Tag Archive | Gordon Ramsay

10/20/16

Not a lot of people realize this, but we’re very selective about the help we get. For example, we would gladly accept it from the teacher because he is the one who knows everything about the class and you’re the student. That’s obvious. It’s when our peers offer advice where we store a little more doubt in our hearts. Depending on our mood, it either sounds helpful or nagging. It’s all to do with your attitude around your acceptance of the extra tips.

I feel like it’s really been a while, huh? Being a culinary student, of course I’ve been cooking a lot. In fact, we just started the second round of the fall semester’s classes. I was busy with exams, so I figured I’d hold off on this update until afterwards. I’ve gotten back two out of four final grades, both A’s, so woot-woot! Although for PCB, the class is literally called “Professional Cooking BASICS”, so Chef Michael said you really had to try if you wanted to fail the class.

He’s got a point there too. Like most other classes, the biggest part of the grade is attendance and participation. As long as you go that far and try, you’ve got a great chance of passing.

My worst class was most likely Sanitation & Safety since I never really studied the material until the day before, and even then, I knew that what was probably most important was foodborne illnesses and how to avoid them. My notes on all the names was really funny. For example, for staphylococcus aureus, because “aureus” sounds basically like “Oreius” (one of the centaurs from “The Chronicles of Narnia”), my note was, “Oreius got sick from a serious staph infection.”

Also, there’s a toxin called “histamine”. In order to prevent a customer from getting sick, you need to avoid time-temperature abuse (basically, keep food out of the Temperature Danger Zone during the Time Danger Zone, which is 41°-135°F and 4 hours, respectively). Therefore avoiding time-temp abuse is an antihistamine. I know, it’s bad, but if it’s enough to remember the important stuff, then it’s good! Still, I got an A in Sani & Safety, but only because I did the extra credit I could: I wore my uniform for at least five classes and then showed Chef Christine my Food Handler’s Card (I’ll go more into detail later).

Okay, I’m going to list this stuff the way I have it here. I’ve got at least 15, but I’ll try to leave out the ones that don’t need to be said:

