Culinary Arts Class – Week 6

Last week I had to take a last minute business trip, so I had to miss the last night of my Culinary Arts Class. I was really bummed because not only did I pay for it, but I was really looking forward to it.  We were going to be talking about Moist Cooking Methods. So it looks like I will have to try to teach myself that topic, and report back with how my recipe goes. So stay tuned. I will probably get to it after I get back from the South Beach Wine and Food Festival that I will be attending NEXT WEEK!

Culinary Arts Class – Week 5

Cooking methods in the Culinary Arts world are divided into two categories: Dry Heat Cooking and Moist Heat Cooking. Last week’s class was all about Dry Cooking Methods – such as roasting, broiling, grilling, deep-frying or sautéing.

Dry heat cooking refers to any cooking technique where the heat is transferred to the food without using any moisture.

Baking or roasting in an oven is a dry heat method because it uses hot air to conduct the heat. Roasted foods should develop a rich roasted aroma and they should have a well-developed color.

Pan-searing or sautéing a piece of steak is considered dry heat cooking because the heat shift takes place through the hot metal of the pan. When you sauté something, it’s very important that you use a very hot pan. Be sure to also let the small amount of fat that you use get hot as well.  You will develop a nice degree of browning on whatever you are pan-searing or sautéing.

Grilling and broiling rely on the heat being conducted through the air from an open flame. It is necessary that the food be very close to the heat source when you are grilling or broiling. Also be sure to flip the piece of meat so that it cooks evenly on both sides.

Since Deep-Frying involves putting food in hot, liquid fat, you would probably think that this is a Moist Cooking method and not a Dry Cooking method. But it is indeed a Dry Cooking method. Due to the high temperature involved and the high heat conduction of oil, the food cooks very quickly. The hot oil heats the water within the food, steaming it from the inside. Items that are deep fried are generally battered (other than potatoes or poultry with the skin still on) before being immersed in the oil.

Banana Fritters

The dish that I cooked in class was Pork Medallions with a Dijon Mustard Butter. This was absolutely phenomenal. I used a grill pan to cook the pork in, and let me tell you how it tasted like it was straight off the grill. I got some great grill marks on the meat and then finished it in the oven. The Dijon Mustard Butter was the perfect addition. There are so many different things you can do with this dish. Play around with the butter ingredients and you can create some awesome flavors.

We also made Banana Fritters in class. We coated some cut up bananas in a batter and then deep fried them in peanut oil. These little things were so delicious. They would be so good dipped in a caramel rum sauce – Mmmmm.

Culinary Arts class – Week 4

Last week’s class was all about Pasta. There are hundreds of different pasta shapes. Some examples of common pasta shapes are:  Pipe, Spaghetti, Spaghettini, Rigatoni, Penne Rigate, Orecchiette, Lasagna, Fusilli, Farfalle, Ditaloni, Shells and the list goes on. If I were to name them all we’d be here all day! ;)

Pasta is categorized in two basic styles: dried and fresh. Dried pasta made without eggs can be stores for up to a few years under ideal conditions, while fresh pasta will only keep for a couple of days if it’s refrigerated.

There are many varieties – here are some:

  • Long pasta
  • Short pasta
  • Minute Pasta (used for soups)
  • Egg Pasta
  • Fresh Pasta
  • Pasta for baked dishes (lasagna noodles would fall under this category)

Pasta is generally served with a sauce. There are so many different sauces that go well with pasta including Pesto sauce, Alfredo sauce, Bolognese sauce, Marinara sauce, and the list goes on.

In class we made our own fresh pasta. To be honest, this was my least favorite class. Aside from the fact that there were only 4 pasta machines (yes, the hand crank kind as picture to the left) for over 10 of us to share, I just didn’t care for the process of making fresh pasta. It is definitely hard work. Maybe it wouldn’t be so bad if I had the Pasta Maker Cuisinart Attachment, but doing it the old-fashioned way is for the birds!

