Week 8: Wednesday, big hunk of veal

The main focus of the day was to do a food cost analysis on a leg of veal. Chef Dale took apart a whole leg of veal and had the students clean the silver skin and weigh each muscle before and after cleaning. Meanwhile I worked on putting together the Panzanella, tomato sauce for the veal and gnocchi. All was served buffet style, except the veal Milanese which was sautéed to order by each student.img_0285-1.jpg

The panzenella salad. One of my all time favorites and best in the summer.

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The veal a la milanese.

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The gnocchi, simply tossed in butter and grana.

For dessert we had Zuccotto.

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The whole dessert followed by a picture of a slice.

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Historical timeline of food

Chef Matt, head instructor in the night time recreational programs at Cook Street turned me onto this cool site which chronologically follows the progression of different food products throughout history

Check it out and learn.

Week 8: Tuesday, rustic beef buffet

Today we lectured on ice cream and sorbet and then I covered the Veneto region of Italy and quickly talked about the Lombardy and Emilia Romagna regions.After a shot of home made Limoncello. The Garde Manger cabana boys came up with a rice and celery soupimg_0272.jpg

On Hot Line we put out cauliflower gratin, fresh fettucine and brisket braised for 24 hours at 170º at 60% humidity. We strained the braising liquid in the morning, defatted it and reduced it.

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All this was served with a Barberesco (the Queen) from Piedmont made from the Nebbiolo grape.

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For dessert we had a pick me up coffee Granita carefully hiding orange ice cream and served it with a nice biscotti

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Cento Anni

Week 8: Monday, Birdy num num

So, big mistake I did not bring my camera to school today. One of my students let me use her camera so we should have some pictures to match the description of the food. Chef Lexie was up first with a cookie lecture and then I came up with a lecture on Piedmont (the one region of Italy I have experience with).  Garde Manger was responsible for Bagna Cauda and the pepperoni farcito or tuna stuffed roasted peppers. Pastry made some grissini to go with BagnaBagna Cauda means warm bath, an anchovy, garlic, butter, olive oil mix that you serve with various vegetables.
For the main course or il segundi, we made quails stuffed with hazelnut chicken mousseline,  partially wrapped in grape leaves and bacon (hard to believe) and roasted in the oven.  We served it on a bed of polenta with a well nurtured fig sauce.  Quite delicious.  The two courses were paired with a Gavi by Palladino (I had the good fortune to be invited to lunch at his house in 1999 with a vertical tasting of his Barolos, an unforgettable experience).
For dessert we had a great arborio rice pudding with rolled tuile cigarette filled with ganache.

Slow cooked eggs

Eggs and cooking eggs evoke a lot of fear.  Too high cholesterol,  unsanitary eggs  contaminated with salmonella,  industrial produced eggs, type of feed etc.

Scientist and chefs have been playing with eggs for some time now and I have dabbled with them too.  When I was working at CSR we had purchased a Thermo recirculator and I did quite a few experiments cooking eggs at low temperatures of 145º for over an hour.  You could crack the egg and the whole egg would come out of its shell still looking like an egg, yet with a poached custard like consistency.

Well yesterday I tried to cook some in our combi oven at 140º for 45 minutes at 100% humidity and kept cracking eggs every 10 minutes after to see how the combi might perform compared to the recirculator.  Not as good.  Obviously they are not submerged in water at a constant temperature and I am aware that water is a better conductor of heat than air (even circulating).  Eventually I raised the temperature up to 150º then 160º before I got close to the result I was looking for.

Anyway, today I stumbled upon this article written in SF Gate

For those that are curious what other chefs are doing with eggs, this article provides some good insight and might dissuade fears about salmonella poisoning when cooking eggs below the traditionally prescribed temperature the USDA recommends.

I will continue to experiment with cooking eggs in the combi and let all of you know of my results.

Love that combi.

Week 7: Friday, a leasurely boat ride down the Loire

Today, I walked into the classroom and found two students from GM polishing the silverware for the day’s table setting. No big deal except that they had presented them in such an anal fashion that I felt compelled to take a picture. Why because I love this level of detail. I aspire to it everyday. I look for it in all that I do with food. It’s Kellereske and though I mostly feel that Keller takes it too far sometimes, I can’t help but appreciate the level of detail and the OCD behavior that must run through his bloodstream (Alain Ducasse too). I’ve come to terms that I don’t have the drive of either of these two men, but I admire the detail. It is art in itself. Like nicely lined up and polished silverware.img_0239.jpg
The day of curriculum started with students rolling out croissant dough (after the quiz of course). Then I started to give a lecture on the Loire valley. But then I was hit with a barrage of questions about why we felt it was important to learn all the details of each Culinary region of France and Italy. Obvious to me, but clearly not so obvious to my students who are struggling to digest the information and regurgitate it on a quiz. So, I tried to explain that the French and the Italians have a whole culture that revolves around food and the love of great products.
They are cultures that hold these pleasures on a pedestal and that we are trying to to have them understand these dishes and products so they can grasp this same love for good things that exist in the culinary homeland. If we were learning about the Koran or Bible we would find it imperative to relate it back to its roots and we would probably urge our students to make a pilgrimage to the source of these teachings. If you were to talk to a Frenchman or woman about the Loire valley, you would certainly hear them talk about the famous chateaux or the Chartres Cathedral, but probably in the same sentence you will hear them talk of the wines and goat cheeses of the region. These are such a great part of their identity. If you were to ask an American about what is great about Washington D.C. you would probably hear about the different monuments to visit, but not the best place for Crab cakes. These are very different cultural outlooks.Does the US have a culinary identity? Yes, and it is growing each day. Can we still learn from the old country? Absolutely and imperatively. Can we develop our own culinary identity and eventually rival the European outlook on food? I believe we can. Will American Culinary Schools eventually start teaching American Cuisine as their core curriculum……………………Time will tell.Until then learn the crottin.

