Tuesday, October 28, 2008

the dreaded chicken and dinner for two

I have been dreading my poultry fabrication class since I started culinary school. Something about chicken really irks me. I'm very reluctant to order it in restaurants, I don't cook it much at home and I'm just not a big fan of it.

So....last night was poultry fab! Haha, it really wasn't that bad. We started off by learning how to fab the whole chicken into eight pieces...I got to break the backbone...then we used all eight pieces for our dishes of the night. We split into teams (as usual) and prepared:

Braised bone-in, skin-on chicken breast
Duchess potatoes

Poached chicken tarragon with steamed rice

Braised chicken thighs with curry vegetables, toasted almonds and steamed rice

Fried chicken wings with gravy
Salad of our choice

I was in charge of the fried chicken with gravy and the salad.

For the salad, I decided on a spinach salad with red onion, crumbled bacon, bleu cheese and candied orange peel with an orange vinaigrette (orange juice, lemon juice, orange zest, olive oil, vinegar, salt and pepper)

I dredged the fried chicken in buttermilk and seasoned flour then pan-fried it. After about 10 minutes frying on both sides, I finished it in the oven. Our team did really well this week...much better than meat fabrication. Maybe chickens aren't so bad after all...

Sunday night I went on a shopping rampage at Central Market...probably due to my depression of the weekend ending and my boyfriend flying back to Nashville. I wouldn't say it was compulsive shopping, but I was definitely just picking up what looked good.
Tonight I made dinner for my roommate and I. The menu was:

Brussel sprouts sauteed in a pecan butter
Blanch the brussel sprouts in boiling salted water for 4-5 minutes then transfer to an ice bath. Set aside.
Chop pecans and toast in a dry pan for a few minutes.
Add a few tablespoons of butter to the pecans and melt. Add brussel sprouts, salt and pepper if desired.
Saute to desired texture.

Roasted butternut squash with crispy sage
Half a butternut squash and scoop seeds out.
Cut inards into uniform chunks and arrange in a single layer on a baking sheet.
Drizzle with olive oil, a couple tablespoons of brown sugar, sea salt and chiffonade sage.
Roast at 350, turning often, for about 20 minutes.
Garnish with leftover sage.

Grilled ginger-garlic flank steak with caramelized shallots
I seasoned my flank steak with salt and marinated it with a ginger-garlic sauce from Central Market- so easy .
Heat your grill pan at medium-high heat. When water sizzles on the pan, add some olive oil and your steak.
Cook to desired doneness rotating at 45 degrees for hatch marks. I cooked mine at medium rare, about 6 minutes on each side.
When steak is cooked, transfer to a plate and let rest. In the same pan, add olive oil, white wine and sliced shallots to create a pan sauce. When meat has rested, slice against the grain and garnish with sauteed shallots.

CM wheat rolls

The finished product is to the right. A culinary school friend of mine suggested I take pictures of everything I cook for my blog...great idea! Happy eating everyone!

Monday, October 20, 2008

meat fab and the weekend I gained 20 pounds

Last week was a perfect week- I was off work for two days, my boyfriend was coming in for the weekend and we were road tripping together to go to Austin.

I also had a week of wonderful dining out and cooking. Monday morning began it all...

After a morning of Starbucks (hot green tea), Target and the bank, I met Cat at Central Market for lunch. I love the sandwich bar- so much to choose from.

I went for smoked turkey on sunflower bread (not on the menu but ask for it) with dijonnaise, provolone, cucumber, lettuce, tomato and avocado. I grabbed a side of pineapple and grapes and I was good to go.

Mine was tasty and simple but Cat's was definitely better...so pretty I had to take a picture. She got the oven-roasted turkey on ciabatta with an olive relish, sprouts, lettuce, tomato, oil and red wine vinegar. She also opted for fresh berries and blueberry lemonade. We sat outside...too beautiful to be stuck inside- great Monday.

Last Monday night was culinary class- meat fabrication. For me, it was a complete disaster. Maybe I'm just too hard on myself, but traditional beef recipes are just not my style. Within my group of three, we made:

Meatloaf with roasted garlic mashed potatoes and a horseradish, Worcestershire and ketchup glaze

Traditional beef stew with turnips, carrots and potatoes

Stuffed pork chops with a demi-glace

Pork shish kabobs with plum tomatoes, purple onions and rice pilaf

I was in charge of the beef stew, the rice pilaf for the shish kabobs and plating everything. The beef was tender, the vegetables were bright and the broth had good flavor but the stew never thickened to the right point, nor were the vegetables tender enough. The rice pilaf turned out ok. Sometimes the simplest things to cook at home are the most difficult to cook when you are in a industrial kitchen. So, in a nutshell...meat fabrication week was not my shining moment.

