As the carrot tournes

27 12 2008

One of the techniques students of Le Cordon Bleu are expected to master is the tourné of vegetables.  Turning vegetables is the bane of the culinary student.  At loss to explain why 7 sides are inportant, or indeed why is turning important at all, students dutifully obey Chef, knowing there’s nary a tourneéd veggie in the states.

Ok.  Being fair, this is at least worth a try.  I’m home, there’s time and there are now carrots.  Shreds can be used for muffins or carrot cake.   The turned carrots can dance alongside anything I cook at this point.  I’ve held that I’m a more rustic kind of cook, but this week is the week to check on this technique.

There aren’t a lot of references to turning veggies.  There are a couple of articles decrying the necessity, and a couple videos that happen so fast I can’t tell what happened.  So far, I’ve found 3 decent instructions.  LCBH has the tiniest little picture in the technique section.  Great.  I feel like I’m cutting D & D dice from carrots…might be easier!

No. I’m not sharing any pictures yet.  That will come at some point, but not yet.  I cut a couple of pounds of carronts tonight, and I don’t have the idea down good yet, but I’m getting there.  I have a “bird’s beak” knife, as well as several paring knives.  I’ll get the hang of this sooner or later.  Wait…zucchini??  They use zucchini to do this too??  Hmmm… I need to think on this more.  We’ll get back to this subject someday!


Home, cooking

26 12 2008

It’s winter…finally cool enough for me to feel really comfortable cooking my little heart out.  This is the time to make stocks and soups; braises; roasted things.  When you live in a really temperate climate where it rarely gets really cold…well…it’s always hot in the kitchen!  These are the days I long for, and live for when summer rolls around.  I never cease to be sorry I roasted an extra turkey, because there’s “our” roast turkey in July to add to salads.  And tamales?  WHO wants to slave over hot steamy kettles in July??  This is the time to make tamales! Especially if you live on the fringe of the wintering homes of migrant farm workers.  Truly authentic delights are readily available, here.  Now.  So this is the time I love to spend home, cooking.

So far, we did up a big beef stock.  That was fun!  I got a little worried when  I saw the amount of broth we had.  Worried because I really don’t have any freezer space right now.  I’ve got quite a bit of various meat products working in the freezer…pork for carnitas, tamales, etc.  I got about 3 quarts of  stock out of the bones, and I just didn’t have room for 3 quarts of liquid.  Then, it occured to me that we have a pressure canner

pressure-canner-debut1…why not?  Roughly 90 minutes later,  we were lifting jars of our own beef stock out of the canner.  What a feeling!beef-stock-canned2

While that was all going on, we’d picked up a lovely package of oxtails for braising.  I had one of those “taste clouds” envelope me, and I set my mind on how to get there…  I browned the oxtails in a deep cast iron skillet.  Kind of like a dutch oven, but with a handle like a frying pan…a chicken fryer?

Anyway…I browned the oxtails in the hot pan, and added half an onion, quartered and sliced, several cloves of garlic, and some chopped celery to the pot.  When things were getting nicely translucent, I added1 sliced carrot, 1 Tbsp. of tomato paste and half a dozen dried tomato halves to the pot.  A few minutes later, after the tomato had a chance to start to carmelize, I removed the oxtails and poured in a healthy amount of red wine.  It was enough to cover the bottom of the pan, and almost cover the veggies.  That heated and reduced by half.  I wanted mushrooms in here as well.  I rehydrated a mushroom mixture and added that to the pot, along with the soaking liquid.  I put the oxtails back in and added a couple of scoops of my beef broth (2 cups) to the pan.  I left this on the back burner with a very low flame for 3 hours. oxtail-braiseAnd it cooked…and it simmered…and it smelled so good!  We canned the broth while this was simmering on the back of the stove.  We rubbed down a pork roast with smoked paprika, cumin and black pepper for another day (thinking a Mexican pulled pork kind of filling for tamales),  and the house was full of lovely smelly-good stuff.  I think we also made the first of the orange-cranberry cookies this night.   Eventually, this is what resulted:

oxtails-braisedAbout all this seemed to need was a plateful of buttered noodles and some hot rolls.  It was silky and so full of flavor!  The mushrooms added just the right complimenting texture.  I’m sorry to say, this fed the two of us.  We could have shared with a third person, but that would have been stretching things a little thinly.  One smallish dog did manage to score some bones after the fact.  It was enough to keep her happy for the evening! All in all, not a bad way to spend Christmas Eve for two!


