Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Monday, 3/29/10 – Nutrition Day 3

By now you’re probably incredibly tired of hearing me ramble about nutrition. Jackie, cut it out with the health talk. We want more butter! If you’re even still reading my blog, you’ve obviously not come here for my convincing propaganda about the French diet. She’s not qualified to preach! Do more cooking! Some of you have no idea how you got to this site, and accidentally clicked on the wrong Google link. Who is this foul-mouthed pale girl ranting on a weblog? She’s anti-American!” Whatever your reason for joining me on this fine day, I ask that you stick around for a few short minutes because I’ve got some good stuff to regurgitate.

We wrapped up our nutrition discussion on Monday, focusing on cholesterol and protein. Everyone has heard of the “good” cholesterol, HDL, and the “bad” cholesterol, LDL. Many don’t understand that your body makes cholesterol, yet when you have more LDLs than HDLs you have a higher risk of that little piece of cholesterol breaking off into your blood stream and sticking to your vessels in the form of plaque. Your body needs cholesterol, and gets it in two forms: dietary (from the animals you eat) and serum (the stuff you produce), and your levels of each are influenced by your diet. Fun and interesting fact about the enemy we love to hate - trans fats: they not only act to increase your levels of bad cholesterol, they lead to the decrease of your levels of good cholesterol. Wow! What a nice friend that trans fat is…Contemplate before you margarinate!

We then discussed sugars, and the important roles they play in our bodies. The New York Times enlightened readers last year with an article called “How the Sugar Substitutes Stack Up,” in which the ingredients, history and process by which each of the major artificial sweeteners is made is revealed. Here’s just a snippet below:

  • Saccharin (Sweet’N Low) – Anthranilic acid, nitrous acid, sulfur dioxide and chlorine are combined with ammonia
  • Aspartame (Equal, NutraSweet) – The amino acids aspartic acid and phenylalanine are combined with methanol
  • Sucralose (Splenda) – Sugar is chemically altered by the addition of chlorine

These are not bioterrorism tactics, they are actual products consumed by millions of people every day.

After a few more minutes of some engaging protein and sugar talk, the lecture ended and we dispersed to delve into a slew of vegetarian recipes, mostly Mediterranean. We started with an Artichoke Heart, Fennel and Watercress Salad with Grapefruit Citronette and Toasted Walnuts…which requires no explanation because the title includes the entire recipe list. Imagine with me for one minute if all foods were that simple, and you just titled them with their ingredients. Let’s play a game – see if you can guess the food (answers at bottom):

1. Grapes, Corn Syrup and High Fructose Corn Syrup Compote with Fruit Pectin, Citric Acid and Sodium Citrate!

2. Pasteurized Milk , Cheese Culture and Whey Protein Concentrate Stabilized with Xanthan, Carob Bean and Guar Gums!

3. Soybean Oil, Pickles and Distilled White Vinegar with a High Fructose Corn Syrup, Egg Yolk, Corn Starch and Mustard Flour Base!

Awesome; really makes you wanna go out there and just spread some High Fructose Corn Syrup all over everything you eat.

If you’ve never cooked spaghetti squash, you probably don’t know where the name comes from - amazingly enough, spaghetti squash scoops out into long and thin spaghetti strands when it’s roasted! It’s such a kooky and healthy alternative to the original spaghetti, not that there’s anything wrong with the classic. We tossed our spaghetti squash with a tomato and caper sauce and garnished it with Nicoise olives, basil and sundried tomatoes. The Italians would probably NOT be pleased with this imitation, but it was surprisingly yummy and interesting. We then tossed bulgar wheat with parsley, mint, olive oil, lemon juice and tomatoes to make a fun and impressive tabouleh.

I was excited for this class, mainly because we were going to learn how to make the king of all street meats* – falafel (*term used loosely for all food sold on the streets of NYC). For those of you that don’t live in New York City, falafel can basically be found on every street corner at any time of the day or night. It is very simple – chick peas, garlic, cumin, fresh herbs and bread crumbs, formed into shapes and deep fried. Very yummy indeed. We served it with a generous dollop of homemade babaganoush, or eggplant, tahini and herb puree.

While I do actually know a real-life vegetarian, after years of living with her I still could not wrap my mind around the actual lifestyle of someone who does not eat meat. In my mind, I always imagined her ordering a fat Big Mac, or asking for extra meat on her Crunchwrap Supreme, because my naïve mind just didn’t understand and obviously didn’t pay attention enough to what she kept in her cabinet or cooked or ate while we sat around and talked. I don’t feel too bad though – this was the girl who accidentally offered me a stick of gum as I was recovering from painful jaw surgery. My only experience with vegetarianism is on Fridays during Lent, when we Catholics don’t eat meat. I learned a wonderful way to prepare well-balanced and tasty meals sans bovine in class on Monday, and it was pretty cool. Don’t get ahead of yourself here, it’ll be a cold day in heck when I give up the cow, it was just nice to learn the alternative. So when The Veg comes to live with Steve and me (in my perfect fantasy world) I’ll know some fun and delicious things to serve her as she raises our kids.


  1. Grape Jam
  2. Philadelphia Cream Cheese
  3. Tartar Sauce

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Friday, 3/26/10 – Nutrition Day 2

So, judging by the lack of positive feedback and encouraging comments following Wednesday’s post I’m guessing you are not an audience that enjoys when I get all preachy and hypocritical about nutrition and healthy eating. Noted.

