Archive for June, 2011

June 30, 2011

Food: Beer Can Chicken.

I think you might know that I like chicken. And now since chicken week is over at school, I’ve been cooking it again at our house. I love a good roasted chicken…but when I have a lonely can of beer, I think beer can chicken. It is so moist (dis-like that word very much) since the steam from the beer permeates into the entire chicken.

It is really unbelievable.

You just have to try it to believe me. I shocked myself. I actually shocked myself by saying the word that I dis-like so much over and over again while Mr. A and I dined with mouthful’s of chicken in my mouth.

A ‘stainless steel chick can rack’ is very helpful in this process. If you do not own one – purchase one for $6-8 or balance the drumsticks and the beer can on the grill racks – be careful when removing – have a sheet pan to quickly transfer chicken/beer onto.

Beer Can Chicken

Ingredients:

For the Chicken

  • 3 1/2 – 4 lb. whole chicken, thawed, cleaned and patted dry
  • 1/2 can beer, any brand
  • 2 garlic cloves, peeled
  • 1 teaspoon cumin
  • 1 teaspoon smoked sweet paprika
  • 1 teaspoon dried Mexican oregano
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon fleshly ground pepper
  • 1/2 onion, potato or lemon (to seal the neck cavity)
For the mushroom sauce
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 4 oz. sliced mushrooms
  • 1 heaping teaspoon¬†Cornstarch
  • 2 teaspoons¬†Worcestershire¬†sauce
  • 1 1/2 chicken stock
  • 1/4 teaspoon dried thyme
  • salt and pepper to taste
Chicken Method:
1. Heat grill on one side to 350 degrees.
2. Combine cumin, smoked sweet paprika, oregano, salt and pepper together. Apply the seasonings to outer skin and inner cavity.
3. Using a 12 oz can of beer (your favorite kind) – drink half of the contents. Drop garlic cloves into can of beer. Place beer can inside the ChickCan Rack.
4. Place the chicken over the rack and can – this usually is a two person job. Stuff 1/2 onion/potato/lemon in the neck cavity to seal in the steam from the beer. Place on grill – make sure it is over indirect heat.
5. Cook chicken 1 1/4 – 1 3/4 hours or until skin is dark golden brown and very crisp. Use a meat thermometer – temperature should be 165 degrees in the thigh.
6. Carefully remove chicken and rack from grill – moving it onto a sheet pan and bringing inside works best. Let rest for 10 minutes. Carefully remove chicken from rack – quarter/carve chicken.
7. Dig in.
Mushroom sauce method:
In a small sauce pan, saute butter and mushrooms on medium/high heat until brown. Turn heat down to medium: add cornstarch Рtoss to coat mushrooms and let cook for 1 minute. Add Worcestershire, and half of chicken stock. Bring to a rapid simmer Рlet reduce for 8 minutes. Repeat with remaining stock. After 8 minutes or so, add thyme and salt and pepper. Turn heat down so that few bubbles form and pop on the top. Stir occasionally. Keep warm until you serve over carved chicken.
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June 29, 2011

Life Lesson: Job well done.

Appreciate a job well done.

June 28, 2011

Food: Rich Chocolate Ice Cream with peanuts and coffee.

I’m¬†obsessed! It’s official. I’m obsessed with our ice cream maker. We have had it for several years but this is the summer for its workout. You might see a few more ice cream posts in the near future. Don’t worry, this won’t turn into an ice cream blog…or will it?!?!?

Look, the husband can’t stay away either. He is the¬†official¬†taste tester after all so I had to give him a bite or two. Actually two bites turned into the entire bowl. It was gone in no time. Typical.

He said “this is your best ice cream yet, but maybe next time a little less chocolate.”

WHAT?? less chocolate. I never would have thought those words would come out of his mouth.

It is rich. Only a scoop did me.

