Insalata Bianca (White Salad)

Insalata Bianca (White Salad)

PHOTOGRAPHY BY: CATHY NELSON ARKLE

This recipe comes from week 6 class of Pro Chef classes at New School of Cooking in Culver City, CA. We made 11 salads that week, and this one was just exceptional in my book. I actually thought I didn’t like fennel until I tasted this. If you aren’t a fan of fennel… I dare you to try this one.

Insalata Bianca (White Salad)

From New School of Cooking
Serves 4-6

Ingredients

  • 2 fennel bulbs, tough outer leaves discarded, cut in half lengthwise and thinly sliced crosswise
  • 2 celery stalks, thinly sliced crosswise
  • 2 Belgian endives, stem ends trimmed, cut lengwise into julienne
  • 1 bunch radishes, ends trimmed and thinly sliced crosswise
  • 1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 2 tablespoon white wine vinegar
  • salt and pepper
  • 1/2 cup Reggiano parmesan shavings

Directions
Combine all ingredients except the parmesan cheese in a large bowl and toss.  Serve on a large brightly colored platter with parmesan cheese shavings scattered over the salad.

Let me know if you make it and what your thoughts are one this one.

 

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methods & madness…

class 5: dairy and eggs

This week’s class was jam-packed full of information about dairy and eggs. We learned all about milk, cream, butter, cheese, hollandaise sauce and eggs. We tasted some fabulous cheeses and cooked up some eggs-traordinary dishes.

So not to double up on information please read Rona’s blog for the basics. She covered all that we learned and still managed to make it funny. I will be writing this blog from a historical & fun facts angle.

Holstein CowDistinguished Dairy

We will start with the food that we all began our lives with… milk. It is one of the most versatile foods. Milk is on average 87% water, 5% milk sugar (lactose) and the rest fat, protein and minerals.

 What are the different kinds of milk?  

  • Pasteurized – milk that has been heated to a temperature between 140-160 degrees to kill any potentially dangerous bacteria. Unfortunately it kills the good bacteria as well.
  • Unpasteurized – also known as raw milk. Europeans swear by it. Canadians, Australians, and 28 U.S. States have banned the sale of it. I grew up drinking raw milk and I turned out ok. Wait a minute… this could explain some things!

If you want to know more in detail about other types of milk such as homogenized, UHT, dried milk, evaporated and condensed CLICK HERE to read a great article by MM Del Rosario.

Holy cow… did you know?

  • It used to take a person 1 hour to milk 6 cows by hand. Today, a person can milk 100 cows in an hour with modern machines.
  • Average U.S. cow produces 90 glasses of milk each day.  
  • Milk is the official state beverage of 20 states; here in California it’s wine.

Cream of the Crop

Cream is the fat that rises to the top of whole milk. It has to be at least 20% fat to be called cream. We learned about the differences of fat in cream and what each cream’s function is.

I was excited to learn how easy it is to make one of my favorite creams – Creme Fraiche (krem fresh).  It is a thick and smooth heavy cream with a nutty and slightly sour taste. Much better than sour cream in my book. It is so simple to make at home.

Make your own Creme Fraiche 

Simply combine 1 cup heavy cream with 1 tablespoon buttermilk and stir. Allow the mixture to stand in a warm place, loosely covered with a towel, until thickened but still pourable. This can take anywhere from 8 to 36 hours, but taste every 6 hours. It is ready when it is thick.  Refrigerate.  Will keep up to a week in the refrigerator.

For comprehensive overview on cream, check out JoyofBaking.com.

Big cheese

Cheese is one of the oldest of made foods. The earliest records come from cave paintings in the Libyan Sahara dating from 5000 B.C.  Traces of actual cheese have been found in an Egyptian tomb around 3000 B.C. Source: The Oxnard Companion of Food

Cheese is basically curdled milk of sheep, goats, cows, or other mammals. The distinction between true cheese and things like cream cheese, creme fraiche, etc. is the way in which the milk is curdled. Milk can be curdled either by acid and/or by rennet.

My mother believes no meal is complete without cheese. She is not alone. Americans consumed an average of 31 lbs. of cheese per person per year. The largest consumer is Greece with approx. 63 lbs., followed by France with 54 lbs.

