2 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1 tsp salt
4 TB sugar
1 cup of butter (2 sticks)
6 TB iced water
10 strawberies, cleaned, quartered
1/2 cup blueberries
2 stalks of rhubarb, cut into 1/2 inch slices, or 1 cup of rhubarb pieces.
1 lemon, juice of
2 Granny Smith apples, peeled, cored, cut into 1/2inch cubes
1 cup white sugar
1/3 cup of flour
1 tsp cinnamon
1 T butter, cubed.
1 egg and a TB of milk/cream, mixed for egg wash
CRUST: Use store-bought crust if you don’t want to make your own, but it’s pretty easy. Combine flour, salt, sugar, and the two cold sticks of butter in a food processor and pulse till the butter is pea sized shaped (I use a manual pastry blender, but I’m old school). Now by hand, add 4TB of the ice water, mixing with a fork, adding the next 2BT slowly if needed. If you can crunch the dough in your fist and and it holds together it got enough water. If not add another tablespoon or two. Make two hockey pucks of the dough (one a bit bigger), wrap in plastic and refrigerate for an hour (up to 48 hours). Remove from fridge 30 min before using.
THE PIE: Roll out the larger disc and line pie plate. Use a fork to puncture holes (this is called scoring) all over the bottom, to prevent air bubbles and ensure even heating.
FILLING: Prep berries and rhubarb and put in large bowl. In a separate bowl, add lemon juice. Peel, core and dice the apples adding to the lemon juice as you go (so the apples don’t brown). Add the apples and juice to the berries. Add sugar, flour, cinnamon. Mix slowly until uniform. Fill pie.
Roll out smaller dough disk and cover the pie. Make 5 slits for air holes. Paint crust with egg wash. Bake at 350F for 45-50 minutes, until crust is golden.
– crust: substitute half of the butter with lard (even more flakier)
– filling: substitute half of white sugar with brown sugar (deeper sweetness)
– filling: add tsp of ground cloves (slightly more mature tasting)
– filling: add tsp of nutmeg (slightly more mature tasting)
Today we combine our series revolving around the St. Lawrence Market in Toronto and our visit to Chef Pietro’s restaurant Monte’s in New York. You may remember his clam dish that was featured a few posts back. I got him to show me the dish again hands on his kitchen, and he shared a very cool tidbit: “When the clams start to open, pry them open, don’t wait till they fully open, or they will be slightly over done”. Very cool.
Upcoming tidbits will include sea asparagus, escarole, and other cool greens. See you soon. Don’t forget to make any suggestions for upcoming shows and to also order your Kitchen Tidbits if you haven’t already done so – all proceeds go to Nikibasika youth project in Uganda.
Lavender is a unique taste – infuse honey with it and drizzle over baked peaches (see recipe below)
Infuse cream with lavender, and add to profiteroles
Infuse an icing (icing sugar + milk) with lavender, and drizzle on top of pastries
Happy Thanksgiving (in Canada) everyone. Today is a quick baked peach recipe with only 7 ingredients but that tastes amazing. I fancy it up with a touch of lavender. I like lavender as a taste, but you can only use a bit of it or your dishes ended up tasting like fancy hand soap. Apparently there is culinary lavender, but I can never find it, so I just buy the dried lavender sprigs and use the seeds. The stems are aromatic too.
(if you don’t do the lavender stuff, it’ll still taste amazing)
1/3 cup liquid honey
16 sprigs of dried lavender (8 for the seeds, 8 for decoration)
4 peaches, cut in half
Cinnamon sugar (combine 1tsp cinnamon and 2 tbsp of white sugar)
½ Tbsp butter per peach half
1 tsp brown sugar per peach half
Infuse liquid honey with lavender by taking 1/3 cup of pourable honey and adding the seeds from 8 dried lavender sprigs. Zap in the microwave for 30 secs, or heat in a saucepan and put aside.
Cut peaches in half, remove stone and carve out a small cavity in each half. Put lavender sprigs on bottom of baking tray and add peach halves cut side up.
Add to each peach ½ tbsp of butter, 1 tsp of brown sugar, and a sprinkle of the cinnamon sugar mixture.
Bake at 375F for 30mins. Remove, and drizzle honey (try not to include too many lavender seeds) on each peach. Decorate with a sprig of lavender. Voila!
I’m so excited, my book, Kitchen Tidbitsis now available through Amazon! The book is filled with the tips and tricks that I picked up while studying at the International Culinary School in New York City. All proceeds from the book are being donated to the Nikibasika Development Program in Uganda.
