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April 29, 2013

Butternut Squash Soup with Caramelized Apples


After the midterm of my culinary class, we waded into soup territory.  Squash soup is one of my favorites to eat, though I don't often make it.  This one sounded wonderful, but our school's kitchen stocks only meat stocks.  Had I been able to substitute veggie stock, I would have loved to sample it.  I was so bummed out that once again I was cooking something I couldn't eat that I didn't even take a picture of the soup itself.  The garnish, however, was heaven--apples sauteed in butter and brown sugar!  I focused on that.  It will make a great topping for any fall soup, like split pea or cauliflower bisque.  Yum, soup! 

Butternut Squash Soup with Caramelized Apples

Yield:  1 Gallon

4 oz. French Bread
1 oz. Butter

1 oz. Butter
4 oz. Onions, small dice
4 oz. Leeks, small dice
6 oz. Carrots, small dice
2 lb. Butternut Squash, medium dice
3 Qt. Chicken or Vegetable Stock
3/4 tsp. Salt
1/4 tsp. White Pepper
1/4 tsp. Allspice, ground
1/4 tsp. Ginger, ground

12 ea. Croutons
3/4 lb. Apples, tart, firm cooking
3/4 oz. Butter
1 oz. Brown Sugar

6 oz. Heavy Cream

Directions:
1.  Cut the bread into 1/2 inch thick slices and fry the bread in 1 oz. butter until golden brown. 
2.  In a heavy sauce pot heat 1 oz. butter over moderately low heat.
3.  Add the onions, leeks, and carrots.  Sweat until they are about half cooked.  Do not brown.
4.  Add the squash, stock, and bread.  Simmer until the vegetables are tender.
5.  Puree the soup with a food mill, then bring the soup back to a simmer.
6.  Prepare the croutons.
7.  Peel and core apples.  Cut into small dice.  Heat 1 oz butter in a saute pan and add the apples and sugar.  Cook over moderate heat until the apples are brown and caramelized.
8.  At service, if used, heat the heavy cream and add to the soup.

April 21, 2013

Knife Cuts and Skills


A main focus of any beginning culinary class is gaining confidence, speed, and accuracy with basic knife skills.  My class was no exception.  We were encouraged to practice, practice, practice and taught many different cuts and shapes.  

ARD Culinary Concepts makes visual knife cuts models that are a must for a culinary student.  At Chef's recommendation, I also got the book The Professional Chef's Knife Kit by the Culinary Institute of America.  A good portion of our midterm test was made up of a knife skills practical exam, and we were not told which cuts would be on it.  The ziploc in the photo above is a 5-lb bag of potatos reduced to a medium dice as practice.


Technical specifications:  the large dice is a culinary knife cut measuring ¾ inch × ¾ inch × ¾ inch.  The batonnet measures ½ inch × ½ inch × 2½-3 inches. It is also the starting point for another cut, the medium dice.  The medium dice measures ½ inch × ½ inch × ½ inch.  Measuring ¼ inch × ¼ inch × 2½-3 inches, the allumette is sometimes referred to as the "matchstick cut." It's also the starting point for the small dice.  The small dice measures ¼ inch × ¼ inch × ¼ inch and is produced by slicing the allumette into ¼ inch sections.   The julienne cut measures 1/8 inch × 1/8 inch × 2½ inches.  The brunoise knife cut (pronounced BROON-wahz) measures 1/8 inch × 1/8 inch × 1/8 inch.  The fine julienne knife cut measures 1/16 inch × 1/16 inch × 2 inches. It's also the starting point for the fine brunoise cut.  The fine brunoise knife cut (pronounced BROON-wahz) measures 1/16 inch × 1/16 inch × 1/16 inch. Tiny!

How are your knife skills at home?  Do you think they would compare on a professional level?  If you have a story of an ER visit due to cooking please leave a comment on my blog--hopefully it ended well.

April 10, 2013

Presentation on a Cheese Plate



The continuation of dairy week centered around my favorite food--cheese!  The assignment focused on presentation.  An array of cheeses, fruit and nuts were at our disposal for our group to do with as we wished.  We used our knife skills to give visual interest through different shapes, and added nuts and grapes for texture as well as taste.  

My groupmates created the idea of cream-cheese stuffed grapes.  They made for a beautifully elegant presentation.