Friday was our second nutrition lecture, and my mind is now bursting with useful and life-changing information that I would love to share with you in a short, readable and absorbable format. We focused on fats, both the solid-form fats that come from animals (butter, shortening, etc.) and the liquid form that come from plants (olive oil, canola oil, etc.).

*EDITORIAL NOTE: I am not a nutritionist. I am usually 63% fact and 37% bull*#@&, so please keep that in mind when taking my written word to heart.


  • Soften assertive flavors
  • Help you perceive flavor better
  • Are needed by your body to function
  • Along with acid and salt, are the major components of all sauces and most dishes

We got into some science, delving into the molecular structure of different types of fats; it brought me directly back to a fond memory of failing a Chemistry 102 test in Purdue’s Elliot Hall. Hey, I graduated in one piece so all of that is just water under the bridge. Right Dad? A few important notes:

1. In regards to hydrogenated fats, there is one very important point I’d like to mention. The process of hydrogenation (or adding hydrogen to an oil to make it thicker, therefore cheaper than butter) is very unhealthy, and has a direct byproduct of trans fat = VERY BAD. You’re probably wondering why a dream product that is cheaper than butter and made of oil so it seems to be healthier than butter is so terrible. The problem is that your body cannot process trans fats, so they just sit there and gather and clump and clog. You cannot hydrogenate something without creating trans fats, so margarine and Crisco are public enemy #1. Read your labels; if you see the words “hydrogenation” or “trans fat,” put it down and back away slowly. It can’t hurt you if you don’t let it.

2. Your body needs a nice balance between Omega-3 and Omega-6 fats. Americans currently eat an average proportion of 1:20, respectively. Any way you spin it, that is not healthy. Omega 3s are found in wild fish, grass-fed beef, farmer’s market eggs, leafy green vegetables, nuts, flaxseed and hempseed, etc. Omega 6 is found in corn, soy, peanuts, sesame seeds and cottonseed, etc. Our diet is composed mainly of corn and soy, even if you do not realize it. The cow, whose products we eat and drink, are fed corn (which makes them very sick, but it’s cheap), chickens are fed corn, farm-raised salmon are fed corn, green beans are fed corn, t-shirts are fed corn, the list goes on and on. Those last few might not be accurate, but the point is we are constantly consuming corn and soy, which is not allowing us to consume a well-balanced diet. (Good news – I discovered today that Bagel Bites are actually not terrible!!!!! I will eat them with a satisfied smile now, as opposed to a shameful smile!)

Enough preachy preachy. Steven and I have chosen to make some small yet important changes in our diet, but I understand that in some households it’s simply not practical. I urge you to choose your foods wisely, though, and live by Wednesday’s credo: “Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.”

Today commenced the first annual Lindsey Spring Cleaning Competition 2010. The two current members of the Lindsey clan, New York chapter, raced to complete various household cleaning tasks to amass points, ranging from dusting the fan blades for 1 point to scrubbing the bathroom floor for 5 points. The stakes were high: dinner and TV rights for the week, as well as some serious bragging power. I’m not going to be classless and rub it in and/or babble on and on, but I would like to humbly mention on this public forum that I won. That’s right people, I WON. Waa haa haa. Take that husband, looks like you’ll be watching “Keeping up with the Kardashians” every night this week.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Wednesday, 3/24/10 – Nutrition Day 1

“Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.”

-Michael Pollan, The New York Times (January 2007)

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Seriously though, with all of the fads, diets and new products, it’s hard to wrap your mind around how to nourish your body to the healthiest and happiest form possible. Depending on who you ask, you should cut out carbs, sugars, white starch, fats, vegetables, water, red fruits, anything liquid, anything cooked, everything manufactured, all chemicals, no chemicals…the list goes on. What is the true answer?? We have so many things thrown our way, usually just marketing schemes designed to make money. We had a great lecture by Chef Tim (the food safety instructor from Level 1) about nutrition, the components of food and how they affect our bodies, and I learned a great deal about American eating habits. Back to Pollan’s mandate:

1. “Eat food.” By food, he meant real, naturally occurring food. For example, I happen to have a soft spot for boxed macaroni and cheese. This is not food.

2. “Not too much.” Duh.

3. “Mostly plants.” With all the crap I talk about the French and their cuisine, it really is very well-balanced and hits all of the food groups (meat, butter, cheese, cream, etc…). Chef Tim last night tore my world apart when he claimed that meat should be a side dish. When you think about it, though, he’s right; they really shouldn’t be the focus. I’ve since pledged to stop cooking a full pound of ground beef for the two of us.

The French have it right, according to “The French Diet” by Michel Montignac (*recommended reading). When you think about it, Americans have such a toxic relationship with food. We eat whatever we can find on the go, as quickly as possible. We punish ourselves after eating something that we view as “bad.” We count our calories, work out the most yet are still the fattest country by far and have a much higher rate of heart disease than the French, even with all of their red meat, cream and butter. The difference is that they prioritize their meals, using them as a happy celebration and a chance to gather with family and friends. They eat much smaller portions filled with fruit and vegetables, and drink a few glasses of red wine here and there. The point is that calorie counting doesn’t work. In fact, if you want the quickest and easiest rule to losing weight, which works 100% of the time, just remember that if you consume more energy than you burn it will be stored as fat. Alternatively, to lose weight you need to burn more energy than you consume.

