Sunday, February 28, 2010

Friday, 2/26/10 - Lamb

Wow, what a night. What a freaking night. Fridays are always tough; we’re all exhausted from the dramatics of our respective weeks and dying to get through school, when the relaxing weekend will officially commence. This Friday was significantly more stressful because the weather was terrible (NYC got a total of 20.9 inches!) and we had come from our comfortable Level 1 cocoon straight into the scary, unknown world of our brand-new Level 2 kitchen. My evening, however, turned out to be a little more interesting…

I arrived at school at my usual time, early enough to leisurely change into my uniform, get my station set up and begin to compile and prep for the evening’s recipes. The time was ticking by, and I noticed that my station mate had not yet arrived. Before I knew it, it was time to get started and she still wasn’t there. It turns out there were five students missing, most likely due to the weather; two of them had been station mates, so that left three of us alone. The three of us were milling about, hugging our knees in a corner not quite sure what to do, so Chef corralled us and made a quick decision: “You two, work together. Jackie, you’re on your own tonight.” Fantastic.

I spent a few more minutes in the corner knee-hugging, frantically trying to work out a plan in my mind for how I would possibly complete both complex recipes, prep cutting and cooking and all, in the same amount of time as the rest of the class working in groups of two. I secretly said a prayer that I would turn into the Indian god Vishnu with multiple arms and, when that didn’t happen, had to jump right in and get started.

What happened in the next 4.5 hours? I really don’t know; I blacked out through most of it, gaining the tunnel vision necessary to focus and execute. I think it was a mix of frantic searing, braising and cutting, not necessarily in that order. At one point I looked around, and dagnabbit I was ahead of some of the groups! I guess I had planned well enough and kept myself organized enough to single-handedly pull ahead of the game a bit. In fact, I was the 4th person to present my first dish, a seared navarin, or lamb stew with various vegetables, to Chef! And it was good…

I wouldn’t be able to maintain my editorial integrity if I didn’t admit that I had a little help. Chef helped me peel my pearl onions (little b*stards) and Chad helped me maintain a clean station, keeping unwanted bowls and refuse out of my way. Cara also helped me strain my sauces, a feat that would have been disastrous had I tried to do it myself. My classmates were so supportive, although secretly thanking God they weren’t the ones who had to work by themselves. When asked by each of them if I needed help, I was always semi-proud to say, “No thank you, I think I’ve got it.”

At the end of the night, after presenting my second successful dish to Chef and taking a few free moments to relax, I got a “good job tonight” from Chef. What mattered most, though, was the extreme sense of accomplishment pouring through my veins. Not only had I done it, but I had done it alone (plus the help from my gracious fellows). What had seemed at first like a death sentence actually turned out to be a great opportunity, and an eye-opener. Toto, we’re not in Kansas anymore.



Yum! This variation of the French’s Gratin Dauphinois is a yummy cold-weather favorite perfect alongside grilled meat or pork chops.

(Serves 4)

You will need:

-Oven-safe glass dish, about 2-4 inches high

-3 mealy potatoes (i.e. Idaho or russet), peeled

-2 T butter, soft

-1 garlic clove, chopped finely

-1 cup of sharp cheddar cheese

-1 cup* of heavy cream (approximate)

-Salt and pepper to taste

Heat oven to 375˚F.

Rub the bottom of baking dish with butter, coating well. This will ensure that your potatoes do not stick to the bottom. Sprinkle with garlic and set aside.

Slice the peeled potatoes into thin and flexible rounds. Always keep in mind when working with potatoes that they oxidize, or brown, very quickly. You always want to store peeled potatoes immersed in water if you’re not going to use them immediately.

Cover the bottom of the baking dish with a layer of potatoes. Season with salt and pepper and sprinkle with cheese. This is made in layers like lasagna, so you can make it as thick or as thin as you want. My advice would be to not exceed about 2 inches.

Continue with your layers until you’ve reached the desired height, leaving the cheese off the top layer. Pour the cream in the dish so that the potatoes are soaked, but the dish isn’t full of cream. A good indicator would be to push down on the side of the potatoes, and if the cream bubbles up, like poking a wet sponge, you’re ready. Sprinkle the top generously with cheese, and season with salt one last time.

