Saturday, November 24, 2012

Homemade Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving 2012--Thankful to be home!

 Food is my life and family is my universe. I wouldn't be who I am today without them, and I am forever grateful. I carry my family in my thoughts everywhere I go. I make mental notes of different foods and wines they might enjoy; anticipating the next time I am home to cook for them. Cooking is my way to share my learnings and experiences.

When planning our Thanksgiving menu this year, I tried to keep true to tradition. Thanksgiving is NOT a time to mess around with new ideas from The Modernist Cuisine (albeit very exciting). Food isn't simply about what looks pretty on a plate, but rather; the associated memories. Gluey whipped potatoes might not be perfect in the culinary world, but in my mind, my Nana's over-whipped potatoes (she always used hand beaters...and I got to lick them clean!) were perfect and remind me of home.
My Thanksgiving menu this year was a story, representative of the places I've been, people I've met and things I've learned over the past year.

Frisee. Caramelized Apples. Chili Roasted Chestnuts. Lively Run Goat Cheese. Apple Cider Vinaigrette.
Every heavy meal deserves a salad. After all, green things make food healthier, right? This particular salad was an ode the first course I had at  The Wine & Food Pairing Lunch  during my Wine Studies Course at The CIA. Knowing that we were going to be enjoying Hermann J. Wiemer 2011 Dry Riesling with our meal, I thought this salad would be a good match for the wine.

Hermann J. Wiemer 2011 Dry Riesling

Finger Lakes Rieslings make me smile. :) I think they pair particularly well with the salty, herbaceous, sweet and sour foods often found on Thanksgiving tables. I was proud to see the Hermann J. Wiemer 2010 Dry Riesling (a favorite of mine) on the cover of the most recent issue Saveur Magazine.

Turkey Breast Roulade with Mushroom-Sausage Stuffing.
CIA Alumni, Chef Anne Burrell, inspired my turkey breast roulade. She grew up in a town 10-minutes from me and I'm a huge fan of her use of flavors and approach. I made a filling with everything I love about stuffing: onions, garlic, fennel, herbs, mushrooms and some cheese, eggs and panko to bind it all together. Certainly not low in calories, but a huge flavor WIN at our dinner table!

I was thankful for the Meat Fabrication and Identification Class at The CIA for giving me skills to successfully debone, butterfly and tie this massive turkey breast! I even made a brown turkey stock with the bones for some tasty-tasty gravy.

Roasted Brussels Sprouts with Lemon Zest, Parmesan Cheese, Herbs

During my externship in Napa, California, I would order and devour bowls and bowls of Wood-Oven Roasted Brussels Sprouts to sooth my soul on rainy-winter nights. They are hearty and comforting and have a way of making life seem just plain good. They were often served with a blanket of Parmesan cheese and lemon zest. The cheese adds a salty richness and slightly nutty flavor while the lemon zest rounds everything out, bringing a refreshing lightness to such a bold dish.

Kabocha Squash Puree with Roasted Garlic and Fresh Ginger
Sweet potatoes are awesome. Butternut squash is great. And Kabocha Squash makes my heart go *pitter patter*. It is bright orange and resembles something of a mix between sweet potato and pumpkin.

When I'm not in class studying food, I read...about wine, food and food culture (call it a never-ending obsession). that I think about it, I read an embarassing amount of food literature--I guess it's a good thing I'm in culinary school! I remembered a recipe from last year in Bon Appetit from Chef Anita Lo  that used ginger with Kabocha Squash and thought it was brilliant.

Chive & Cheese Popovers

I made popovers in lieu of propper bread stuffing this year. This was the only item that was not an inspiration from this past year--my mom requested them and I will do anything she asks. Although with every food there is a memory and I'll never forget the first time I had popovers. I thought they looked whimsical. The gargantuan "puff" was asking to be broken. The steam billowed out. They were airy and light. I spread homemade jam on every buttery morsel and had no regrets.

Deep Dish Old-Fashion Pumpkin Pie
A perfect end to our meal--because Thanksgiving wouldn't be the same without it!

I ended the day full of gratitude (and good food!). While many of my friends and colleagues in the restaurant industry were working on Thanksgiving, I was lucky enough to have the day off from classes to be home with my family. For that, I am extremely thankful. I am constantly thinking of and grateful for the men and women who serve in the military and other professions that keep them from their families and home during the holiday season.


Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Chocolates and Confections

I have completed Chocolates and Confections! I thought this class was extremely interesting and one of my favorite classes so far! The science behind making confections is rather detailed, but you don’t have to be a genius to understand the basics. We learned a lot about the crystallization of cocoa butter and sugars, as well as the scientific details of tempering chocolate.  We focused an entire week on making different kinds of ganache. Ganache is simply an emulsion of chocolate and liquid. The liquid used in ganache can range from different types of dairy products to juice, and even beer!

It is such a versatile component that can fill truffles or just be left on it’s own. Ganache can be a very easy thing to make, but it is just as easy to mess up. To successfully make a ganache you have to keep into consideration the fat to water ratio, the amount of agitation, and the temperature. Luckily, there are techniques to fix it too. Now that I know the science behind chocolate, it is a lot less frustrating!

This course was taught by Chef Peter Greweling, CMB. He is a very passionate confectioner and knows anything you would ever need to know about chocolate! He actually wrote the textbook for the class and I highly suggest it if you are interested in learning about candymaking.

Just a few of the delicious products I made in class!!

Dulce De Leche Coffee Truffles: Coffee ganache (Cream infused with coffee beans & Milk Chocolate) and Dulce de Leche dipped in milk chocolate
Eggnog Drops & Creme Fraiche Milk Chocolates: Creme Fraiche ganache with milk
    Anise Sticks: Milk Chocolate ganache with Anise flavored liquor

    Grand Marnier Truffles: Dark chocolate ganache with Grand Marnier
    Dark and Stormies: Ginger infused white chocolate ganache with
    Bermudian rum dipped in dark chocolate
    Spiked Eggnog Chocolates: Nutmeg white chocolate butter ganache
    with rum dipped in thinned dark chocolate
      The 2nd half of the class focused more on confections other than chocolate. My partner and I pulled our own batch of grapefruit hard candy. With a hefty addition of citric acid, it was tangy yet still very sweet. 

    I made fruit candies made with different gelling agents. Pectin, Gelatin, and agar

    On the last day of class, Nougat day, I requested to make Milkyway Midnights (my Dad's favorite candy bar!!). It is so cool to be able to eat something that tastes identical to something  you've been buying at the grocery store, but making it yourself!

     - Racheal

    Sunday, November 18, 2012

    A very "Modern" trip to NYC

    One of the greatest things about living in Hyde Park is that it is
    only a quick hour and 45 minute trip to the Big Apple.  The CIA organizes
    bus trips to the city and other surrounding areas every few weeks. It wasn’t
    until just this past month that I started taking advantage of the great deals
    the school has to offer. For only ten dollars, the school provided bus
    transportation to NYC, a ticket to tour the Museum of Modern Art, and a tour of
    Danny Meyer’s The Modern!

    The Modern currently holds one Michelin star and is run by
    Alsatian-born Executive Chef Gabriel Kreuther. When we arrived, the general
    manager, Dino Lavorini greeted us. He shared some really interesting facts about how
    the restaurant runs and also gave us a tour of the kitchen! So cool!  The restaurant itself is very modern, but lacks movement and excitement in the décor. The interior designer chose this
    approach because they believe the people of the restaurant should bring the
    movement and excitement. They use a lot of flowers throughout the restaurant to
    add color and the floral arrangements are meant to mimic the changing seasons.

    On our tour of the MOMA, we learned that The Modern’s café’s inside of the museum have to use flameless heat so
    there is no risk of burning down the museum. We went to Tavern 5 for lunch, one
    of two of the inside cafés, and I ordered the butternut squash soup. It was delicious,
    by the way, but for such a classy atmosphere it was so funny to see them just
    using microwaves.

    After lunch at Tavern 5, we ventured back down to have dessert at
    The Modern’s Bar Room. We ordered the Artisanal Cheese Tasting Plate, which
    included various hard and soft cheeses from all over the world. The Brie was definitely
    my favorite!

    As compliments from the chef and general manager they brought out
    two of their most popular items, The Alsatian thin crust tarts. Yum!

    Tarte Flambée with crème fraîche, onion and applewood-smoked bacon

    Tarte Flambée with hen of the woods mushrooms, chive and Alsatian munster cheese

    For dessert, we all chose something different off of the menu so we
    could try everything! The desserts were beautifully plated and the quenelles
    were some of the best I have ever seen.

    Pistachio Dark Chocolate Dome with pistachio ice cream and amaretto

    Apple Strudel with prune Armagnac ice cream

    Modern Cheesecake with almond crumble, huckleberry and fromage blanc sorbet

    Pistachio Dacquoise with Caramelia-passion fruit ganache and milk
    chocolate Chantilly

    Dark Chocolate Tart with chocolate ice cream

    Pumpkin and Squash Trifle with carrot gelée and speculoos cookie

    After a long day at
    the MOMA, window shopping, and checking out the boutiques at Bryant Park, we decided to end the day with some Korean noodle soup from Son Ja Jang, a handmade noodle restaurant located in the heart of Korea town.

    As soon as
    we walked in I knew we had made a good choice.  The restaurant was
    bustling with smiling family’s enjoying Korean barbeque over their own personal
    gas stoves.  I ordered spicy noodle soup with beef and my vegetarian
    friend, Liz, ordered vegetable noodle soup with kimchi. Both were served piping
    hot in a bowl big enough to serve two.

    Liz enjoying her noodle soup!

    Before our meals came out, we enjoyed a variety of Korean favorites. A bean sprout salad, kimchi, raw onion and yellow radish with bean paste, and a few other delicious sides.

    This exceptionally tasty meal came out to be only $11.50 a person. I can’t wait to
    go back and try the Korean barbeque. The CIA’s trips to the city are always an adventure and I already bought my ticket to go on the next trip to see The Rockettes at the Radio City Christmas Spectacular!


    Black Friday & Orange Saturday

    (Family Meal Risotto: Squid Ink with Spicy-Fried Shrimp)

    "culinary mind" never stops... and I'm okay with that. The more I
    obsess, the more I learn. During my "Cuisines of the Mediterranean"
    course, I fell in love with squid ink while studying Spain. We made a tapas dish called Txipirones Saltsa Beltzean (Baby Squid in Black Ink Sauce) and I ate my fill everyday of the menu. The sauce was silky and the color was brilliant.

    (Blurry Photo: Txipirones Saltsa Beltzean (Baby Squid in Black Ink Sauce) from Euskadi)

    The squid bodies were stuffed with a hearty yet simple mixture: baby squid, serrano ham, onions, green bell peppers and bread crumbs. The sauce complemented the filling--onions, green bell pepper, garlic, tomato puree, white wine and squid ink. Clean and rich flavors. I couldn't get enough!

    A few weekends later, I decided that I needed to reconstruct the flavors into my own concoction. I made a squid ink pasta with a seafood stuffing.

    (Finished with a sauce of Shrimp Stock, Tomato, Garlic and Butter.)

    As I mentioned before, my partner and I are responsible for making risotto for both family meal and service (we have a beet risotto on the menu at Caterina De Medici). We were asked to be creative and try new ideas for our family meal. My mind immediately turned to squid ink. My chef told me that this dish was traditionally prepared in Venice. Onions, garlic, tomato and red pepper are slowly cooked together (sofrito). The squid body is braised in its own ink and combined with the rice.

    our preparation, we had leftover shrimp and octopus from the saute
    station. We chopped the octopus and added it to the risotto. We breaded
    shrimp in a spicy mixture and used it as a garnish.

    It was delicious.

    I later realized that I subconsciously made black risotto in honor of the upcoming Black Friday.

    (Roasted Butternut Squash with Garlic, Cinnamon, Bay Leaf, Sage, Rosemary, Thyme, Parsley Stems, Olive Oil, Salt & Pepper.)

    And because we had the unusual circumstance to have class on Saturday (because of Thanksgiving break), I dubbed it "Orange Saturday" and made Butternut Squash Risotto.

    I've been learning and slowly getting better at making risotto.

    During the first few days of our class, I was extremely intimidated to
    make risotto. My chef hails from Italy and I wanted it to be perfect--the
    way he makes it. After several conversations, I found that the best way
    to make risotto is in bulk! Chef told me that risotto should ALWAYS be
    made for more than two people. It is a dish to be shared. He also told
    me that when making risotto in large batches the ratio of liquid to rice
    is approximately 3.5 to 1.

    For the Butternut Squash Risotto:

    sweating the onions and toasting the rice, I added white wine until
    absorbed and 2/3 of the liquid (chicken stock) over a high heat. Once
    the liquid was nearly all absorbed, I added my butternut squash puree
    and the remaining liquid. When the rice was cooked, I finished the dish
    with the addition of  butter, Parmesan cheese, salt and pepper to taste.

    It was delicious, however; I still think I prefer the squash risotto I made for my family last winter, topped with mushrooms and crispy speck. Everything always tastes better when you make it for the ones you love :)

    Black Friday + Orange Saturday = Sleep-filled Sunday.

    I gave my risotto obsession a rest on Sunday. One of my roommates made meatballs
    for dinner and they were delicious. I'm still trying to figure out different
    variations and recipes traditional to Italian cuisine. The research is
    well worth it :).

    Risotto Style,


    Thursday, November 15, 2012

    For The Love of Risotto

    (Holidays 2011 Me, Mom, Dad and my twin brother, Andrew)

    I will never forget the first time I tried to make risotto. I wanted to prepare something special and "gourmet" for my family. I read dozens of recipes before attempting this seemingly exotic dish. I thought I was ready. I thought I knew how to make ristotto. Afterall, it didn't seem that complicated.

    Boy was I wrong! When I tasted my first batch, I nearly broke my tooth. I tried .....and I cried. My rice was raw. My mom and I somehow salvaged it in the microwave (my chefs are probably cringing as they read this.). It wasn't good but we ate it anyways.

    Years, and a dozen dinners later, I grew more confident in my risotto skills. I've made family favorites such as:
    mushroom , asparagus and winter squash. All satisfying and delicious. In fact, everytime I travel home to see my parents, they wont let me leave without making a fresh pasta or risotto meal.

    That being said, my skills are far from perfect. I've never worked in an Italian restaurant with an Italian chef. Over the past week, I've been working in Caterina de' Medici, the Northern Italian restaurant on campus. My station, "Hot Appetizers", is responsible for 5 dishes, including the Roasted Beet Risotto.

    My chef has risotto running through his veins. My partner and I can never cook the dish perfectly and are constantly learning. We've found that risotto takes time, patience and repetition. It's frustrating, but we are determined.

    One day we will cook the ultimate risotto.

    For one of our "Family Meal" lunches, I made a Roasted Carrot Risotto with Roasted Fall Vegetables (Fennel, Brussels, Golden Beets, Butternut Squash). I was rushed for time and wasn't convinced that it was up to par. It tasted fine to me, but I thought I could have done better.

    When the teaching assistant told me that it could have been cooked longer,  my soul was shattered. I wondered, "will I ever get risotto right?"


    I will eventually master the art. I have 2-weeks of class to make picture-perfect risotto. It's good to have goals.  And when/if I find the secret, I will be sure to share it here!

    C'est La Vie,


    Tuesday, November 13, 2012

    Meet The Bloggers: Racheal

    Hi everyone! My name is Racheal and I am a 21-year-old Baking and Pastry student. I’m one of the
    new student bloggers! 

    A brief introduction about me

        When I
    was younger I spent most of my free time in the kitchen. There was nothing more intriguing to me than watching a cake rise in the oven or whipping egg whites
    into a beautiful meringue.  I
    always knew I wanted to get into baking and pastry I just never knew how and I
    wasn’t quite sure what I wanted to do with it. I went to college for two years
    before I realized that a traditional university just wasn’t right for me, and that was when I finally decided to transfer to the world’s premier culinary

    The first week of school! I am still just as amazed by the beauty of the campus as I was when I first arrived.

    A few facts

    • I grew up in Chesapeake, Virginia. I really miss being so close to the beach and eating good seafood (and drinking sweet tea) !!!

    •  I love to travel. Food and travel go hand in hand! Food from different cultures is so fascinating, and there isn't anything that I wouldn't try.

    • I am currently Vice President of Student Programming at the CIA.

    • Taking pictures is one of my favorite hobbies, but I am terrible at properly using my camera..

       It has been a little over a year since I started the Baking and Pastry program and it’s hard to believe that I only have six months left!! Seven weeks ago I came back from my externship (An 18-week paid internship at a CIA approved food service site) and I am currently in Contemporary Cakes class with the very talented Chef Weber.

    I just finished Chocolates and Confections class a few days ago. On the last day we presented some of the chocolates on a buffet in Farquharson Hall, the school's main dining room. So much fun!

    I will be posting all about my journey at the CIA.  Externship, classes, and the fun activities I do in my spare time (which isn't too often). So stay tuned!

    Feel free to check out my
    previous adventures on my personal