One issue for which I do have a huge concern is the prevalence of childhood obesity. I see it in the city – mothers pouring Pepsi into their baby’s bottles, giving kids a bag of Cheetos when they throw a tantrum and stopping at McDonald’s for breakfast every morning. It’s terribly sad, and has caused Adult Onset Diabetes to be an elementary school epidemic. Perhaps the tides are changing, but I think kids have already formed unhealthy relationships with food, which will hopefully not follow them for decades. Let’s all raise our kids in France!

Anyways, nutrition lecture was over in a quick hour, and we moved on to our first savory meal in weeks, a striped bass filet on French lentils. We finished it with a few dollops of horseradish/Dijon vinaigrette and a handful of apple, mint and dill salad. It wasn’t my cup of tea, just a little too spicy and tart for my liking, but apparently it wasn’t Chef’s either: his reaction after tasting our plate was, “Hmm…it’s ok, you’ll get back into the groove soon.” Awesome.

Wrapping up tonight’s nutrition lecture by Jackie, originally taught by Chef Tim, I encourage everyone to complete a simple task that will open your eyes to your own personal nutritional health. As we were asked to do last night, write down everything you’ve consumed in the last 24 hours - drinks, food and all. Be honest with yourself, it can only help. I would like to share my list with you, as of 9:28pm on Thursday evening so as to prove to you that I prefer to write about nutrition than to implement it in my own life:

(In order of appearance)

-Pistachio milk shake

-Lamb burger and feta cream dressing on a sesame roll

-Steamed carrots and zucchini in butter

-Few spoonfuls of French lentils with carrots, onions and bacon

-Four tablespoons of chocolate mousse

-Croissant with ½ teaspoon of butter


-Cup of coffee

-Small cup of lobster bisque

-Bag of salted soup crackers

-1/2 Cobb Salad wrap

-2 cups of sweetened ice tea

-Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup Easter Egg

-5 large beef taquitos dipped in sour cream and guacamole

-1 serving each of steamed green beans and sweet corn

-2 Easter sugar cookies with buttercream frosting

Hey, at least I had fun.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Monday, 3/23/10 – Mousses and Soufflés

And so it is done. As quickly as it began, our pastry lessons have ended. Gone are the days of uninhibited sugar experimentation and excusable mis-measurements. We’ve done each classic French pastry recipe once, and will now inevitably be expected to have them not only memorized but perfected enough to complete on a whim in front of accomplished chefs at a certain Level 3 practical exam. I’m understandably nervous to leave the comforts of pastry, the safety net of flour and sugar, only to get dumped right back into savory food, which we have not practiced for what seems like forever. I am, however, very ready to get back to fulfilling my passion. To add to the excitement, we’re actually starting a 3-part series on nutrition, during which half the class will be spent in lecture and the other half will be spent cooking. I took a peek at our first recipe for Wednesday and, in true French style, it’s a seemingly simple fish fillet on a bed of lentils yet the ingredient list took an entire (front and back) 4x6 note card. Welcome home.

We were able to enjoy our last pastry day in style, celebrating with three delicious soufflés – chocolate, cheese and liquor. Soufflés are very tricky, as the delicately whipped mixture deflates almost immediately after leaving the hot oven. It didn’t help, either, that we were using metal disposable ramekins (no insulation), allowing us about 45 seconds (maximum!) before the tops started to sag and collapse. We ate so many desserts in one night, I found myself actually turning down delicacies. I was like a new dieter at a McDonald’s….the pressure was too hard to handle. They were forcing the desserts on me, those evil dessert fairies, enticing me left and right. Eat this frozen fruit soufflé. Some more pistachio crème anglaise? You look like you need a heap of chocolate mousse. Unbelievable.

Speaking of chocolate mousse…I am at a loss for words as I attempt to describe the chocolate mousse borne of my delicate, pale hands last night at around 9:32pm. Two angels paid me a visit last night, one posted on either side, their wings tickling my shoulder as they guided my arms and wrists to whip the egg whites to a stiff peak. They were there, tending the gourmet chocolate as it melted gently on the double boiler. They even kept the cream cold with their heavenly gaze as I struggled to turn it into whipped cream by using pure strength and determination. And when I faltered, my muscles too tired to continue, they picked me up off the tile floor, brushed off the week-old bread crumbs and whispered, “You’re almost there! You can do it, just a bit more.” The end product was nothing short of ethereal – a light, fluffy and semi-sweet pillow of chocolaty goodness. In my true shameless style, I “volunteered” to take home chef’s mousse as well, and brought home a quart (A QUART) of the most amazingly delicious chocolate mousse I’ve ever tasted. Steven and I plan to put it all in a big bowl and dip our faces directly into the chocolatey sweetness.