Bake uncovered for about 30 minutes, or until the top is browned and bubbling.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Wednesday, 2/24/10 – Level 1 Practical Exam

It’s so hard to believe that the day finally came, and I survived. I still remember trying on my FCI uniform for the first time, marching around our apartment as if I were a 4-year old wearing my mother’s shoes and cocktail gown. Yet a mere 6 weeks later I have passed my first official practical exam, moving me up to Level 2, and am feeling my most comfortable when I have my apron tied around my waist and a messy ponytail secured under my cloth cap. Ok, I haven’t officially passed yet, as the grades aren’t posted, but I am assuming that I passed. It may seem to you like I’m speaking as if I already graduated and am Chef Jacqueline Lindsey. Not so much…I passed Level 1 here people. It’s really not that amazing in the scheme of things, but it’s a small step that reminds me how far I’ve come already. Just think of how crazy my mad skillz will be in October.

I made the mistake of stopping for a latte at Starbucks before the test, and due to the years of caffeine caked in my blood vessels I could barely keep my hands still. Unfortunately for me, we had to cut a carrot into julienne, a turnip into jardinière and an onion in both emincer and ciseler (basically a slice and a chop). While that might not sound like it’s very hard, just remember that the French are incredibly particular about the perfection of these types of things. Each cut is defined in specific and exact sizes, and we are not only judged on our accuracy but also our consistency. Carrots are especially hard to cut because they warp and curl, and trying to cut a perfect julienne is difficult, to say the least.

We then broke down a flatfish, de-gutting, filleting and skinning him/her (I had a him) and quartered a chicken. I’m glad I didn’t get confused and cut the fins off of my chicken!! (Ha…ha…ha…) I made a few small mistakes, such as leaving a little too much meat on the skin of the fish fillet and cutting too much skin off of my chicken breast, but overall it wasn’t too shabby. Some stations looked like “Silence of the Lambs,” and the rest of the night I kept giggling to myself, “It puts the lotion on its skin.” Haha oh man, I could keep myself amused for hours, possibly even DAYS. (EDITORIAL NOTE: If you ever see me laughing to myself, for goodness’ sake don’t ever ask what it’s about. You most likely don’t want to know.)

We kept our jardinièred turnips and cooked them a l’etuvee, which is basically a very simple butter/salt/water method, that, if timed right, the vegetable will be completely done when all of the water has evaporated. So that was it! The end of our first practical exam.

We were fortunate enough to have a lot of down time in between practical test portions and before the written exam. We spend so much time together as a class, but rarely get to know each other on a personal level. I am really starting to love my class mates; they’re a great group of positive, smart and genuine people. [Names have been changed to attempt to mask true identities, even though it’s really obvious to the person about whom I speak.] There’s Charles, the former microbiologist who is a better housewife than I am (please refrain from the hundreds of comments that I’m sure will be posted in my defense); Brad, the NYU lawyer who grew up in a strict kosher home; Carly, the reformed Wall Street executive and health food advocate; Anne, the cute graphic designer with a killer Long Island accent; and Leslie, the 17-yr old recent high school grad starting her first career, among many many others. There are so many cool personalities with such different backgrounds, ranging in age from 17 – 50+-something, and we had a blast getting to know each other outside of the kitchen. They might think they know me, yet I still have not revealed to them my shady past, time in the witness protection program and my face tattoo. In due time, friends, in due time.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Yom al-Idhnayn 2/22/10 – Braising and the Mixte Method

So, your very own little Jackie is almost ready to move up to Level 2 of The French Culinary Institute’s Classic Culinary Arts program! That will make me a step closer to and a pound heavier for October’s glorious graduation.

We have our big scary practical exam on Wednesday, and used half of Monday’s class quartering chickens and filleting flatfish in preparation. Surprisingly, no one wanted to take home any of the four small fillets rendered from their fish…so, in my classic no-shame style, I collected them all and brought home about 3 pounds of flounder. I even woke Steve up from a deep slumber when I got home from class to show him the loot I collected (PS he was only slightly impressed; an hour earlier and he would have been MEGA impressed).

