Wednesday, December 16, 2009

bûche de noël and a culinary school farewell

The time has finally come...I graduated from Culinary School!

The past 15 months have been exploratory, confusing, innovative, strenuous, stressful, relaxing, fun and exasperating all wrapped into one package. Not only did school teach me about food, but about personal relationships and a passion truly inherent within me.

I had my highs...
creative juices flowing with mystery baskets
perfectly-cooked custards in pastry class
nailing duck l'orange and quiche lorraine in classic recipes
being unusually comfortable with tofu, tempeh and soy products in healthy cooking

...and my lows:
an initial close to tears fear of raw chicken
lackluster beef stew in meat fabrication
overly-ambitious dishes in timed cooking
total breakdown in my pastry final

...but a lesson to remember from each.

After a sigh of relief after my final, my parents and aunts came into town for my delicious celebration of achievement. After a brief ceremony (I graduated with honors!), we headed to the reception (wine in tow) and enjoyed a delicious late-afternoon of cheeses, fruits, veggie tempura, pumpkin tamales, gingersnaps and a chocolate fountain with homemade marshmallows. Too nervous to eat, I personally celebrated with a bottle of red.
Later that evening, a big group of us trooped over to the newest locale on the 7th Street scene: Tillman's Roadhouse. The decor was funky, the cocktails were imaginative and the food was pretty tasty overall. Amongst a spread of truffled popcorn, peanuts, french fries with aiolis and fried pickles, we sipped on Blood Orange margaritas and attempted to chat in the bustling restaurant.

Entrees included a filet of beef with a chipotle demi glace, snapper with celeriac and sweet potatoes, Oaxacan quesadillas, airline chicken and chicken-fried steak that circled around the chic, oversized table. Dessert was an indoor campfire with fluffy orange, maple and coffee marshmallows, chocolate, grahams and a convenient tableside fire to roast away.

After my ravenous indulgence the evening before, I settled on a healthier comfort to make for dinner the next evening:
Turkey Lasagna with Whole Wheat Pasta

Substitutions and a subtle sweetness are the tricks in this recipe. I substituted ground turkey (lean, not extra lean) for ground beef or pork, part-skim ricotta for full fat ricotta and whole wheat pasta for plain. Fresh herbs, lemon zest and vanilla sugar added subtle depths of flavor as well as freshness. I also amped up jarred tomato sauce to add ease to the dish.

Yields 4 servings.
Turkey with tomato layer:
1 lb lean turkey
1 small jar tomato sauce (I used Newman's Own)
2 T fresh parsley
½ white onion, diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 T vanilla sugar (plain sugar will do if necessary)
1 t herbs de Provence
1 t crushed red pepper
Salt and pepper to taste
Start by sauteing onions, herbs de Provence and red pepper flakes with olive oil. When onions turn translucent, add ground turkey and cook until turkey crumbles and turns opaque. Carefully drain any excess fat (fat should be minimal). Add garlic, vanilla sugar, salt and pepper to combine. Finally, add tomato sauce and let mixture simmer and thicken while preparing remaining fillings.
Ricotta layer:
1 container part-skim ricotta
2 T fresh parsley, minced
Zest and juice of 1 lemon
Salt and pepper to taste
Stir ingredients to combine. Set aside.
Additional layers:
1 ball fresh sliced mozzarella
½ cup fresh grated parmesan
Oven-ready whole wheat lasangna sheets ( I found these at Target)
In a small casserole dish, layer turkey filling, whole wheat sheets, ricotta spread and fresh mozzarella. Continue for three layers. For the final layer, top with fresh mozzarella and grated parmesan. Bake casserole on a cookie sheet uncovered at 375 degrees for approximately 40 minutes. Serve warm with herbed baguette.

I spent the weekend preceding Christmas helping prepare baked goods, deliver and volunteer for the third annual Chef's Holiday Pantry held at Ridgmar Mall benefitting Tarrant Area Food Bank.
The mall was graced with colorful balloons, incredible ice carvings and cookie decorating with Young Chefs Academy. Christmas goodies for purchase were jam-packed tables full of Yule logs, gingerbread trees, croquembouches, cupcakes, cookies, candies, barks and layered cakes for all to purchase and share.
The delicious event was an affair to remember and a dinner plate on the table for those in need- another Christmas story soon to come!



Unknown said...

Hey Callie, I've been following your blog for quite some time. We met at TCU (I think in a class?). Congratulations on graduating! I'm looking forward to trying some of your recipes. It's been fun to read about the delicious meals you prepare.

I hope you keep up with the blog! Happy New Year!

Callie Salls said...


Thanks for reading! I will definitely keep up with the blog!

Happy New Year!