Blessed are the cheesemakers…

There are over 2000 varieties for cheese makers to choose from. With so many cheeses, the taste ranges from mild to extremely strong/stinky.

The fat ranges from 1% to 75%.  The lowest being Schabziger – a hard, green cheese with a strong flavor from Switzerland (no, not the moon).  The highest being Brillat-Savarin – a triple cream, cow milk brie with a luscious & faintly sour flavor from France.

Cheese bites

Our selection of cheese in class came from The Cheese Store of Beverly Hills and featured a few classics.

Bucherondin de Chevre Cheese

Bucherondin de Chèvre – is a soft, but semi-firm in texture goat milk cheese that is a native of Loire Valley in France.

Brie_de_Meaux Brie de Meaux – is the first brie ever made. Brie is considered the French cheese’s king of kings.  The flavor is nutty and complex with wild mushroom nuances.

romao cheese from Spain Romao – is a dry, salty and tangy Spanish cheese rubbed in olive oil and rolled in rosemary. This cheese would be an interesting Parmesan substitute.

Abbaye de Belloc – this French unpasteurized hard sheep cheese was first made by the Benedictine monks of the Abbaye de Notre-Dame de Belloc. It is firm and dense, yet still creamy and the flavor is rich, buttery, nutty, and fruity with hints of caramel.

Fourme-d'Ambert blue cheeseFourme d’Ambert  – is a soft, mild blue that is slightly creamy and very spreadable. It is one of France’s oldest cheeses, and dates from as far back as Roman times.

If there were only 1 cheese left on the planet, I would want it to be a sweet, fresh cheese called Burrata.

burrata cheese

The outer shell is solid mozzarella while the soft buttery inside contains both mozzarella and cream. Yum! I love it with fresh heirloom tomatoes and prosciutto.

Some day when I am feeling like a culinary rock star I will make my own Burrata with these simple instructions.

Now Rona is a goat cheese girl.  She likes them all.

Humbolt Fog Cheese

My favorite is a creamy and tangy goat milk cheese called Humboldt Fog. This local cheese is made in Arcata, California.

Behold the power of cheese

  • Relieves stress and induces sleep
  • Help prevent tooth decay
  • High concentration of essential nutrients including proteins and calcium
  • Reduce problems associated with PMS.
  • It makes my mother very happy… and that makes me happy. 

Cheesy thoughts to ponder

If cheese is made from animal milk… and we know milk isn’t yellow… but we know how yellow snow is made… should we be concerned?

Originally, cheese could be different shades depending on when it was made and what the cows had eaten. In the spring and summer, cows eat fresh grass and other plants that contained beta-carotene and vitamin D. This results in yellow cheese. In the winter, cows eat hay instead, so the cheese is pale.

Engaging Eggs 

Last but not least, we learned about another kitchen marvel… the egg. They are one of nature’s most perfectly balanced foods, containing all the protein, vitamins (except vitamin C) and minerals essential for good health. All that for only 71 calories! The edible part of a chicken’s egg is approximately 74% water, 12% protein, and 11% fat.

According to chefs and professional cooks, there are over 100 ways to cook eggs. The simplest ways to cook eggs can be divided into four categories: frying, scrambling, boiling, and baking.

We also learned how to scramble, fry, poach, and make a French omelet.

eggs

Rona explains the egg-cellent techniques on her blog CLICK HERE to read.

Cracking Up 

  • The older a hen gets, the larger her eggs become. Hmmm… sounds like my thighs.
  • A hen can lay about 250 eggs per year.
  • Hens with white earlobes produce white eggs, and hens with red earlobes produce brown eggs.

Classroom Assignment:

In class we each made a cheese soufflé.  It was surprisingly easy and tasted oh so good.

Cheese Souffle

Egg whites whipped into a stiff peak and gently folding in the egg whites are essential for a good soufflé. CLICK HERE for the recipe.

         

We also poached an egg and made hollandaise sauce.

For my homework I chose to make Eggs Florentine.  It was a lot of work but worth every bit of the effort. I added the Canadian Bacon. I would like to egg you on to try this scrumptious recipe.