In between butchering, we braised a lamb shank in wine, reduced the liquid into a glaze and served it all on a bed of currant/pine nut/curry couscous. Ma-atakallam Arabi. Wait, that’s not French…… L'esprit de l'escalier! That’s better. After dinner, we abandoned our Moroccan theme to make a braised chicken dish with a cream sauce and some vegetables. It was once said that a good chef can take the same few ingredients and make multiple different dishes, or something to that effect, and if this were true I would choose chicken, carrots, onions and celery, heavy cream and salt. Voila! I just planned Le Cirque’s menu for a year.

Anyone who knows me even remotely well knows that I have a vice; an addiction from which I find it hard to abstain, one that consumes my thoughts and often my actions to the point of alienating my loved ones. My name is Jacqueline Lindsey and I love fast food. I am proud to make this public declaration, for all four of you to see, to prove that it’s OK for a budding chef to eat crap…semi-often. I made a discovery today, one that will forever shape the final days of my temporary position with the bank - I found a Chipotle in lower Manhattan. Walking down Maiden Lane toward my final destination, the only street in the neighborhood I had not yet explored, reminded me of the first time I visited Times Square. The store fronts, with their elaborate displays and colorful artwork; the signs, shining through the sky like a midday sun; the employees, beckoning passersby with a free sample here, a brochure there. Hello McDonald’s, Maiden Lane _iner (the “D” bulb is out), Dunkin Donuts, Burger King and…Chipotle. I chose a stool in the front window, and I couldn’t help but feel that I was placed there solely to be judged every time I took a mouthful of my burrito by the healthy eaters walking by with their JustSalad! bags and Subway 6-inch vegetable subs. Newsflash: I don’t care… Maybe I should go into corporate development for Burger King or something…nevermind, that’s trouble.

I'd rather laugh with the sinners
Than cry with the saints
The sinners are much more fun
You know that only the good die young …

-Billy Joel “Only the Good Die Young”

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Friday, 2/19/10 – Extraction Methods

Steve and I have been catching up on old seasons of the Showtime drama “The Tudors” on Netflix. I love the story of King Henry VIII and his court, however ridiculous and outlandish it was, and am always intrigued when they treated simple illnesses, such as fevers, by “bleeding” someone. Basically, they would cut holes in the patient’s body near the afflicted area and just let the blood flow, declaring that it would “extract” the toxins. Sheesh - I have a hard time plucking my eyebrows! I’m not sure why they thought that making a person weaker would allow the body to heal faster, but it’s kind of hilarious considering everything we know now, and scary imagining what it would have been like to face that treatment. This is slightly similar to the French cook’s extraction methods! Treating a piece of meat in such a way that it draws out its juices and goodness. Bear with me here people….my mind works in funny ways.

We made two very delicious recipes, both very different. The first, Poule au pot, sauce raifort is a boiled chicken with horseradish sauce. It’s not as gross as it sounds; it’s actually a glorified chicken soup with a spicy cream sauce on the side. We spent countless time cutting carrots, potatoes, celery and turnips into footballs as the chicken was poaching away, and served them all in the stock like a soup. Traditionally, the soup is served with the horseradish sauce, cornichons, Dijon mustard, sea salt and pickled pearl onions on the side, although no explanation was given as to why those particular items were chosen. It seems as though the chef who wrote this recipe hadn’t grocery shopped for a while and chose to throw a bunch of random jarred items on the plate.

All the while, a tasty veal shank was braising on the stove. We prepared a white supreme sauce with a simple roux, the fortified veal stock and heavy cream mixed with an egg yolk. We used the sauce to make a beautiful Blanquette de veau a l’Ancienne - a white veal stew. The veal was so incredibly tender, and the addition of pearl onions and mushrooms a blanc, served with rice pilaf, completed the dish. I was fortunate enough to take home the additional servings, and heated it up for dinner on Saturday night – which was received with what I can only translate as Husband Tastebud Satisfaction Syndrome.

