Tag Archive | Julia Child

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.

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9/25/16

There’s a lot to cover, especially from the smaller lessons I’ve learned in class, so I’ve decided to post weekly every Friday or Saturday. No worries: I have a little notebook that I carry around, which I’ve started using as a planner (something called a bullet journal?), since cell phones aren’t allowed in any of my classes. It wasn’t that big a sacrifice for me since I love to write, especially in cursive (except that isn’t the font I am using for this personal datebook for some reason).

Well, thanks to my bullet journal, I have just been notified that I have a quiz tomorrow. No big deal, but I should still devote some time to brushing up on a few things since then. I also have to catch up on reading Julie & Julia, which I’ve chosen for my culinary history class. The paper on it is due next week, so hopefully I can immerse myself into it long enough before the irrelevant parts get to me. (No seriously, the first thing she talks about is her struggles to get pregnant, so I’m thinking, Honey, I feel for you, I really do. I love babies just as much as the next maternal soul, but the only eggs I want you to talk about is how to properly cook them as you’ve learned it. I don’t need to know how you got your sexual education from a French sex dictionary, because the only connection that has to your story is the French.)

Anyways, I have an entire section of the bullet journal to the “Blog Update”, so I guess I’ll start from the first point: about a week ago, probably on Monday, we were in the kitchen and as usual, everyone was hustling and minding their own business, asking to borrow certain tools or ingredients in order to do our tasks. In the middle of all the chaos, I was at the stoves and since the kitchen was so big, all the stoves are connected side-by-side (although according to them, they didn’t come they way, just arranged them like such). Then, behind each stove is an extra burner, I guess to keep food warm, but it has its own dial so you can set the heat. There was one chef on each side of me and the one on my left was finished with his stove portion of the dish, so he moved on.

The next person to use that stove pointed out that a plastic measuring cup had melted on the back burner. It basically looked like the Titanic, the way the spout was sticking out. Everyone wanted to know who was guilty and, while I knew exactly who the culprit was, I didn’t want to say anything since that person is human and it happens. I knew they probably felt badly enough about it, or at least humiliated even though nobody knows their identity. But I do know the man or woman responsible, so if he or she reads this by any chance, just know, “I know who you are and I gotta say, don’t worry. Your secret’s safe with me.”

Second point: in Knife Skills class, I told you about that adorable grandma who’s been teaching us. That class is always the same, especially at this point: cutting. Chopping, dicing, slicing. I mean, what else do you expect? The first few days of class, the homework was to read and then literally every lesson after that says, “Practice and Perfect” with a quiz or timed assessment here and there.

Well, we were chopping carrots into diamonds and during the demo, she joked, “Ladies, you might want to look into the size because this is one karat.” She said something like that so I had to include that moment. Not that it’s so funny now…or original even, but I felt as if it was something to note. I’m sure it would’ve been a better execution if I had the time to revise it.

Three: dumplings = pasta. That’s pretty clear-cut and dry. I had no idea that dumplings were considered pasta, but apparently, they are.

Fourth note: go get your meat thermometer. If you don’t have one or just don’t feel like digging it out, Google Image search. You know what? Just look at this one: Thermometers.jpg

This is the exact one I have. You see the hexagon? Apparently, if you slide the clip to the other side, the hexagon (not the clip, the actual hole) is free. That’s so you can slide the thermometer through the hole and on the other side of the dial is another hexagon, which fits perfectly into the one on the clip, causing them to click perfectly and stay together. #TheMoreYouKnow

Next: thermometer calibration! The dial can easily be manipulated, which is why it’s always important to calibrate before and after you use it. The Safety & Sanitation professor was so clever. She wanted us to twist the dial and then said, “Oh no! But you completely ruined the calibration! Here’s what you do…” I told you: clever.

So here’s what you do: since our class is in an actual classroom, we didn’t have access to boiling water, so we used the ice method instead. She basically gave us ice water and then all we had to do was stick it into the cup and set the dial to 32°F. Looking back at my notes on it, I specifically said, “I held it so the needle ‘pointed North’ and dragged the gauge so the needle pointed at 32°F.” That is essentially what you want. 32 to be “North”, like on a geographic compass.

Sixth point is sort of gross, but on Thursday’s Knife Skills class, we actually got to do something more than just cut. We had to chop roasted red bell peppers and we had to roast them ourselves on the stoves or the grill, which was a challenge, but I pushed through it. As always, I was the last one to use them and the last one to finish with them.

The roasting process is completely finished by the time the entire vegetable is black. That’s when you take it back to your station and tear off the burnt skin. I have to tell you though: once the skin is off and it looks all pink…it seriously looks like a tongue.

Speaking of disgusting things, this wasn’t actually on my list, but since I apparently never mentioned it before, I’ll tell you now. So, kids, you might want to look away because this is more for adult humor. I realize that makes you want to read along even more, but if you have any self-control, I advise you to skip the next paragraph.