  1. It’s okay to cook poultry and beef on the same grill as long as poultry is cooked where poultry was last cooked as with the beef. As long as they don’t cross, they won’t contaminate. This was after my comment on how the waiters at the restaurant I went to in LA were grilling our food in front of us, but failed to switch the grates after each layer of food.
  2. There is no janitorial staff in the kitchen, mainly because the chefs have to clean up their own messes, probably. Or, at least, whomever is assigned scullery duty (in our class anyway).
  3. Is it okay to touch food with your bare hands to check status? While making pancakes, I noticed that one of my classmates would use her entire hand to check the doneness. All I could think of was, Whoa, isn’t that contaminating the food? I then asked Chef Michael if it was okay to use our bare hands to set up the food on the plate and he said it was fine. I still wasn’t sure about using it to check the doneness. Not with your entire hand anyway. Don’t you just need a finger to feel it?
  4. People are coming up with creative ideas to make this culinary fusion. One of my classmates in Culinary Arts Survey was talking about how she had the idea to basically be a private chef for clients who don’t have time to cook, but care about what they put into their bodies. The first person I thought of in my life who might want to hire me was my sister since she’s a doctor and she really is a health nut when it comes to her eating habits. She’s always on a diet, but cheats when she comes home because I always want to cook. It’s pretty funny, actually. So I figured that was a really nice idea and a good business to pursue. My personal goal was to be a private chef for families, but maybe I can add something a little extra to my résumé: expert in nutritional values. I’m not though. I mean, whenever I crave sweets, I’m motivated to go out and get it.
  5. The new classes I’m taking are Meat & Sauce Prep, with Chef Michael, and Intro to Baking & Pastry with Chef Doug (I literally just misspelled his name to “Dough” :D). Remember in this entry when I discussed this professor? Well, he doesn’t own it anymore and he hasn’t visited in years, so he doesn’t know how it’s doing, but it’s good! He’s very nice and makes baking fun, which, for a career like this, should be the case. Whenever I saw him around the building, he reminded me of John Malkovich, but since I sit in the front during class (and this may be my CSI-marathon getting to me), but the bottom half of his face looks more like Ted Danson’s. Even sounds a bit like him, but maybe with a slightly higher pitch.
  6. So the Food Handler’s Card! At least in California, you pay $9.99 after you pass the test, which consists of Safety & Sani questions. It’s really easy; you just need common sense, honestly. For example, they asked when it’s best to wear gloves. All the questions were multiple choice, so the options were, like, “After you wash your hands”, “Before you wash your hands”, “Before you put on hand sanitizer”, or “In lieu of hand washing” or something. If you think about practicality, obviously, the first answer is correct because why would you need to wash your sanitize your gloves? It wasn’t the final option either, because it’s basically a no-no to wear gloves if you’re too lazy to wash your hands. If you’ve used rubber gloves before though, your hands need to be dry in order to put them on easier. Once you’ve got the first one on, the other hand slides on more smoothly, for some reason. For the record, I got 85% on the quiz and I think you needed at least 70% to pass. As usual, I’m an average student.
  7. If you’re a student, then you probably notice how the syllabus is always so strict, but most of the time, the professors are more laid back. First of all, there’s probably the school policy over stuff like plagiarism, which is definitely prohibited and grounds for expulsion. However for cell phone use? First, there was my Knife Skills teacher who took that seriously, but I guess was more lenient. It was more like she gave up because we always used our cell phones during breakfast anyway. I mean, what’s the harm in that? It’s not really class time since she’s not officially teaching us. Not even Chefs Michael or Doug are (argh, I said “Dough” again!!!) strict about it and they have more power in the program. Although, apparently Chef Michael is NOT the head of the department–it’s Chef Jim, who I don’t personally know. In fact, the only contact he and I have had is when he offered me a bread sample from the bakery. (Ah, the perks of being in the culinary world: constant free food, although you’d think that as a culinary arts student, we’d have more time to actually eat.)
  8. Here’s a fun little exchange! So in PCB, during the class time right before the exam, we basically played a game similar to the show Chopped! I’ve never seen it, but if you’ve seen Gordon Ramsay’s MasterChef, you know that they oven have those Mystery Box Challenges. This was basically that, except we don’t get extra ingredients, not even if they were already in our boxes. So if we had eggs, we needed approval for more. One of the ingredients was “Gochujang” and, being Korean and always eating Korean food, I was like, “I KNOW THAT!!!” In fact, when Chef Michael said, “If you don’t know what Gochujang is, use your phones and look it up”, I replied a little too excitedly, “Pepper paste!” Then he smiled and said, “That’s right. Well, you’d know. It’s good, isn’t it?” I was so proud.
  9. If there’s one thing I learned through this experience in the professional kitchen, it’s that timing isn’t everything as long as you know what you’re waiting for. That’s pretty self-explanatory, isn’t it? As a professional, you just need to train yourself to recognize the texture you need to look for in your food.
  10. I also learned this in the Mystery Box Challenge: when plating noodles for the importance of presentation, use tongs to place them in a spiral. They form this little anthill, which is cute. You can also place something in the center or on the tip; some kind of garnish.
  11. I think this goes without saying, but cooking games are totally inaccurate. Even during the start of my culinary education, I’m still playing those stupid games like Restaurant Story and Bakery Story (same company, different game). I was pretty far ahead the first time I played both, but I quit, assuming that if I wanted to take it up again, it’d save since it connected to Facebook. Nope. I was stupid enough to pay a lot of money for extra coins and gems and all of that is gone now. I missed the game though, for some reason, so now knowing this, I don’t pay for anything anymore unless I know that it’ll last. Anyways, in those games, it takes just two ingredients to prep and then you just wait. Once it’s ready, you need one more ingredient and then you can serve it. However, in that game, the food spoils, I’m predicting if it’s been out the same amount of time it took to make, but not often. Well, that’s not accurate, because of the Time Danger Zone. 4 hours. The Temperature Danger Zone is where bacteria grows, which is why the fridge has to be 41°F or lower. In this case, the food spoils too easily. Just sayin’.
  12. My PCB practical final was sort of a mess. The over-easy egg was perfect, but the other six were less than perfect. I think I had two “unacceptable” grades and the rest were either adequate or pretty good. The worst grade, I think, was in the red beans. It takes, like, an hour to soak them and then there’s another step to cook it. I didn’t cook it for the sake of time, which turned out to have been a waste. My entire urgency was a waste because I still had at least an hour left of cooking time. The rest would have been perfect if I had just not rushed, which I didn’t have to do because of that extra time. SMH, huh? Still. I have an A in that class, so as long as the lesson is learned, right?
  13. If you need to take over for someone because they’re lazy, is that your loss or theirs? You get the experience, which makes your career that much richer.
  14. Dropping jewelry in food is a good comedic tool (i.e. Yolanda in Young & Hungry and Rachel Greene in FRIENDS), but not ideal for the professional kitchen.
  15. During the first day of Intro to Baking, we also discussed the difference between the professional and the laid back kitchen settings. Chef Doug (ha! I said “Doug” this time!) made an interesting comparison: it’s like symphony vs. rock band. Someone who plays in the symphony would be completely comfortable in the rock band. However, someone from the rock band wouldn’t really be comfortable in the symphony. He explained it better, but you probably get it, right? I just wanted to bring it up.
  16. Get in the habit of sifting flour. I’ve always just dumped flour into the bowl, but apparently it makes a difference when you send it through a strainer.
  17. When baking, always keep one hand clean. This is actually true for breading food as well. It only takes one hand to drown your food in flour, egg wash, and panko crumbs. It’s a lot neater when you have one hand free since you don’t need to keep your hands up like a surgeon trying to get to the nearest sink to wash off.
  18. In our kitchen, the only jewelry acceptable are wedding bands because they don’t fall off easily. Watches are okay, as long as they are worn on the jacket on the buttons. I’ve however never heard of earrings that you screw on. The girl who was almost not allowed to cook said that they DON’T come off? I thought that’d be okay, since the purpose of that rule is the risk of them falling off and into the food, contaminating the entire batch. I didn’t say anything since I figured Chef was aware of that. A few minutes later though, I saw the girl’s ears and her jewelry was off. So it’s not impossible for them to come off, but it’d be a hassle to. Still, if you want to get into this line of work, you have to get used to it.
  19. In the first 8 weeks of classes, we had to memorize culinary math: how many tsp go into a Tbsp, how many Tbsp go into a fluid ounce, etc. There’s even a so-called “phone number” that we memorize: 3, 2, 8, 2, 2, 4. That’s basically this:  As you can see, I also wrote down 16 oz = 1 pound. In other words, 16 oz = 1 lb. When you write out the latter, it looks like you have one 16 on each side of the =. To me, it does, which is how I remember how many oz go into a lb. It’s simpler for me to think that way, I guess, similarly to the “aureus/Oreius” thing. It’s one of those things that nobody else would get, even if they knew how my brain worked.
  20. So remember my mise en place idea where, if the recipe calls for adding multiple ingredients at the same time, I just put them all in one small bowl anyway? According to Chef Doug, at least with baking, that’s more of a professional way, not because it’s so advanced, but because we’re still beginners, we should add ingredients one-by-one just so we know what it should look like. I still want to limit the amount of dishes that go into the scullery, but that’s just me.
  21. Speaking of cleaning up, need to clear up multiple eggshells? Just stack them! 🙂
  22. Apparently, you can’t microwave lasagna because it explodes. That’s why on Melissa & Joey, Joe and his daughter, Dani, threw a fit when Mel said something about microwaving leftovers. (04X11: Gone Girl…I think.) I microwaved it anyway because I don’t follow rules, but it was covered. So I bend the rules.