I had an “off day” at school, which can happen to us all. I grabbed a hot pan handle straight on, overcooked the onions and blackened a pan in less than 10 minutes…yikes. I received an awesome compliment, however, one that surprisingly led me to believe my classmates don’t know me very well. I was washing my 15 million tools at the sink when someone approached to “get in line”. I apologized for monopolizing the faucet, and he said, “It’s no problem at all…I’m happy to wait for you.” I wasn’t quite sure what he meant by that, so I asked him to clarify. “You’re one of the most patient people I know, so I’m happy to wait for you to finish washing!” I thanked him for his kind words yet was a little taken aback by his assessment, as I consider myself to be many things but one of them is definitely not patient. “I’ve seen you stay calm through some pretty rough situations…and I respect that. So take your time.” Wow. I learned a little something about myself I guess, and sometimes it takes a simple compliment to turn your night around. I’ll definitely think of that next time steam is coming out of my ears and flesh is peeling off of my fingers. SERENITY NOW!

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Wednesday, 2/17/10 – Concentration Methods Day #2

Prior to last Friday, I thought “concentration methods” included a cup of strong coffee, a bowl of Wheaties and a walk around the cube farm when your eyes get droopy. Apparently in cooking there are more specific concentration methods, such as roasting, sautéing and grilling.

Continuing our concentration education, we made a flattened and breaded chicken breast escalope with a “Viennese” sauce, or the French’s interpretation of what they think is eaten in Vienna. Raging stereotypes are very typical of the French cuisine. In fact, I think next week we’re making a dish called Les Oversized Americaine aux Rude and Lazy Sauce. We also seared and cooked a nice little beef filet tournedo and served it with….I’ll give you one guess……...take your time…………….butter. In fact, the French have improved butter, believe it or not, by adding herbs and salt, freezing it in a log and cutting it into slices to place on top of already buttery butter meat. It’s really unbelievable sometimes.

I was at the sink rinsing my potatoes when I suddenly heard a faint, “Bill, she better hurry up if she’s going to execute the garniture before 10:30.” I looked around, and as expected didn’t see anything out of the ordinary. “What the freak was that,” I thought to myself, shrugging it off and continuing, but a few minutes later the voice returned as I was reducing the sauce on the stove. “She’s gone too far! There’s no turning back now, the recipe might as well be over. Ever since the trials, Jackie’s been nursing a burnt hand and she doesn’t seem to have recovered properly. This could really hurt her in the end.” “Now, that’s a little judgmental. This ghost voice is not being very supportive.” I couldn’t seem to figure it out, but was getting more and more self-conscious as the night wore on and as the voice got more negative. “Look at that, Tom, she’s just haphazardly flipping the meat with no skill. This is not the day for her to half-ass this dish. Ivanka Klavnikova has already plated the potatoes and is draping them with the finished sauce. Jackie’s got 10 seconds to pull this off if she wants to go home with a medal.” Well good news Bill and Tom, I went home with a medal on Wednesday in the shape of a beautiful and delicious filet mignon. I also learned that just because the Olympics are on doesn’t mean we have to constantly watch them – apparently it doesn’t mix well with lack of sleep.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Sunday, 2/14/10 – Valentine’s Day

I’ve gotten a lot of requests for details on the Lindsey Valentine’s Day Dinner Extravaganza 2010. I have fantastic news: I took pictures of the 4-course meal created out of pure love and adoration for my dear husband, and am pleased to share them with you on this public, impersonal and permanent forum.

After planning for a week and slaving over the stove all day Sunday, leaving me unattractive and short-tempered, I am proud to tell you that my first attempt at creating an elaborate gourmet meal per deux was a complete success. I think I abused the services of my Sous Steve, perhaps ordering him around too much, but he’s a good sport. He knew it was game time.

