Whisk Wednesday: Class 12

29 06 2008

I joined up with these fabulous ladies at lesson.  I have some back work to do, but it’s mostly learning techniques and mastering the master sauces.  Everything else is built around that.  So with no further adieu…

Class 12:  Filet Mignon with Artichokes and Bearnaise…

What great timing! Hubster was feeling a bit down in the dumps and nothing cheers him up like a great meal.  When I was explaining what I’d gotten myself into, and he saw the pictures in the book, he was purring.  We’ve been wanting to do tournedos of beef with Bearnaise sauce for ages.  Class 12 is bearnaise…

I’m pretty comfortable with emulsions. I make my own dressings and whisk until they’re thick and creamy, so this wasn’t much different.  What threw most of the group was the artichokes, and I confess, the artichokes made me nervous as well.  There was a load of trimming and discarding.  I opted to do baby artichokes instead of big globes…the globes available when I shopped were $2.99 each and were the size of a “lob” ball.  Once I sat down and did the first one, poorly, I got the hang of it.  I was able to discover the desired end result and things went well from there.  I was discouraged that the artichokes turned dark even with  putting lemon juice on immediately following the cuts.  Oh well…off to a nice warm bath while we do other things.

Simmering artichoke bottoms

I think the key to the emulsion sauces is not too much heat.  I whipped my egg yolks until they reached the desired state described by Le Cordon Bleu at Home.  I had melted my butter at a very, very low heat.  When I whisked the butter into the sauce, I could get away with being a little heavy-handed because the butter wasn’t terribly hot, just warm.  Still, my arm got a healthy work-out on the sauce.

Once the sauce was finished, I tied and grilled my steaks, adding a tomato along side to make a more colorful plate.  The result was kind of interesting.  Artichokes tend to make foods eaten after them taste sweeter.  A bite of artichoke; a bite of tomato….wow!  The artichoke make the tomato’s flavor soar, sweet and full of summer! Ahhhh!

Hubby gave me an A; I’ll take it.  Everything came out properly, tasted fine, and the sauce didn’t break!!
Class 12-Filet mignon, artichokes, and bearnaise


I’m so excited!

28 06 2008

I’ve joined up with a food event called Whisk Wednesdays.  It’s a group of folks working through French cooking classes a la Le Cordon Bleu at Home.  They’re up to Class 13 already, but I shall not be daunted!  I plan to do both 12 & 13 between now and Wednesday.  Class 12 is beef tenderloin steak with the classic Bearnaise sauce.  I’ve wanted to do this for sooooo long!  I think it’s just an awesome opportunity!  Hubster is beaming from ear to ear in anticipation.  Now…is there somewhere in this culinary wasteland I can find beef tenderloin.  And while I’m ever so disappointed at wasting so much of the artichokes for this recipe and the one in Class 13, we must make sacrifices in and effort to learn.  I assure you, I’ll check to see if the leaves can be steamed for snacking.  Like other participants, I’ll be posting my results here.  Now…I’m off to make shopping lists and do some mis en place!   I wonder if anyone has a pronunciation guide??  I didn’t take French…

Danger! Danger Will Robinson!!!

25 06 2008

DISCLAIMER:  I am very upset…angry…in the vernacular, P-O’d.  Sometimes a woman’s patience just gets pushed “so” far….  What’s up??  I’m so glad you asked…and if you didn’t….would you please do me the favor of leaving the kitchen, ‘cuz I’m about to get MOST UN-ladylike.

Are we squared away now?

All the munchkins out of the room?

No one reading aloud?

I’m serious….I’m really whizzed.  And that’s the last time I’m going to rein in my tongue or my fingers.  It’s on you now…

Are we alone now?

Okay….here goes…

If you own a restaurant…and it’s getting close to closing time…TOO close for your establishment to SEAT patrons and let them eat their meal…then WHY SEAT THEM????  Especially in a Chinese restaurant specializing in “take out”…  I am SO freaking furious!!