And here is the update for my home cooking:

  1. Thursday, Oct. 6: Lasagna with a Twist (Recipe)
  2. Friday, Oct. 7: Quinoa and Rice Bowl with Kale, Kimchi and Egg (Recipe) This was actually a recipe my dad chose. I wanted me to try it and my first response when I saw the video was, “Easy…” Once we tasted it, it really was like the Korean dish “Bibimbap” (if you’ve eaten out at a Korean restaurant before, you’d probably recognize it the way it’s spelled in English). But, like I said, easy. We had extra kale, so I personally used it for leftover lasagna. I just chopped it up and garnished it like this: You can barely taste the kale, but I suppose that’s good because apparently kale is gross. I’ve never had a kale smoothie before, but the actual vegetable itself isn’t so bad.
  3. Sunday, Oct. 9: Honey Garlic Chicken (Recipe
  4. Friday (Oct. 14th) was pretty special. My sister was visiting for one night, so I wanted to show off that I actually had improved my culinary skills, so I went with Lasagna with a Twist again with another shot of Bruschetta, and as an extra for dessert, Honey Banana Muffins Here are the Honey Banana Muffins, since you haven’t seen what mine look like:  Too dry though, for some reason, so it’s better as a bread.

Well, that’s all I made. Here’s a funny thing though: what do you do when you find THIS at the store? Leave it alone, definitely, but is the entire container done for?

Here’s a nice way to end an entry after so long: so for Knife Skills, one of our last assignments was carving. We decided as a group what our set-ups would look like. Here’s ours:  And guess what I made: 

Break eggs, everyone! And remember: if you want to clean them all up in one swoop, stack the shells!

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10/4/16

Halloween is officially upon us now that that first number in the title bumped up to a 10. Now that I, the youngest of the immediate family, am all grown up, there are no children in the household (that is, unless you count the two dogs who we think of as our babies). That is why Halloween is no big deal to us anymore. We still pass out candy in a certain period of time and used to be that house who passed out pretzels. I was never really devoted to Halloween either. In fact, I was so lazy that I got a Harry Potter costume one Halloween in high school, and then used that same exact outfit about four consecutive years after as Ginny Weasley. (Why Ginny, specifically? That’s my name!) Because of my glasses, sometimes I went as their kid, pre-Deathly Hallows when we actually found out who their children were.

Because I love to bake so much, I’m considering maybe doing something, but since we live in a neighborhood surrounded by younger families, I’d probably end up making too little of whatever I end up deciding. Not only that, but if the parents decide it’s not safe to eat something that an adult made from scratch, they won’t give it to their kids. (I mean, the parents might eat it themselves though…I would, if it were my kid.)

Still, some parents are trustworthy and actually grateful for gestures like this, so I want to bake cookies. I’m thinking sugar cookies, but I’m not very good at pastry decorating. My cursive might be font-like, but not when I’m using a piping bag. Also, if I end up committing to this at the end of the month, I should probably stick to something simple if I want to keep it nice and personal. Chocolate is a safe way to go, but chocolate chip seems too cliché. I mean, I know that’s a crowd favorite, but I can get a little more creative than that. Just something to think about.

I didn’t make anything this weekend since I went to LA with my parents. My relationship with LA is really funny. Before I found this knack for cooking, my dream was to become this famous actress/singer/writer. I used to fangirl whenever we went, because that’s where all the celebrities live and work. Like any teenager, my dream was to become famous and then marry someone famous (one of the multiple celeb crushes I have would be ideal).