Anyway, we replicated a modernized menu from the Loire valley (or at least interpreted it) and it was great.

First up was a seafood consommé poured onto a salmon tartare with a sorrel chiffonade.

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Before seafood consommé. Then after.

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A quick picture of the awesome bread basket today.

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Next came our course of rack of venison with a two tone purée of butternut and chestnut served with a sauce Grand Veneur.

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Before it went in the combi at 170º with 40% humidity and taken to 120º internal temperature. Plated it looked like this.

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In true French fashion we had a cheese course, but unfortunately we were unable to get Crottin de Chavignol for the course. We found a a great cheese from California called “Purple Haze.” I would love to meet the owners. GM coated it with some lavender and fennel pollen and served it with micro greens. The US is making great strides in artisanal cheese production.

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No Loire valley meal would be complete without the most classic of Loire desserts: Tarte Tatin.

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We paired the dishes today with a white Touraine (Sauvignon Blanc) and a Bourgeuil (Cabernet Franc).

Another stellar food week cruising around France. Next week we focus on Italia.

Week 7: Thursday, I ETA Basque cuisine

Today we finished up rolling out laminated doughs, so tomorrow is going to be a danish/croissant extravaganza. Can’t wait. I was up next with a lecture about the South West of France.  An area that I have a kinship with from the month I spent there working at Michel Guerard’s in Eugenie les Bains in 1989.  I also had one of my most memorable meals in the region with some of the staff that worked at the restaurant. We went to a Foie Gras farm that also acted as an informal restaurant at night. For $10 a piece we each feasted on a  perfectly cooked duck magret and a whole grilled foie gras accompanied by a large mound of pommes Salardaise. The duck and foie gras we’re grilled on a fire that was set up in the dining room and they used the left over corn cobs as fuel with fruit wood from their property. Talk about locavore.  It was truly an experience I have yet to reproduce and certainly not likely to ever happen for me in the US.

Well we had duck today and it was quite good. It was served with a perfectly dressed mixed greens salad. There were croutons in the salad for texture and there were sautéed mushrooms that added depth to the dish.

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Then as an intermet or palette cleanser we had a wonderful anise flavored sorbet with a candied grapefruit slice.

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Then we went on to the dish we worked on which was a pan fried trout with Basque rice and a beurre noisette finished with pancetta and tomato.

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To cap off this wonderful meal we had a nicely crisp Napoléon filled with “yummy creamy goodness” as I believe one of our students called it.  The red wine that accompanied the meal was from the Vaucluse in Provence called le Pigeoulet en Provence.  A wine I have tasted on many occasions while in Provence.

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Another fun day at the office.

Week 7: Wednesday, Mon petit choux d’Alsace

This was a day focused on laminated doughs i.e. Puff Pastry, Danish and Croissant dough. Meanwhile behind the scenes, Chef Dale and myself were working on the mise en place for Flammekuchen, Choucroute Garni and we put up a washed rind cheese from Lorraine called a Gèrome (like a Munster) on beautifully braided two toned bread plate. The theme is Alsace.Alsace is cream, bacon, sausages, sauerkraut, beer and potatoes. Very german and very filling. Of course there are some amazing wines as well. The whole pinot family, Gewürztraminer and the great noble variety of Riesling, which is what we had today.img_0227.jpg

The flammenkuchen was very nice though the ones they serve in Alsace are much thinner and can be rolled up and popped in the mouth. They are also made with crème fraîche and sometimes fromage blanc. Otherwise a very interpretation of the original.For the plat principal we had the choucroute garni. A heaping platter of slowly cooked cabbage, sausages und pork bellies, surrounded by boiled potatoes.

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Ov course if von is good 3 iz better.

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Und now let’s look at the masterpiece of bread braiding, which Justin our Kiwi put together for our petit Munster.

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The huge treat of the day was a bottle of Quart de Chaume a dessert wine from the Loire valley, more particularly from the Coteaux du Layon area. I learned something new about the wine from Papa John (nickname for one of our students). Quart de Chaume was named because wealthy landlords told the vintners that a quart or quarter of the wines made in Chaume were exclusively reserved for them. This wine was a treat and a perfect cap to our day.