Course 1: Seared Sea Scallops on Parsley Coulis

Course 2: Macedoine de Legumes, topped with Goat Cheese and Dill

Course 3: Fried Catfish Goujonettes with Sauce Remoulade and Red Pepper Cream Sauce, Potato Rissoler and Zucchini a l’Etuvee

Course 4: Orange Supremes baked in an Orange Liquor Mint Cream Sabayon

They say the way to a man’s heart is through his stomach; if this is true, I’ve won the heart of the one I love for a lifetime and beyond. Then again, I think I had his heart long before Sunday’s dinner.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Friday, 2/12/10 – Concentration Methods Day #1

Since we were “blessed” with a snow storm cancellation last week yet Steven and I were “allowed” to pay for a full class, Friday’s class was spent playing catch-up, so we cooked one recipe from Wednesday and one from Friday’s lesson.

I wear my heart on my cutting board. You know, once you think you know someone, all of a sudden they’re gone and out of your life with no ounce of remorse, like the past 2 weeks have meant nothing. The kitchen is no place for pansies, so I’ll just say it: we switched station mates again, and it was hard to say goodbye to Chad. He’ll be working right next to me, so I’m not that upset, but nevertheless we worked well together. At least that’s what I thought – he's probably celebrating as we speak.

We learned how to truss a chicken, which ensures that it cooks well, keeps the stuffing inside and that the breasts get plump…….it’s really hard for someone as immature as me to stay silent through “Get the breasts nice and plump!” and “Those breasts don’t look plump enough.” I need help.

So we roasted our trussed chicks with the plumped breasts (browning each side in oil first to crisp the skin) and used the drippings to make a nice jus. We served it with browned bacon lardons, mushrooms cooked in the bacon fat, caramelized pearl onions and potato rissoler, a 3-step method of cooking the little potato footballs – this whole dish is called “Grandmother Style,” or Grand-Mere.

Then we took a beautiful sirloin steak and threw it on the big grill, making sure we created the quadrillage, the classic diamond shape, on each side of the meat. Since I don’t like to eat something that’s still moo-ing, I put my steak into the oven for a few more minutes to get it up to medium. We served it with Pommes Frites and a Sauce Choron, which is a béarnaise reduction with tomato fondue that is traditionally served with grilled meats. DELICIOUS! I brought a good-sized sirloin home, and served a pepper steak-topped Greek salad for dinner Saturday night. I am getting a little nervous about how easy it is becoming for me to eat two full meals a night with no hesitation. This might become a problem in the near future.


Hand-made mayonnaise is not the same as the Hellman’s crap you buy on a shelf. It is light, flavorful and can greatly enhance any salad or sandwich.


You will need:

-1 egg yolk

-1 tablespoon of Dijon mustard

-5 ounces of vegetable oil

-1/2 teaspoon white wine vinegar

-Kosher salt and pepper

Combine the egg yolk, vinegar, a generous pinch of salt and the mustard in a bowl and whisk until combined. Continue whisking, and slowly add the oil drop by drop until an emulsion occurs, or until it is thick and airy. The rest of the oil can then be added in a thin stream, but continue to whisk. You will recognize the consistency when it’s done. Season to taste, adding pepper and salt as needed.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Wednesday, 2/10/10 - SNOW DAY!

As most of you have heard, NYC got hit with "Snowpocalypse 2010," which was an exciting 8-10 inches. Nothing like Washington, D.C., but the city was practically shut down for an entire day. Follow me to my chalkboard:

Snow + (Work/School) - (impact of ice squared) x old people slipping =

Considering I can't blog about how I didn't change out of my PJs until 3 p.m., I decided to share a freelance article I wrote for a large news corporation that ended up not being published, hence I have the rights back and can post it anywhere. Enjoy!

10 Shows That Will Get You Cooking

The home-cooked meal has gained recent popularity, thanks both to the economy and the plethora of enjoyable and entertaining cooking programs on television. Americans are finally realizing that, with a little guidance and some fresh produce, they too can create healthy, gourmet meals for their families.

While it might seem there’s a cooking show on every channel at every hour, the following shows standout as the best and most entertaining for the budding chef and home cook alike.

10. 30 Minute Meals with Rachael Ray – Food Network

Marketed to the busy professionally who wants to “put great food on the table and still have time to…tackle that home improvement project…” Ray offers doable recipes for the everyday cook, and explains everything in understandable terms. However, I’ve tried several of her “30-minute” recipes and always find myself frantically plating the food and throwing it on the table just in time. Be wary of planning dinner if you don’t have the benefit of commercial breaks.