In honor of the pleasurable yet intense pastry course, I’d like to take a moment to reflect on the many recipes we completed over the last few weeks, projected slowly onto the screen to Don Henley’s “Taking You Home:”

Bande de Tarte aux Fruits

Bavarois a la Crème Anglaise

Beignets aux Pommes, Coulis de Fruit

Beignets Souffles a l’Orange

Biscuits a la Cuillere


Choux a la Crème Chantilly

Crème Anglaise

Crème au Beurre

Crème Patissiere

Crème Renversee

Crepes au Jambon et aux Champignons

Crepes Suzette


Glace a la Vanille

La Genoise

Meringue Chantilly

Mousse au Chocolat

Pate a Choux

Pate Brisee

Pate Feuilletee

Pate Sucree

Quiche Lorraine

Sorbet au Pamplemousse

Soufflé a la Liqueur

Soufflé au Chocolat

Soufflé au Fromage

Soufflé aux Fruits

Soufflé Glace aux Fruits

Tarte a l’Oignon

Tarte aux Poires a la Frangipane

Tarte aux Pommes

Phew! It’s definitely been busy. As we tuck ourselves back into the routine of savory food, the subject for which we all initially enrolled in school, I can’t help but feel a bit of excitement for the next chapter. It’s about to get real.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Friday, 3/19/10 – Frozen Desserts & Meringues

I’m very much enjoying this whole pastry section of Level 2. Not because it’s fun (it’s not) or easy (it’s not), I am just greatly reaping the fruits of my labor. Instead of trucking home gelatinous containers of leftover lamb stew with wilting carrots and cold pearl onions, I’m able to bring home entire tarts, full cakes and individual flans – enough to host a decent cocktail party. (Again with the cocktail party fantasy segments??)

We used our hand-made puff pastry as the base of a fruit bande de tarte, which is a delicious little pizza of vanilla pastry cream and assorted fresh fruits. I chose to channel the incoming spring flowers with the below motif.

This tart is approximately 18”x8”, so it will definitely be included in my rounds later this evening as I attempt to pawn off some of these desserts to our poor, unsuspecting neighbors.

As fate would have it, every single one of the school’s ice cream machines was broken on Friday, which happened to be our designated ice cream-making lesson. Disappointing, yet I’m wondering if it was all a ploy to distract us away from the fact that they don’t even own any ice cream machines! Regardless, we still made the base for vanilla ice cream, the versatile crème anglaise (which topped last week’s apple fritters) and also prepared the Grapefruit sorbet. Hopefully the machines will be up-and-running on Monday so that we can all fall into a painless sugar coma, starting the week off right. I would actually prefer, instead of having to wait for the sugar to enter my mouth, be chewed and then be absorbed by my body, if I just hooked a line up to my arm with a constant drip of confectioner’s sugar and butter. That way I don’t have to wake up on Saturday mornings anymore feeling like I got hit by a bus and am simultaneously coming down from a 5-day bender. “Steven, wake up and refill my bag, da*nit!!!” or “Bring an extra bag, it’s going to be a long ride.” They hand out free drug needles on the street anyways, and I could get a Costco membership so I can buy my sugar and butter in bulk. We could even sell all of Steve’s clothes so that I could store my supplies in his closet. I wouldn’t be able to take my IV pole on the subway, though, unless I only traveled through the stations with elevators. Easy. It’s starting to look like a possibility…this pleases me.

One of the desserts we did get to enjoy on Friday was the light, airy and crunchy Meringue Chantilly, which consists of a Swiss meringue baked into dry, brittle cookies (either in spirals or rectangles) and filled with a delicious Chantilly cream. It’s similar to an ice cream sandwich, only it awkwardly squirts out and sprays everywhere the minute you take a bite, which could prove to be disastrous for a first date, or any date on which you’re wearing a nice, new outfit and want to not look like a 4-year old.

Our final dish was a frozen fruit soufflé. Well, it looked like a baked soufflé, expanding an inch above its mold like it magically rose in the freezer, yet it is not baked and it actually piped into the mold with a guard above the top, so that you can pipe the mix above the edge of the mold. Confusing, I know, but I’ve never been one with words; my apologies. We actually had to leave it in the freezer over the weekend to freeze solid, so we didn’t have the pleasure of enjoying it. I almost flipped a table when I found this out….see, this would not have happened if I had my intravenous sugar/butter drip installed!

Ever since my short introduction to the beauty of the crepe, I’ve been really into www.world-of-crepes.com. They’ve compiled every crepe recipe you could ever imagine! Try one out this week/weekend and send me pictures!

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Wednesday, 3/17/10 – Custards

Wednesday, what the world celebrated as St. Patrick’s Day, was a busy one for yours truly.

I left work early, donned in my power suit and silk blouse with inexplicable lunch stains, to attend the FCI Spring career fair, anxious to meet some of the biggest names in culinary history. Although I’ve pretty much decided that I don’t want to work at a restaurant, it was exciting to be in the same room as representatives from the restaurants that have made NYC a culinary capital of the world: Momofuku, Resto, Oceana, Blue Hill and Nobu, to name only a few. My reason for attending, however, was to attempt to put myself in front of the few very reputable and respected culinary magazines in attendance. The career fair was overly saturated (I waited in line for 25 minutes to speak to one magazine for 2 minutes) yet it was still a good experience. It was valuable, and I learned that it’s perhaps a little too early to be seeking an internship at a job fair, competing with soon-to-be and recent graduates as well as alumni. I was told by one editor to email him a few months before I graduate…still, it was great to make those connections and get my feet wet. (I promise I’m not acting like I made the varsity cheerleading team when in reality I botched the try-outs and was asked to leave…really. It went well!)

After a short snack, it was on to class to learn the beauties of the French custard desserts. My favorite dessert ever, one that I will consistently and predictably order at restaurants over and over, is crème brulee. For whatever reason, this treat has its hold on me; it might be the creamy yet solid interior or the runny caramel underneath a hard crusty shell. I’ve tried many times to replicate it, but without a kitchen torch it’s just not right.

Unfortunately, we did not make crème brulee in class. We did experiment with all three types of custard: stirred (crème anglaise), starch-bound (crème patissiere – thick pudding) and baked (crème renversee – French flan). We also made a huge sheet of biscuit, or separated egg foam cake, and rolled it with preserves (I chose raspberry). We cut it into slices, placed it into a mold and filled the remaining space with Bavarian cream. The gelatin in the cream needs time to set, so we’ll cut it up and serve it in class on Friday. It was a little bizarre, and I almost felt like this “project” was made up 5 minutes before we arrived to keep us occupied until the end of class. “Ok, sure, um now take the cake slices, slather them with preserves, and mold them into the bottom of the bowl. Now….um….la la la…you’re going to, uh, pour the cream over the cake in the mold. Great job guys, we’ll finish this up on Friday.” In class on Friday…”Oh man guys, I’m so sorry. A freak thing happened: a wild bear got into the school and happened to raid the 4th floor refrigerator with only your desserts….I’m so sorry, they’re all gone, as is any evidence of the disaster. This sucks….maybe next time guys.”

With all these custards and egg-yolk whipping, my arm literally fell off. I’m not kidding: I heard a small pop, felt a tickle at my shoulder, looked down and there it was, wedding band and all. I’ve never had an appendage fall off of my body from fatigue before, but I’m hoping it’s just a small set-back in my quest for Kelly Ripa-esque biceps.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Monday, 3/15/10 – Puff Pastries

One of the first “really impressive” meals I made for Steve was Beef Wellington, the classic dish involving a filet mignon wrapped in puff pastry with mushroom duxelle and pâté. It was Valentine’s Day, so I even put a little puffy heart on top (love). While it’s obvious there have been many, many, many more impressive meals since then (right Steve? RIGHT STEVE??) the evening still stands out as a huge personal victory, partly because I tackled an intimidating recipe and made it work. As I’m often known to do on Valentine’s Days of lore, I spend the entire day in the kitchen slaving over a hot stove, and by dinner time I’m sweaty, cranky and smell like beef. But that’s what I love about cooking – making other people happy. Sure, I love to create an amazing meal for myself, seeing it from start to finish like some sort of marble carving, but I much prefer to cook for others. In fact, several times in my life I have cooked a nice big meal and suddenly found myself not hungry, choosing to enjoy the look on my guests’ faces instead. Now that I think about it, I probably didn’t eat because the food was poisoned or spoiled or something, and, as the chef, naturally kept that information to myself.

Back to Beef Wellington. At the time, I had used a store-bought puff pastry, but had I known puff pastry is completely doable from scratch I would have considered it! That’s exactly what we made in class: puff pastry from scratch. It requires several steps that seem unnecessary, like entombing a block of butter in the dough, and rolling the dough out, folding it a particular way and rolling it out again. However, in the end the reasoning becomes clear: the butter/dough alternation and endless folds ensure that the flaky, crusty layers are formed properly. Fascinating, right??


Maybe a little cream puff discussion will reel in your attention. That’s right ladies and gentlemen, we produced sheet pan upon sheet pan of homemade cream puffs. Hand-whipped cream and all, there’s really no other way! The dough is called pâte a choux, and it’s piped into small rounds that, when baked, hollow out into light, airy balls. Using the same dough, we piped out éclairs and Paris-brest, a classic wreath-shaped pastry sprinkled with almonds. I chose to flavor my whipped creams with espresso (for the cream puffs and éclairs) and praline (for the wreaths). Chef had fondant warming on the bain-marie, and we finished our éclairs with a nice dip in the frosting. These are classic, hand-made pastries, and are very different from the store-bought, preservative-laden ones many families are used to. Home-made is always the way to go, though. Always.

I'm ready to admit that I have a soft spot in my heart for croissants. The obsession kind of snuck up on me, taking me by surprise with its flaky, buttery softness that seems to read my inner thoughts and feelings. They call to me, softly and seductively, and I know that I can safely envelope myself in their warmy goodness, always the same and always perfect. My love affair with croissants started a few short years ago, and has intensified since working at the bank - we have a gifted chef who runs a fantastic cafeteria. It helps that the cafeteria’s prices are unbelievable: I can buy a filling and well-rounded lunch for $5, while the normal Manhattan lunch costs about $10, on a good day. With my intense schedule, I started grabbing breakfast in the cafeteria as well, and now find myself knee-deep in a destructive croissant addiction from which I’m not sure any breakfast cereal or oat can pull me. I knew I had a problem when I got legitimately angry, like, seconds away from throwing a hissy fit when I discovered they had run out of croissants this morning. I stewed at my desk all morning, my mouth was foaming and my pulse was quick. I had to fix this! Give me something yeasty and puffy, anything for cripe’s sake! I eventually found reprieve in a $4 designer croissant from a Wall Street bakery down the street. I was ashamed to fork over that money, but it was the right pastry at the right time. My blood pressure is finally back to normal, at least until tomorrow morning…

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Friday, 3/12/10 – Crepes

Every culture has its pancake. IHOP aficionados will tell you that pancakes come in many shapes and sizes with myriad toppings and fillings. I’ve proudly witnessed the consuming of a stack of 10” pancakes at The Lick Skillet, kountry kooking powerhouse of Monrovia, Indiana, but I’ve never personally been a huge breakfast advocate, opting for a small bowl of oatmeal or cereal and a piece of fruit. I can definitely understand the appeal of justifying the need to fry sugar, flour and eggs and douse them with maple syrup at 8 o’clock in the morning, though. And we wonder why Americans are overweight.