Thank you, thank you, thank you to my amazing teachers and classmates who taught me so much.
I’m currently testing recipes for Joanne Moscani-Piano’s father, and one of the recipes is his popular clam dish (Vongole Posillipo). The full recipe will be out in his cookbook, but it’s one of those wonderful “seven ingredient” recipes: evo, garlic, clams, plum tomatoes, oregano, pepper, parsley. Yum. You can serve this over pasta as well.
Why don’t some clams open: Clams are alive when you put them in the pot and are aggressively holding their shells shut. During the cooking they die and stop holding the shells together so they open. If they don’t, then they were dead before (and probably rotten) and have rigor mortis which holds the shell shut.
4 flavors: very basically, I think of always balancing 4 flavors: sweet, sour, salt, pepper. More on flavor profiles to come, but I find this to be one of the most fundamental things about cooking:
Sweet: e.g. onions, carrots, sugar, maple syrop
Sour: e.g. balsamic, lemon, tomatoes
Salt: e.g. anchovies, parmesan, bacon, kosher salt
Pepper: e.g. dijon, thai chili, tabasco, red pepper flakes, pepper
Don’t add salt to a clam dish. The salt water released by the clams will be salty enough. In fact, Chef Pietro recommends diluting with a little water to take down the salt profile.
What secret ingredient do you use for sweet, sour, salt, pepper?
“Order” – you can start preparing the food, but don’t cook it.
“Fire” – ok, cook the food and plate it.
“All day” – how many orders+fires do we have of a particular dish.
It was my fourth day at JoJo today. I was helping Matt prep for, and then, help execute the Garde Manger station. This week is a slow week (until Valentines Day) so there weren’t that many “covers”. Covers are customers. Culinary school prepped me well for the lingo about utensils in the kitchen, as well as technical terms of preparation (e.g. concasser these tomatoes), but it doesn’t really teach you about the “execution lingo”. The main three terms I’m coming across so far are “order”, “fire”, and “all day”. For instance when I was working the meat station, an order would come in for “two veals”, this meant that a table had ordered them, but the expediter is saying “don’t start cooking them yet” because they are probably having a salad or soup. So I would take two veal cutlets out of the fridge, flour-egg-panko them getting them ready for cooking, start heating all the garnitures, but not actually cook the veal. Then when I hear “fire two veals”, I would start cooking the veal and plate them right away. It seems straight forward, but then when 3 more veals come in and two them are “fire”, it opens up the possibility for a mis-understanding (is that a new order that is “fire”, or is that firing up the old orders?). The term “all day” helps with this. “How many veals have we got all day” – this means the combined total of the two – i.e. how many veals outstanding are there in total? Because so much is new to me, I lose track pretty quickly, so I need a quick reset to make sure I’m on top of things and have the right number of dishes going.
The highlights of the day are definitely when I get to taste the food. Every so often Remi will bring over a sauce or a small dish of something and it’s always heaven. The lobster risotto, the champagne vinaigrette, the ginger coriander saffron chicken sauce, and the truffle creamed potatoes to mention just a few.
Because it was slow today, we had the unusual task of doing prep for tonight/tomorrow at the same time as manning the stations, so yes, I was cutting and peeling mushrooms, peeling potatoes, popping out endamame beans (see main pic for where those end up), peeling garlic. I had to remember to change my gloves when preparing a dessert dish (can’t have garlic smelling almond cakes!). One cool prep I did on the weekend was making ravioli courtesy of Remi’s instruction. This is an example of where simplicity makes a great dish. The raviolis are stuffed with just a small leaf of mint, a small leaf of basil, and ricotta. This tastes amazing when plated over a tomato sauce. The magic comes just before putting the ravioli on the plate. They are swirled in a high end olive oil and salt. Makes it all taste amazing. I’m definitely buying a pasta machine!
I have to admit that I liked the slower pace today, certainly after the craziness of the weekend. The learning curve is probably a tad slower, but the heart attacks are less frequent.
Add grand marnier to your chocolate mousse to make it pop
Add tequila to your lemon tart to make it….you guessed it…pop!
We all made it…yahoo!!!!!!! Congrats to everyone!!!!!!
