Week 12: Thursday, last day of Culinary Instruction

12 weeks of instruction have passed in a whirlwind and in the course of that time, I have gotten to know 13 more individuals working towards, for their own reasons, a career in this field. A tough field with plenty of challenges but with lots of satisfying and humorous moments.
The day was like a huge release of air from a taught balloon. No lecture to speak of and then we started to work on the day’s menu. At around ten we were all caught by the magnitude of the silence in the room.

My group was not as motivated as they have been. We still managed to put out some nice food and add a few extra flourishes to the day, but there was not the immediacy that we have had on previous days.

GarMo made arancinette (saffron risotto spheres filed with cheese and deep fried) with caponata. We had cauliflower with saffron vinaigrette and a julienne of green olives. Orecchiette with mushrooms and peas and fire roasted prawns with an orange sauce.

Ricardo spent all week working on a timpano, which is like a huge inverted pasta wrapped and filled sarcophagus. It was very tasty and could have given the brothers in “Big Night” a run for their liras.

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Arancinette with caponata

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Saffron marinated cauliflower and Orecchiette with peas and mushrooms.

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Orange glazed fire roasted shrimp with deep fried tomato skins.

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The Timpano (or Timballo) only the Don could pull this off.

In Pastry they played with Marzipan and made some great figurines to garnish a cake.

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They also made this really cool tectonic plate cake that had layers going in different directions like sliding geologic plates.

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Menu review seemed to be anti climatic as well. It’s hard to think about leaving a group that you have grown accustomed to and imagine the one you have coming.

Anyway, from my present students I want feedback.  Which days of coursework did you really enjoy?  Highlights? What elements do you really think worked with each day?  What would you like to see more of or less?

Any good instructor is looking to improve their performance and the delivery of information.  Feel free to use this as forum to give constructive critique. You went to a great school but there is always room for improvement.

It has truly been a pleasure to have been involved in your culinary development and I look forward to hearing about your progress throughout your career. Until then, see you tomorrow for the final station practical.

RESPECT….booyakasha

Chef Andy

Week 12: Wednesday, Antipasti bonanza and bra’zhul with rigatoni

So it looked like we were going to be done by 1pm today as all we had slated to do on the menu was deep fried fish with marinara sauce. But there was no way I was going to have my crew loitering outside and harassing pedestrians while looking at ways to finagle more alcohol out the staff, so I started to come up with other tasks.
Now this not the thing you want to do to Stormin who likes his time-lines nice and neat. Sorry no pictures of the time line today.
I start with lets make some pasta, maybe some ravioli or cannelloni that we can freeze to be used during the wine weeks or maybe we could make some braised fennel or gratinéed zukes or Tocchettis (eggplant, roasted red pepper and Parmesan spheres) and of course we have to pull some mozzarella curds (since we are teaching the cooking of southern Italy) or hard cooked eggs with the yolks puréed with pesto and refilled for our antipasti platter.
Well all these ideas are pouring out and I can see Stormin getting more and more annoyed as he is trying to work through his time-line for the day.
Poor guy, 4 different versions of his time-lines were created before we could settle on what we wanted to do. We planned on making braised fennel, tocchettis, Italian deviled eggs, Cannelloni topped with tomato sauce and of course the deep fried cod with marinara sauce.
And then chef Lexie comes out and says: “BTW we have a special meeting at 12:30 out on the deck.” which can mean she has some kind of regional cocktail in mind for us all to share. Anyway this throws Stormin’s time-line all to hell and he finally relinquishes the time-line to the blackboard. Throw into this whole mix a photographer who is slated to come and take photos of us in action for the website and our time-line is filled beyond capacity. Which is the way I like it.
The antipasti platters were beautiful: Affetado (salume), insallata Caprese and our platter of balsamic braised cipollinni onions, tocchetti and mozzarella roulade with roasted peppers.
As far as I am concerned the Italians, French and Spanish have it down when it comes to starting out a meal with these nibbles. There is no better way to get conviviality flowing then with antipasti, apperitif or tapas and the appropriate wine.
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I was too distracted to get a shot of the braciole and of our deep fried cod filet with marinara, suffice to say that both were tasty and abundant.
We had a Salice Salentino ( a wine from Apulia) and then we had a dessert wine from the Veneto unlike any I have ever had with our Southern Italy cheese tasting.
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The aroma was of cured apricots and peach and my grandmother bedclothes when she locked me in my little closet at night when I was sick…..truly haunting.
Another of many great food days.