So I went through the process and made some pasta, but I wasn’t really happy with how it came out. I felt so rushed and I just didn’t have time to concentrate and do it the way I would have liked to.  So I threw it out. I took my second dough ball home and thought that maybe I’d try to work with it at home in some capacity, but that just didn’t happen. Life got in the way.

What’s funny though is that I took home some Alfredo sauce that we made in class (which by the way was delicious!) and put it on some cooked pasta (that was from a *gasp* box!) that I had leftover in the fridge. It was delicious!

I’m not ashamed to admit that I prefer boxed pasta over the fresh stuff. It just tastes so much better in my opinion!

Culinary Arts class – Week 3

Last week’s class was all about Grains, Potatoes and Vegetables. We talked about all of them, but the focus of the class was making Risotto. As you all know, I made Risotto for the first time about a month ago. I never made Risotto before and I saw the Cooking Light recipe for Lobster Risotto and decided that I needed to make it. I’m so happy it turned out well since I spent $35 on Lobster to go into the dish. I think it goes without saying that I would be quite ticked off if the dish was a failure. ;)

For those of you that aren’t very familiar with Risotto, it is rice that is cooked in a broth to a creamy consistency. Risottos are usually made using short-grain rice with the stock/broth being added gradually while the rice is stirred frequently. Cooking it this way leads the rice to release its starch giving the final product a nice and creamy texture.

The broth that you use may be meat-based, fish-based, or vegetable-based. There are many ingredients you can add to give your risotto flavor. When I made my risotto in class, I cooked my rice in onion and butter to coat each grain with some fat. Then I started to add in my chicken stock gradually (which by the way should be hot) and I stirred it gently. I continued to do this until it was done. You’ll have to taste it several times to make sure it’s ready. Just make sure that you don’t add the broth too soon. The broth has to be absorbed before you add in more. If you add it too quickly your rice will not be done once you add in all of the broth. I just chose to add Parmesan cheese to my risotto. And let me tell you – it was perfect!!

My next risotto experiment is going to involve a really good smoked bacon. Bacon makes everything better, doesn’t it?

What’s your favorite Risotto flavor?

Culinary Arts class – Week 2

Last Tuesday was Week 2 of my Introduction to Culinary Arts class.  The topic of that class was Classic & Contemporary Sauces. It was a very interesting class and I learned a lot. It really has me wishing that I went to Culinary school after I graduated high school. But back then I didn’t realize I wanted to go there, if that makes any sense. Now, over 15 years later, I finally realize what I want to do!

Although there are an endless assortment of sauces, there are only 5 “Mother”sauces. Any sauce can be created with a little modification using one of these 5 sauces:

  • Béchamel – The Béchamel sauce is your basic white sauce. This sauce is perfect for making a cheese sauce for Macaroni & Cheese.
  • Velouté – The Velouté sauce is a white sauce using stock. It’s a good sauce that goes very well with meat and it’s simple to make. The thing you want to remember is when using this sauce you want to pair it with the same meat as the stock you are using. So you want to use beef stock when making beef, chicken stock when making chicken, etc.
  • Espagnole – The Espagnole sauce is a brown sauce. The basic method of making Espagnole is to prepare a very dark brown roux (cooked flour and fat), and add several gallons of veal stock, along with  browned bones, pieces of beef, pounds of vegetables, and various seasonings. This takes many hours or even several days to make.
  • Hollandaise – Hollandaise is a sauce made with an emulsion of egg yolks and fat. It is commonly used in the classic dish Eggs Benedict. Chef made this in class so we got to watch how he made it. My confession for the week is that I’ve never tasted Hollandaise sauce.  But I vow that I will do that one day soon.
  • Tomato – One of the most popular, the Tomato sauce is a wonderful sauce to make in large volume.  It can be used in so many different sauces and it freezes very well too.

The dish that I made in class was Chicken with a Brandy Mustard Cream Sauce. It was truly to die for.  I really enjoyed it and I need to go to the Liquor store to pick up some brandy so I can make it at home.  Recipe available upon request.