Today is Boxing Day up north, and across “the pond” and we’re still cooking here!  The pork roast we rubbed down a few days ago is in the oven following a technique affectionately known as Gretchen’s Pulled Pork.  We’ve changed the flavors and are cooking it down like we would for Carolina style pulled pork.  Instead of BBQ seasonings, we have Mexican flavors.  Freshly toasted and ground cumin and black pepper, smoked paprika and roasted garlic.  It will cook happily for about 8 hours at 250º.  Then…we shred it and make tamales!!

I’m dying to make tamales!  I found a great on line video, with recipes and techniques; I’ve got my tamale spreaders. and I’m ready!  I even have big kettles to steam these babies in!!  I know, I know…one step at a time.

That brings us back to leftover prime rib.  What the heck?  This could be most interesting…!  I’ll have to get back to you on that.  For now, I’m ready for a nap.

Prime Rib 2008 and other musings

26 12 2008

I think I’m still in search of a prime rib recipe I can trust.

This year, we were fortunate in finding a 3-rib standing rib roast that we could afford!  I knew we’d have a lot left over, but we’d also have extra if anyone happened to be with us.  The roast was 6-1/2 pounds, well marbled, and looked plenty managable.  Next…search for a Prime Rib cooking recipe.


The recipe we settled on said to pull the roast out for 30 minutes before cooking to permit it to come to room temperature.  After 2 hours, our roast still hadn’t achieved room temperature.   The recipe called for seasoning the roast with a rub and 1/2 cup of dijon mustard.  Keeper!  Oh my gosh that was a tasty crust!  Cooking…heat the oven to 500º – check;  seasoned & rubbed beef – check;  put in oven, fat side up for 5 minutes per pound (33 minutes) – check; turn oven off, let rest 90 minutes –  check;  remove from oven, roast should be about 140º internally – oops.  The roast registered 80º  Totally undaunted, I quartered some red potatoes, fired off the oven and set it at 425º, added the potatoes to my roast and waited…45 minutes later, the potatoes were nicely browned, and I determined we were DONE cooking!  No, I didn’t temp the roast.  I pulled it out, wrapped it lovingly with foil and proceeded to make Yorkshire Pudding.  When the puddings were done, I carved the roast.  Sure enough…it was a beautiful medium rare in the center, not overly rare at all.  Although the recipe didn’t work precisely for me, it’s close.  I found another recipe that recommends cooking at 400º…we may try that one next year, because 500º made for really smokey conditions in the house!   Incidentally…we liked the Yorkshire puddings!


Yorkshire Pudding

1 cup flour
1/2 tsp salt
1 cup milk
2 eggs

Whisk dry ingredients together in a bowl; whisk wet ingredients together in a mixing pitcher (4 cup measure will hold it all), whisk together until smooth.  Prepare a 12 cup muffin tin with 1 tsp. pan drippings per muffin cup, heat at 425ºF until hot.  Pour batter into cups to fill halfway.  Bake at 425º about 20-25 minutes until puffed and brown.   Serve with gravy or au jus.

I looked at a LOT of recipes before I decided on the quantity of ingredients.  These were the most common, relatively.  One thing I noticed was that the batter sizzled as I poured it into the hot tins…ooooh!  Drum roll for the drama!

Now…if you have suggestions for recipes that utilize leftover prime rib, please…SHARE!  *Ü*

Cranberry-Orange Bliss

22 12 2008

So…I’m quietly surfing blogs, trying to catch up while I’m on a 2 week break from school…and I run across these incredible cookies on one website, and chase it back to the original post. OMGosh these are good.  I’ll figure out the problem with the consistency sooner or later.  The flavor is worth the work!  And when I figure it out, I’ll share. The recipe…the cookies are very difficult to share.