Eggs Florentine

From New School of Cooking
Serves 6

Ingredients

  • 6 English muffins ( I used crumpets)
  • 1 lb. spinach washed & dried
  • Olive oil for sautéing spinach
  • 12 poached eggs
  • 1 recipe for Hollandaise Sauce – see below
  • Canadian Bacon – optional
  • Butter – optional
  • Chives for garnish – optional

Preparation

  • Sauté the spinach in a small amount of olive oil until just limp. Season with salt and pepper and set aside.
  • Poach the eggs, set aside.
  • Make the Hollandaise sauce.
  • Toast and butter the English muffins.
  • Meanwhile, reheat the eggs if necessary. Distribute the spinach between the English muffin halves. Sauce with the Hollandaise. Garnish with chives.

Hollandaise Sauce

  • 1 cup clarified butter or melted butter
  • 3 egg yolks
  • 3 T. water
  • Lemon juice to taste
  • Salt and cayenne pepper

Directions 

  • Whisk egg yolks and water together in a stainless steel bowl.
  • Gently heat over a barely simmering bain marie (water bath), whisking constantly, until eggs are thick. (don’t let the water boil)
  • Beat the sauce briskly with a wire whisk as you slowly pour in the butter.
  • When all the butter has been added, check consistency and season with lemon juice, salt and a small amount of cayenne.

If you are short of time, you can try this quick blender version.

Leftover sauce can also be served on vegetables or fish.

“A true friend is someone who thinks that you are a good egg even though he knows that you are slightly cracked” – Bernard Meltzer

So here’s to imperfection!
…and then, she paused for thought

Hope you have enjoyed our adventure in the culinary classroom. Join us 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…

class 4: savory sauces

Salsa Verde on Steak

PHOTOGRAPHY BY: CATHY NELSON ARKLE

Recipes & Ramblings from Chef School

I had no idea there were so many types of sauces.  From savory to sweet, the list is endless.  Growing up in the Midwest, “sauce” meant BBQ or booze, not Beurre Blanc.

Wow, I have a lot yet to learn!

Sauces add flavor, texture, moisture, and visual appeal to food. Sauce is a French word taken from the Latin salsus, meaning salted.  Finally… a French word I can pronounce!

This week we each made two classic sauces in class – Beurre Blanc (white butter) and Mayonnaise.  Check out Rona’s blog for both recipes.

Making Mayonnaise at New School of CookingThis is what mayo should look like. The yellow color comes from the egg yolk. Store-bought mayonnaise is white because it doesn’t contain egg yolks and is made by combining oil, emulsifiers, proteins and a few other undesirable things like calcium disodium EDTA.  See how simple it is to make here.  It is even quicker with an immersion blender.  Really all you need to know is the ratio: mayonnaise is 20 parts oil to one part liquid (plus yolk).

 “A sauce gives the chef the chance to create something with the perfect texture, balance of acid and richness, complexities of flavor, and visual appeal that will change a plate from just a serving of protein, vegetable and starch into a unified culinary statement.” – Joe Abuso

Sauces 101

There are two types of sauces – classical and contemporary. In ‘classical’ French cuisine, sauces are the defining component and based upon the 5 Mother Sauces. (see week 2 blog) All other sauces are considered ‘contemporary.’

Classical vs. Contemporary Sauces

  • Classical – velouté, béchamel, demi-glace, hollandaise, mayonnaise, and crème anglaise. (basically anything that will clog your arteries)
  • Contemporary – infusions, purées, vinaigrettes, salsas, pasta sauces, Asian-style dipping and chutney, to name a few.

What makes contemporary sauces different from classical:

  • Less time to prepare.
  • More likely to be specifically tailored to a given food or technique.
  • Lighter color, texture and flavor.
  • More likely to be thickened and finished using emulsions, modified starches or reduction and less likely to contain roux.
  • From what I can see… a whole lot healthier!

 Selecting the appropriate sauce:

  • The sauce’s flavor should not overpower the food
  • It should be compatible with main ingredients’ cooking technique.
    e.g. If you are roasting or sautéing, make a sauce with the drippings.

French de jour

Fond –  A classic French culinary term meaning the browned caramelized and concentrated bits or residue that remain in the pan after cooking meat. The fond is what you are after when you “deglaze” a pan for flavoring sauces and making gravies. This is what made veal broth in our second class so yummy.