The Dagoba Organic Chocolate is amazing. It is actually unsweetened drinking chocolate. Mr. A got this in his stocking this past Christmas from my parents. See how my husbands gifts turn into gifts for me? I like it. Thanks Mom! Anyway, this chocolate is out of this world. It is RICH. When I was measuring the 1 cup out for the recipe, I noticed the tiny bits of chocolate within all the gorgeous cocoa powder. For a second I thought I should take them out, because after all they won’t be melting but then in the next second I thought no no, keep those little bits of joy. They add a bittersweet bite and crunchy texture along with the crunch of the peanuts which go so well together.

Did I mention, that its rich?

If you forgot this is rich but so worth the treat.

Rich Chocolate Ice Cream with peanuts and coffee

makes a little over 2 quarts

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup unsweetened cocoa powder (Dagoba Organic Chocolate with bits of chocolate)
  • 2/3 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup firmly packed brown sugar
  • 1 1/2 cups whole milk
  • 3 1/4 cups heavy cream
  • 1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup chopped roasted and salted peanuts
  • 1 tablespoon instant coffee
Method:
1. Place the cocoa and sugars in a medium bowl; stir to combine. Add the whole milk and mix for 1-2 minutes or until combine and sugars are dissolved.
2. Stir in heavy cream and vanilla.
3. Turn machine on; pour mixture into freezer bowl, and let mix until thickened, about 25-35 minutes. Add chopped peanuts and instant coffee; mix for 10 seconds until incorporated. The ice cream will be soft and creamy and will need to go into the freezer for at least 4 hours or over night before serving!
Enjoy with more peanuts on top or with a few fresh strawberries or blackberries! Yum!

June 27, 2011

Life Lesson: Eye.

Look people in the eye.

June 24, 2011

Thoughts: Culinary School Week 6.

I can’t believe it has been 6 weeks. As I look back at the weeks, I am amazed at how much I have learned. This week in particular has been a jam-packed week (pun intended).

This week was Game Birds. So we explored ducks in detail – breasts, legs, carcass and the innards. We made duck confit, seared duck breast (picture below) and implemented the innards in about every possible dish throughout the week. Chef threw them into the risotto on Thursday…the heart cut up threw me for a loop.

We also discussed menu planning, plate presentation, and our critiquing and experimenting with foods we have eaten before and making them different.

Each week a different student is a bread baker. So for the week that student is in charge of baking the bread for the class for each day of the week. And it also means that the students has to be at school at 6:30 am – to get the dough together and start the proofing (rising/resting) process. And who was that student this week?

ME! I have no idea why I am making that face or doing that thing with my lips in this photo. Anyway, those are my baguettes that I made on Tuesday. After 2 days of making baguettes I moved on to Boules (rounds) with sun-dried tomatoes and another with black olives and roasted garlic. Yum.

We  had the pleasure of having Chef John Ash visit our class.


Chef Bob (my instructor) and Chef John Ash, listening to ‘story time’ at lunch.¬†

 

If you don’t know who he is, check out his website. He is a huge supporter of the ‘farm to table’ concept – which my school supports and implements – and he ¬†is known as the “Father of Wine Country Cuisine” – good enough title for me to listen closely!

He gave a short presentation discussing the 5 most important things that we, as up and coming Chef’s, should know and become passionate about.

1. Good Meat.

2. Sustainable Fish

3. GMO’s (google it)

4. Know your Farmer. Know your food.

5. Healthy eating

It was so great to have him at school with us. He is such a celebrity, that I felt shy and didn’t really talk much. But still so thankful for his visit and soaked up everything that he had to say. Plus, he ate my bread.

We watched Chef Bob make¬†mozzarella¬†– the process involves kneading cheese curds in boiling water –¬†hence¬†the anticipation of pain in his face and hands. It was painful to watch but so good on top of veal.


I’ll end with a baguette shot!



June 23, 2011

Life Lesson: Natural.

Good natural food makes the soul feel so good.

June 22, 2011

Food: Pesto Pasta with almonds and zucchini.