Fresh Cranberry Orange Cookies

1 1/2 c. all-purpose flour
1/4 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 c. unsalted butter, softened
1/4 c. brown sugar, packed
1 c. granulated sugar
1 egg yolk
1 tsp grated orange zest
juice of 1/2 orange
1 tsp vanilla
1 c. chopped fresh cranberries (I used a food processor and pulsed about 8-10 times)

-Preheat oven to 375 degrees and line two baking sheets with parchment.
-In medium bowl combine flour, baking soda, salt, and whisk; set aside.
-In bowl of stand mixer, combine butter and sugars and beat until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes.
-Add yolk and beat until fully incorporated.
-Add orange juice, then zest and vanilla and beat until fully incorporated.
-Turn mixer to low speed, add flour mixture and beat until just incorporated.
-Remove bowl from mixer, stir in cranberries, and place 1 Tbsp rounds of dough onto cookie sheets.
-Place cookies in the oven and bake, switching baking sheet positions half way through baking time,  for 12-14 minutes (they should not brown)
-Remove from oven and let cool on pans completely, about 10-15 minutes.

Makes about 18 very generous Tbsp-sized cookies
** I got 40 Tbsp sized cookies, but then, mine flopped.

I’m not sure what went wrong. My cookies look so adorable on the parchment, but they flattened like unleavened bread.  What did I do differently…?  I used frozen fresh cranberries…might have added additional moisture?  I chopped them frozen, and mixed them with the OJ…  Now, oranges are subjective.  What kind of orange are you juicing?  A small blood orange?  Or a big CA grown Valencia?  I used a valencia…lots and lots of juice.  And then…I used baking powder instead of baking soda. I don’t think that would make that much difference.  I think it’s more along the lines of the moisture from the fruits.  Next time I’ll add an extra 1/4 cup of flour and test it, then add another 1/4 cup as needed to get a stand-up cookie!

***Post edited 12/26/08

Ok, we know what the problem was now.  1/2 CUP of butter does NOT equal 1/2  POUND.  No wonder those cookies were so rich and yummy! LOL!  That was problem #1; 2nd – soda was the ingredient, I used baking powder.  Total brain fade there.  #3 – Half an orange can be a little or a LOT of juice.  I think 2 Tbsp. is a better call on the quantity there.  My oranges yielded a full 4 oz. of juice.  That made for a big difference in how the cookies behave.  When I used 2 Tbsp. of juice with the soda and 1/2 cup of butter, we had lovely cookies!

Congratulations. You have witnessed a full flop on my part.  If you tell, I’ll have to hunt you down and feed you cookies ’til you pop!

WW~Rewind to Classes 10 and 12- Stock and Hollandaise

22 12 2008

I joined Whisk Wednesdays just about the time they were finishing stocks and since it was July, I didn’t worry about trying to catch up right then.  I knew the long foggy, and rainy days of winter would be back soon enough.  Sure enough…they’re here. When I woke up yesterday, I knew it was a perfect day for roasting bones and making brown stock.  Veal bones still elude me, and I’ll be special ordering some for making stock for the duckling we’ll be cooking the first week of January.  This was a good time to work on a basic brown stock, before investing a small fortune in veal bones.  I picked up 3 packages of beefy bones from the frozen meat counter (the only way…sadly…to acquire bones), one was particularly “knuckly,” lots of good cartilage and natural gelatin.  I roasted them at 475º initially, but really felt it was too hot, and reduced the heat to 425º.  After about 90 minutes, we had lovely golden brown bones, and lots of fat had cooked off.  I popped the sizzling bones into a kettle of cold water, added 2 onions, 3 small carrots, tomato paste and a bouquet garni to the kettle.  I brought it to a boil, reduced the heat to a low simmer and left it alone for several hours.  I probably left it too long, but a carrot was still al dente when I took it off the heat.  I skimmed a lot of fat off and did a pretty good job, there wasn’t all that much left to take off when it was cooled.  Now we have a few quarts of lovely brown broth to freeze.beef-stock2

*Tip* When only using a small amount of tomato paste from a container, measure 1 tablespoon sized dollops onto a foil lined container.  Freeze and pop into a zip-lock bag to save.