True to their style, the French have a more sophisticated and less gluttonous pancake – the crepe. Like its counterpart, crepes can be filled and doused with endless ingredients. They have an advantage over pancakes, though, being that they can be savory dishes too. In making the watery and loose crepe batter, you simply leave out the large amounts of sugar and throw in some buckwheat if you're planning on making this dinner. (Fun fact: Buckwheat is actually gluten free…which makes it a perfect substitute for my celiac friends and family!)

That’s exactly what we did to make the savory crepes stuffed with ham, mushroom and gruyere cheese, browned in the oven and broiler. It can be a breakfast meal, but I could even see it being served as an appet---------

Sorry, I just got sucked into a Snuggie infomercial. That thing is revolutionary.

--izer or main course. Making crepes takes patience and a light hand. You get your nonstick pan nice and warm and oiled (the French use clarified butter), pour in a small amount of the batter and swirl it around until it coats the bottom. It only needs a few seconds, and then you flip and do the other side. If you have the right amount of batter in your pan, not too little and not too much, you will be able to get a nice flip without breaking out the utensils or dropping it onto the flame a la Julie Child. It’s a crap shoot though, meaning that no amount of experience will ensure that it flips perfectly.

We also made a sweet crepe batter and cooked perhaps the most delicious thing I have eaten since starting at FCI: Crepes Suzette. The dessert was so good, in fact, that I made it for Steve on Saturday night, and had to get my fix on Sunday as well. It starts with a compound butter consisting of sugar, orange juice, orange liquor and orange zest. The butter is melted in a large pan, and each crepe is added one-by-one, swirled on both sides in the butter and folded into fourths. When you have four of the crepe folds in the pan, add a small amount of brandy and flambé the mix. This will burn off the raw alcohol taste of the brandy yet still maintain the base flavor. At home, my flambé wasn’t the best. Scratch that, it didn’t light at all. I enlisted Steve’s help, and we kept adding more and more brandy. I was sure that it would ignite at any moment, and would create a firestorm in our small kitchen. Alas, it was anti-climactic, and even touching a match to the sauce produced nothing more than a puttering spark. We finished it off with a few delicate orange supremes and candied orange zest. The dish is that perfect mix of butter, warm liquor and orange sweetness, just perfection. Again, I’ve had it three times in the last three days.

Our last and final dish was apple slices marinated in sugar, liquor and cinnamon, dipped in beignet batter and deep fried, sprinkled with powdered sugar and served on a berry puree with a side of crème anglaise. Due to the apple’s high water content, the batter doesn’t stay crispy, but the apples inside are warm and mushy, and the tartness of the berries and sweetness of the crème make it divine.

I think I must put this knowledge to good use and have a dessert party featuring all these amazing delicacies! I cannot continue to bring home these goodies and/or replicate them at home…we’re starting to plan our evenings, those few we get to spend together, around dessert. Not that there’s anything wrong with that, we just want to share the wealth!

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Wednesday, 3/10/10 - La Genoise

Considering we only made one cake in class, I'll keep this short. Let's face it, there's nothing interesting about cake...NOT.

We made a classic genoise, or whole egg foam cake, and topped it with homemade buttercream icing. We're just beginning our pastry portion of the level, but are quickly realizing that its very different and much harder than the savory dishes. In pastry, you must be meticulous about measuring your ingredients, maintaining proportions and keeping everything cold, whereas my general attitude is "Yeah, that looks about right," or "Sure, throw it in!" That does not work for pastry....reminding me why I would never make it as a pastry chef.

A genoise is made by whipping eggs and sugar over heat until they thicken and triple in size. You then very quickly fold in sifted flour, a little bit of melted butter and immediately pour it into your cold cake pan and then into the oven. They're fickle little cakies, and can lose their volume in seconds if not done right, leaving you with a hockey puck instead of a fluffy delicious cake.

We had free reign to decorate our cake, and were given close to 30 options: fresh fruit, dried fruit, liquers, flavored liquids, nuts and herbs, to name a few. I chose to dab an amaretto simple syrup on each layer of my cake, coat the sides with chopped pistacchios, make a spiral pattern on the top and fill it in with chopped almonds. Yum. This cake is disgustingly fattening, even without the full buttercream icing, so I've given most of it away. Most of it....but not all. :)
P.S. Chef Marc won "Chopped"!!! He's hilarious on the episode, telling the other competitors, "Doon't vorrie, I vill vin." (That's a terrible typed French accent) Check it out at www.FoodNetwork.com/Chopped

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Monday, 3/8/10 – Tarts

I was a little nervous about tart day. I’ve heard how fickle the dough can be, and everyone built it up to be incredibly difficult. I’m pretty sure Miss Ginger is the only person I’ve ever met who can make a perfect tart…and I mean perfect. Surprisingly enough, it wasn’t that terrible, and you can’t beat the end result, whatever the filling or process may be.

There was just one problem. We’ve been fortunate enough to have both Chef Phil and Chef Ray for Levels 1 and 2 considering that this is a French school, and they are perhaps the only two instructors who speak English as their first language. Even when you throw in a vague East Coast accent, it’s still safe to say that it’s never a challenge to follow their lectures. Last night, however, our regular Chef was on vacation so Chef Marc filled in to teach us the beauty of tarts. That would have been great, if he weren’t an incredibly fast-talking French man. It went a little something like this: “Il s'agit d'une conférence inutile which is the most important thing you need to know personne ne l'obtient. Si vous ne le faites pas that is the one right way to cook anything ever tartes aux pommes sont delivious. Les poires sont la clé de tartes the best secret of French cooks, and it’s the only time anyone will ever tell you that.” Awesome; absorbing 15% of the lecture isn’t too bad. I liked him though because he pronounced my name with that one sound that only the French can create: Jacques-leen. I’m easy to please.

