Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Biding Time

Sooo, again, I'm apologizing for not posting in a while.  I'm kinda in the middle of a housing crisis - my apartment flooded with sewage on Friday, along with 7 others on the bottom floor of my unit. Right now, I'm staying in a hotel down the road while all this stuff gets taken care of.  Needless to say, I'm not doing much cooking because my place is in shambles, and I don't have daily access to a computer. So, bear with me, hopefully this will all be resolved in a few days. <3<3<3

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Culinary School Update: End of semester wrap up

So, I have to start this post by telling everyone how incredibly sorry I am for waiting so long to post again!  It has been a long, rough, past few weeks, so again, I have to apologize for how I've fallen off with the blog.

That being said, I owe you guys a culinary school update. Its the end of the semester, and I have exams all week long. I can't believe my first semester is already almost over!  But I do want to pick up where I left off with the school updates.

A couple weeks ago, we played with fresh pasta dough in cooking class.  First, we made ravioli with mushroom duxelles.

Then, we made fettuccine alfredo.

We also made orzo with creamed leeks.


We didn't have baking class that week, so I'm moving on to the following week. The next cooking class we had, we worked on grains.  We were really busy that week. 

We made grits,


fried polenta, 

and red beans and rice.


The past couple weeks in baking class, we've been decorating the sponge cakes we baked a while back.  They were frozen immediately after we baked them.  Here is the chiffon sponge with oreo whipped cream frosting that we decorated 2 weeks ago:

Last week, we decorated the walnut genoise cake. We made a Swiss buttercream icing to go with it.  This was really hard to decorate!  The meticulous, nit-picky side of me struggled with trying to perfect the cake, but I really enjoyed the process.

Cross section: the bottom layer was spread with raspberry jam.  I loved this cake- the ground walnuts added a nice texture to the cake.


Finally, we had breakfast week in cooking class.  I didn't really think anything was photo-worthy except the eggs benedict I made.  Obviously, we didn't have any Canadian bacon, so I just used regular bacon. I wanted to practice making hollandaise sauce because its on the final next Monday.

Whew! That was a lot of catching up to do! So, I'm off to my baking final to make pate a choux. Wish me luck!

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Roast Chicken with Herb Butter and Veggies

A while ago, I randomly bought a whole chicken because it was dirt cheap at the Teeter.  I put it in the freezer, where it stayed until a few weeks ago when I decided I wanted to roast it.  I haven't posted about it yet because I've had so much other stuff to post about, but I figured I needed to go ahead and write about it now since its kind of a winter-y recipe and spring is all of a sudden upon us. 

I looked at a whole bunch of recipes and techniques for roasting chickens, and decided to kind of blend a bunch of techniques.  To start with, I made a butter with lemon zest, garlic, and rosemary, and spread it under the skin.  I stuffed the cavity with half an onion, half a lemon, and some rosemary sprigs.  I decided to truss it because so many people said it helps the chicken cook more evenly.

Interestingly enough, I also found out that some people swear by preheating the roasting pan with the oven.  This helps the thighs get a head start, which keeps them from being underdone when the breast is ready to come out.  So, I decided to give it a try, and preheated the pan in a  425 degree oven.  When it was ready, in went the chicken.

The skin was kind of torn, so that pin is kind of holding it in place. My mom taught me this trick.

In the meantime, I got the veggies ready by cutting them all down to about the same size. I decided to go with fennel, carrots, pearl onions, potatoes, and whole garlic cloves.  I lightly tossed them in some EVO, salt, and pepper.

After about 20 minutes at 425, I took the chicken out, laid the veggies down (yes, I used a rack), and replaced the chicken. Turned the temperature down to about 375, and added some more butter on top.

I roasted the chicken about another hour ( I can't remember exactly how much time it took).  Don't forget to baste periodically.  I also turned the pan around halfway through the cooking time to make sure it cooked evenly.  When a thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the thigh registers 165 degrees, or when the juices run out clear instead of cloudy, the chicken is done. 

Transfer the chicken to a cutting board and let it rest 10 -15 minutes before carving. 

Although the veggies were done, I thought they needed to brown a bit more, so I put them in a Pyrex dish and put them under the broiler for a minute or two.