Nap or Nappe – French word that means to completely coat food with a light, thin, even layer of sauce or jelly. Also refers to the ability of a liquid to “coat the back of a spoon”. This is what our Beurre Blanc had to do. 

Saucier for the evening

Our group project was a contemporary sauce of Vinaigrette.  I guess I didn’t consider salad dressing to be a sauce. Rona suggested Orange-Basil vinaigrette, which turned out to be a winner.Rona Lewis making salad dressingThe base of vinaigrette is three parts oil/fat to one part acid.  So we used three parts olive oil and one part orange juice, then added fresh basil and orange zest. Let your head go with whatever you have in your kitchen. Other projects of the evening were harrissa, tapenade, and my personal favorite, Salsa Verde.  Naturally I choose that for my homework assignment.

Week 4 dinner at New School of Cooking

Homework Assignment:

I have several vegetarian friends, so I thought I would make two meals that would go great with the salsa verde. I grilled filet mignon and tofu. I am not a lover of tofu, but I was surprised at how good it tasted grilled. In class we were served salsa verde with roasted fingerling potatoes. That is a great option as well.

Salsa Verde

From New School of Cooking
Serves 6

Ingredients

  • ½ bunch mint leaves
  • 2 bunches Italian parsley (leaves only)
  • 4 scallions
  • 6 anchovy fillets
  • 3 T capers
  • Zest from 1 lemon
  • 2 T red wine vinegar
  • 4 T extra virgin olive oil
  • salt and pepper

Preparation

  • Chop all of the ingredients finely and mix together.  Season.
    Serve on meat, roasted potatoes or a tofu steak


Tofu Steaks

Ingredients

  • 1 package of extra firm tofu
  • salad dressing or marinade of your choice

Preparation

  • Drain extra firm tofu and cut in half so you have two large flat ‘steaks’.  Pat tofu dry with paper towel.
  • Marinate tofu in your favorite dressing or marinade sauce.
    Note: Marinade containing a little sugar is best, as it will caramelize. So add a bit of sugar, rice wine vinegar, honey, agave or maple syrup to your marinade.
  • Prepare your barbecue grill with a non-stick cooking spray or by rubbing it with oil.
  • Heat grill.
  • Place tofu on grill for 5-7 minutes on each side until well browned, brushing occasionally with extra marinade.
  • Top tofu steaks with a generous dosing of the salsa verde.

Salsa verde is so versatile and easy to make.  I hope you will add it to your cooking repertoire.  If you serve it on something else, please let me know.

Lesson learned:

French sauces no longer intimidate me, nor should they intimidate you. I challenge you to try your hand at sauce making… see how simple it can be.

“A well made sauce will make even an elephant or a grandfather palatable.”
Grimod de la Reynière

Brilliant quote from someone whose name sounds like a French sauce!
…and then, she paused for thought

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…

class 3: soup’s on!

Butternut Squash Soup with Pumpkin Seed Pesto

PHOTOGRAPHY BY: CATHY NELSON ARKLE

Recipes & Ramblings from Chef School

It was “all hands on deck” this week as we made six soups in less than four hours. The secret to soup is fresh ingredients and a good stock. Oh yes, and a couple of spare hours, to say the least.

Soups are classified in two main groups with no fancy-schmancy French name (hence we will bypass our French lesson this week). You can practice the French you learned last week. And I don’t mean the “pardon my French” you already know.

1. Clear

  • Broth – a flavorful liquid obtained from the long simmering of meats and/or vegetables
  • Consommé – French for “soup,” also used to describe a clear soup made from well-seasoned stock

2. Thick

  • Cream – based on béchamel (classic white sauce) and then finished with heavy cream
  • Chowder – classically made of seafood, including pork, potatoes and onions Today, it is a generic name for a wide variety of seafood and/or vegetable-thickened soups, often with milk and/or cream.
  • Puree – thicker than cream soups, often based on dried legumes or starchy vegetables
  • Bisque – a thick, creamy, highly seasoned soup, classically of pureed crustaceans

My partner for the evening was Mario; our assignment, consommé. How exotic… how French… how complicated, or so I thought. I looked at the list of ingredients and wondered how ground meat, vegetables, stock, tomato paste, and egg whites were going to produce a clear soup.