Week 12: Tuesday, Carbonara and the silence of the lambs

Every group of two got to bone their own leg of lamb today.  Chef Dale demoed the fabrication and then went into his office to bite down on a piece of leather while the students boned their own legs of lamb.  We used to do the same thing at CSR but we added a few other proteins for our students to fabricate and sauces for them to work on.  It was an obscene carnal festival and frankly quite chaotic.

This seems to be a less stressful system.

Here are the 9 steps to boning a leg of lamb.

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After everyone was finished with their lamb and we had put away the muscles, we started to work on the menu.

GarMo put together a dish of Fettucine Carbonara which was quite near perfect, though I would have added a little less pecorino by personal preference.

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We stuffed two of the lamb legs with a green olive, garlic and rosemary paste and trussed them.  We seared them in the oven then lowered the temperature to slowly bring them up to 125º, though I probably should have taken them to 130º as they were a little more rare than I wanted.  Still nonetheless very tasty meat and Stormin made a nice jus with the drippings. We also deep fried some blanched broccoli with a milanese breading and topped them with a little vinaigrette.  We deep fried those at the last minute to keep them very crisp.  We have deep fried a lot on this final rotation.

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For dessert we had Zuppa Inglese a sort of variation on an English trifle.  Very fruity, boozy and topped with blow torched swiss meringue.

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I liked the pattern so much, I came in for a close-up.

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Waves of sugar

Week 12: Monday, Grilling the old 64 and getting our fingers in Venus’ navel

So hard to believe that the cooking portion of this program is almost over.  So much information covered and so much good food enjoyed.Today we focused on the food of Tuscany.  This is a region that I very much want to visit.  It’s the Provence of Italy and just as popular.  I got up and lectured on the area.
Then we began cooking the menu.  Hot line was responsible for getting the filling for the Tortellini together while  GarMo made the pasta.  Early on we marinated the huge T-Bones to prep them for some grill time.  They were beautifully marbled  pieces of Certified Black Angus (meant to take the place of Chianina beef raise in Tuscany and the largest breed of cattle).
I got the  whole class together for a big Tortellini making party. The nonas of Cook street were busy slaving away to put together the Venus navels.
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Shortly after,  I went outside with Storming where we grilled a carnal landscape of beef.
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Meanwhile Chef Dale was having the students make three different batches of risotto prepped exactly the same to show the group how much variance in taste and texture you could have from the individual touch of each group of two.
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Then we actually sat down to have some lunch.  GarMo put out a soup called a passatelli, which was a brodo with an extruded roasted garlic bread crumb pasta.  Kind of like a spaetzle.  Very flavorful.
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Then came the big buffet of beef, served with spinach and a selection of salts and olive oils.
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And of course a nice big platter of tortellini served with a fresh pesto sauce.  Mama Mia!!!!
We had two wines today as well: a white Vernaccia di San Gimignano and a Super Tuscan
For dessert Papa John served some Semi Freddo (Fredo’s half brother).   Major food coma today, but all very worth it.

Week 11: Thursday, Musselling our way through Normandy

Rough start to my day. I came in and had a talk with my group on hot line. Storming Norman was on point, so I knew the group would be micro managed. See Norm has beautiful physicist/architects pencil writing and his time lines are quite precise (take a look at his day planner sometime). Jason (”meth boy”, because he comes from Wyoming not because he is an actual user (Wyoming and other isolated states are the meth capitals of the US) informed me the mussels were not yet available. I said no problem, I’m sure they will come in soon.Sure enough they came in and I told “meth boy” to bring them over so we could start to process them. He did and I had an inkling this was going to be an intense day based on the amount of tasks ahead of us.The main course, Sole Normande, had the following elements: Sole, Mussels, Oysters, Shrimp Mousseline, apples, rice pilaf, spinach and a fish/oyster velouté finished with a liaison. All of this on a 10″ plate.

My idea was to cook off the mussels, keep them in some of their cooled liqueur and add the rest of the liqueur to the fish fumet. I would then reheat them in beurre fondue à la minute.

Well in the time that I went to the bathroom or grabbed a cup of coffee, Chef Dale came by and grabbed the 4# bag of Maine mussels and took them to the walk-in.

So that put a damper on our time line.

We also had anticipated making a shiitake mushroom & roasted garlic cappuccino for an amuse. At around 1:oo pm we found out that the duxelle we had made Tuesday had disappeared. We were about to give up on the whole idea, but then we powered down to get out a similar concept by making a quick duxelle with button mushrooms and thinning it out to a soup.

We barely pulled off the menu on time (in fact we were 15 minutes late) but I was proud that my group overcame adversity and focused on completing the original plan. We had a visiting student who will be attending the next program helping us out. Thanks Elizabeth for your help.

The amuse looked like this:

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We had issues with our foam. We took roasted garlic and puréed it cold with some skim milk and let it steep for a few hours. We then strained it through a fine mesh chinois. I believe that the relative density of the milk changed with the addition of the roasted garlic (even if it was strained out) so that we couldn’t get the foam we wanted to achieve. The other way to create a hot foam is to thicken the milk or cream slightly by adding gelatin or methocel. The flavor of the soup was great.

GarMo put out a game hen terrine with a puy lentil salad.

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Finally it was our turn and I thought that this dish might take my group a while to plate but thanks to Stormin’s lacrosse coaching skills and execution diagram they were able to put the whole course out in 7 minutes.

We had a nice Pouilly Fumé with the meal, which is a delightful sauvignon blanc from the Loire valley.

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We finished the meal with buckwheat crêpes filled with caramelized apples and a yummy caramel ice cream.

This day marked the final France lecture which was on the region of Normandy and Brittany. I have a particular fondness for Brittany maybe because it reminds me so much of Ireland.

We were all tired at the end of this day.

Week 11: Friday, Cassoulet and Corbieres

The day started as most Fridays do with a written quiz. The exciting thing for the students however is that this is their last culinary quiz of the program. Today was also the day their regional report and food cost assignments were due, which everyone handed in on time.
So a big load was taken off their backs and you could tell that all the students were tired from the events of the week.
Fortunately this was a day with very little food production. Chef Lexie came up and did her “pastry between cultures” lecture and then Chef Dale came up and demoed how to assemble a Cassoulet.
I wanted to keep the students occupied while the Cassoulet was baking in the oven. So I told the students to make a walk-in lasagna. Basically scour the walk in for items that could be used up to add to our lasagna.
Well the walk-in and all food ordering falls under Chef Dale’s jurisdiction and he guards it like a mother bear guards it’s den with a new born cub inside. Once again I should have approached Chef Dale and got his blessing on what could be used up for my project but instead I sent my team in for the mission. They were intercepted while I was away.
Once we got that communication breakdown settled we were off to produce two beautiful walk-in lasagnas for Morey and Chef Michael to take home.
We ate at around 1:30 and we set up the buffet line with a mixed green salad, two Le Creuset casseroles filled with Cassoulet.
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Pastry made some amazing macerated strawberries and some philberts (hazelnut) shortbread rectangular cookies.
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Cassoulet is quite possibly my favorite regional french dish. I have had it in its AOC (the Cassoulet triangle goes from Toulouse to Castelnaudary to Carcassonne) region of France several times and it was part of my curriculum at my last job.
Chef Dale presented a version I had never had before. His includes a lamb daube and he tops the crumb crust with a small dice of tomatoes. Truly a very tasty version and all the elements were cooked perfectly.
We washed this all down with a regionally appropriate wine from Corbières in the Languedoc.
We finished the day early and the students were off to enjoy their easter holidays.