Thursday evening, my boyfriend Jared flew in from Nashville! By the time we got back from Love Field, most restaurants were closed so we hit up Boomer Jacks for some drinks and bar food.

Friday morning, we drove through Starbucks for a couple of hazelnut lattes, then headed to Austin to meet my Mom and my girlfriend Tyler for lunch at Blue Star Cafe. Amongst an appetizer of chicken quesadillas, we shared an Asian chicken salad, tarragon chicken salad sandwich, a maple-mustard turkey sandwich and a lemon cupcake. We returned to my parents house later for a quiet afternoon.

We had the whole family over for a Friday night cook-out. I was in charge of hors d'oeuvres, salad, sides and dessert (with my trusty sous chef, Jared) and Father James (good friend of the family) prepared the entree. The menu was:

Assorted beer and wine (La Crema chardonnay, Prosecco, Dos Equis and Shiner)

Roasted cashews with rosemary and cayenne

Roast unsalted cashews in a pan for a few minutes then toss with a few tablespoons of melted butter, minced rosemary and a few dashes of cayenne.
Garnish with a rosemary sprig in a pretty bowl.

Zucchini and shallot flat bread

Pre-made pizza dough is your best friend here- either get it raw from a pizza place or you can get the "dough in a can" stuff.
I rolled the dough into a rectangle, brushed the dough with olive oil and sprinkled fresh Parmigiano-Reggiano, salt and pepper on top.
Top with thinly sliced zucchini and shallots.
Cook on 350 for about 15 minutes.
If the edges get too dark, cover with foil until the inside is fully cooked.
Cut into squares and serve on a rectangular tray or platter.

Arugula salad with fresh figs, crumbled asiago, toasted walnuts and a honey-garlic vinaigrette

Make the dressing...combine champagne vinegar, minced garlic, salt, pepper and honey and whisk in your extra virgin olive oil. I always eyeball my dressing proportions. If you do it and it tastes too much like vinegar, add oil...too oily, add an acid. Set dressing aside.
Toast your walnuts in a dry pan for a few minutes, slice figs and "crumble" your asiago wedge by taking off small chunks with a kitchen knife.
Toss all ingredients together with dressing, carefully not to bruise the figs. Garnish with more figs, asiago and walnuts on top.

Roasted new potatoes with rosemary

This doesn't get any easier. Slice red potatoes into uniform chunks (1.5 in x 1.5 in).
Arrange potatoes in a single layer on an edged baking sheet and drizzle with olive oil, salt and freshly-ground pepper. Toss to evenly coat.
Roast at 350 for about 45 minutes (make sure you toss the potatoes around throughout cooking time and add minced rosemary halfway through to prevent rosemary from burning).
Serve on a large platter with string beans and chicken.

Haricot verts sauteed with butter and shallots

Snap the ends off the beans and blanch beans in boiling water for 3-4 minutes.
Immediately transfer to an ice bath to stop residual cooking and maintain pretty green color.
In a pan, heat olive oil and butter then add sliced shallots to saute.
After the shallots have become translucent, add the beans and coat evenly with the fat.
Add salt, freshly ground pepper and more butter if desired.
Saute until the beans are at your desired crispness.

Grilled chicken (marinated in a fig-chipotle sauce) stuffed with grilled portabellos, sun-dried tomatoes, prosciutto and goat cheese

I didn't make this one...but it looked pretty simple to to do.
Marinate boneless skinless chicken breasts in whatever sauce your desire. We used a fig-chipotle marinade.
Meanwhile, marinate two portabello mushrooms caps with olive oil, balsamic vinegar, salt and pepper.
Grill both the chicken and mushrooms (only par-cook the chicken. After you stuff it, it will finish in the oven)
Butterfly each chicken breast and stuff with sliced, grilled portabello mushroom, a slice of prosciutto di parma, a pat of goat cheese, and a couple of oil-soaked sun-dried tomatoes (the oil from the tomatoes will keep the stuffing moist)
Transfer stuffed chicken to the oven until breasts are fully cooked through

Apple tart with cinnamon and lemon zest

My mom and I would always make this on the weeknights when I was in high school. It is so simple and tastes homemade.
You can either bake your own apples until softened or use frozen apples. We baked them.
After the apples are baked and cooled, combine with cinnamon, sugar and lemon zest.
Using a refrigerated pie crust, spoon in apple mixture and fold residual dough over to seal the filling in.
Top with an egg wash and turbinado sugar for crunch.
Bake at 350 until dough is golden brown.
Slice and serve warm with homemade whipped cream or vanilla-bean ice cream.