Scenario….8:40 p.m., late June, a couple walk into a Chinese restaurant…an old, established, been there 75 years kind of place.  The diners didn’t catch on right away; there were several other tables with patrons lingering over their meals.  Both were tired and settled quickly upon the “house” dinner for two, but could “we please add mushroom foo yung?”

The first clue that the couple would be dining to the strains of the “dining room hustle” was when halfway through the soup, the appetizer arrived, immediately followed by the first dish of the entree.  Mere moments later, the remaining dishes arrived.  The avalanche of dining room catastrophes was just getting started.

The pair might have been able to eat a little faster if the soup had had any flavor.  She remarked that it tasted very much like cornstarch.  Both added salt, pepper, and soy sauce trying to create some element of flavor in the pale excuse for “soup of the day.”  Ok…chicken-rice noodle soup is tricky.  You need to use chicken AND broth.  Damn.  I knew something was missing.  One of them had to go “in search of” hot mustard…let’s see…how DOES one serve BBQ pork slices, fried prawns and paper-wrapped chicken (not fair…it’s seasoned!!-But, then again…we didn’t EAT that- -YET!)?  The obligatory S&S sauce arrived in a bowl, but there were no other condiments available.  Faux pas #2.

As we…oops…the “couple” began to fill their plates, the waitress arrived asking for payment…so they “could close the register.”  Ok…fine, the food is on the table; no beverages were ordered so there was no need to “refill” or “replace” any beverage.  The appropriate plastic was exchanged, and the little pieces of paper were obtained, and set aside.

The meal wasn’t even begun, let alone concluded.  If the folks thought they were getting a guaranteed T.I.P., they were at the wrong table.  Please…don’t misunderstand me.  I DO NOT STIFF service staff.  My mom was a waitress, and her tips were the difference between my existence and my carefree childhood.  I grew up knowing the value of tips, and that service staff barely made any money, regardless of how hard they worked.  I honestly tip 20-35% on the average.  My state believes all service staff receive at least 8% on every ticket, so staff are charged for that up-front by the state.  Even when I feel I’ve been totally screwed by the staff, I still leave 10%…even if it makes me chew nails and spit out staples.  And so, I held the ticket open until we’d concluded our meal.

At least I thought I was going to keep the ticket open until we’d concluded our meal…  Maybe 10 minutes after the food was delivered-remember, it all came at one time-, but not more than 15, another server came to the table asking for the ticket.  “Oh, don’t let us rush you,” the young man said, as another service member came to the table with a bus-cart to take the plates that were no where near empty.  No, no one brought “to-go” boxes to us.  Honestly, we had to get those for ourselves.  They did, however, bring a plastic bag to our table for the boxes.  I hadn’t had a chance to finish my meal.  Seriously.  I hadn’t had a change to eat the original portions I’d put on my plate to start with.  We had serving plates heaped with food, and the staff was all but drumming their fingers waiting to clear the table. We were permitted to get our own containers for the remaining food, transfer the food, bag it and leave without so much as a bye-your-leave.

I’m absolutely furious.  Where in the bloody hell does any restaurant get off behaving in such a f-d up manner?  It’s not like the food was even GOOD!!!  I guess being the “only game in town” gives one the feeling of security.  Well….not from this gal.  It’s going to be one damn cold day in hell before I cross that threshold again.  I can cook Chinese better than what I got tonight, and there are a few towns within 30 miles that have to have better food.  Admittedly, perhaps not at 8:30….but I’d still put money on it.

Oh, and for the record….We parked our car at 8:35 p.m.  We were back in our car by 9:05 p.m. with “left-overs” in hand.

You know what’s even worse?  I was hungry when we got home.  I hadn’t been able to finish my dinner.  I left with food on my plate.  Ok…if I’d touched that plate at that point, it would have gone flying.  I was so angered by having to leave before I’d finished eating, I was ready to start breaking dishes.  Hey…it would have ended the concern about 2 people still eating!  Anyway…when we got home, I put the cartons in the refrigerator, but saved out the fried rice to stave off my remaining appetite.  I love rice, especially fried rice.  I got a spoon, sat down with the carton and proceeded to…wait…what’s that thing?  Wait..please…no.  There’s not supposed to be anything really thin-threadlike even-in my fried rice…  No.  Please, no.  Oh f.  It’s white.  And black.  S.  It’s half and half.  And more hair-like than I can abide at this point.  Normally, I’m not squeamish.  I’ll roll my eyes, make a wise-crack and go on eating.  Not tonight.  That was seriously the freaking straw.  I’m so done.