I’ve made hollandaise from scratch according to Joy of Cooking in the past, and I’ve made blender hollandaise, and I’ve made instant (blech) hollandaise.   I hadn’t made hollandaise according to Le Cordon Bleu hefore.  This one had me going just a little bit.  Tempering the eggs made me incredibly nervous…and I don’t know if I did it right or not, but I got a lovely bright yellow (sorry, my chickens have really YELLOW, almost orange yolks) sauce in the end.  I got kind of tired and went to work on too much butter at one time, but adding the lemon juice brought it back together just fine, and adding warm water a bit at a time as well as beating the sauce over the hot water of the poaching egg did great to bring it to a happy finish for plating.  Unfortunately, you have to take my word for it this time.  I forgot to take pictures.  This time.  There’s a good chance we’ll have poached eggs (I’m starting to get the hang of that one!!) again sometime soon. With hollandaise.

GLAD…It’s over!

13 12 2008

Sometime back in mid-October my principal gave me the task of arranging for breakfast and lunch for 15 GLAD seminar attendees for 7 days.  There would be a 2 day session and a 5 day session, a month apart.  My budget was roughly $1600 to cover everything they needed.  Not a big deal, there it is, cut and dried.

Our school is located as far west as possible without being out of town.  Connecting routes to town are good, but what’s actually IN town is the next problem.  There aren’t many places to acquire food in our town.  Yes, we have most of the usual fast-food stops, and a few greasy-spoons (literally), but a place to go, pick up catered food and transport it…not so much.  I decided early on, that I’d do the food as a caterer, and make it all go a lot easier on me….at least on one side of the equation.

My first 2-day stint went really well. I blogged that back in November. I had picked up all the plates, cups, and utensils they’d need at that time. The packages were just about perfect for our use. The right amount of plates, napkins, cups and so on were on site and ready for the 5 day session…no worries.

There’s one other component to this array that’s very important…1/3 of the seminar attendees are vegans.  That’s a very high percentage for a small school district, but it was one of the considerations I needed to keep in the back of my mind. The good news, they aren’t severely strict about it.  No red meat for all, no meat at all for just one; eggs and dairy welcomed.  It could have been a LOT worse!

I tried to build my menu with serious consideration going to my own energy levels. I needed to work my usual 40+ hours a week, and manage the shopping and cooking too.  I made one mistake. I forgot to take into consideration that I was performing in a Christmas concert immediately prior to this seminar, and I’m very involved in the background of the concert. I put the most complicated, energy using items early in the week. I also arranged buying fresh fruits and veggies according to when I could manage a shopping trip.  It did get a little tight with the concert…I should have been doing a lot of shopping that day, but I put it off until after the concert had ended that evening. It made the evening run kind of late…like ’til the next morning, and I got a brief nap before starting my work day.  Still…it all worked out.


Monday’s menu consisted of an assortment of muffins for breakfast, with juice, yogurt, fruit and granola, and for lunch, beef and cheese enchiladas for the meaties, and a chile relleno casserole for the veggies;


rice, beans, salad with Southwestern Ranch dressing, pico de gallo pico-de-gallo-serve1

and turtle brownies for dessert.  There were no problems; the chile relleno casserole was a huge hit.  I made the enchiladas Sonora style…stacked like pancakes…and that made them easy to serve to a large group.  The rice was simply Mexican rice, and the refried beans had cream cheese whipped into them for a little extra richness, but we didn’t tell anyone. *Ü*

Tuesday’s breakfast was sweet rolls, juice, and grapes, and lunch was Tuscan Pasta – penne pasta baked in a red sauce with sausage and cheese for the meaties, and roasted veggies and cheese for the vegans. Personally…they got the better lunch. The roasted veggies came out REALLY well and it was SO good! – with salad and garlic bread, and cookies for dessert.

By Wednesday, I was definitely dragging some.  I picked up deli-sliced meats and cheeses and created a build-your-own sandwich tray with marinated veggies, minestrone soup and cherry-pecan crunch for dessert.  Their breakfast was Strawberry Stuffed French Toast with juice on the side.

Thurday’s breakfast was a coffee cake from Cafe Beaujolais in Mendocino, CA. That’s one yummy coffee cake! OMGosh! They also had fresh fruit and juice on the side.  Lunch today was chile and cornbread with honey-butter. The chile turned out to be completely veggie-friendly.  I’d been planning to split the batch in half, but I had exactly the flavor I wanted without any beef…so I stopped right there!  We served grated cheese along side and I know I gave them some sort of dessert, but I can’t remember what it was right now! LOL!