Homemade brownies (a la my grandmother, Becca)

Everything turned out delicious and disappeared within minutes. After dinner, a group of us headed to Kenichi for some sake and Sapporo.

Saturday morning, my mom and I made breakfast for the boys while they were glued to watching football.

We made really simple migas:
Cut corn tortillas into slices, saute with a bit of oil until crispy
In a separate pan, saute onions and red peppers until softened, add beaten eggs and season with salt and pepper
When eggs are cooked, fold in tortilla strips and top with shredded cheese. Cover pan to melt cheese.
Serve with salsa and fresh avocado slices.

Saturday night, Jared, Megan, David and i went to the Covey for dinner. The boys opted for beer (Texas Wheat, Weiner Bock, Amber Ale) and Megan and I split a bottle of Pinot Grigio. Once again, we were starving so we ordered way too much (and ate it all). To begin, we split a southwestern Greek salad with sweet peppers, feta and a hummus crouton. Next, we ordered the Ta-Tanka pizza (shaved bison, spicy Asian dressing, caramelized onions, fresh mozzarella and cilantro). It was SO delicious...perfect flavor combination. The pizza usually comes with roasted red peppers but I substituted them for the onions and cilantro. Try it!

Next, we ordered the blackened halibut tacos with a jalapeno cole slaw and a black bean and corn salsa. The tacos were flavorful and light with the perfect amount of heat. The corn and black bean salad was pretty worthless to me- not much flavor. Finally, we ordered the chocolate souffle served with vanilla bean ice cream. It was warm and gooey and the ice cream was addicting. Perfect dessert to share for an evening out.

Our weekend eating binge ended with Sunday morning brunch at Gloria's...huevos con papas with guacamole- too full to walk.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

cupcakes and a lazy Sunday

This past Tuesday was Cat's 24th birthday and immediately a lunch date was planned. After venturing out to Northeast mall (in the pouring rain) we settled on a tiny French bakery called Vie a Paris! that Cat and her mom frequent.

Between the two of us and a tiny little table we munched on turkey and Swiss and chicken salad croissants with french onion soup, a fruit tart and a vanilla eclair- ooh la la!

Although we had dinner plans later that night at Taverna, we went to P.F. Changs for some pre-dinner drinks. While we sipped our Purple Haze hot sake with Chambord, we put our chopsticks to work on crunchy, chicken lettuce wraps and the lemongrass prawns with garlic noodles- my favorite entree!

For dinner #2, we finally arrived to Taverna and chatted amongst a bottle of Prosecco. The table choices were all tasty: risotto with Parmesan and truffle oil, seafood risotto with mussels, calamari and shrimp and a Gorgonzola and pear filled pasta with pears, arugula and walnuts. The seafood risotto was my favorite...great broth and the calamari was cooked perfectly.

Last night, my roommate and I headed to Winslow's for dinner. I've been a little under the weather all week, so I nursed a glass of Cava while Megan tried the Cava and a Merlot. We split the gambas al ajillo (shrimp in a spicy garlic butter sauce served atop grilled bread and fresh parsley) and cups of the roasted tomato soup with applewood-smoked bacon, creme fraiche and basil oil.

Finally, we split the gnocchi (due to my rave reviews), but it just wasn't as tasty last night. The gnocchi was a little heavier than usual and the pancetta made it too smoky...we still finished it. We skipped dessert because Megan had been on her weekly Cupcake Cottage trip earlier that morning. She had an assortment of mini cupcakes in a pretty, pink box- strawberry, chocolate, cookies and cream and my favorite... traditional white.

Today we grabbed a burger at Dutch's for a lazy, Sunday lunch. I ordered the Texana with avocado (of course) and Swiss...Megan always goes for the queso on her burger. The burgers are always good (a little over0cooked for my taste, but never greasy) and the rolls are always delicious (always fresh and slightly sweet). I'm now spending the rest of my lazy Sunday trying to decide what to cook for dinner tonight!

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Wine galore and the "mystery" basket

I'm so excited the weather is starting to change and fall is on the way...most importantly, fall produce has some of my favorite flavors. Hearty mushrooms, squash, pears, eggplant, juicy figs...all so delicious to me.

Friday night, some girlfriends and I headed to Winslow's Wine Bar for some dinner and drinks. We sat outside on comfy, over sized chairs and enjoyed people watching. We split a Spanish Cava (similar to champagne) and the cheese board complete with an assortment of cheeses: a blue, a mild cheddar and my favorite- a smoked, Spanish cows milk cheese called San Simon. The cheese board came with sliced, Gala apples, pecans, red grapes, an assortment of olives, salted almonds and toasted baguette slices. My friend Jessica ordered the roasted tomato soup- it was rich and hearty.

After hors d'oeuvres, we opted for some red wine- an Australian Shiraz called Woop Woop...and sadly, repeating the name was our entertainment for the rest of the night. For dinner, we split the gnocchi with a butternut squash buerre blanc, chunks of pancetta, sage and trumpet mushrooms. I wanted to lick the sauce from the bowl...I declined.

Tonight we had Week 6 of culinary classes: veggie cookery! I was really excited because there is not a single vegetable I don't like...seriously. We were paired up (my partner was a fellow TCU grad, Jen) and given a "mystery basket" of veggies and we were required to use all of them. Ours contained jicama, rutabaga, fennel, eggplant and collard greens.

In a couple hours, we whipped up:

Tempura-fried rutabaga

(sounds weird but the rutabaga fried beautifully)

Stir-fried purple cabbage, jicama, and broccoli with a ginger, garlic and plum sauce (the exec chefs told us that jicama is a great, fresh substitute for canned water chestnuts...same texture and crunch

Collard greens wilted in bacon fat topped with an over-medium egg and chopped bacon all atop garlic toast

An pan-fried eggplant "Napoleon" with tomatoes, melted Brie and basil oil

Roasted fennel and pears with a brown sugar, butter, ground clove and lemon zest glaze topped with candied orange peel and toasted almonds

After all of the food was critiqued, the instructors made some tempura-fried fritters with pears and apples- delicious! Next week is meat fabrication for all you carnivores!

Sunday, October 5, 2008

hors d'oeuvres and new fall attire

Oh, how do I miss Austin. Last Friday night Megan and I met my mom and her coworker at Hyde Park Grill...a local favorite. The restaurant is located in central Austin's historical Hyde Park- where I grew up. I was craving the steamed dumplings with chicken, ginger, cabbage and carrots. It was accompanied by a spicy Thai sauce that was almost too hot to handle.

After wine and their delicious margaritas were passed around the table, Mom ordered the crispy crab cakes with spiced, roasted sweet potatoes. Megan went for the eggplant sandwich- lightly fried with Gouda and olive tapenade with Hyde Parks' famous buttermilk-dredged french fries and remoulade for dipping. I was in a veggie mood...I ordered the veggie plate with steamed, crisp broccoli, sweet corn and cheese tamales, green chile mashed potatoes and a corn and edamame saute.

During the meal, dessert was the main thing on my mind. We ordered Wom Kim's Peach pudding (my favorite growing up)- a lightly sweetened, warm, airy cake atop ripe peaches served with fresh cream and the banana cream pie with mounds of homemade whipped cream and sliced bananas.

My mom had a "purse" party on Saturday afternoon and Megan and I were in charge of food. Our finger-food menu was:

Bruschetta with fresh garlic, white beans, sun dried tomatoes and chiffonade basil

Watercress salad with roasted cashews, Bosc pears and an Asian vinaigrette
(lime juice, olive oil, fresh cracked pepper and a touch of soy sauce)

Manchego cheese drizzled with a honey brown butter sauce with fresh figs

The party was great and we snacked all afternoon. Around 5 p.m., Megan and I met the "girls" of my family at the legendary El Patio for some nachos and margaritas. There is something about the nachos there that is so addicting. We then hit up Anthropologie on Lamar and 6th for some funky pieces for Fall- I left with an embroidered sweater, satin hoodie, vintage earrings and a cream blouse- mission accomplished.

For dinner, we met my friend Megan Rother and her boyfriend Joel at Cuba Libre on 5th and Colorado. After a pitcher of mojitos, we split a platter of coconut shrimp with a honey sauce, chicken satay with guacamole and veggie empanadas with a saffron sauce. After dinner, we hit up West 6th for some beer, shots and camaraderie.

Sunday morning breakfast was back to basics: scrambled eggs, sausage, blackberries and creme fraiche, cinnamon rolls, orange juice and coffee. We were then off to the Domain to hit up Betsey Johnson, Free People, Barney's and but of course...my home away from home...the makeup counter at Neiman Marcus (my mom and I both share this guilty pleasure). After making friends at the Chantecaille counter...it was back to Fort Worth.