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Week 7: Tuesday, The French invasion and lamb scraps

Hard not to get excited for this day. Introduction to my favorite country and featuring the cuisine of my favorite region: Provence. I gave a lecture on the geographical aspect of France and key cities, followed by an explanation of the normal French menu progression, as well as what one might expect from a long drawn out Haute Cuisine menu at a Michelin restaurant. Then Chef Dale followed with a review of the region of Provence and cuisine of Lyon.We got to work at 11am after Chef Dale showed everyone how to French a rack of lamb. The menu for the day: Amuse Bouche of puff pastry rounds topped with red onion jam and Foie Gras, Crespeou, Rack of lamb with a pistachio crust and ratatouille and to finish a Paris Brest and an add on miniature Croque en Bouche.Robert and his daughter took a stroll through downtown Denver and got a feel for the inner city of Denver. They returned just before lunch at 2pm.img_0213.jpgA picture of the right before it hit the combi first at 375º with 20% humidity then down to 170º at 50% humidity.img_0216.jpg

A tray of Foie Gras amuse.

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The Crespeou.

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A picture of Robert Brunel and Chef Michael Comsted just freshly back from Molakai.

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Nice rack!!!!

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A Paris Brest.

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Ze mini Croque en Bouche. Robert Brunel and his daughter Charlene caught a taxi at 3:15 for the airport. It was great to hang out with them albeit a short visit.

Weekend of friendship and good food

Wow! What a weekend. I picked up my friend chef Robert Brunel and his daughter at the airport on Friday night after their flight had been delayed about an hour and a half. They had roughly a 24 hour day in transit. I got home and we chatted a bit before they hit the hay.

The following day we caught up on our respective lives. So much has occurred since I last saw him in May. We took it easy at home and that felt great. That evening I had planned a dinner out at Frasca with one of my past students (Jared Sippel) that has worked there for the past two years. He arranged to get us a table on a Saturday right after Valentines day. It’s hard enough to get a table on any other given night.

We had an amazing meal and we pulled out all the stops, including some amazing wine and food pairings. The most memorable was the 1990 bottle of Beaucastel that I had stashed away for such a night. I have held on to this bottle for the past 7 years and have had the opportunity to taste others over the past 4 yrs. Honestly, this wine was at what I imagine was its peak. I have always a hard time believing that wine can have so much life to it after 18 years or more in bottle, but this one had beautiful acidity, mellowed tannins, preserved fruits, a little barn yard (lick a dog as one of my past students once proclaimed) and the spice profile of its terroir (which I know all to well). The food was remarkable and it was great to have each detail explained by my former pupil.  He has so much passion for the food he is involved in making and has such great goals in learning all that he can about food. This is what teachers live for. Teach students to carry on the fire of your lessons and they eventually come back to show you how much more they have learned. Keep an eye out for this one because he has a great future ahead of him.

After dinner I took Robert and his daughter to do a Boulder club crawl. Another student eventually joined us (Johan Larsson) from the same class as Jared. He is finishing up as Sous Chef at the Flagstaff House to join ranks with his friend Jared at Frasca.

Anyway, after a full night of fun we taxied home.

The following night, he wanted to cook for us at my parents home. So we went shopping at Whole Foods. We went with my son Paris and he helped determine the menu by pointing to lobster tails (no live lobsters at WF, but still fresh. Lobster killer in back).

We got to my parents home and started cooking around 6pm. I helped him mise en place some of the dishes, but then felt better letting him take charge of the rest. His style is so simple and very focused on the pure flavors of the elements cooked. No frou frou, just good product cooked simply.

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The following day we took a car trip into the mountains to show his daughter the world beyond the front range. We drove first to Eldorado Canyon (always impresses our French guests) and then to Golden Gate park over to Nederland and back home. A glorious day. We had lunch at the Sunshine cafe a few miles shy of Nederland. Great view and OK food for its location.

We cruised around Boulder awhile, while my wife Lucy took our children back home and our daughter to the doctor for her ear infection. We took the bus right back home to our house and I think they were surprised at how easy transportation is in our community.

I made fresh pasta for dinner garnished with Tomato confit that I made from the abundant harvest of tomatoes I had this past summer.

The following day our French guest leave, but not without an opportunity to check out my new workplace and to visit downtown Denver.

My friend Robert amused us with stories about his mishaps trying to train Russians in Siberia how to cook. He has become so high tech that he has a teleconferencing Flat screen TV set up in his kitchen in Avignon where the restaurant that he works with in Siberia can see all of his kitchen and he can manipulate the camera to look at every section of their kitchen in Siberia.  He can directly teach them the dishes that he wants them to learn and can even tell them when a sauce is getting too reduced or a knife cut is done improperly. Imagine if I had eyes that far reaching. The company that he is helping is absurdly rich and the Russians have an absolute thirst for all the luxuries of the west, but they have zero understanding of how to reproduce the dishes.  An exciting adventure for him and one filled with lots of future lessons.  You never stop learning in this field.

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