she paused for thought

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Hope you have enjoyed our adventure in the culinary classroom. Join Rona and me each week as we continue learning new culinary skills.

You can also read about Rona’s experience on her blog or What’s Cookin online magazine.

 

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methods & madness… 
recipes & ramblings from the culinary classroom

Thai Style Cabbage Salad with Grilled Shrimp

In the beginning…

As a child growing up on the farm, I remember loving to help my mother in the kitchen. At the wee age of one I was allowed to watch… and learn.  As mom kneaded bread, I played with the dough.  Soon I was baking mud pies in the sun, eventually graduating to edible cakes. My favorite part was food coloring and the creative license that came with it. Purple cake with green frosting, blue cake with magenta frosting…I mean really, why did they print color combinations on the back of the box if I wasn’t supposed to use them?

It has been many years since my cow pie inspired baking days. My inspiration these days come from culinary classrooms. “Hi, my name is Cathy and I am a cooking class junkie.”

Tiring of recreational classes, I recently upped the ante with a 20-week professional chef course at The New School of Cooking.  If you have ever dreamed of taking chef courses, or if you are a closet Food Network fan, I invite you to join my journey.  I will be sharing the adventure with my friend Rona Lewis who has penned two cookbooks.

Class One

I was already stressed after dealing with LA traffic, but quickly relaxed after meeting my fellow chefs in the making. First, we received our white chef coats, along with an explanation of how they worked and why.  I didn’t realize there was so much to this simple garment.  The double-breasted jacket can be buttoned both ways… In case you spill, you can simply cover it up by switching sides… clever! The second order of business, was receiving handouts of rules, regulations and other pertinent, but boring stuff. The real prize was an encyclopedia looking book called The Professional Chef from the Culinary Institute of America. Score!

Parlez vous francais?

I was thrilled to discover a bonus – not only was this a cooking class, but I would be learning French as well since so many cooking terms are taken from the language.  I couldn’t remember them all, let alone spell them.  I am still regretting taking German in college.  Our first term was Mise En Place (meez ahn plahs) “everything in its place”.  It aptly describes the preparation and assembly of all ingredients and equipment prior to cooking.  We learned that a well-organized cook is the basis for a great chef.  Oh dear…I could be in trouble. Continue Reading →

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