9. Down Home with the Neelys – Food Network

The Neelys are a wonderful couple, and their love for each other is evident. The spicy and Southern meals they share, straight from their famous Tennessee restaurants, are impressive, and they definitely seem to have a blast in the kitchen. One has to wonder about the Neelys, though. They seem a little too happy for a married couple that owns a business and works together - they must get on each other’s nerves eventually!

8. Chopped – Food Network

“Chopped” is a more intense, smaller-scale “Iron Chef”. Hosted by former “Queer Eye for the Straight Guy” food and wine expert Ted Allen, four professional chefs are given three courses and a few required ingredients to impress a panel of judges. If they falter, they are “chopped” after each course and the last chef standing is awarded a $10,000 prize. Their inventive and risky creations are drool-worthy, but they definitely don’t make it look easy…this show stresses me out more than my 9-5!

7. Grill It! With Bobby Flay – Food Network

Bobby Flay is easily one of the most respected chefs in the industry. While this Renaissance man might seem unapproachable, he graciously invites unknown chefs onto “Grill It!” to highlight their specialties. Seen as a bit of a competition, Flay is challenged to create a similar dish, often an ethnic specialty, of which he’s not aware until meeting the guest. Flay’s Queens, New York setting gives viewers an amazing background view of NYC, and it’s nice to see such a culinary powerhouse spending time with his admirers.

6. Chef Academy - Bravo

Renown French Chef Novelli runs this culinary school experiment with the “3 Strikes and You’re Out” attitude, taking nine novices and attempting to turn them into professional chefs. In addition to the docu-series’ unending drama, “Chef Academy” is worth watching for the sole reason of seeing Chef Novelli at work creating fascinating dishes with the most amazing ingredients. His European sense of humor, such as faking vomit after tasting a student’s creation, brings comic relief to this reality series.

5. Worst Cooks in America – Food Network

When your pizza delivery man knows your address by heart, watching “Worst Cooks in America” will make you feel much better about your own skills in the kitchen. From an entire boiled chicken to a pan burnt beyond recognition, the blue team and red team, led by Chef Beau MacMillan and Chef Anne Burrell respectively, compete each week to prove that they are not in fact the worst cooks in America. With an opportunity to cook for a panel of esteemed culinary judges and a prize of $25,000, the “recruits” are thrown into often unrealistic boot camp situations, leaving you feeling terrible for them yet semi-inspired to test your own skills.

4. Good Eats – Food Network

Host Alton Brown is not only smart and witty, he is incredibly versed on many topics and realistic with his approach. With episodes like “Man Food” and “Honey I Shrunk the Cake,” Brown is good for both cooking techniques and general Pop Culture knowledge, appealing to a wide audience. It’s a cooking show for the geek in all of us!

3. Big Daddy’s House – Food Network

Aaron McCargo, Jr., or the namesake “Big Daddy,” is not only pleasing to the eyes; he’s a personable and laid-back family man. His recipes are easy to follow, and gives viewers alternates to his methods, like a low-impact/high-impact yoga class. Be careful though – Big Daddy brings the spice. As he invites family and friends into his kitchen, he makes you feel right at home.

2. Iron Chef America – Food Network

If you were a fan of the Japanese original, you will definitely love “Iron Chef America,” which uses Kitchen Stadium as the setting for a heart-pounding challenge between the reigning Iron Chefs and the contenders. Each must use the “secret ingredient” to create an impressive meal for the panel of judges, with only an hour and an assistant and wisecracking Alton Brown peering over their shoulders. However, “Iron Chef America” should be prefaced with “Do not try this at home!” – it is for the casual observer who prefers to sit back and watch the flame as opposed to spending actual time in the hot kitchen.