Week 11: Wednesday, Frogs in Spain and choking on ribs

Chef Lexie came up and talked about Petit Fours and Mignardises (minyardeeze). Then we started on production. The veal shortribs on hotline were in the combi since the previous day at 175º/80% humidity. We froze a section of tenderloin from Tuesday to put together some carpaccio for a sampler before the appetizer. We also worked on braising some lamb for Friday to prepare for cassoulet.
Carpaccio was created in venice at Harry’s bar for a wealthy patron who liked raw meat. The owner of Harry’s bar dubbed the dish Carpaccio in honor of the renaissance artist who was famous for using the color red.  At least that is the popular legend.
Storming Norm’s version looked like this:
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For the appetizer GarMo put together a little frog fry paired with a Romesco sauce. This sauce is the Spanish version of a pesto. Roasted peppers, tomatoes, garlic, toasted almonds, spicy dried peppers, olive oil and sherry wine vinegar bring this pesto like sauce together. It is traditionally made in a mortar and pestle. Frogs legs available in the US have nothing to do with the amazing frogs legs that you get in France, which are half the size and much more subtle in flavor.
Nonetheless they taste good and no they don’t taste like chicken.
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We made a sort of artichoke barigoule to accompany our ribs and a nice garlicky saffron aioli. There were a lot of elements in this dish but they meshed very well together. I was particularly impressed with Kiwi’s (Justin) diagram and decided to take a picture. He seems to have some particularly good 3D drawing skills. The team is pushing themselves to plate faster. On this day they set a new record at 7 minutes. They’re getting organized.img_0428.jpg
I love the flow diagram at the top of the dry erase board. Here is what the dish looked like:
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I love short ribs. Today the meal was paired with a Tavel from the Côte du Rhone. The area, according to their AOC laws, is only allowed to produce a Rosé wine and it is truly one of the great rosés on the planet.
Well to add insult to injury on this abundant day, we had a blue cheese tasting paired with a Second growth Grand Cru Classé from Sauternes. This wine was lightly botrytized, sweet yet had the acidity to round out the wine.  Big treat, but that is how we roll at Cook Street
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The big winner here was the blue cheese from France (Auvergne region) called Bleu Dacqueuille. Awesome and reminiscent of Fourme d’Ambert in its creaminess.

Week 11: Tuesday, Veecheeswaze, the twin rosemary spud towers and crispy currant tart

The topic today was Burgundy and Chef Dale stepped up to lecture.  Our meal didn’t quite reflect the area but could have been made in Bourgogne.  For first course we had Vichyssoise.  A cold potato leek soup created by Chef Louis Diat in NYC.  He named it after his hometown of Vichy, France.Chef Dale had his group making cucumber butterflies to garnish the bowl.  This was a wonderful soup and the weather even warmed up enough for it to be somewhat appropriate.  He garnished it with  a little paddlefish roe.
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For the main course we grilled some beef tenderloin and served it with our red bliss potato tower.  The funny part of this presentation was the amount of time it took the group to work through it.  They were hovering around the plate trying to figure out what they were going to do to affix the potatoes together. They finally came up with a plan and settled on this presentation.  We kind of played on the theme of Tournedos Rossini with mushroom duxelle and foie gras.img_0422.jpg
I try to remember what it was like to be a culinary student again.  What it felt like to create something at the beginning  of learning a new craft.  Everything I produced in Culinary School got me excited and if it failed I carried the failure with me for  a few days.  I love to watch my students carry that same excitement with them when they create a dish each day and mostly the dishes are well thought out and executed.
For dessert Pastry came up with a lovely and refreshing perfectly baked black currant tart.  Its simplicity and its perfect execution stole the show.  Nothing else to add.
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Week 11: Monday, The Savoie and Dauphine

We’re back with more regions of France for our students to learn. Today I lectured on the Savoie and Dauphiné. Two great regions of France which combined are known as the Rhone Alpes. The land of Beaufort, reblochon, St. Marcellin, sauce Nantua and birthplace to Brillat Savarin (Belley). Historically significant restaurants like Fernand Point’s La Pyramide or l’Auberge du Père Bise (in Talloires) and Pic in Valence. Sophie Pic (the grand-daughter) just last year put the restaurant back on the map by garnering the third star and putting women chefs back into the spotlight in France.
Some of my favorite wines on the planet come from this area. Côte Rôtie, Hermitage and Condrieu produce the best syrah and viognier.
The menu was fresh pasta with turned cucumbers. Now last session I was not sure what I was going to think of this dish as I am not a huge fan of cukes (should I say that they are not fans of me) but remarkably this dish turns out really well. Sautéeing the cukes mellows them and melds nicely with the gruyère cheese.img_0411.jpg
For the main course we put together pork tenderloins wrapped in bacon, seared and finished in the oven. We were going to serve two medallions per plate but then we decided to wrap two together to make on large one, which worked better for our presentation. We cooked off some Matefaims (which means hunger killers). They are eggy crêpes with some sautéed zucchini spinkled on one side while they are cooking. We brushed them with butter, sprinkled them with some parmesan and folded in quarters. The final result was:

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For dessert we had a lemon crème chiboust with some beautifully rolled tuiles. The interesting thing is that last session we had this dish and it had am intense metallic taste. We thought that it had reacted with the bowl strainer when it was strained.

This time it happened again, however we believe we found the culprit. They blow torched the surface of the chiboust to caramelize it and the surface seemed to have reacted to the propane in the torch. If anyone knows why this phenomenon might occur, please enlighten.

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Another start to a great week at Cook Street. Hard to believe that there are only two more weeks to go before the students head off to the Private Chef program and then the wine program.

Week 10: Friday, Kegs and Eggs; and chicken ballottine. British Taste 5

I have to find a way to stay on top of what it going on in LoDo because it can seriously affect your day if you are unprepared.  Maybe I get some kind of email alert. Fortunately for me I only take the bus to work each day to avoid the stress of traffic and parking.  When I got off the bus, I noticed there was a line of people across the street.  Upon further investigation I saw that it was a line to get into LoDos for their annual “Kegs and Eggs” beginning of St Patty’s weekend bash.  They opened their doors at 7 am and were offering free green beer and eggs.  All of the revelers were dressed in green, many with tall oversized green hats. Many were already well gone before they were even allowed entrance into the bar.

The students told me that this was nothing compared to the festivities of the Rockies opening day, when Lodo’s and the Tavern (two bars with decks across the street from each other) have a mammalian protuberance flash off.

Once the novelty of the activities wore off we were able to get back to the day’s curriculum. The topic today: Charcuterie or the art of preserved meats.  A vast topic that is hard to cover in an 1hr and half lecture.

Then I gave a demo on how to remove all the bones from a chicken without cutting through the skin and Chef Dale came and gave a demo on how to do the same thing with making only one incision down the back of the birdy.  Both could be considered methods of creating a Ballottine or Galantine of poultry.

Chef Dale then assembled the ballottine by filling it with different layers of straight forcemeat (as opposed to gay forcemeat) to create a nice pattern when the ballottine is cut.  They also put together a nice composed salad. My team helped me out by putting together the mise en place for the evening’s Taste 5 and assembling a few more birds.

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Chef Dale also had them cut Aspic into nice diamonds (the French refer to this cut as a lozenge).  Chef Michael said that he would much rather have an Asspic than a toothpick. Get it?

Pastry put up some nice pear tarts with a Gorgonzola whipped cream.

We let everyone leave early after lunch to go join in the festivities.  Norm was preparing to host the students in a Piggy Palooza get together at his house on Saturday.  I’m sure they are going to have a blast basting in swine flesh and hops/barley infused water.

Chef Pete (former Chef de Cuisine) for Cook Street and the person that I replaced came back to do this month’s Taste 5.  The idea of Taste 5 is to pair 5 wines with 5 tastes of dishes and to educate the customers about food and wine alchemy.  Each month there is a different theme.

The theme for this month: “before, during and after”.  The natural inclination of a chef is to put that phrase in the context of what you might eat before, during and after sex, but since he is slated to open a gastro pub in the fall? He decided to make the theme what he ate before, during and after his trip to England which inspired his desire to open a Gastro Pub. The UK is garnering a lot of food press recently and a lot of the Food TV stars are coming from there.  Jamie Oliver, the foul mouthed painfully honest Gordon Ramsay (he reminds me a lot of my first chef) and Nigella Lawson come to mind.

The menu for the evening was rustic and flavorful.  Good food all the way around and it was good to work with Chef Pete again.

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