Friday, April 29, 2005

Kicking back on a Friday Morning

I had to work today, but not till 11:30, so I klatched and played in the garden.

Azaleas in my garden Posted by Hello
Thursday, I actually got a day off work!!! I spent the day traipsing around town trying to track down a Larousse Gastronomie, Martha Stewart Hors D'ouevres (sorry, can't speel) and an Oxford Companion to Food --- used. No luck, I am afraid, although I did find an adorable pair of baby blue mary janes for a mere five dollars!!
I won't be putting out an edition of Putting It All Together this week. Check back next week when I hope to explore the wonderful world of starches.

Wednesday, April 27, 2005


I think I am going to rename this class Dementia. I really, really don't like it. This week we did food costing, recipe conversion, learnt about what we can write off on our taxes if we own our own hospitality industry business, and went to the library. That's right, we had a library field trip -- how to use the library. It smacked of grade school and irritated me no end that we were wasting a beautiful, hot, sunny day doing this. I was happy to do all the academic, classroom stuff though. I am sure it will all come in useful in the end.
I still haven't gotten my first essay back. GRRRRRR.

Tuesday, April 26, 2005


First of all, my apologies for not updating sooner. I have been feeling a little stressed from both school AND work, so I have been spending my free time drinking and watching brain rotting TV. Back to the grind... I am just going to date these posts for the days they apply to. So even though I am typing this in May, it is for April 26th or something like that.

We still have Crazy Chef. And its hot AND we were frying today. I forgot to take pictures again -- I blame it on heat exhaustion, so I will share the view from my classroom with you instead.

view from my class.. Posted by Hello
Sometimes its hard to concentrate on lectures when I have that to look at.
Anyway, back to class. My group is assigned Celeriac Fritters and Fried Eggplant with Tomato Sauce. Still have two fairly apathetic guys in my group, so I wasn't too surprised when they elected me boss or "chef". :rolleyes: The recipes themselves were fun to execute, although the heat in the kitchen started to get almost overpowering, especially once the deep-frying started. One of the boys in my group was responsible for heating our HUGE pot of oil, and he got it WAY too hot. We were sharing it with another group, and one of them tried to put a slice of eggplant in the pot. We were supposed to be SHALLOW frying the eggplant. I stopped him, so he grabbed a spoon out of a pot of water they had on the stove and plunged it into the boiling oil. Anyone who knows anything about boiling oil will know what happened next. The oil just exploded everywhere. Fortunately, we all jumped back in the nick of time, but that was very nearly a hideous kitchen accident.
The eggplant was SO good. And this from someone who hates eggplant. Buutery, creamy interior, crispy exterior, fresh tasting tomato sauce that cut through any residual oiliness... I am so glad I am learning how to cook!
The Celeriac fritters were also nice, but I couldn't bring myself to eat more than one, after standing over the oil for so long.

Monday, April 25, 2005

Peas, Squash and Crazy Chefs!

This week we cover vegetable cookery. My group, comprising of me and two reasonably culinarily talented guys, was given a Snow Pea Stir-fry and an unnamed spaghetti squash dish that the chef made up on the spot. Before I talk about the food, I want to talk about the chef. Chef Soren has taken two weeks off to spend with his elderly parents who are visiting from Denmark. We got stuck with a substitute --. He was, well, cheffish. Borderline chauvinist with a wicked temper. Yay!! Anyway.
Snow Pea Stir-Fry became Snap Pea Stir-fry... It was simple -- too simple, and delicious.

Snow Pea Stir-fry Posted by Hello
We also were asked to throw together a dish that this guy (sorry, chef) created out of his vast head -- Spaghetti Squash with a tomato concassé and (yes) pancake syrup. (The storeroom was out of honey and maple syrup).

Spaghetti Squash Posted by Hello
Once our dishes were finished, we got to have an All-Vegetarian Buffet (well, except for the Brussels Sprouts with bacon)and all those veggies were so good,. I get hungry again just thinking about it. Time to go make dinner (Pork kebabs with berbéré sauce, couscous and tomato and cucumber salad. With an organic mango and cashew fruit salad with lime dressing for dessert.)

Saturday, April 23, 2005

Putting it all together...

This weeks installment of putting it all together features Hollandaise!. Hollandaise was the sauce my group made the worst and the one I didn't get to participate in. So I decided to have Eggs Benedict for breakfast this morning - mmm eggs on eggs....
Started off with two egg yolks:

In the beginning was the egg... Posted by Hello
Then I added water and lemon juice and whisked like mad. Transferred the bowl to a double boiler and continued to whisk like a maniac. After the eggs started to thicken, I pulled them off the double boiler and had Rob drizzle clarified butter in as I whisked. Thinned it a bit and seasoned with salt and pepper:

Beaten to submission Posted by Hello
Rob kindly poached some eggs, I toasted the English muffins, we topped them off with some ham, the eggs and the hollandaise:

the final result Posted by Hello
Very good, very rich. I declare this episode of Putting It Together a success!

Friday, April 22, 2005

First Mark of A Chef

My first blister! Posted by Hello
I was so proud to discover my first knife blister! It has since gone down and is working its self up to callous status.

Wednesday, April 20, 2005


Okay, I may have gotten a little carried away today. But I was SO pissed off. I turn purple just thinking about it. It was ridiculous Dimensions of Culinary Education Class again today. I was feeling a little rough due to some Arts Club Hijinks on Tuesday night, but I was there bright and early. We waited in the hall, Chef Julian doesn't show. So someone from the office lets us into our classroom. We wait. 8:20, someone tries to get a hold of him. he isn't at home, his cell-phone is off, there is no message. I don't know about anyone else, but I was little concerned. We decided to continue to wait. People worked on vocabulary from the other class, chatted quietly etc. He showed up at 8:40, ushered us into a different classroom and then went around the class asking what we had done for the last 40 minutes. Then gave everyone shit for not getting started on their group projects. "If this was a work situation, would you have just hung around done nothing for 40 minutes?" I was SOOOOOOOO mad. But I kept my mouth shut. No point in causing an in-class scene. At the break, I went up to him and told him how I felt. Conversation went something like this:
"Sorry to be obnoxious, but I just wanted to share my take on what happened this morning with you. Is that okay?"
"Sure, go ahead."
" Well, I understand the lesson you were trying to teach, but I have a problem with your methods."
"What?" (he starts to turn red at this point)
" I have been working full time and hard for a long time now. If something like this happened at work, I would do my job no matter what because that is what I am payed to do. However, I am at school. I am not being payed. in fact, I am paying a lot of money to be here."
"Ahh, but you could have been Self-Educating during that time."
" I certainly could have been. But the point is that I am not paying good money to Self-educate. I am paying YOU to educate ME and I would expect that you would be here on time to do that."
"Okay, fair point."
"Sorry to be so argumentative, but I just needed to tell you that.
"No worries, its a fair point"

And that is where it ended. The rest of the class was resume building.
Now I am wondering if I said to much. I am not used to being back in school and being treated like a child. I need to stop writing about this, I am just getting pissed off again.

Tuesday, April 19, 2005

Plating Red Pepper and Spinach Coulis Posted by Hello
Those were two of the sauces we made today. The other was Sauce Bordelaise, without the marrow. Thankfully, it was a big improvement on Monday's catastrophe. We also had a knife skills test. I get 7.5/10 for my fine julienne (it was 2mm instead of 1.5mm) and and 8.5/10 for my tourne - that was the shocker. I hate tourne and I really expected to fail that one... Next week, we start on vegetables. I think we will be eating well on Monday. My recipes include Green Beans Amandine, Brussels sprouts with Bacon and Snow Pea Stir-fry.

Monday, April 18, 2005

Bloody Sauces...

Well, not literally bloody. Today we had to make mayonnaise, hollandaise, beurre blanc and bechamel. Honestly, the only one that worked out for me was mayonnaise. And I "forgot" to take pictures today, so no exciting photos...
Chef Soren showed up this morning, hobbling in pain and just stuck a round long enough to let us know that Chef Julian would be taking over the class.. Chef Julian is ok, but he has a tendency to skim and not hit the details and talking points the same way as Soren. Anyway, we got our tests back from last week - two A's !! I got 100% on one and 99% on the second. And here I was thinking I totally f-ed it up. It all went downhill from there. Our beurre blanc split, our hollandaise split ( I didn't make the hollandaise, so I won't take responsibility for it...) and our bechamel tasted odd. It was the best looking, but something in the ingredients went wrong. It had a faintly acidic flavour which no one could identify or pin down a possible cause for. Very frustrating day all round. On the plus side, we got out of class early, I blasted through my homework and I am going to treat myself to a Corona on the patio in the sun.