1. Sandra’s Money Saving Meals – Food Network

Sandra Lee is by far the most adorable and relatable personality on the Food Network. She is the guru of saving money in the kitchen, and turns her already low-priced meals into “Round 2 Recipes,” perfect for the average American family or college student. She combines prepared foods and fresh items to make some of the most inventive, accessible and delicious recipes on daytime television, yet one has to wonder where she buys her food. Her prices are skewed, and subject to a specific area – ground beef is definitely not $2.99/lb in New York City.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Monday, 2/8/10 – Poultry

I think I’ve decided that, like most people, if the animal is lying in front of me in its “original packaging,” alive or not, I have a really hard time imagining it as food. I just think back on my time in the animal ER, in a land far far away, when we would be scrambling to get the crash cart to save the life of a dog that had been critically injured. OMG we once treated a Chihuahua with one eye that was literally hanging out of his head. He was looking around with his tongue out, and I could just hear him thinking “What’s everyone laughing about??” Kibble…my favorite thing! Toys…my favorite thing! Eyeballs…my favorite thing!

Moving on…the chicken and duck were a little easier to handle than, say, my lobster friend that my station mate cold-heartedly murdered last week. With the head and feathers removed, they basically looked like a lump of fat and bones, although we had a while to go before pulling out the pristine breasts you buy in the store, cracking bones and breaking through the fat to extract the legs and breasts. We used the guts and bones to fortify our chicken stock, essentially making it double the flavor, and for the duck made a nice orange glaze/sweet and sour sauce. We braised the legs and sautéed the breasts, laying them out on the plate with orange supremes and draped with the beautiful orangey brown sauce. For the chicken, we made a chasseur sauce, which has a similar theory as a cacciatore (shout out to all my dagos), a rich and chunky country sauce. Chasseur has earthy mushrooms and shallots, flambéed in brandy, lots of fresh herbs and some tomato fondue. Like the duck, it is made with the fortified stock and reduced with the chicken juices. I finally remembered to bring my Tupperware to take home the goodies, and reheated the duck for dinner last night. I say, I simply cannot fathom one more night of braised duck for dinner!……


As a recovering EVOO cooker, I can now say with certainty that you should never sauté or cook at high heat with extra virgin olive oil! It has a very low smoke point (250˚F), and will actually burn and change the flavor of your food. Also, with such a distinct olive flavor, you should always be conscious of how you’re using it. Virgin olive oil and pure olive oil have higher smoke points (410˚F) and are less olivey, but it’s really best to cook with a very neutral and lean oil, such as canola or corn oil. Actually, it’s really best to cook your meat with the fat of the animal from which it came, but let’s be realistic, not everyone has suet hanging around, and if you did cook with it every day the suet would be hanging around your waistline (ha ha ha). Sorry.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Friday, 2/5/10 – Shellfish

It had never been clearer to me that I was not meant to be in the veterinary field than at that moment. I killed many innocent souls on Friday night, slurping them down like their one goal in life was to die and be dolloped with cocktail sauce. It was upsetting at first. I went so far as to make myself “busy” while we were supposed to be plunging our chef’s knives through the brains of live, squirming lobsters, nonchalantly saying “Hey can you do mine Chad? Little busy here…thanks man.” (Sorry Chad, the blood’s on your hands now.) It got a little easier, and I kept reminding myself of the chapter in that stupid and ridiculous book about FCI I wasted my time reading when the author is complaining to her chef about killing the innocent and cute lobster, and his silent response was to open the lobster’s claw and let him clamp onto her index finger. She screams, and is reminded that they’re not innocent little creatures with big doughy eyes and shiny fur. They’re dumb, sharp and delicious.

Speaking of delicious, we steamed our lobster in an herb/vegetable court bouillon, and covered them in a beautifully red/orange Sauce Americaine, made from sautéed lobster parts and shells with brandy, vegetables, herbs and wine. The sauce can be turned into lobster bisque, actually, by adding a thickened heavy cream….mmm. We butter crusted sea scallops and laid them in a pool of a parsley/mushroom/onion puree (a gorgeous Kelly green). It was a beautiful and elegant dish, and the scallops were just perfect.

So by dinner time I was over the whole, “we are murders” thing, and was able to proceed with the yummy bivalve delights awaiting us. We steamed some mussels in a butter/shallot sauce, and shucked some shu**ing (!) clams and oysters. I definitely prefer oysters, although they’re quite ugly and intimidating. My last and worst experience with fresh clams was in a seaport restaurant out on Long Island, where I consumed so many shell fragments and sand it felt like my teeth were crumbling. Having the opportunity to clean them fresh right before consuming was key, because I was able to rinse them to my own liking. See, OCD is good!