Friday…ah…sweet Friday!  I told them this was the day we were articulating subjects…they were doing Language Arts work and I was feeding them “remainders.”  They had the rest of…the sweet rolls and coffee cake for breakfast, along with fruit and juice and yogurt.  Lunch…we sent out for pizza.  My duties were concluded.

This was quite an experience. I learned a lot about my personal energy levels, perserverance, timing, and so on.  I managed to feed us in the process of creating for others.  I used us as guinea pigs for sampling.  I found my head does pretty well figuring out how much food to prepare.  The only day we had WAY too much food was pasta day.  Part of that was because it was prepped the night before and the pasta absorbed a lot of the sauce.  So, it was a little dry, but had a great flavor.  Hmmmm.  The chile was the hit of the week though. And that totally blew me away. It isn’t even what I consider my best work, but it’s right up there.  Interesting.  And now it’s over…they’ve been trained in GLAD and I’m glad it’s finished.  Back to the holidays, right after a long winter’s nap!

Oeufs Mollets Florentine

1 12 2008

“What’s that?” you say.  Soft boiled eggs on a bed of spinach with Mornay sauce.  “Why didn’t you just say so?”

Actually, I made an amazing discovery while preparing this dish.  I may have discovered how the dish came about.  While it’s easy to wax nostalgic and creative and imagine a chef, trying to impress his clients with a new, unexpected egg dish for brunch, or a light supper…I don’t believe that’s where this dish grew from.  Let me drag you along through the barnyard and see what we come up with…

Have you ever had the experience of cooking extremely fresh eggs?  I don’t mean freshly purchased from the grocer, I mean fresh from the chicken today, fresh.  As in, run out to the hen house and grab a handful of fresh, fresh eggs straight from the “egg faeries.”  Um….the hens.  Farm fresh eggs have some qualities you won’t find in store-bought eggs (unless they buy from the farm).  The egg whites stand up fairly high and are compact, not running all over the pan.  The yolk is deep, deep yellow, almost orange and stands up above the whites.  These will make fabulous poached eggs and meringues.  They, however, make extremely lousy soft or hard cooked eggs.

A fresh egg hasn’t had the time to evaporate and create the little bit of air between the egg shell and the inner membrane of the egg.  No air space means the membrane of the egg is stuck firmly to both the shell and the white of the egg, so peeling is a mess.  It can be accomplished, but you loose a great deal of egg white in the process.  I believe this is one of the reasons “egg salad” was created.  What else are you going to do with something THIS ugly?

Big chunks of egg white tear away, firmly adhered to the shells.  No matter how hard you try to chill the egg down and no matter how much cold water you try to drizzle between the egg and the shell, there’s still no peeling one of these suckers prettily.

This is one of the prettiest of the 6 eggs I cooked and attempted to peel.  I’m familiar with not being able to peel eggs unless I take some additional steps, and suspected I’d run into this,  but hoped it wouldn’t go this way.  But, tear they did, and messy they got.  Then it dawned on me…was that how this dish was created?  A young chef who didn’t realize he had to use older eggs for hard or soft cooked eggs?  Did he drizzle Mornay sauce over the top to hide the unsightly mess?  When that didn’t work completely, did he then add a bit of cheese to further cover up the jagged edges and torn whites?

What do you think?  Doesn’t it cover a multitude of sins?  Oh, trust me.  Those torn eggs weren’t just for your entertainment…that’s what I ended up using.  Ok, I used the nicest of the 6, but each of these eggs has a nasty torn up area that’s pretty much disappeared beneath a shawl of Mornay and accented with cheese, Swiss in this case.  I don’t know where I can even get Gruyere around here.

It doesn’t much matter…one bite and you forget to see anything except the next bite.  Creamy…decadent…rich…sinful…and paired with a chilled Prosecco…heavenly.  I know…I’m mixing France and Italy, but I like Prosecco.  And we had a bottle nicely chilled on hand.  It was a very nice twist on a Champagne Sunday Brunch.  This is a keeper.  Next time, I’ll poach the eggs though.