Today was the dreaded final practical exam. We all arrived early but were locked out of the kitchen until the official start time. What were the required dishes going to be? We all peered through the kitchen windows trying to figure it out. There were apples on some of the trays so the apple tart was definitely one of them (good sign), but we couldn’t be sure of anything else. At 9am we all walked in and could see on the board we were either going to get apple-skate or pork-poached egg. Phew, no lemon tart. We each picked a number out of the hat (I got C5 which meant I was doing the skate-apple tart at 12.43 and 1.39pm …..yes, the stars we aligning, this was the easier combination and wasn’t the first start time. Plus my station was on the oven side for the first time and by the sink (these are all things that make it easier).
The first part of today’s exam was the recipe test. We were given a blank piece of paper and told to write down the full recipe for the skate grenobloise. After handing this in, we were given another blank piece of paper and were given 10 minutes to look at our books and write down anything we wanted about our dishes. I wrote down all the ingredients, measurements, and oven temperatures for both dishes. And then we were off……I had till 12.43 to carry a completed tray of 4 skate dishes across the hall to the judges, which I thought was plenty of time but it turned out I only made it by 30 seconds. I had my plan of attack pretty clear in my head: tart dough first, then the tart compote, do the first pass on the potato cocottes, fillet the skate, make the croutons, roll out the dough, butter and bake the tart, fine chop the parsley, prepare the mise for the brown butter Grenoble sauce (butter, lemon supremes, lemon juice, capers), qc and second pass on the cocottes and then boil them, sauté the skate, make the brown butter sauce, plate and deliver the skate, pick my mint garnishes, whip the crème Chantilly, apricot glaze the cooled apple tart, plate and deliver the tarts! I was a bit nervous about my dishes, but Chef Dominique had tasted my skate and said that it was very good which brought down my apprehension level a bit. I thought my tart dough was a bit too crunchy, but it turned out Chef Hervé likes a crunchy tart dough so that all worked out. After we were all finished, we were called in one at a time and told by the judges how we did. My potatoes were cocotted very well but weren’t quite hot enough, and my plating assembly could have been better, but overall I did pretty well. I took the opportunity to have a good conversation with Chef Hervé about which alcohols to put in various desserts which was fun.
After we were all done, we all did high fives, but it was a bittersweet celebration. This was the last day of classes and we are all separately off to do our externships for the next two months and aren’t going to see each other until our final written exam in April. (After our externships are over, we come back to school for one day to write a final written exam and make a presentation about our externship.)
We all went to Toad Hall to celebrate with Chef Dominique and Chef Joe afterwards which was a lot of fun. Tequilas all round!!!!! Congratulations to everyone, I’m going to miss you all!!!!!!!!
Of course, the entire day would have been a disaster had it not been for a pigeon. I got home yesterday so exhausted that I didn’t set my alarm properly so it didn’t go off, but I was woken up at 8.17am by the sound of a pigeon at our window. Had it not been for that pigeon I would have slept right through the morning exam for sure.
Moving forward, I’m planning to write about all our experiences at our various externships, the tips we’re each learning at our various restaurants, and then what we’re going to do culinarily afterwards. The adventure continues….
Tomorrow is the day that all of Level 4 has been leading up to. We start 30mins earlier (we all had to sign a sheet okaying this), walk in, pick a number out of a hat which will tell us what and when we’re going to be tested on.
If we pick “A” Garde Manger (salads & soups) + Saucier (meats) then we will have to cook on one of
1) Consomme Printanier
2) Poached Eggs
3) Salade Nicoise
plus one of
1) Pork Chops
2) Chicken Grand Mere
3) Beef Bourguignon
If we pick “B” Poissonier (fish) + Patissier (desserts) then we will have to cook on one of
1) Sautéed Skate Grenoble
2) Striped Bass Papillote
3) Grilled Salmon with White Wine Herb Sauce
plus one of
1) Apple Tart
3) Lemon Tart
The easiest combo for me is definitely the skate + apple tart, but who knows what combo chef has in store for us. Time to start reviewing these recipes.
After school on Friday I had my “trail” at JoJo Restaurant, Jean-George’s first New York restaurant. It was totally trial by fire. I first did some prep, but then was quickly put on Linden and Genevieve’s garde-manger station, which meant we were putting together all the salads and the desserts. It was also the last day of “restaurant week”, where hundreds of restaurants have a special “discounted” menu. In Toronto we call the equivalent Winterlicious. What this meant was that JoJo was jam-packed and it was pure craziness in the very small “French style” kitchen, but it also meant that most people were ordering similar items, so for example once I got down the 13 steps required to assemble the carrot salad, I handled those when the orders came in. It was a great learning night, because I was able to add value very quickly. Nevertheless, it was mayhem. Near the end of the evening “Stewart, the chef wants to speak to you downstairs”, Uh oh. I had screwed a couple things up, so I wasn’t sure what to expect. It turns out that Chef Ron felt I was a good fit and offered me the externship which I accepted right away. He said that I could go home if I wanted, but I knew Linden was still under pressure so went straight back to the kitchen to finish the night. Right then a huge wave of orders hit, and so it was back into the mayhem till very very late. It was a very long day. When the last order was filled, the whole kitchen crew all high-fived, but really I was read to collapse……..but what I didn’t realize is that this was just the beginning.