Grinding meatHumble Beginnings…

First up – grind the chicken and beef. Oh dear… my childhood farm pets’ faces flashed before me, and I’ve hated ground meat ever since. Pink Floyd’s movie, The Wall, didn’t help either! But now I’m paying for chef school, so it’s time to “get over it”.

The nice part about grinding your own meat is ensuring no “extras” end up in it. (can anybody say “chicken lips”)

I humbly grounded the beef and chicken. The only byproduct in this meat was my emotional state.

Next step – we chopped our mirepoix (carrots, onion & celery). We then added it to our meat and egg whites and placed the mixture in a large pot with cold stock.

mirepoixWe were then instructed to walk away and let the miracle of science take over. I think one reason we like to cook is because it puts us in control of cause and effect. Consommé (like most people in our lives) refuses comply. We are sure they need our help to become great.

I pondered these thoughts as I busied myself elsewhere. Upon returning to the pot an hour later, I was shocked to discover somebody threw up in our soup! I knew it, we should not have taken our hands off the wheel!

consommé cookingGuess what? I was wrong again.

cathy choppingThe ingredients we originally termed “fresh” are now “impurities” that rose to the top and formed a floating ugly mass referred to as a “raft”. Had we stirred it, the congealing process could not occur, and there would be no clear soup.

The raft was lifted out, and the remaining consommé strained.

Carrots, celery and leeks were julienned and par-boiled to garnish the consommé.

We served to consommé to the class with rave reviews. The real reward was tasting the essence of every ingredient that went into this soup.

consommeIn some culinary schools, a simple test is administered to student chefs making consommé: the teacher drops a dime into your amber broth; if you can read the date on the dime resting at the bottom of the bowl, you pass. If you can’t, you fail. I am not sure we would have passed that test, but according to the students, it made the grade.

To see a video on how to make consommé click here.

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Homework Assignment:

My homework this week was to make a soup that I didn’t make in class.  I chose the rustic Sweet Potato Butternut Squash Soup with Pumpkin Seed Pesto. It seemed perfect for Halloween.

Rona made the Dungeness Crab Bisque, and you can get the recipe on her blog.

butternut-squash-soup

Sweet Potato Butternut Squash Soup w/Pumpkin Seed Pesto

From New School of Cooking
Serves 6

Ingredients

  • 1 large onion, peeled and diced
  • 1 carrot, peeled and diced
  • 1 celery rib, diced
  • 3 T olive oil
  • 2 jalapeno peppers, roasted, peeled and seeded
  • 2 lbs. butternut squash, peeled and diced
  • 1 medium sweet potato, peeled and diced
  • 6-8 cups water, plus more as needed
  • 1 bay leaf
  • salt and pepper to taste

Preparation

  • Sauté the onion in the olive oil until soft.  Add the carrot and celery, cook an additional two minutes. Add jalapeno, sweet potato, squash, water and bay leaf.  Simmer for about 45 minutes.  Remove bay leaf.
  • Puree. Add more water if mixture seems too thick.  Season with salt and pepper.

Pumpkin Seed Pesto

Ingredients

  • 1 c unsalted pepitas (pumpkin seeds)
  • 3 T olive oil
  • 1 garlic clove, coarsely chopped
  • 1/2 c water
  • 1/2 c coarse, chopped cilantro leaves
  • 2 scallions, chopped
  • 2 T lime juice, or to taste
  • salt and pepper to taste

Preparation

  • In a heavy skillet, roast the pumpkin seeds until they begin to pop. Some will brown, but do not allow all to turn brown. Remove the seeds to a plate and allow to cool completely. Heat the olive oil in the same skillet and cook the garlic until it begins to give off it’s characteristic aroma.
  • Pulse the seeds, garlic, olive oil, water, cilantro, scallions and salt and pepper to taste in a blender until the mixture forms a coarse paste, not smooth.
  • Transfer to a bowl and stir in the lime juice. Taste and adjust lime and salt quantities if necessary.
  • When the soup is ready, add in a dollop of the pesto. Garnish with cilantro if you like.

Lesson learned:

Beautiful things do happen when left on their own.
Know when to be involved and when to keep your mitts out!
…and then, she paused for thought

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…

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.

shepaused4thought_line-NEW

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

shepaused4thought_line-NEW

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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