We were also encouraged to forage for fresh herbs on the grounds surrounding the building.  The only edible that caught my attention was rosemary.  I finely chopped dried apricots and figs and combined it with some minced fresh rosemary to make a coating for a goat cheese log.  My goat cheese was one hit of the evening! 


April 8, 2013

Broccoli & Cheese Souffle


Finally!  We made it to dairy week in my culinary class.  I felt a downward slide, definitely over the hump of the worst of the class, as we came upon techniques that I was familiar with.  Our group was assigned a souffle, one of my favorite dishes as a kid.  My mom's style was a bit different, though.  I was taught not to overmix the egg whites, while my Chef showed us to fully if gently incorporate the mixture.  I'm not much of a broccoli lover, but the minced broccoli was so subtle when everything was smoothly mixed, that it was a yummy addition to this recipe.


Basic Savory Souffle Recipe

Note:  A souffle begins as a Bechamel sauce. Eggs are separated with the yolks incorporated into the sauce and the whites beaten to just stiff peaks.  Before folkding in the beaten egg whites, the souffle is given its flavor by adding something:  grated cheese, herbs, minced bacon, vegetables (like spinach or broccoli), sausage, or other meats or fish.  The souffle dish is greased and the souffle is baked until puffed and done.

1/4 C. Butter or Margarine (half cube)
1/4 C. Flour
1/4 tsp. Salt
1/4 tsp. Dry Mustard
dash Cayenne or Red Pepper Flakes

1 C. Milk
3 Eggs, spearated
1/4 tsp. Cream of Tartar

1 C. Grated Cheese
other ingredients for flavor

Directions:
1.  In a saucepan, make the bechamel sauce:  melt the butter, add teh flour and seasonings (salt, mustard, and pepper) and blend well.  Add the milk and stir until thickened.  
2.  In a KitchenAid mixer, beat the egg whites until foamy.  Add teh cream of tartar and beat until stiff.  
3.  Beat the egg yolks and add to the sauce (must be tempered when added).
4.  Add any cheese or herbs or other minced ingredients to the yolk mixture.
5.  Fold in about 1/4 of the beaten whites to lighten the mixture.  Then gently fold in the rest being careful not to "pop the air bubbles."
6.  Pour into a greased souffle dish (you may want to first dust the pan with parmesan cheese).  Bake in a preheated 350-degree oven until puffed and set; knife should come out clean.  Serve immediately.  It will fall.  

*For a hot dessert souffle:  Egg yolks are combined with sugar and beaten until light.  Flour is added to this.  A little hot milk is added slowly and tempered in.  Flavoring is added.  Egg whites are beaten and folded in. 


April 3, 2013

Wild Rice Salad with Red Wine Vinaigrette


On our first heavy meat-course day of culinary lab, I made a wild rice salad to act as a bed for the cracklings and meat (duck?  pork loin?  I can't remember and I don't know my meat well enough to identify in the photo).  

We improvised on the fly when a few ingredients were missing from our lab.  This salad is a combination of wild rice, white rice, dried apricots, red onion, and dressing.  The dressing is similar to one we did a few weeks ago--but slightly different enough that I'll post it below.


Wild Rice Salad

Yield:  24 2.7-oz. servings

1 Lb. Wild Rice
1 1/2 Lb. Long Grain White Rice
4 oz. Apricots, dried
12 oz. Red Onion, chopped
4 oz. Walnuts, toasted, chopped
Water, as needed
Kosher Salt, as needed

Directions:
1.  Rinse the wild rice and place in a stock pot with 1 gal. salted water; simmer about 40 minutes or until the ends of the grains have begun to split open.
2.  Cook the long grain rice using a rice maker.
3.  Steep the apricots in boiling water until hydrated, then drain.
4.  Drain the wild rice and toss with 3 fl. oz. vinaigrette (below).  Cool to room temperature.  Add the long grain white rice.  Combine well.
5.  Add the remaining ingredients and mix the salad; toss with more vinaigrette to bind and season. Rest at room temperature for 30 minutes.  


Red Wine Vinaigrette

Yield:  10 fl. oz.

3 fl. oz. Red Wine Vinegar
1 fl. oz. Dijon Mustard
6 fl. oz. Vegetable Oil
1 Tbsp. Shallots, minced
1 tsp. Garlic, minced
3 Tbsp. Parsley, minced
Salt & Pepper, to taste

Directions:
Whisk all ingredients together and adjust seasoning to taste.



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