We made a beautiful apple tart filled with a yummy homemade applesauce covered in thin apple slices arranged in a clockwise spiral. It was less sweet than I expected and tasted very much like dried apple slices. We then made a pear tart filled with delicious almond custard and topped with canned pears in a flower pattern, and brushed both beauties with an apricot glaze to give it that magazine finish. Finally, we made a caramelized onion tart with bacon, a savory dish that can be served for any meal of the day. Unfortunately, we ran out of time and were unable to make the Quiche Lorraine, but I look forward to whipping one up on an upcoming lazy Sunday morning. We received a quick nod and “Nettoyez votre station,” from Chef after presenting our tarts. It meant absolutely nothing to me, so I’m still not sure if he liked them or not. They were delicious, so his comment couldn’t have been too bad.

As a side note, Chef Marc is competing on tonight’s (Tuesday) episode of “Chopped” on the Food Network! Someone managed to translate that and spread the word, so I’m very excited to see how he does. He’s currently on as I type, as is a great view of the FCI kitchens, but I can’t stay up long enough to see the end.

The basic tarts that we completed weren’t incredibly hard, and I definitely showed that dough who’s boss. It only took about 4 hours, but I discovered that showing some muscle made it submit. I’ll have to try that in my other life, but I should probably work on my muscles first before challenging anyone.


Using a marinade on meat or poultry is a wonderful way to infuse flavor and create texture. Below are a few helpful tips that will help you along the way.

  • A cooked marinade is used when the item must be marinated for a long time, such as a tough or large piece of meat. The vegetables and herbs are sautéed or simmered first to ensure that they don’t ferment too quickly during the marinating process.
  • An uncooked marinade is used when the item needs to be marinated for a shorter amount of time, such as a smaller piece of meat or chicken.
  • Refrigerating the items while marinating will keep them at a safe temperature, and turning them frequently will ensure that the flavors are distributed evenly.
  • The marinade makes a perfect sauce for the final dish, just be sure to bring it to a boil for at least 3 minutes to kill any harmful bacteria.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Friday, 3/5/10 – Eggs

Everyone loves eggs, that’s a given. Whether they’re hard-boiled, sunny-side-up, doused in hollandaise or served over steak, you always win with eggs. Who would have thought that cooking (and sometimes purposely not cooking) the unfertilized embryo of a chicken/ostrich/quail would be so popular and so versatile?

The French love their omelettes, rolled or flat, buttered or browned, dressed or naked. I definitely had my fill of eggs by the end of the night, but left knowing eight new ways to prepare them for any time of the day. We made a browned flat omelette with onions, tomatoes and green peppers (Basque-style), and also made a rolled omelette that was purposely left runny in the middle (eek) and perfectly un-colored. We then learned the absolute perfect method for poaching eggs and hard-boiling them. For just 4 quick and easy payments of $49.99 you too can learn these methods and banish the runny egg blues! Call now!

Satisfaction and fulfillment not guaranteed. Money will be used to purchase shoes for the administrator of Getting Cooked, who will refuse to answer phone, email and facebook messages after cashing checks. Credit cards also accepted.

I was introduced to a heart attack in a ramekin – the Oeufs Cocotte, or an egg cooked in cream. It’s actually very easy: you break an egg into a buttered ramekin, reduce your cream, season it with pepper, salt and nutmeg and pour it on top of the egg, covering it and filling the sides. You then bake it in the oven until it’s slightly set, but the yolk is still runny. It’s absolutely delicious, and dipping a few pieces of bread into it would be unreal. I just can’t justify that…I can’t. The perfect party treat, however, would be the Oeufs Farcis Chimay – stuffed eggs, Chimay style. It was a savory and decadent version of Deviled Eggs, only filled with mushrooms, egg yolk and béchamel and then topped with Gruyere béchamel (called a Mornay) and a heap of Gruyere. It is then baked until melted, and run under the salamander to get a brown crust. Absolutely delicious, and would be easy to prepare ahead of time for a dinner party or cocktail soiree, since I host so many of those on a regular basis…

We’re studying tarts and doughs on Monday, so we prepared our pâte brisée and threw it into the freezer for later use. Judging by how finicky and particular this most basic dough was for us, I assume Monday will be kind of a pain.

Sometimes in life God proves to you that he knows exactly what you need, and he seems to pull strings and re-arrange situations to award you a simple surprise. Steve and I were having a lazy Saturday at a local Greek deli, enjoying falafel and hummus, when my mom, who’s been at a conference in Boston all week, called. “Hey…what are you doing tonight,” she asked sheepishly. “Um, nothing special.” Boy was that true. “Well, my flight is delayed…and I have the option of possibly being able to stay overnight in NYC. Is that ok with you?” Is that ok with me?? “Yay! Of course! OMG it’ll be so fun we’ll have dinner at my school! And we can have a sleepover! Puppies, ponies and rainbows!!” “Jackie, let me just make sure I can arrange it first.” Sure enough, she was not only able to come to NYC but extended her stay a full 24-hours! We had a blast, tried out a new Mexican restaurant in Harlem, had brunch at my school’s elegant restaurant and dragged her along as we ran our weekend errands buying toothpaste and such. It was a wonderful turn of events for our boring and uneventful weekend, and we were so happy to be able to spend some time with her. It was a little ironic though, because my mom has always, always promised me she would not be the type of mom to just show up on the doorstep for an extended weekend. Sure enough, we’re married for 4 months and what does she do? It was such a wonderful surprise, though, and we’re very grateful it worked out. Husbands are the best, but sometimes a girl needs her mommy.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Wednesday, 3/3/10 – Organ Meats

I didn’t puke!! I didn’t even emit the slight cough-gag that I’ve gotten used to covering up as a sort of throat-clear. You see, I have this problem where I obsess about how gross something is, even when it’s not gross at all, and then end up being totally repulsed by it, causing me to gag uncontrollably.

Too much information. Anyway, we ventured into the delicacy of organ meats, preparing sweetbreads (thymus glands), veal kidneys, calf’s liver and lamb tongue. Organ meats, because of their distinct organey taste, are usually served with very strong flavors such as mustard and vinegar. You can cover up the taste, but you can’t cover up the texture.

First, we caramelized onions and created a vinegar and veal stock sauce. While the sauce was reducing, we doused the liver in flour and pan-fried it in butter. We served the crispy liver draped with the onion sauce and sprinkled with parsley. Why is it that liver and onions are the butt of every joke; the epitome of the grossest meal ever; a punishment for a naughty child who doesn’t wipe his plate clean. Because it’s gross, that’s why. It tasted like sucking on a penny that coats your mouth with a layer of crap that doesn’t go away.

Moving on to the sweetbreads, we rubbed them in mustard, coated them with Panko bread crumbs and pan-fried them as well - apparently the only way to get an American to eat animal organs is to fry them! We served the sweetbreads on a bed of arugula tossed with a warm shallot/garlic/tomato vinaigrette.

After our dinner break (on the one night I don’t cook my own meal we are served curried lamb, the bowel irritator of all irritators…….I went to bed hungry last night) we sautéed the kidneys and served them swimming in a mustard sauce. Finally, when we thought we couldn’t handle another minute of these “delicacies,” Chef pulled out a vat of blanched veal tongues. The odd thing about veal tongues is that they LOOK LIKE TONGUES! They were all grey and smooth, and when I reached into the bucket I think one licked me. Interestingly enough they have to be peeled first, which is a task much harder than it sounds. Peeling a slimy tongue of its rubbery skin is hilarious.

I don’t mean to be so negative about the whole experience, it was just a little too odd for comfort. I always attempt to branch out and try new things – at least now I know that I don’t like sweetbreads and kidney and liver. The tongue I could do, but not the other recently functioning offal. Steve is definitely more adventurous than I am, but I won’t be sautéing any kidneys in the Lindsey kitchen any time soon. But hey, it was fun.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Monday, 3/1/10 – Stuffings

There is nothing more appetizing than pureed raw chicken mixed with heavy cream and egg white. I’m kidding – this, my friends, is mousseline and it is really gross. Chef demonstrated the process, added truffles and pistachios, and then stuffed a de-boned chicken with it, rolled it into a log and blanched it. Yuck. Good news! There was extra, so he took only the skin from another chicken, stuffed it with mousseline into a log and blanched it. I mean…it was like a bad dream. There are few things that gross me out (leftovers, the sound of chewing and excrement caught in Ellie’s fur) but this was pushing it.

When we weren’t observing, we were mixing up an Italian sausage/herb/mushroom stuffing and rolling it into thin beef escalopes, almost like a braciole. Using bacon, shallots, mushrooms and zucchini scraps, we stuffed tomatoes, mushroom caps and zucchini cups, covered them with parmesan and baked them in the oven. We used the meat drippings to make a beef sauce, and served it all together swimming in a pool of juicy goodness.

Our beefy euphoria (say that three times fast) was soon ruined, however, by the chopped liver puree we were expected to spread on delicious buttery baguettes. I honest to goodness would not feed that to my cat; it was incredibly unappetizing. I found that the class was divided, though, into people who absolutely loved it and people who absolutely hated it (guess what side I was on), most likely dictated by their childhood experiences.

Sometimes/often when I’m bored I think of ridiculous things in my head to keep myself occupied. For instance, how hilarious would it be if MTV did a reality show about my class? Not an ordinary reality show, though. When filming these shows, they always try to make everything seem so ridiculous and outrageous, like there is constant drama and excitement. Behind the scenes, though, I’m sure there are those painfully boring moments when everyone is simply nice to each other! Our reality show, release date TBD, will include 3 full hours of vegetable chopping, a few minutes of some friendly banter and endless footage of students washing tools and utensils. There might be a dropped roast here and a spilled sauce there, but those scenes would inevitable get cut by the censors due to foul language. Like any reality production, though, the film will be spliced to make it seem like we’re all a bunch of floozy, unskilled, entitled 16-yr-olds. I just hope they do a montage during the season finale set to “Fernando” by ABBA that includes the time I burned my hand, video of me slow-mo-running up four flights of stairs with my knife pack, then tripping, and a shot of me with the cleaver murdering the fish carcass. It could end with me and a classmate embraced in an emotional hug with a “we did it!” look on our faces. MTV, I’m here whenever you’re ready to talk.