Because of the dogs, I couldn’t go to LA the past several times, which wasn’t a huge sacrifice for me. I hate long car trips nowadays and my grandma lives at a retirement home in LA, so visiting her once a month is the only time that Dad gets to see his mother. I went this time because LA is where I get my haircuts, apparently, because we go to a guy who personally knows our family.

In the professional kitchen, you’re supposed to wear your hair in a bun, if you can, under your hat. That way, there are no loose hairs that can fall into the food. Braids are okay in some classes, but the official policy is you need to wear it in a bun. I could never do buns correctly because they would always end up loose and weak, because I would use hair ties. If I didn’t feel like wrapping the entire band around the actual bun, I would make a bun myself by tying it the usual way and then stopping the final loop halfway through the ponytail.

That’s ridiculous though, and since I’ve always wanted to try hair as short as a man’s, I decided to experiment. Since I have so much hair and it’s very thick and naturally curly, both Mom and the hairstylist warned me that it might not look as good as the photo I showed them of Anne Hathaway post-Les Mis filming. I was aware of the possible repercussions, but wanted to go forward anyway, just to experiment. He was still unsure, but went forward anyway knowing that he warned me enough not to be held responsible for whatever the end result would be.

I wasn’t in love with it, but at the same time, was relieved that I finally got rid of that ponytail (which we are donating). I’m learning to accept it though, even if it doesn’t look exactly like Anne Hathaway’s post-Les Mis look. Instead, I think it looks more like the haircut that Yunjin Kim had in Mistresses, which I actually like, since she looks SO much like my own mother.

At this point, while I’d point to something else next time, I’m glad that I don’t have to worry about that bun for several months. However though…I did just buy a brand-new hair curler and wanted to learn how to use it before getting rid of all that hair… Oh well. That’s the beauty of hair–the silver lining for everybody who has had a bad haircut–it grows back.

I still have yet to update you on notes I came up with last week and, since I have just a couple hours before my next class, I’d better get to it:

Firstly, for some reason, last week I sort of had a mini-freakout. I don’t know where it came from, but it was like I felt like I couldn’t get through it. I don’t usually have moments like that since I’m more of a “one-step-at-a-time” kind of person, which is why I’m confused. A part of me says it’s no big deal, that it was just my mind playing tricks on me. The other (I assume the one that told me I wasn’t going to make it) said that I might have a serious problem and should just shut down now. It’s not a question of if the path I’m going down is right. In fact, my parents say my food is getting better because of my classes.

I don’t know, man. I’m just glad is over though. Once I started cooking though, I repeated to myself, “One step at a time.” Quick steps, but one at a time is the point.

Second,  according to the PCB professor, only one person bombed the quiz and I expected it to be me, but when I got mine back, it said I had four points off from the actual quiz, but then got them back because I got four extra credit points. So yeah, that one bombed quiz was obviously not mine, thankfully. You could imagine how relieved I was.

During Knife Skills, I knew I needed to cut my nails again already and I like growing them out. Obviously, I can’t in the kitchen, but I sort of came up with my own compromise: cut my non-dominant hand’s nails short whenever I can, but keep the dominant hand’s nails short (up to the school’s standards anyway). That way the non-dominant nails don’t dig into the food I’m trying to cut, as I think I’ve mentioned the first time I talked about cutting nails for the kitchen.

Ahaha, this one is a big one: so in Knife Skills, all we do is cut. So one morning, I decide to put on lotion for some reason. I feel like looking pretty and since I can’t put on makeup (both in the kitchen and just in general), lotion is probably the way to go there. Well, there’s no way for me have known this at the time, but we were dicing onions that day… For me, at least, whenever I have on lotion, I have to be careful for it not to get into my eyes or else I get tears. Lotion + Onions = Sobbing. I actually had to step back and rub my eyes on my apron (they advise us not to wipe our hands on our aprons, which is why that wasn’t a bad idea). So note to self: unless you’re a baker, don’t put on lotion at the beginning of a cooking day.

I thought of a new chef goal during Knife Skills too: successfully dicing tomatoes. They’re always so juicy and when we first worked with tomatoes, they talked about how to avoid the juice, but I’ve diced tomatoes to no avail. I use my chef’s knife and hand to scoop up the excess juice from the board, but that’s not even the issue. There’s still so much left inside the actual fruit, but you don’t want to completely crush it, so it’s like…what, do I need to spend more time wringing it out?

When I was in LA, the night before my dramatic haircut, we went out to a typical Korean restaurant where they cooked the meat in front of us. It wasn’t a hibachi. First of all, that’s Japanese, and secondly, it wasn’t a show. I’ve bore witness to this process pre-culinary journey, but obviously, now that I know what they’re doing, I can’t help but itch to jump in and take over, you know? Well, the servers did a fine job, obviously. It’s their job, they have to do it right.