This was/is my first pesto making of the summer. I was looking for a quick meal just to serve one person, myself. And it just happens that our basil plants are growing like crazy so it was time for me to trim off some of the larger leaves. I had enough leftovers for another single serving to freeze for another time.

I don’t buy a lot of pine nuts – love the flavor but I’m not too crazy about the price tag. I have a very large bag of sliced roasted almonds in my pantry so I tossed them into the mix. The combination of basil, garlic, almonds and olive oil creates such a fresh¬†simple sauce that melts and spreads when it hits the hot pasta.

Sprinkle a little freshly grate Parmesan over the top and you have yourself a meal.

Oh, wait, I can’t forget the zucchini. I have to be honest, the zucchini is kind of lost in this dish but I felt better incorporating it in than throwing it away. It is not¬†essential but I ended up eating less pasta because the zucchini was in the mix and added some filler and balance – without that I probably would have eaten 4 bowls of pasta instead of the 2 with the zucchini.

This recipe is so easy. I mean with a few fresh ingredients this can be made in a snap. Like I said, it’s easy….

Pesto Pasta with almonds and zucchini

made for 1 but can easily be doubled, tripled, etc…

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups basil leaves, washed
  • 1 garlic clove
  • 2-3 tablespoons sliced roasted almonds
  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • salt and pepper, to taste
  • 1/2 cup shredded zucchini, patted dry with paper towel.
  • freshly grated Parmesan cheese

Method:

1. Combine basil leaves, garlic, almonds and olive oil in a food processor. Mix until everything is incorporated and it forms a paste – add more oil if it is too chunky. Add a pinch of salt and pepper, then taste. Add more if desired.

2. Cook pasta according to package. When the pasta had 3 minutes remaining cooking time, add shredded zucchini to a dry saute pan that has been preheated on medium/high heat. Cook until the moisture has evaporated. Drain pasta. Add zucchini to draining pasta. Stir/toss (using tongs) to drain all water and incorporate zucchini and pasta together.

3. Add desired serving size to bowl and add 1 tablespoon of pesto at a time. I added 3 tablespoons to mine – I like pesto! Sprinkle cheese on top. Add salt and pepper if needed. Serve as quickly as possible!


June 21, 2011

Life Lesson: Advice from a Chef.

What you permit, you promote.

– Chef Mark

June 20, 2011

Food: Creamy Carrot, Ginger and Sweet Potato Soup.

Yes, it is Summer. And yes, I made a traditional Fall/Winter soup. I am breaking the rules over here.

It must have been the cooler nights with thunderstorms that made me think to make this. Or that I had lots of carrots and a couple sweet potatoes in my kitchen. Either way, this soup is delicious.

I am usually not the biggest fan of blended or pureed soups but I’ve got to tell you, this one works for me. The ginger is the best addition; it marries so well with the carrots and sweet potatoes and adds so much freshness.

I chose to blend mine pretty fine, but you could blend half of it to keep a more chunky overall consistency.

Creamy Carrot, Ginger and Sweet Potato Soup

Adapted from Cooking Light

Ingredients:

  • 3 tablespoons butter, divided
  • 1 cup chopped onion
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1 – 2 teaspoon minced ginger
  • 4 3/4 cups sweet potatoes, peeled and cubed
  • 3 1/2 cups water
  • 3 cups chicken stock
  • 3 cups carrots, chopped
  • 1/4 cup half and half
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • to garnish: sour cream, parsley, chives

Method:

1. Melt 1 tablespoon of butter in a large dutch oven over medium heat. Add onion to pan; cook 4 minutes or until tender, stirring occasionally. Stir in cinnamon, nutmeg and ginger.

2. Move the onion mixture to the side of the pan; add remaining 2 tablespoons butter to open space in pan. Increase heat to medium-high heat and cook 1 minute or until the butter browns. Add sweet potatoes, 3 1/2 cups water, broth and carrots and bring to a boil.

3. Cover and reduce heat. Simmer for 25 minutes; vegetables should be tender.

4. Place half of soup mixture in a blender. Blend until smooth. Pour into a large bowl and repeat procedure with remaining soup. Stir in half and half, salt, and pepper.

5. Serve with about 2 teaspoons of sour cream or yogurt on top. Parsley or Cilantro are nice touches of green to the garnish too.

June 17, 2011

Thoughts: Culinary School Week 5.

Lobster stock in the works.

Poached Shrimp with spicy remoulade sauce.

Week 5 was Seafood Week. and I mean seafood week. Wow, I ate a lot of seafood.

Here I am serving up my Lobster Bisque.

The final product plated and ready for service.                                                                                                   

Mr. A doesn’t eat anything that swims, so the only time I eat swimming protein is when we go out to eat. But I don’t have the need to order seafood for a while off of a menu. I might be back on the roasted chicken train.

On Monday and Tuesday, we had the pleasure of having 2 different Chef Instructors РChef Bob was playing hokey. It was great to experience 2 different teaching styles as well as different ways of preparation, production and service. I felt like a sponge, soaking up all they had to say and of course asking them non stop questions.

Crab Cakes with remoulade, roasted red pepper aloi and a fennel red onion slaw.

We started learning the basics or the beginning steps about seafood. The fishing and delivery process. Inspection, storing and preparation stages. Then we discussed all the different kinds of fish and methods of¬†preparing¬†each of them. We butchered¬†striped bass (including cutting their heads off…eekk), poached sole, made Lobster stock and Fish a la nage and ended with an oyster tasting (add all the pictured items to that list too!).

Bouillabaisse or “Fisherman’s Stew”

Are you in seafood overdrive yet?

With each menu preparation we are making breads and desserts. On Thursday, I¬†assembled¬†this pear tart below. We poached the pears on Wednesday in red wine, a cinnamon stick, cloves, sugar…and maybe a few other things that are slipping my mind. The result was to die for. The pears were so soft and¬†saturated¬†with the deep red color from the wine and infused with all the lovely flavors from the poaching liquid. It was very light and thin…maybe next time some vanilla bean ice cream on top could make it even better.


Red Wine Poached Pear Tart. 

See you next week. Week 6 is Game Birds and Organ Meat….


*I apologize for the blurry pictures in this post – Iphone’s don’t take the best of pictures. Hope you get the idea. I made them smaller this week in hopes of gaining clarity – not sure if it worked.

June 16, 2011

Life Lesson: Chewing gum.

Chew gum with your mouth closed. Enough said!

June 15, 2011

Food: Smashed Red Potatoes with Gorgonzola.


 

 

 

 

 

Potatoes are a usual side at our house. Mr. A is a huge fan while I seem to eat 1 or 2 – but when gorgonzola cheese is added, I can’t stop eating them! And they just happen to be pretty easy to prepare when I haven’t really thought about sides to our main entr√©e.

The crispy brown crunch that forms around the potatoes and then the contrasting melting gorgonzola is a hit! It is so nice to cut through the crunching outside into the warm soft center of each potato.

Smashed Red Potatoes with Gorgonzola

Ingredients:

  • 12-15 red potatoes
  • 2 tablespoons peanut oil
  • salt and pepper, to taste
  • 1-2 tablespoons butter
  • 2 tablespoons gorgonzola cheese

Method:

1. Par-boil or microwave potatoes for 10 minutes or until slightly soft.

2. Heat cast-iron skillet over medium high heat. Place potatoes in pan (make sure water doesn’t drip into pan for it will spit back at you – dry potatoes are best!). Using a metal spatula or large fork press down on the middle of each potato – so that they break/crack open. Potatoes should be about 1/2 inch thick. Sprinkle with salt and pepper.

3. Heat for 8 minutes on one side, then flip. Turn heat down to medium after they have been flipped – the pan will stay hot. Place butter into pan – great for flavor and color – mix around.

4. When ready to serve sprinkle gorgonzola on top of potatoes. I keep more on the side for people to add to their plates, if they are like me and like more cheese!

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