I left that night with saltwater/horseradish breath and a yellowish tint to my eyes, which I can only assume is jaundice from the hepatitis virus I caught from the copious amounts of shellfish consumed in such a short amount of time. I’ll eventually need to get a nice fat lobster and make ‘em bleed on my own, but for now I think I’ll take a break from the crusty crustaceans. At least until Valentine’s Day…

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Wednesday, 2/3/10 – Fish Day #2

It was terrible, the most pain I’ve ever experienced in my life. It was what I imagine childbirth to be, only with more fire and less liquid. Definitely the same amount of screaming, though. Must have been my fault for trying to clean our stove top at the end of class, after 5 hours of heavy use and cooking…gee I’m sorry stove. I understand that you’re the boss and I promise not to touch you ever again. The gruesome image you see below is the aftermath of the worst burn in kitchen history. WARNING: this imagine is not suitable for children.

Loosely based on a true story

Before the disaster, Chad and I were doing really well! We butchered our flatfish, which are literally flat and produce four fillets: two from the top and two from the bottom. We made quite possibly the best breaded fried fish I have ever tasted, goujonettes, with a remoulade sauce (tartar sauce with herbs and capers) and a red pepper cream sauce. We presented them in a potato chip basket (little chippies fried using a mold to make them a basket) with a hollowed zucchini bowl for the remoulade and the sweet pepper sauce spread out in front. Absolutely amazing, it will be my go-to recipe this Lenten season. We then poached the other fillets in a mushroom/fish stock/white wine mix, and then reduced that into a cream sauce, poured it over the fish and baked it all in the broiler. Beautiful. I’m thrilled to be learning some great ways to cook fish, the one protein I was never entirely creative and confident with. I’ve learned that it’s not hard and it’s actually a very versatile meal centerpiece.

Class is getting so much more exciting, because we’re focusing on a few strong recipes each week and completing full dishes, as opposed to just practicing methods or small pieces of a meal. While every recipe we create is new to us, they are classic French dishes which we will be making over and over again in school.

P.S. I got a 98% on our second test! Points were taken away because I forgot to mention that you have to dry off potatoes before frying them in oil. Woops, that’s kind of a big deal. Luckily I will never ever forget that fact ever again.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Monday, 2/1/10 – Fish Day #1

As you know, my first experience butchering fish was warewolfy. (I hate when that happens.) Imagine my hesitation entering our first fish session, in which we would be learning how to properly break down a whole fish, as opposed to my prior experience of just hacking mindlessly.

I was borderline squeamish, which really surprises me. Perhaps I made the right decision to leave the veterinary field, because something about cutting a head off of a body gives me the willie nillies. I take that back - I’m not an expert, considering I never actually made it to vet school, but I’m not sure they teach you how to remove a lot of heads from bodies at Purdue.

I digress. We had a lot of “fun” dismembering our striped bass and trout and learned how to break them down into usable fillets. We used the bass fillets to make poisson en papillote, a yummy dish of sautéed mushrooms (duxelles), light tomato fondue with some carrots, leeks and celery, julienned, all wrapped in a pouch of parchment paper and baked until puffed. It’s meant to be served immediately, still sealed, so that the diner can open the pouch before eating and reap the benefit of the aroma. I would think this would be tricky, though – “Sure, I’ll pay $32.99 to hover over a steaming sack of fish vapor at the moment its cut open. My tears will aid the flavor of the fish!”

We then floured the trout fillets and fried them in clarified butter, topping them with a nice brown butter sauce with capers and lemon. The star of the show, however, were the handmade croutons, extremely buttery yet still crunchy. Hopefully you’re picking out the trend here: butter + butter = buttery butter.

So let’s review. Tearing the organs out of a poor little creature’s body as their lifeless eyes judge your soul can prove to be delicious, fun is subjective, and butter is like oxygen to a French cook – they need it to survive.