I learned something new while observing them though: because it was done on a grill at the center of the table, when they came back to move the meat around, they didn’t flip it first. Instead, that switched both ends of the first side before flipping it and it didn’t take long for me to figure out why: because it’s a grill, the entire heat source isn’t the same temperature. By switching sides, it allows the first side to even out. I felt a sense of pride, figuring that out myself, hehe.

I found one flaw in the way they do things though: they switch grills after a couple of layers of meat, but really what they should have done was switch off after every layer. I know it’s time-consuming and maybe they considered this, but with beef, you don’t know what diseases it carries and I’ve learned from Sanitation & Safety that heat doesn’t destroy all bacterias.

Oh, and, I just thought of this right now, they used the same pair of tongs for each raw meat. I suppose I could file an informal complaint, but at the same time, they could be aware of these things, but choose not to. On the other hand, diseases.

For that exact same class, I’m supposed to go out to a restaurant and observe how the kitchen works, and report back to my professor as extra credit. I’m wondering if this could count, even if we’re not actually in the kitchen. I’ll ask. That’s my next class anyway.

And now for this week’s blog update points, or at least halfway. I still have four more classes before the week is over. I came up with a few points though, so since I have time, I may as well.

  1. Steaming does NOT mean boiling. I specifically mean for vegetables, especially green beans, when I use them as sides to mashed potatoes and steak or something. In fact, the official definition for steaming food is “ONLY in contact with the steam emanating from the pot of boiling water”. What I’ve been doing is boiling them directly in the water, mainly because it saves me from an extra portion of the pot to wash. I may stick to boiling for that reason though. Just wanted to clarify that because I literally thought there was no difference.
  2. Something that might get you thinking, “Are you on something?” is why potatoes feel so soapy when you peel and chop them. I only just noticed this when we were chopping them in Knife Skills during our first timed assessment. That’s why I thought that someone in class just didn’t wash them correctly. Now that I’ve started noticing it at home though, I think it’s just foam from the potato. It makes it slippery though, so be careful cutting.

The following two points I learned today in class: 1. If you accidentally moved someone else’s burner (adjusted the temp), the official policy is, if you’re unsure what degree it was on, don’t just guess. Turn it off and call over whosever it was and have them readjust it. 2. If the math gets too hard, switch to an easier unit. For example, one of my group mates and I had to figure out how to divide 1 pound plus 8 oz by 3 because we had to divide the entire recipe by 3. Well, since 16 oz go into a pound, the original amount is actually 1.5 pounds of white stock. Divide by 3 and that’s half a pound of the stock.

As far as personal cooking goes, I didn’t get to do anything over the weekend, considering we were in LA, but I’m hoping sharing what I noticed from the restaurant makes up for that gap. I did, however, make something yesterday because I wanted to replicate what I had learned in class. The recipe calls for a certain kind of fish, en papillote (which I know sounds really fancy, but only because it’s French. It literally translates to “in paper”). However, we ended up using Pacific Lingcod. Because the grocery store I go to doesn’t have that, I ended up substituting with a fillet of Alaskan Cod. (That’s right, right? The label said “Cod Alaskan Fillet Prev. Froz.” I assume the last part is “previously frozen” since it was, well, previously frozen.)

This recipe involves quite a bit of origami, which is fun! You have to use parchment paper to completely cover the fish and let it bake.

The sides I used were green beans (to practice actual steaming) and mashed potatoes (which would’ve made dinner the second time I made it yesterday).

Here it is pre-baked. I wanted to show how I folded it into itself at the bottom there in order to keep it together. I’m not sure how Chef Michael finished the folding process, but I figured at the end with that last flap, fold it onto one of the previous pockets. I used the second-to-last pocket because it was the closest one in order to make it perfectly stable. I don’t think there’s an official recipe for the way we did it, but I followed that: 350°F for about 10 minutes. Then, unsure if how raw it still was, I left it in the oven as the actual oven cooled down, so it would get the residual heat.

Monday night dinner: Alaskan Cod Fillet en Papillote. 

The only flaw was the fish was too small. I got one single strip and divided it into good portions that I thought were even as far as filling went. Both Mom and Dad complained that there wasn’t enough. So that’s a good note for next time: when the guy in the fish section of the market asks if one is enough for me, ask for three.

I just got out of PCB and made two dishes myself: the mashed potatoes again, in order to make it a side to the Hungarian Goulash. I noticed as I was making it that it looked a lot like Kimchi Stew, which is a family favorite. I actually did a presentation on it in Culinary Arts Survey. We had to find a foreign dish and talk about its history and how it affected the culinary world today. I think I’ll get into that tomorrow after Knife Skills since that ends at noon and I have a full day today, hence I’m hanging out in the library every Tuesday for two hours.

Anyways, putting together goulash was easy and I think I did it all by myself. If not, then I had help here and there by my teammates. The biggest factor in cooking stew (especially beef bourguignon) is patience. For this recipe (which was not Julia Child’s) had us (actually, someone else in my group) to bake it for 2.5 hours, so we had to get that one started first if we wanted to have it ready by 11:45, which is when we take a lunch break.