Just don’t eat Chinese in Oroville…  I know I won’t be.

Novel Food, Summer ’08

22 06 2008

Novel Food small logo

Ok, I’m late. I admit it. And it really doesn’t matter if I make the round-up or not…it’s that I did read, I did attempt to be inspired to cook from my reading material….but I gotta tell you…I don’t read a lot of novels, and what I do like to read shouldn’t inspire one to run of to the kitchen and whip up a little something… So, I went back to my buddy, Patricia Cornwell…This season’s entry (or not *Ü*) is a salad inspired by Kay Scarpetta’s love of fresh… tomatoes, herbs, pasta…Fresh!

Grilled Chicken Summer Salad

This season we have a Grilled Chicken Summer Salad..a bed of baby spinach, blanketed with baby leaf lettuces, tickled with frisee, sprinkled with sprouts, and topped with marinated grilled chicken breast tenders, an avocado fan and tomato wedges (organic, from a reliable market, and thoroughly scrubbed) on the side.

I love this event, so here ’tis….regardless! *Ü*

Ahi Tacos

15 06 2008

Ahhh….ahi….my summer friend!  I could eat ice cold ahi with wasabi & soy sauce anywhere, anytime.  And tonight I promised The Hubster (beloved of my life) Ahi Tacos.  He may not be a biological father, but he’s a Dad and get’s “the other guy’s” phone call on the appointed day (he rates…Mom didn’t get a call on her appointed day – go figure).  Our needs are few…a good grade of ahi, cracked pepper (color of your choice, we use a 4 blend), and any dressing you choose.  Ours is 3 Tbs. mayo, 1-2 Tbs. toasted sesame oil, 1 tsp. soy and about the same amount of Siracha, and another 2-3 Tbs. of peanut or other salad oil. Whisk, whisk, whisk, emulsify…. What you want is a smoky flavored, creamy sauce with a hearty nip – not so much a bite as a nip.  Kind of a latent….gotcha!  You’ll also want some nice tasty greens…green onions, cilantro, frisee, alfalfa sprouts…anything with a nice green crunch.  Oh wait…the “taco” shell…we like flat breads…and prefer the mexican gordita type flour tortillas.  I’ve used Naan, and it works, just has a slightly different flavor.

Heat a nonstick skillet to high…you want to sear the ahi almost immediately.  We aren’t cooking it as much as toasting the peppercorns for their flavor.  So, pepper the ahi liberally on both sides.  Pop it into the skillet and sear it quickly; turn and sear the other side, then remove it from the pan.  Slice in 1/8 inch slices.

Heat the flat bread just until it’s nicely pliable; smear a spoonful of the dressing down the center; pile on the thinly sliced ahi, add veggies, drizzle on some extra dressing and you’re good to go!  Here’s what the end result looks like…

Ahi Tacos

I’ve had a yen for sushi…

15 06 2008

And I’m not afraid to tackle sushi at home. Sorry I don’t have pictures of our hand rolls, but maybe next time.

Yes, I actually took a sushi class through the local community college. Not Sushi 101…actually it was Sushi 201 – Advanced sushi.  That’s where you pretty much already know you like sushi, know how to do your rice, know about nori and all that other fun stuff like wasabi, cuts of fish, etc.  This was a hands-on class, and worth every penny! It was actually held in the instructor’s home.  He covered two long tables with foil, supplied bamboo mats and ingredients, and we were off and rollin’!  He focused on how to clean a tin of unagi (fresh water eel); where to get sushi grade fish (in my area that’s S & S Produce or the meat counter at Raleys on East Ave., both in Chico), which rice to buy (short grain #1 fancy works reliably), and then we got creative.  We all liked inside out tempura rolls…and so…we created! It was really a wonderful way to kill a morning, plus…all my cooking went home with me.  No homework from this class!  Actually…a friend and I took the class and we mixed and traded our best so we each had a tasty tray to take home.