Saturday, April 16, 2005

Putting it All Together -- Part Two

Last night, I made up my chicken noodle soup. I diced carrots, celery and leeks and minced some garlic. I sweated those down, stirred in my mushrooms, then added the consommé from Thursday night. Then cooked chicken and cooked fusilli.
chicken noodle soup Posted by Hello
I tasted it for seasoning and almost swooned - it was SO good, probably the best chicken soup I have ever made. I am a little jealous of Rob getting to have it for lunch today!
After soup making, we watched two episodes of The Sopranos and then I sat up till past midnight doing homework.

Thursday, April 14, 2005

Putting it all together Part 1

I know I mentioned last week that I am going to try to incorporate what I learn at school into a home project. This week's project will be a two parter. I started by making consommé, which I will hopefully get around to posting directions for on a new site that I set up just for recipes. The consommé starts off looking pretty ugly, a mixture of egg whites, ground chicken, and mirepoix with a half burnt onion throw in for colour. Oh, and the stock, of course.

in the beginning Posted by Hello
Then, bring it up to a simmer, stirring frequently. Once it hits the simmer, stop stirring. Let it simmer gently, undisturbed, for an hour.

At the end.. Posted by Hello
At this point, I cut a hole in the "raft" and gently ladled out the clear broth, running it through a cheesecloth lined sieve. Et Voila!

beautiful clear consommé Posted by Hello
Part 2 will be turning it into chicken soup.

Food Safe/Worksafe

Well, you will all be happy to know that I passed my FoodSafe -- without it, I would not be able to continue at the school. Of course, anyone who doesn't pass it, has problems. It is based almost entirely on common sense, mixed with a touch of paranoia. I can tell you I will never look at food the same -- we learnt just how disgusting and dirty food really is!
Now my love is sick -- picked up what I had last week -- so I will be making a chicken consommé at home tonight and a chicken noodle soup tomorrow. I'll try to squeeze these in after work as I am working the rest of the week.

Tuesday, April 12, 2005

Cream of Mushroom and Lentil Soup

Soups again today. I am still buzzing from the satisfaction of a job well done. We made EXCELLENT soup, if I do say so myself! Especially the lentil, with cumin, potatoes, pancetta and lemon. I fiddled with the recipe a bit, but the chef didn't seem to care. In fact, I saw him helping himself to a bowl of our lentil soup afterwords! Anyway, I remebered to take photos today and I am going to try to follow Sweetnicks suggestion for posting pictures, see if more of you can actually see them.
This should be the mushroom

Posted by Hello

And Lentil soup with cilantro and crispy shallot garnish Posted by Hello

What do you know! It worked... Anyway, that's it for kitchen time at school this week. Next week we move on to sauces. Tomorrow we do FoodSafe, and I really need to get cracking on my research projects. An essay is due tomorrow as well which I really struggled with. A very sweet person helped me edit it and also helped bolster my confidence in my own ability. If you are reading this, thank you!

Monday, April 11, 2005

Consommé and Minestrone

Monday morning, back to school. I stayed up late last night, trying to study for Monday's (2) quizzes, but there is so much information to cover. I already know that I screwed up one question - as soon as we were finished it hit me. Doh! Anyway, moving on to more fun and exciting stuff -- cooking!!
We were split into new kitchen groups by Chef Soren. I ended up in a group of three this time -- two guys and me. Our projects for the day were to make a consommé and a Minestrone. Half the class made veal consommé and the other half made chicken. We were a chicken group. I'll warn everyone now, I forgot to whip out the camera at the appropriate moments, so there will be no photos today. We also made a gorgeous Minestrone with pancetta added to it. Our consommé came out beautiful and clear and the Minestrone was fresh tasting and hearty. We all got to sit down to a lunch of our soups before cleaning the kitchen. Wonderful!
The other exciting thing I have to share -- this weekend, I received my birthday present from my bosses.

Beautiful, isn't it? It came with a lovely sweet note and a lucky penny. The handle is rosewood, the blade is high carbon surgical steel. I almost cried when I saw it.