I also had a helping hand with the risotto (Gordon Ramsay’s favorite dish!), mainly from the one time I actually tried it. The idea with making risotto is you gradually add the stock and that’s what adds the sponginess to the rice. Well, that’s a common misconception at least, that it’s important to go little by little, but you can add the entire stock all at once and it’ll taste just the same. There’s a longer waiting period, but it’s the same exact process anyway. The stock evaporates or something, so you still end up with a risotto.

This one, however, stuck into the plate after about half an hour of sitting out. The person who was going to take ours in a bag actually hung it upside down and the risotto just stayed put. Didn’t make much sense to me because it was still mushy, but maybe it was just super sticky.

I don’t usually post dishes that we made as a class, but since I made both parts of the dish myself, I figured it was safe. I think usually, the side of mashed potatoes comes in a separate plate, but because I’m so used to combining stew with rice in the same bowl, that’s what I did here. Chef Michael said it was a perfect combination and that it looked beautiful. So…ha!

Dad wants to try it though and since the leftovers I’m taking home will get cold and I was planning on eating them for dinner before my last class, I decided I’ll just try it again this weekend so he can get a chance to taste it.

Also, one of the joys of being in a culinary environment is that most of the time, everybody’s small talk involves stories about food. When I was packing up for the library earlier, I heard two strangers talk about pastries and their personal experience with it. Then again, that may stem from questions like “what class do you have?” or “what did you make in this class today?”

Well, that’s about it. If there’s anything I forgot, you know I’ll post it in my next entry.

Break an egg, folks!

Update: So I just completed today’s Sanitation & Safety class and a brief conversation ensued between my professor and myself when I asked if I could talk about when the waiters cooked our meat in front of us as the extra credit outside kitchen observation assignment. Firstly, she said it was okay and she was actually interested in what I wanted to say. I can’t remember exactly the order of meats that went down, but she says it’s not as big a deal if the tongs go between poultries or beefs. That’s why I’m trying to remember what they specifically cooked because sometimes I think they first cooked pig meat first and then moved onto beef, which they did switch the grill for. However, they still cooked two layers of meat between switches, so I’m not 100% sure if they’re still in the clear.

7/21/16: Chewy Chocolate Chip Cookies!

This morning, I had a second attempt at the LASIK surgery. I was SO close. After the second try today, I was under the machine. I don’t even think I budged. The suction just didn’t take and my eyeball was swollen again, so we couldn’t continue. That’s when the doctor said we should wait a few months, so I’m just frustrated with the whole thing.

Once I woke up from my Valium-induced nap, after sobbing for a few minutes (which I don’t usually do), I felt the urge to bake something chocolate-y. In my mind, I pictured a chocolate cake, but I think that’s because I’ve been binging on Private Practice and in the first few episodes, Dell Parker, the hottie receptionist, kept baking chocolate cakes. Well, actually, it was his grandmother’s baking, but he claimed it was his because he wanted to win over his boss.

I scrolled through the new “Food Network” app (I volunteered to try out their beta app and provide my opinions to a survey) and didn’t really find any chocolate recipes that sounded appealing. That is, except the Chewy Chocolate Chip Cookies. It was perfect: the recipe was easy, we had most of the ingredients, exactly the comfort food I needed to get my mind off of self-deprecation.

One of the ingredients I needed from the store (which my mother had to drive me to since I wasn’t out of the woods just yet from the multiple doses of Valium) was the chocolate chips. I chose the Nestlé Toll House bag and all I kept thinking was the Friends episode where Monica spends a few days working hard, trying to figure out the chocolate chip cookie recipe that Phoebe’s grandmother made. Since the recipe was lost in a fire, Monica had to use her culinary skills to figure out what was in it. Then, in the end, when she’s exhausted and just gives up, Phoebe says that her grandmother got it from her friend in France named “Nestlé Toulouse”. Then, Monica says, “NESTLÉ TOLL HOUSE?!” and then flings a bag of chocolate chips at her to see if that’s the recipe. Then, Phoebe stands up excitedly and says, “YES!!!” It was hilarious, but Monica saying, “Nestlé Toll House” was always on my mind, so that brought me even more joy in my therapeutic baking.

Anyways, as I said before, it was a simple recipe. Once the chips were mixed into the batter, I used a baking spatula to stir them in and realized the recipe says to mix by hand. Whoops, but who cares? The job is done without harming the beautiful chocolate chips.

The struggle is really in placing each chunk on the trays. Whatever the lump looks like determines how it looks in the end. I wanted soft, flat cookies. While they were all soft, some of them were slightly crispy on the bottom, which I thought was due to the placement in the oven. There are two racks set at the center and bottom. I tested out this theory, since it was either because of the placement or the amount of cookies per tray. We have one that can fit 12 and one with six.

First batch: IMG_3598.JPGIMG_3599.JPG

So this is how I placed them in the oven: 12 over 6. The 6 was the one that had the crispy bottom, but it was still soft. This is how it looked on a plate: IMG_3589.JPGI know. Yum, right? I tasted one cookie from each tray to check the difference.

Second batch: IMG_3604.JPGIMG_3600.JPGSix over 12 this time. I forget which bottom was crispier, but I recall my conclusion was that the number of cookies per tray impacted it, not the placement.