Anyway…when temps soar, there’s nothing better than cold food for supper.  And so…drum roll please…enter the hand roll.  This time we scored some fabulous looking ahi from S & S.  I got 2 steaks…one for sushi and one for Ahi Tacos (tonight…pictures will happen).  When I started slicing the tuna, it was actually sashimi grade, so I made some nigiri sushi and then hand rolls from the more sinewy parts.  I diced the tuna, mixed it with green onion tops, mayonnaise and siracha, with a couple of drops of sesame oil added for good measure…kind of a spicy tuna mix.  I set up the hand rolls with rice as the base, a swipe of wasabi, a half strip of cooked bacon, tuna, and more green onion tops…roll it up, roll it up, roll it up (sorry…poor imitation of Martin Yan…wrong cuisine too, darn it!)!  Presto! One hand roll all nicely done and ready to chomp on.

The only bad parts about making sushi for dinner are 1) you either have to decide to eat soggy sushi, or you have to be away from the table intermittently;  2) you sometimes get stuck in the kitchen or the prep area and not get to eat while orders get flashed your way.

I have a dream of hosting a hand roll party.  Kind of like the guy held the class…  Tables covered so water won’t be a problem…rolls of paper towels at the ready…small bowls of water set out to keep the rice from sticking…a big bowl of communal rice in the middle…ingredients all over the table…ice cold shrimp, crab meat, unagi (trust me…clean one lousy can and this is the only way you’ll do unagi!), other fish as in season…plus condiments…green onions, cucumbers, bacon, mushrooms…

Hey…did you know that even if you don’t like or can’t abide the idea of eating RAW fish, there are ways around that for you???  You can always eat shrimp – unless they specify RAW, it will always be cooked first, same with crab, same with octopus, NOT however, squid.  And then there are still alternatives…BBQ pork, teriyaki chicken, grilled portobella mushrooms… Trust me, even a BLT hand roll is pretty darn tasty.

Yummmm…..Ahi tacos tonight!  Yes, it will still be sushi-ish.  But more on that later!  I don’t want to spoil anything for you!

Berrylicious entry…

11 06 2008

One of the things I love about food blog events is the challenge to think outside the box.  I tend to cook by what I feel and “taste” in my head anyway, so this is a wonderfully relaxing hobby!  And so…I was reading a list of food blog events, and ran across “Berrylicious,” sponsored by Nutriferia, and thought about what was in the refrigerator that could star in the event…this is what came out:
3 Berry Sauce on smoked pork loin chops

I’ve been doing a lot of things with pork, which has been reasonably priced.  I picked up 10# of boneless pork loin at $1.67 per pound.  When gas is $4.50 per gallon, saving grocery money is a necessity! *Ü*  I knew I had a small (1-1/2 lb.) piece of pork loin remaining, so I cut it into chops, seasoned the meat with ground pepper, salt and brown sugar, then tenderized the meat and left it to marinate for 45 minutes.  I prepared my smoker pan with 2 tsp. alder smoking shavings and smoked the pork over medium-low heat for 30 minutes, then left the pan while the smoke dissipated.  Meanwhile, I mixed 1/3 cup white sugar, 1Tbsp. balsamic vinegar and 1/3 cup of water in a heavy saucepan.  I emptied half a bag of frozen mixed berries into the hot sugar water (sugar had dissolved), brought it all to a boil and turned off the heat.  I then added a pinch of orange zest to the berry sauce.  We served the sauce spooned over the hot, smoked pork chops.  Hubster gave it the nod as the “best pork chops ever!”  We both found the berries a wonderful substitute for apples, which also combine well with pork.  Since there was about 1/2 cup of sauce remaining….we’re going to spoon it over ice cream and pound cake for dessert later.  Wish you were here! *Ü*