I asked when I could work next…. “how about brunch tomorrow?” So for Saturday and Sunday I worked the full day shift manning the meat station. Saturday was a bit less stressful, because the guy doing the meat station was there showing me the ropes, but on Sunday it was just me on meat, reporting to Remi who was doing all the fish and the eggs and running the show (with mastery I might add). It was supposed to be slow day, but all of a sudden there were 40 more “covers” than expected and a wave of pure panic hit. Plus, there were orders for courses I hadn’t cooked yet just as Remi got swamped. The head chef had to step in and help out. I didn’t do a perfect job and screwed some things up, burnt myself several times, but got through it. It’s a tough place to be in when everything is new, you’re not in control, really under pressure, and making mistakes, but I actually started to gain a little confidence by the end of it. PLUS we were making some pretty fantastic tasting food (more on this to come).
I have my recipes to study for the exam tomorrow and then I’m going to collapse (apparently there’s a superbowl thingie going on today as well). It’s back to JoJo on Tuesday.
Remove the pin bones from your fillet before removing the skin. The skin will keep the fillet in shape while you slightly mangle it trying to remove the pin bones.
When having to drink a shot of green chartreuse on a scavenger hunt, the yellow label will not do. The green one has 130 herbs infused in it.
Even 30g less flour in a shortbread dough will lead to disastrous results.
Even though the chef said “I was proud of the class today”, and “much improved”, this was not the case for me. Today was a complete disaster. I decided to finish the lemon tart before even starting the fish, but I had written down the flour measurement wrong by 30 grams and when I was going to put my dough in the fridge somehow the chef spotted that my dough was light. We weighed it and it was lighter than Emma’s, and not knowing what I did wrong he told me to do it again. I’m not sure what I did wrong the second time, but my dough still came out too sticky, and then subsequently developed a hole that eventually leaked the lemon curd all over. I got a few points for trying to rescue it, but really, it was a total disaster.
All this left me in a panic state for my fish papillotes. I got them into the oven a little late, and figured I’d rather be a few minutes late than serve the chef’s raw fish. But it was still undercooked. It really was my worst day out of the 75 days. Linda got high marks for having the best tart for two days in a row.
We only have two more day to go, which is sooooooo depressing, we really have all bonded as a great group and I’m going to miss seeing everyone every day.
After school, Dalal organized a scavenger hunt. Ray and I were team red. Dalal had us running all over the city snapping pictures doing crazy things with crazy people drinking a crazy amount of beer (and green chartreuse yuck). One of the pictures we had to snap was doing a snow angel. Unfortunately there isn’t any snow left in New York so we bought a huge bag of flour, spilled it on the ground and Ray made a snow angel. Among the hundreds of pics some other memorable shots include Joe and Chef Ben with the New York skyline, Meagan’s “flexible” picture, Emma’s shot “by the water”, and everyone seducing a business man stranger.Thank you Dalal for an amazing event.
I have my trail (job interview) at JoJo’s tomorrow afternoon, so I’d better get sharpening my knives.
When zesting a lemon, turn the lemon as you move down the zester. This insures you get just the outer zest (no bitter rind), and is much faster (courtesy of Erik).
Peel your celery before making a julienne of it – this removes those tough-to-eat fibers leaving a delicious flavor.
In making a dramatic centerpiece, the base should be an absolute maximum width of 2/3rds the height and ideally less (courtesy of Jacques).
Today we flip-flopped, which meant I was now doing the Striped Bass Papillote plus the Lemon Tart. The lemon tart had been proving very difficult for many people, but I was semi-confident I was going to be able to pull it off first time…..WRONG! I got my dough and blind baking done quickly, but then a fish interrupted.