Check out the blood of brown sugar spewing from the bottom-right one in the 3-by-2. I know there was a clump of brown sugar that refused to separate while mixing in the brown sugar. I thought I solved it during while the mixer did its thing, but apparently not. I think the chunk got smaller though. I ate that cookie since it was the ugliest one and had the brown sugar clump. I can’t describe the taste of the baked brown sugar, but maybe…metallic? Either way, it was the brown sugar and did not taste good.

Here’s the plate for the second batch: IMG_3595.JPG

Final batch was leftovers. Maybe I should’ve just kept it as cookie dough for snacking, but figured I had enough for a 3-by-2: IMG_3603.JPGThis was the one I shared mostly with the dogs since there were so little chocolate chips left. They’re dogs, so you know that by the time that cooked batter touched their mouths, it was omnomnom time.

IMG_3597.JPGAaaaand this is the plate with the leftover batter. Almost not worth posting, since it’s not in a heap of chocolate-y goodness, but…consistency.

My dad and I each tried one from this batter, hence there are four instead of six. Since there were just those six left, I wanted to stop at 11 minutes instead of 12, but I think I could sense its undercookedness. So I suppose as far as the amount of baking goes, the timing doesn’t matter? (Shrugs.) That’s what I’m getting out of it.

So I’d say that as far as the therapeutic baking went, it was a success. I feel a lot better. Normal, at least, which means I couldn’t cry even if I tried to. My old self would have turned to music or writing to feel better, but after writing a pretty fair Yelp review about the LASIK place, I decided it wasn’t enough. (I mean, I didn’t rant–I said that the employees were amazing and the struggle was all on my end and provided suggestions for future patients who have the same issues as I do. Fair enough, right?) I felt a magnet pull inside me to go to the kitchen and bake something with chocolate. So I did. And I feel much better. And that’s all that matters, because that was the point.

That’s what got me thinking though: is this why girls always want chocolate when they get their periods? I’ve never had the craving for it. Maybe I only need it when I’m down.

Believe it or not: I’ve never tried raw cookie dough. I’ve heard it was delicious, but always thought it was weird because if it’s raw, doesn’t that mean it’s disgusting? I tried it though and it was just heavenly. Is it weird to think that the cookie dough tastes nothing like when it’s actually cooked though? Maybe the texture alters the taste a bit.

While finishing up, I was considering making a better batch for the people at the LASIK center. I mean, they really were polite and trying to make my experience easier. Hmm…maybe I will. Their place of business is fairly close to my culinary school (which I haven’t started yet). Maybe if I make a few alterations like adding cinnamon or something.

One last thing that has nothing to do with today’s experience: should I have my own sign-off? Julia Child ended her shows with “Bon Appétit” (according to “Julie & Julia” anyway).  What should I finish with? I watch a lot of Gordon Ramsay shows so, like…”SHUT IT DOWN!” or…”This steak is so raw that I can tip it!”? Just kidding.

I graduated with a theatre degree, so we said “break a leg” a lot. Well, I read online about suggestions that chefs can say in order to say good luck: “Break an egg”? That’s cute. Fits me because I was in theatre and I’m also a playwright. Whoever thought of this, I hope you don’t mind, but…

Break an egg!

4/24/16

Whenever I watch Hell’s Kitchen, there’s always an episode where Chef Gordon Ramsay says something about a risotto. I even memorized how he pronounces it with his British accent: “Ri-ZOT-toe”. (You said it out loud, didn’t you? Make sure you got the accent down, too. It’s pretty fun, right?) Since then, I’ve always wanted to try it. Looking at the finished product on TV, I saw that it was some kind of porridge made from rice.

Making it though, I was surprised that it was less about the rice and more about getting it to soak. How do you do that? Chicken broth. Lots and lots of chicken broth.

So here’s what I was supposed to make: 

And here’s what came out: IMG_2743

Here’s a link to the recipe for the Fresh Herb Risotto, if you’d like to follow along:

  1. Note to self: if you have less of a major ingredient, also add less of the other major ingredients. Just so it doesn’t look too…much.
  2. This time, I set out each ingredient in little bowls beforehand, so that was good. That’s when I realized that when you’re cooking, the thing that takes the most amount of time is probably preparing the ingredients.
  3. I tried to plan out which pots I needed to make this risotto, but I knew that I was only guessing on how much of each part there would be, even if the serving size was two. For example, I put the chicken broth in a big pot and the onions in a smaller one. Little did I know that I needed to slowly add the broth into the other pot with the onions as soon as it had even more ingredients. So instead, I had to improv. Being a theatre major, I was good at that. Case in point: that very moment. I took out a large pan–a rondeau, it’s apparently called?–and put the onions in there instead. Then, I proceeded with the recipe.
  4. The serving size was originally four, but since it was just me tonight, I cut each ingredient down by half, which made the fractions fun. No, really. I gained back some fraction multiplication skills. “2/3 times 1/2 equals 2/6, AKA 1/3”. (I know, you’d think I’d realize that myself through logic alone, but I don’t math very well.)
  5. Does the rice have to be cooked already? I was assuming so, but it was never specified in the ingredients, so I was stuck wondering until I added the rice into the mixture. My assumption was correct: risotto involves cooked rice.
  6. Our garlic cloves were already minced so I had to guess there too. I just assumed that one garlic clove equaled 1 tsp. Also, when you’re reading the instructions, make sure to read every single word and understand it. That way, when the list of ingredients states 4 garlic cloves, but the first time you use them says you need just one clove, you will actually add one clove. I read the instructions beforehand and actually made a mental note when I read “remaining three cloves of garlic” in Step 3. I forgot, so once I came across that step, I thought, Aaaaaaand I finally screwed up. Instead, I added two more tsp. of minced garlic into the pot. I don’t think it made any difference though. I didn’t taste the garlic.
  7. Stirring the rice was kind of fun though. Because of the broth (I think), when it stuck to the pan, it was really easy to detach. Plus, the chicken stock was absorbed by the rice so quickly that I had fun adding even more broth.
  8. The green leaves I used were basil and parsley and we ran out of both bottles. We had extras, except the ones I used up actually said “fresh leaves” on the labels, but I didn’t use the others. I still feel as though the amount I had was too much. It tasted like seaweed, which is good, because seaweed paper is a delicious side for a Korean meal. I’m just not sure if I liked it for the risotto.
  9. How does one cut up lemon skin in order to make “zest”? What I did was peel some of the skin off with a potato peeler, and then chop it up. And, you know, I feel that although there was less of this ingredient, it was probably the flavor that stood out the most. Besides salt.
  10. Oh, and as I was peeling the lemon skin, I thought to myself, Wanna know what’d be totally fun right about now? Breaking skin. (Sarcastically, of course.)

When I first decided to make this, I wanted to be all “The Fault in Our Stars” and taste the goodness of the risotto that Hazel Grace and Augustus Waters ate in Amsterdam. I even had fizzy white wine, which is close enough to champagne (although I decided not to drink it because I was planning on going for a walk later, which didn’t happen anyway). The Dutch risotto was not as…what’s the word? Green. Not that specific risotto anyway.

As I was washing the dishes, this thought occurred to me: every time I made something, my mom was always surprised by how much of an ingredient it required to make the recipe. It was weird because I figured she’d understand–she’s the one who cooks dinner every day (or at least she was). Instead, she kept encouraging me to just cut each ingredient down to half, but you probably know me by now (at least after reading point number four of this entry): I don’t math very well. Plus, as evidenced in point number six, my memory ain’t so hot either.

Like right now. I was going to make a really good point with that thought process as I was washing dishes, but it has completely escaped my mind. Meh, hopefully it’ll get back to me before I click “Publish”.

At the very beginning, one of the first things it says is “make sure that it is well seasoned”. All I did was add 3.5 cups of chicken stock into the pan. What is there to season? How do I know what it’s supposed to taste like? Can someone please tell me why that direction is there? I mean, when it’s written in Step 4, I get it–the dish is almost done and at that point, you perfect the taste. But what is the chicken broth supposed to taste like when literally all it’s doing is just simmering? I don’t know…

Oh, after adding the notes about the lemon skin, I finally remembered: so why does…aaaaand I lost it again.

Wait, I got it! And it turns out it had nothing to do with the dishwashing daydream! So when you’re looking at specific ingredients, you try to get exactly what they say and how much. Then, you try to read the instructions thoroughly and see if you can replicate what they did. But when something goes wrong, do you find yourself pointing fingers at yourself, or is there a tendency to blame something else? For example, the rice I used was the batch that we already had–extras from last night’s dinner. That’s the only rice we really have, especially the one that was already cooked, so I figured I might as well use it. The list says, however, to use “arborio or carnaroli rice”, specifically. Was that a factor? Did I really need that type of rice?

Having double the minced garlic was probably a factor too.

Or double the lemon zest. (I was so preoccupied with lemon peeling that I wasn’t aware that it was only supposed to fit into half a tsp.)

Too much green.

Got carried away with the salt.

So how do we know what exactly went wrong? The only way to look back and see what could’ve went wrong is by memory, but I suppose that’s why we practice. When we fail, we shouldn’t just give up. We try it again, like I said with the science experiment analogy; we make appropriate adjustments and see if this time was any better. I suppose that’s what they mean when something is (or isn’t) an exact science: you can’t always get it right, but you can certainly up your amount of attempts till you get it right.

Out of 47 ratings though, and two reviews (both very positive), this dish has an average of five stars, so apparently I’m the only one with issues.

Oh wait…maybe the leaves were supposed to be literally fresh, not from-a-bottle-that-says-“fresh”…

P.S. For lunch, I tried making the breakfast sandwich the way my school did it (hey, I usually wake up at 10, so at that point, lunch is breakfast). I think it was egg, ham, and cheese (from bottom to top). The texture was different, I think, because I didn’t cook the ham. I still feel as if something was missing though. I will figure it out. In the meantime, I wasn’t going to share this, but since I already took the picture…: IMG_2737