Japanese Blossoms

10 06 2008

Awhile back we’d heard there was a new restaurant in Chico…Japanese Blossoms.  Now, there are several sushi restaurants in Chico.  There’s the Americanized sushi at 2 different Chinese buffet restaurants (Rice Bowl and Kempo), and there’s the college area sushi bar…Katsuo’s.  Gen Kai was the first, but has developed a revolving door or owners, and philosophies.  Still, it’s got a decent ambiance, and the food has been good to better.  I can’t remember if we’ve been in since the last change of management, or if we just noted it in passing…  And there’s the Rawbar.  Rawbar is very nouveau…opened with driving metallic music to go with the metallic sculptures and neon.  Still, their food can be very, very good. Imaginative. Over-priced.  And now…enter Japanese Blossoms.

We stopped in for lunch…a good way to check out a new place without spending a small fortune.  We were pleasantly surprised to see Kama, the Itabisan from Gen Kai before the change of owners.  An excellent sign.  The current Itabisan came out, and turned out to be one of our favorites from Gen Kai…also before the “change.”  Two good signs.  The decor is very zen, and comfortable.  There are nice sake selections.  The menu items include a variety of common Japanese dishes and then…there’s the sushi menu.  Yes, somewhat Americanized combinations, but it was downright good!  We each had our favorite nigiri orders…unagi for him, sake for me, plus an order of maguro to share. We added a large JB’s Rainbow roll, and two salmon skin BLT handrolls.  It was just about the perfect amount for lunch.  It left me wanting more…more…MORE!  We’ll go back for dinner…it’s worth giving it another try!

Smoked Salmon Asian Salad

8 06 2008

I’m rather into food blog events right now.  It’s a good way to de-stress for me.  This post is for Michelle at Greedy Gourmet.  She runs a monthly food event called “SnackShots.”  This month’s topic is Salad.  So, here’s ours…

This is a salad made of freshly picked baby lettuces, toasted ramen noodles, tomato slices, avocado slices, dressed with sesame Asian dressing, garnished with a hard-cooked egg, topped with cured, pan-smoked salmon and sprinkled with toasted sesame and coriander seeds.  It was a wonderful cold entree salad.

When the going gets tough…the tough get cooking!

8 06 2008

It’s been a rugged school year.  I’m not going to go through all the aspects of that. Instead, I’ll tell you about what I’ve been doing in the kitchen while I’ve been stressing.

I entered a food blog event, Tasty Tools, with the Poblano Cream from the chicken recipe, using it instead on pork loin chops.  No surprise…major yum.  Once again, I had sauce remaining…(awwwww…), so I tried shrimp in the sauce.  Yep. KILLER!  And then…with a tiny bit of sauce (maybe 1/3 cup) left, I tried stirring it into creamy scrambled eggs.  Right up there with all the other fabulous choices!  That’s one incredibly tasty and versatile sauce.  I’d enter it in any competition it fit the criteria for.

We also played with pork loin chops.  I cut them 3/4 inch thick, pounded them with my tenderizer, sprinkled them with the rub for pan-smoked salmon, and left them for several hours.  They were heavily seasoned…maybe 30-60 minutes would have been plenty, but I fell asleep.  Sorry about that.  Still, they came out  very well.  We pan-smoked them over very low heat for 25 minutes, and let them cool, then we finished them on a hot grill pan.  Mmmm!  I fixed 4; we ate all 4 in one sitting.  Oops.

Then, I had a yen for Thai (no pun intended).  I made green papaya salad, tom kha gai soup, and simmered boneless chicken thighs in green curry from Trader Joe’s.  No complaints on this one either.  We polished off the soup and the chicken in one sitting.  So much for leftovers.

Right now I’m in the middle of baby back ribs and marinated pasta salad.  The salad is pretty…fusilli pasta, kalamata olives, red and green bell pepper, garlic, herbs and shallots with marinated artichoke hearts.  Let me see if I can get a picture…

Marinated Pasta Salad

There we are.  Pasta and veggies in an olive oil marinade.  Yes, it’s yummy.  And it was easy.  And with closing another school year, I need easy.  Simple.  Relaxing.  Ribs and salad…works for me.