The fish papillote is an amazing-tasting dish because there is such a melding of different delicate flavors. It consists of a bass fillet served over a tomato compote (sweated onions, garlic, tomatoes, thyme, bay leaf, s&p), and a mushroom duxelles (sweated shallots, mushrooms, lemon juice, thyme, bay leaf, s&p), and then covered with julienned and par-cooked carrots, julienned leaks, julienned peeled celery, a dash of white wine and thyme, and then baked/steamed in a parchment bag sealed with egg wash. The bag puffs up, and the diner cuts into it at the table releasing all the delicious odors. It really is delicious. I filleted the bass and got this all done just in time to plate for the chefs….but…..I hadn’t made my lemon curd for the tart, and it should have been in the oven by now. Yikes.
I patiently listened to the chef’s comments about my fish dish and then literally ran back to make my lemon curd. It was hopeless. I had 40 minutes to do about 90 minutes work, i.e. to zest and juice 5 lemons, let the zest infuse the juice, mix 5 eggs and sugar, whip, add cream and lemon juice, whip, fill the tart shell, bake for 25min, cool on a rack, decorate the plates and present. Pablo and I were in exactly the same situation. We cranked the temp on the oven a bit, and then I ran my tart over to the open window to try and rapid cool it. No chance. I had to present it warm. I made a fancy frozen lemon peel garnish (a trick Diana showed me) which I hoped might get me a point or two. Nope. “Next time you start your tart earlier!”. I think most us under-performed the chefs’ expectations “I was expecting more”. Tomorrow will be better. Both dishes today tasted great and were a welcome change from the heavy Bourguignon.
After class Jacques Torres (Mr. Chocolate) demoed the making of a fantastical chocolate centerpiece, tempering chocolate, and letting us taste various chocolate fabrications. The highlight taste was definitely the chocolate covered cinnamon plus praline (almond, caramel, hazelnut) bonbon. Unexpectedly, key tools for a chocolatier include a laser thermometer, a hair dryer, and those compressed air pressure thingies you use to clean your keyboard. The laser thermometer to make sure your chocolate stays just below 90F or it will loose its temper, a hair dryer to slightly heat a bowl of chocolate when needed, and an air duster to ‘weld’ chocolate pieces together by instantly cooling the melted chocolate you used to join two pieces of chocolate together.
To keep your Hollandaise hot, put it in a thermos (courtesy of Diana Colman)
3 times – this seems to be the magic number of times that ‘most’ of us need to really nail a dish, unless you’re A2.
When pressing the final roll of fettuccine through the pasta roller, I have found it is best to keep the strands all aligned (don’t let them curl up). This way you can lay them out flat to dry and won’t stick to each other. You can also see if there are any that fail ‘quality control’ and bin them.
I humbly accept defeat to the poached eggs dish. I find it so frustrating that every little diner in the city can serve up a nice poached egg with a ‘hollandaise’, and after three days I still can’t nail it. Ugh!
It was the class’s third day doing our recipes, and judging by the comments by the chefs at the end of the day (“Today was a nice improvement”), most of us did much better, though the chef’s didn’t hold back when the improvement wasn’t there. It was another mock final exam, which meant we all picked a number out of a hat (mine was A4) and plate according to the schedule on the board. At the end of the day the chefs go over their assessments, but for the past two times they’ve only said the number, not the person’s name. So you hear the comments, but aren’t exactly sure whom they’re talking about. I think I like it better when you hear the names, you’re able to give high-fives to those that do well, and also you know who to watch in the kitchen, and we all know each other pretty well by now that we can take the criticism publicly.
Anyway, when time came around to rate number A4 (me), the comments weren’t so good on the poached eggs. “The hollandaise didn’t cover the eggs fully”, “not enough vegetables”, “the vegetables were caramelized”, “could be warmer”. Ugh!!! It was super-frustrating because I knew I had slightly burnt the vegetables when trying to heat them up, and one egg I didn’t fully cover (the one chef picked), and I’m definitely going to bring in a thermos to try Diana’s trick to keep the Hollandaise hot. But then a nice surprise. The chef said “I don’t want to mention who this is because it will end up on a blog, but the beef was really outstanding with the best sauce. Really outstanding”. I was blushing all over because everyone knew it was me, and so I got a whole bunch of high fives. This is what its all about I guess! The “plates of the day” went to A2, which was Joe. The chef said you know you have an excellent plate when “you don’t want to stop eating it”. Congrats Joe.
Later, several people came up to taste my sauce and/or ask what I did differently. Today I was totally focused on getting the consistency of the sauce perfect because yesterday it was too thick and on the first day it was too thin. Today I knew I had nailed the consistency, which means the flavor is more likely to be right. But I really didn’t have an answer for any “magic”. What I do know is that I love this dish a lot. Maybe all you need is love.