Friday, April 10, 2009

whole salmon and modern Italian

How is it almost May???

Not only is my impending 24th birthday around the corner but Easter has flown by and my second trimester of culinary school is sadly coming to an end. May begins a fresh start with my new apartment, the world of pastry unfolding in front of my eyes and time for me to refocus on future career plans.

Last week we had our seafood class in culinary school and it was a week to remember for me. The class started with a lecture from the head chef about seafood varieties, preparation, safety practices as well as seafood sustainability.

After the lecture, we saw a demo fileting a whole salmon and learned how to boil lobsters. In our remaining couple hours, we had to present at least five complete dishes to be critiqued using any ingredients we pleased. The available fresh seafood to use was orange roughy, halibut, lump crab, sea scallops, whole salmon, American caviar, shrimp, squid and catfish.

My dishes were:

Chilled lump crab salad with citus zest, grapefruit supremes, mint and crispy corn tortilla strips

Fresh grilled salmon with a lime compound butter, herbed white rice and a red jalapeno pan sauce

Hazelnut crusted orange roughy pan-fried with a spinach and asian pear salad with an allspice vinaigrette

Sauteed shrimp linguine with ginger, peas, mint, butter and lemon

Asian lobster salad atop fried baguette crostini (lime, soy, ginger, scallion, fresh boiled lobster, salt)

Sauteed lobster and rice with dill, butter and lemon

Two nights later, my beau and I headed to Austin for the Easter weekend. On Saturday we headed to central Austin for a crawfish boil in honor of my girlfriends birthday. The crawfish, shrimp, potatoes and corn turned out tender, spicy and delicious with a cold beer.

Later that evening, we took advantage of my parents new state-of-the-art kitchen and made dinner at their new house. The menu was:

Spinach salad with goat cheese, candied almonds, apples and a blackberry vinaigrette

4 cups fresh spinach leaves
1 ounce crumbled goat cheese
1 cup slivered almonds
2 tbl. unsalted butter
2 tbl. honey
1-2 apples (sliced or juilenned)
1 pint blackberries
1/2 cup sugar
juice and zest of one lemon
salt and pepper to taste
olive oil

For the dressing, combine blackberries, sugar, lemon juice and zest and salt in pepper in food processor. After combined, slowly drizzle in your olive oil to emulsify. Strain to remove seeds.

To candy almonds, toast almonds with butter, honey and salt until almonds are coated. Set aside to cool then break apart.

To assemble salad, combine spinach with apples, almonds and goat cheese. Drizzle with vinaigrette before serving.

Pan-fried polenta with fontina

This recipe is so easy! You can make homemade polenta and cut it into circles or use tubed polenta. My mom had tubed polenta in the fridge so thats what we used.

1 tube prepared polenta
1/3 cup fresh thyme leaves
1 wedge fontina cheese
salt and pepper to taste
olive oil

Slice tube polenta into 3/4 inch wide circles. In a small boil, combine thyme with olive oil, salt and pepper. Lightly coat polenta in the mixture then pan-fry to brown polenta then set on a baking sheet. Top polenta rounds with shaved fontina then broil until cheese is melted and you are ready to serve.

Seared pork loin with a pear red onion chutney

Dinner was delicious even though we didn't eat until 11 p.m. The next morning, we made an Easter Sunday breakfast of blueberry pancakes and omelettes with cheddar, salsa and avocado to hold us over until Easter dinner. Meanwhile, we went to work slicing pears and zesting lemons for our homemade pear crostada.

Later that afternoon, we arrived at my uncles house who had definitely put his smoker to good use. Dinner was a smorgasbord of smoked whole chickens, brisket, ribs, baked beans, cole slaw, corn on the cob, potato salad, rolls, green bean casserole and fruit salad. We left Austin stuffed for the ride home to Fort Worth.

Back in Fort Worth, I was finally able to try Aventino on Camp Bowie with two fellow Fort Worth foodies. Walking in, I immediately admired the decor- simple, modern and quite beautiful. Before we were seated, I started with the lemongrass martini with Tuaca. The martini was light and you could really taste the lemongrass. I assumed the lemongrass was soaked in a simple syrup but the bartender said they used a sous vide method (cooked in airtight bags) for optimal flavor.

After our cocktail, we were seated and shared an array of small plates, cocktails and desserts from the menu:

Lychee martini with prosecco

Peach sangria

Beef carpaccio with parmesean, caper berries, arugula and a black pepper caper aioli (shown at right)

Tuscan shrimp with chickpeas, grape tomato confit and walnut arugula pesto

Housemade pappardelle with an almond cream sauce, asparagus, oyster mushrooms, toasted almonds and a chervil garnish

Pan seared red snapper with a spicy putanesca (capers, tomatoes, mussels), artichokes, braised fennel, carrots and angel hair pasta

Olive oil cake with blood oranges and mint

Panna cotta with marscapone, lemon gelee and crushed peppercorn (shown above)

My favorite dishes were the carpaccio, pappardelle and the panna cotta. The carpaccio was sliced paper thin, was beautifully presented and suited the accompaniments well. The pappardelle was extremely subtle- I was expecting a bold almond flavor from the sauce and was suprised with the delicate flavor. Lastly, the panna cotta was to-die-for. The tart lemon curd off-set the creamy marscapone and the bitter peppercorns added a bite at the end. I will definitely be back to Aventino- hopefully this week

This week was our food production and service class in culinary school. We learned basics of the restaurant business and prepared quick "mystery item" appetizers for the entire class to share and critique.

My dishes were:

Sauteed shrimp atop puff pastry with a mint, feta and lemon relish with a passionfruit vinaigrette (shown above)

Lemon ricotta-filled crepes with candied almonds and a raspberry coulis (shown at right)

Polenta napolean with sauteed ham, granny smith apples, parmesean and a chive oil (shown at right)

Class was fun but I felt similar to a chicken running around with its head cut off. Although my dishes weren't perfect, I was content. Next week is finals week and more mystery ingredients to come!


No comments: