Monday, April 28, 2008

Southern French (Provencal): Bouillabaisse and Salad Nicoise

Bouillabaisse may well be my all time favorite meal. It is a pure and straightforward preparation yet it still has a certain mystique that separates it from the everyday.
All cuisines with which I am familiar, at least all that were developed with some stretch of seacoast available, have a dish similar to Bouillabaisse (Ex. Italian Brodetto, or Cacciucco Livornese, Spanish Zarzuela, or Greek Kakavia). Its origin is just like that of the rest, it is a fisherman’s stew based on the very flavorful yet lower in demand products of their efforts. The name tells the story; based on the French terms bouillir (to boil) and baisse (waste). Using rock fish common to the Mediterranean, such as scorpion fish, conger eel, St. Peter’s fish, angler fish (monkfish), sea bream and whiting, French fishermen assembled a flavorful array from what used to be less popular species. Today we recognize the value of these fish; no longer “trash” fish, they have become highly sought after choices, and, as such, have become much more expensive than once upon a time.
Producing a “true” Bouillabaisse requires the use of at least some of these native Mediterranean fin fish as well as an assortment of crustaceans. Can you produce a Bouillabaisse with native species instead? Of course, but you need to re-name the dish to account for the origin of this different version.
Bouillabaisse is traditionally served in its two main components; the fish and crustaceans are removed from the soup and piled high on a platter while the soup is served separately in a tureen. A traditional accompaniment is a toasted crouton topped with rouille, which is a spicy red pepper and saffron laced version of aioli.

Friday, April 25, 2008

Cookie Day in Bakeshop

Who doesn't love cookies?
Today the students are experimenting with mixing methods and makeup methods [drop, bar, icebox, rolled, cut, pressed, spritzed, wafer, stencil]

Adjusting Cookie Textures
For Crispness:
High Fat<>Low Liquid<>Strong flour<>Thin dough<>Well done
For Softness:
Low fat<>High liquid<>Weak flour<>Thick dough<>Underbake
For Chewiness:
High fat<>High liquid<>weak flour<>Thick or thin<>Underbake

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Smoking For Fun and Profit
Smoking is another one of those cooking techniques created of necessity - Food needed to be preserved in a variety of manners prior top the widespread availability of refrigeration.
Today smoking is not needed for preserving food the way it once was - Today we continue to smoke foods simply because we have come to enjoy the flavors, pure and simple.
Smoking was first "discovered" we can assume, by accident. Hanging food near the campfire to keep it away from roaming animals, people soon noticed the effects of the smoke. They took on new and exciting flavors.
By changing the choice of wood, adding flavor enhancers to the smoke, controlling the exposure time, adjusting the temperature and a host of other manipulations we can create a wide range of flavors and specialities.
What can be smoked? Assorted fish, hams and other pork products, beef, poultry, vegetables - What can't be smoked...
You do not need an expensive dedicated smoker (though they are nice to have). A smoker can be assembled from various pot, pans, woks, lids, bricks, racks, covers, etc. Let your imagination go free. All we're looking for is a chamber of sorts for the wood chips to smoulder and an enclosed space for the food to get exposed to the resulting smoke.
Adding flavor enhancers to the woods is a common technique. Types of thing to add: tea leaves, herb stems, grapevine clippings, fruit peels, corn husks, nut shells, dried mushrooms, etc.
Smoking is commonly separated into two main categories: Cold Smoke and Hot Smoke
As you may have guessed, the diffeerence is in temperature
Cold Smoking = below 100 degrees (F)
Hot Smoking = 165 to 185 degrees (F)
Cold smoking is used as a flavor enhancer or for things like cheeses, vegetables and fruits that do not require a large dose of smoke to be enticing.
Hot Smoking is a process that will add flavor and completely cook the item as well.
Smoke roasting is a technique, sometimes referred to as barbecuing; adds flavor and great texture. [Cooking low and slow]

Friday, April 18, 2008

Cafe Class 4-2008

Today's Cafe Class Presentation - Mexican Influenced
Tomato Salad
panko crusted yellow tomatoes over vegetable salad, herbed chevre cream

Gazpacho Deconstructed

avocado cup filled with pazpacho vegetables, tomato coulis and crab

Main Courses

Roasted Squab Breast

with caramelized banana, chorizo, champagne gelee and banana foam

Sea Scallops

roasted with a gratin of celery and salsify, orange-hazelnut reduction


The Smokeless Cigar

cigar-shaped moist chocolate cake with raspberry jam, covered in ganache, with rum swirl ice cream

Tropical Sorbet

blend of guava, pineapple and strawberry served in a baby pineapple

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Scandinavian Dinner

European Cuisine Class landed in the Scandinavian region today. The four countries that comprise the region (Norway, Sweden, Denmark and Finland, though I also think Iceland and even Greenland should be included) have a remarkable culinary history which is commonly overlooked by chefs today.

Common Scandinavian Ingredients:

Lots of fish (especially Herring and Cod)

Wild game (reindeer, when they don't fly away, and elk)

Plenty of dairy (cheeses, butter, cream, sour cream)

Herb, spice and seasoning choices include dill, horseradish, fennel, anise, cardamom, allspice, caraway, mace and nutmeg

Fruits and vegetables (apples, beets, cherries, raspberries, cabbages, cucumbers, onions, rutabagas, potatoes, cauliflower, and spinach)

Classic Scandinavian Dishes:

Gravlax: salmon cured with salt, sugar and lots of dill

Smorgasbord: buffet presentation featuring cured meats, seafood and vegetables along with a variety of cheeses and breads

Frikadeller: forcemeat shaped into meatballs or patties

Klippfisk: saltcod

Sillsallad: herring and apple salad

Morbrad Med Svedsker Og Aebler: Pork loin Stuffed with Prunes and Apples

Wednesday, April 16, 2008


The concept of canapes originated as small open-faced sandwiches. Today, of course, we pay little attention to classic definitions for the most part. Canape production can be as varied as your imagination will allow.

For the more traditional canape a "base" is created {small piece of bread, cut to size and shape then toasted} spread with some sort of flavorful butter or spreadable cheese or maybe a flavored mayonnaise. This spread prevents the bread from drying out, acting as a moisture barrier, while simultaneously adding flavor and textural contrast. On top of this we add the "main ingredient", the "Star of the Show", and a garnish. The garnish works to allow a fresh, appealing presentation.

Canapes fall under the more general category of "Composed hors d'oeuvres", a category which also include such other preparations as barquettes, tartlets, spoon presentations, and profiteroles (savory pate a choux puffs)

More modern versions of canapes do not restrict themselves to bread as a base. Other choices? Sliced vegetables, fruits, wontons, hollowed out tomatoes, endive or other leaves, polenta, vegetable crisps, and on and on.

Monday, April 14, 2008

Ice Carving Class

Today the Garde Manger class heads to the courtyard and trys their hand at carving ice. Working in groups of two they choose a design, transfer that design to the ice block and use various tools to bring it to life.

Today was a perfect day for carving outside; cool enough to work without the block melting quickly away; warm enough to not be so distracted by shivering.
The intial design is roughed out with the chain saw, then a series of hand chisels and/or dremels, routers, flat irons, and various other tools are used to smooth and add details.
the carver needs to watch the ice carefully; its texture and opacity evolves as time goes by. Ice carving is an art of the moment. Each piece evolves and passes through a series of differing effects based on the light source, total amount of light, light angle, temperature changes and, of course, the artistry of the carver as they make final adjustments.

Friday, April 11, 2008

Every couple of weeks the Garde Manger class gets to arrange their work into display pieces, getting a chance to practice their aspic prowess and show off their creativity. This was todays offering (class included a couple members of the Knowledge Bowl team)
More to follow on Garde Manger Technique.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Back From Cincinnati

Back in relatively one piece from the ACF Northeast Regional Conference, this year located in beautiful downtown Cincinnati Ohio. Maybe a little tongue in cheek, but overall the city is relatively attractive.

CCI Knowledge Bowl Team competed and held up very well. They knew their facts and performed smoothly as a team. Made it all the way to the finals and got off to a good start in the last game, but ended up a little bit short. The other team (NE Culinary - Vt.) was just a bit quicker to the buzzer and just as knowledgeable. It was a great showing; they represented the school and themselves well, even if they did start giggling to the category "Meat Handling".

The conference as a whole was fun and useful. Most of us got a chance to attend several seminars, including one on Molecular Gastronomy as well as one on classic techniques (Escoffier) as a counter-balance to the new age stuff.

On Saturday night they packed us all into 9 busses and drove us down into Kentucky to visit the Makers Mark Kentucky Bourbon Distillery. Beautiful, very charming place: gave us a quick tour and hosted a pig-roast complemented by a down-home bluegrass band that actually played everything from Pink Floyd to the Beatles to Mariah Carey with a bluegrass twang. Only downside was the failure to let us know it was a 2 1/2 to 3 hour drive each way. Turned into an adventure when the drivers ended up on cow paths that pass for paved roads and then got stuck in the mud for good measure.