Saturday, April 09, 2005

Putting it all Together

This is something I am going to try on a weekly basis: putting what I learned in school to work at home, see whether I can duplicate classroom successes. This week, I learned about stocks, so I decided to make a brown chicken stock, putting together the two techniques I learned. I started off by roasting the chicken carcasses and chopping my mirepoix, as well as making up my bouquet garni.

Once the chicken came out of the oven, I popped it in the stock pot, covered it with cold water and started simmering. While the chicken simmered, I browned the mirepoix in the roasting pan, adding tomato paste at the end. Then I removed the caramelised mirepoix, deglazed the pan and set all that good stuff aside until the water with the carcasses came to a simmer. All the while, I am skimming the chicken broth, getting rid of the gross bits. Once the chicken came to a simmer, I added the mirepoix and the bouquet garni and set it all to simmer for 3 hours.

When the 3 hours was up, I strained the stock through cheesecloth, cooled it down fast in the sink and transferred it to a large jar. It came up looking very nice. Perhaps a little more cloudy than I woudl have liked, but I intend to ask Chef Soren about that on Monday. All in all, a success and far more enjoyable than writing my essay for Dimensions!

Thursday, April 07, 2005


Okay, I promised I would talk about homework - there is a heck of a lot of it! In fact, i am taking a break from it to write this.
My homework from the first day was to read and absorb 3 chapters of my textbook, write out two recipes (chicken stock and brown stock), practice cutting flour and work on my Journal. Homework assigned on day 2, not due until next Monday, was to research and type up 24 vocabulary terms, type up two recipes (consomme and minestrone soup), read one more chapter of the textbook, practice knife cuts, particularily tourne, work on my journal and prepare for a small test on Monday.
Homework from yesterday seemed like an insane amount, but some of it isn't due right away. We have to write an essay on "The Holy Trinity" which is necessary for success in the food industry. We will discover what this holy trinity is by reading a couple chapters of "Becoming a Chef" - which I highly reccomend as good reading (and recipe) material for anyone interested in the food industry. We also need to start work on our research projects - mine is on Capsicum, and also on our group projects - I get to look at economic changes in Vancouver in the last 20 years and the possible effect on restaurant trends.....
On that note, I should get back to my reading...

Wednesday, April 06, 2005


Our Wednesday morning class is Dimensions of Culinary, whatever that means. As far as I can tell, it is a mix of accounting, communications and food history - or, as the Chef Instructor described it, "How to be more than just a cook". I have to admit, i am enjoying it so far. The majority of people in my class moaned and groaned and wished that we could just be cooking, but I am really looking forward to having a more academic slant to things. Of course, there was nothing exciting to take pictures of, so Wednesday's will probably be a photo free day.
This particular class, I was so sick. I seem to have come down with the worst cold/chest infection and I was really doped up in the hopes that Chef Julian wouldn't notice, as they send anyone who is visibly sick home. Something were a blur, but i think I paid attention to enough of the lesson. We were assigned two major projects, one solo, one group, due at the end of June. My solo project is on the Capsicum family and my group project is on Restaurants. Restaurants is such a huge topic that my group decided to pare it down a bit and we are hoping to look at how social and economic factors drive food trends in Vancouver's restaurant industry.
After class, i came home and fell asleep (1:00 in the afternoon), just barely waking up in time to go down and get my knives engraved with my name. Just in case.

Thursday's topic will be the homework aspect of this course.

Tuesday, April 05, 2005

Thank you

I just wanted to throw in a quick thank you to everyone for all their positive comments. Its nice to know I am not talking to myself . Any recipes may take a while as I am a slow typist....


Day two of school was stocks. Lucky me, this is something I actually know a little about! Same groups as yesterday - two girls I met on the first day plus a new guy who had missed the first day of school. We had to make brown veal stock and regular chicken stock, and were given the recipes yesterday as homework. Of course, the chef gave us an arbitrary amount of bones, so we had to mathematically challenge ourselves and rewrite the recipe with the new amounts. Thankfully, my math didn't abandon me, even though it has been about 7 years since the last math class. Once amounts were figured out, we fired the veal bones in the oven at 450F and started chopping our mirepoix - the vegetable part of the stock. Well, I organised the vegetables with half our table and the other half got to peel skin off of raw chicken backs and necks. After we finished roasting our bones, the veal bones went into one enourmous stock pot and we started caramelising our mirepoix for the brown stock only - chicken mirepoix does not get browned unless you are making a brown stock.

We kept stirring that huge tray of vegetables until they started to turn all lovely and brown, then we stirred in tomato paste, browned some more, removed all the veggies and deglazed the pan. It looked and smelled SO good. In the end, everybody's roasted bones and veggies went in two huge pots with bouquet garni and simmered away the rest of the day.

We also made a wonderful chicken stock, but I was too busy cutting finicky little pieces of carrot to take a picture of it.
Yes, we had to measure little 3mm x 3mm x 5cm sticks of carrots, and some of those we turned into little tiny cubes. We also had to learn and demonstrate paysanne, batonne and tourne. I can't find a good link to a definition of the last two, so you'll have to trust me when I tell you it is darn fiddly. I keep getting cramps in my arm from holding a stick of zucchini and trying to turn it into a seven sided barrel shape. Or I should say SEVERAL sticks of zucchini. It took me a while to get it right. Theory class was all about soups, so I got to pretend I was smart in that one too. The best part is, our homework from today isn't due until next week! Tomorrow will be two classroom based classes and next Monday we get to make soup in the kitchens.

Monday, April 04, 2005

First full Day

Today was my first full day of school. I forgot to take my camera, but it seems that my pictures aren't co-operating anyway.. I did get permission from the chef to take pictures during class, so if I can get everything to work - including my brain, I should be able to share some pictures.

It started out as a beautiful morning as I trekked across the bridge to school. Managed to score a locker in the postage-stamp of a changing room, then got all dressed up in my chef's outfit. Its hard not to feel a little self-conscious when you are wearing what feels like a costume, but everyone else looked as goofy as me, so it was ok.
Class started with an hour long talk. I started to realize that this whole sitting thing is really hard to get used to. I spend most of my days on my feet at least 8 hours of the day. After about 40 minutes of sitting, I had to stand. Fortunately, we are at work stations which are about counter height and I am short, so you couldn't really tell.
After the talk, came more talk - describing the knife kit, piece by piece.
Then came the fun parts. We were given ten minutes to set up our station in a perfect, regimented style, which I won't go into detail about, as it can be a little boring.
Cutting. Yes, we got to bring out the big chef's knife and cut.......flour!! After an hour of cutting flour, I was feeling very insecure. I'll be practicing that one at home.
Then we cleaned and cleaned and cleaned. We had to scrub the kitchens from top to bottom before we were given homework and dismissed for a half hour lunch.
After lunch, on Mondays and Tuesdays, I will be having a theory class. This is taught in a classroom, not in a kitchen, and involves taking copious amounts of notes. We were also given our textbook which weighs 6 pounds ( I just weighed it) but has nice shiny pictures. And homework. I spent a solid 4 hours doing homework tonight...
I managed to squeeze in some cooking at home: Crockpot chicken with lemon, fennel and dill. And it occurs to me as I type this - I forgot to add the dill! Also made polenta and Multibean Salad, which will be my lunch for the next several days.
Hopefully, I will be able to include pictures next time. And I can promise some actual cooking at school - stocks tomorrow.

Friday, April 01, 2005

That's right. Today was the day. I was so excited, I couldn't sleep in this morning, lying awake, counting the hours till orientation... I didn't take any pictures at the school as I was too nervous, but as soon as I got home, out came the camera. I picked up my uniform today and my knife kit, along with the reams of student paperwork.

Look at all those beautiful knives - all mine....
I also got to meet some of my fellow students and my chef instructors. The head che instructor is a very young english (ish) guy, Chef Julian. Very exuberant, cheerful approachable, nothing like the stereotype of "Chef". The other Chef I met was Chef Soren, and older, swedish giant of a man. Although he has a sense of humour, he came across as a little sterner and more serious.
My class seems to be a healthy mix of ages. The first person I met was a girl fresh out of High school, with green(!?) mascara. The second person I met was an English woman about my age. The men seem to outnumber the women by two to one. It never occurred to me that i was trying to enter a male dominated field....
Anyone, that is all for today. The real stuff starts at 8 on Monday morning....