I made a quick, easy gravy with the pan juices, and sauteed some blanched broccoli rabe with some garlic and lemon juice, and that's it!


Thursday, April 1, 2010

Blood Orange Polenta Upside-Down Cake

This recipe caught my eye as soon as I saw the photo in the March '10 issue of Bon Appetit magazine.  It was one of those recipes that I immediately knew I would have to make. The oranges were just so striking, and polenta is one of my favorite things to eat.  What's not to like?

Make sure you slice the oranges as thin as possible.  I talked to my Bakeshop Production chef after I made it, and he suggested using a mandolin.  The flavor of the cake was amazing, but the peels were still a bit overwhelming on the palate.  I think if you cooked the slices with the simple syrup for even just a minute or two, rather than just laying them in the already cooked syrup, it might help candy the peels and take a bit more of the bitterness out.  That being said, here is the recipe:

Blood Orange Polenta Upside-Down Cake
From Bon Appetit, March 2010

7 tablespoons sugar, divided, plus 3/4 cup sugar
3 tablespoons water
8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temp, divided
3 unpeeled small to medium blood oranges
3/4 cup plus 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
3 tablespoons polenta or coarse yellow cornmeal (preferably stone-ground)
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon coarse kosher salt
3/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 large eggs, separated
6 tablespoons whole milk

Position rack in center of oven and preheat to 350 degrees F.  Combine 6 tablespoons sugar and 3 tablespoons water in a 10-inch diameter ovenproof skillet with an 8 inch diameter bottom and 2 1/2 inch sides *my trusty cast-iron skillet worked beautifully for this cake*.  Stir over medium heat until sugar dissolves.  Increase heat and boil wihout stirring until syrup is golden amber (not dark amber), occasionally brushing down sides of skillet with wet pastry brush and swirling skillet, about 4 minutes.  Remove skillet from heat and whisk 2 tablespoons butter into caramel. Set aside.

I think I could have cooked my syrup a bit longer.  This is also where I probably would have added my orange slices. 
I'm thinking all this could have been done in a separate pan, and then laid in the cast iron skillet afterwards.

Cut off both rounded ends of each orange so that ends are even and flat.  Using sharp knife *or mandolin,* cut oranges into 1/16 to 1/8 inch rounds.  Remove and discard any seeds.  

Arrange orange slices, overlapping slightly, in concentric circles atop caramel in bottom of skillet.

I also would eliminate that center circle of oranges you see on top here.  
You really only want one total layer of oranges, with maybe a very slight overlap. 

Whisk flour, polenta, baking powder, and coarse kosher salt in medium bowl to blend.  Using electric mixer, beat 3/4 cup sugar, remaining 6 tablespoons room-temperature butter, and vanilla in another medium bowl until light and fluffy.  Add egg  yolks 1 at a time, beating well after each addition.  Add flour mixture in 3 addtions alternately with milk in 2 additions, beating batter until just incorporated.

Clockwise from top: flour/polenta mixture, butter/sugar mixture, whites, yolks

Using clean dry beaters, beat egg whites in a large bowl until soft peaks form.  Add remaining 1 tablespoons ugar and beat until stiff but not dry.  Fold 1/3 of egg whites into batter to lighten, then fold in remaining egg whites in 2 additions.

  whipped whites and polenta cake batter

Drop batter by large spoonfuls atop orange slices in skillet, then spread evenly.

You don't want to pour the batter because you might disturb the arrangement of the orange slices.

Bake cake until tester inserted into center comes out clean, about 45 minutes.  *I underbaked this by 5 minutes, and I think I could have taken it out even a few minutes earlier than that.  It would have been pretty dry had I left it in the full amount of time.  This could also just be my oven...*

Run small knife around cake to loosen.  Place platter atop skillet.  Using oven mitts, hold platter and skillet firmly together and invert, allowing cake to settle onto platter.  Rearrange any orange slices that may have become dislodged.  Cool completely at room temperature and serve with whipped creme fraiche (or whipped cream).

So ultimately, this recipe turned out pretty well, with some room for improvement.  I think if I made it again with these slight changes, it would turn out perfectly. 

This cake is a good one to have up your sleeve because it's stunningly beautiful, but not that hard to make.