In Knife Skills, the professor had a tip–I should NOT call it that and you’ll learn really soon why–it was a valuable piece of information. There. She says that if we chop off both ends of a cucumber and rub together the meat that was once connected, it lets out this foamy, white stuff (and that’s apparently the acid being released). And, I mean…the way you rub them together is okay, but think about it: you’re rubbing the tip of a very…interestingly-shaped object…in order to get white juice to…come out… Yeah, I know, it’s pretty gross and probably something you’ll never do to a cucumber, if you never knew about it before. Hey, maybe that’s why they call it a cuCU–never mind.

Okay, it’s safe to read from hereon out, kids. Point #7, I briefly mentioned earlier in this post: Julie & Julia, I expected to be 100% about cooking. Julie Powell’s experience in the project which she devoted a whole year of her life to, making every single recipe in Julia Child’s cookbook. I love the movie and, as expected, thanks to Nora Ephron (may she rest in peace), the film focused on the cooking. Because of this, you expect the book to do the same. Now, I know that the film is an adaptation of the book, which means whatever flaws were in the book were corrected in the film. That’s why I prefer the movie over the book, which isn’t something you would often say about book-to-film adaptations.

I’ve only read the first few chapters, but more than half of what I’ve read so far has only been about Julie Powell’s personal life, which makes me think that it’d fit more as a therapeutic journal. I mean, seriously, she described her sexual educational experience by flipping through this sex dictionary, which was in French. That just makes me wonder, Were her parents okay with her publishing that? It’s way too personal for me to be comfortable with. Just get to the parts that involve food and, if you need a filler, don’t talk about your–or even worse, your parents’–sex life. Not only is it any of our business, but we don’t want to know.

And that makes me question whether or not to move forward. But it’s for a grade, so I have to buck up and push through for just one more week. If not, I’ll just copy and paste what I just said about it and maybe that’ll be my review. I mean, when she talks about food and how obsessed with Julia Child she is and her personal relationship with this cookbook, yes I want to know that personal stuff. Just not certain other personal aspects of your life.

Point number eight: the strict cell phone policy. The official policy for the program is we are only allowed to use our cell phones upstairs during breaks. The kitchen we use for my classes so far is on the first floor. The head of the department teaches Professional Cooking Basics and on the very first day, he said that he could spot a cell phone in a pocket from a mile away. In fact, he actually said that if we’d stood up at that moment, he’d be able to tell who had a phone in their pocket. Policy dictates that we keep our phones in our locker and on silent.

The only professor who’s really uptight about this is the Knife Skills grandma (and I don’t mean “grandma” in a rude way–she really does look exactly like my grandma so I feel endearing calling her that. Here, of course, not in public). In fact, everyday she writes on the whiteboard and the first thing she writes is “Quiet!” (because our class has a habit of talking loudly about anything but the cooking) and “No cell phones in classroom!” Still, most of us take out our cell phones, at least during breakfast break (which we devote about 30 minutes of our class period to).

The thing is, we can at least use our phones during breaks, which is basically a pause in the class, right? Grandma isn’t so lenient about it, even during breakfast. I mean, we still take them out, but I suppose less nowadays because she takes note and marks us down. She only just notified us of this on Thursday, so I know I was marked down a couple times. I’m not too worried about my grade though. I feel as if the only way to truly fail the class is from the precision cuts. She’s slightly more strict about that, of course. I could think it’s perfect, but then she checks it on my ruler and it’s too small.

Speaking of the whole “Quiet!” thing, also on Thursday, she wrote down a little more than that on the board. She then added, “Or go home!” The head of the department actually interrupted our class and then talked to us about how the lack of talking about anything but the food shows more respect for the teacher. I’ve been itching to shut up the two guys in my group who are so talkative and just want to make conversation, but the three of us are quiet and try to focus on the precision cuts. The problem with me whenever I confront someone is something always goes wrong and we end up laughing at something I said, which is why I never confront. I just keep quiet and take it.

As much as I hate that it got to the point where the PCB instructor came in (especially since he’s a tall, old, white guy with clear authority while she is a petite Asian lady whose vocal strength matches her small stature), it seemed to have worked, since class was a lot quieter the rest of the day and that’s what matters. He pointed out that the more we talk, the less precise the cuts would be for the people around us. Honestly, I remember Grandma mentioning that a couple weeks ago, but obviously nobody listened. I don’t want to be the person whose first thought is always racism whenever there is an imbalance in the system, but I can’t help but think that that’s a small part of why her words didn’t impact the class, but did when those same exact words came out of his mouth. If it was a racist thing, it certainly was unintentional, since the biggest factor in why he would have more of an impact on the class is because he is of higher authority, not because of his skin color. Also, she has a pretty thick accent, so it’s sometimes difficult to understand her, but how many times does a woman have to say the word “quiet” or write it on the whiteboard in all caps before it sinks in? I mean, she’s the one who learned English as the second language, not us.

Anyways, that wasn’t even the note. There’s a rule in the kitchen–although I’m not sure if it’s in the general culinary world, but it should be–where, if it gets too loud in the kitchen, we do a thing called “Quiet Kitchen”, which we practiced that day. Basically, it’s where “the only talk around the kitchen that should be happening is if it pertains to the task at hand.” Simple for some of us since that’s all limit ourselves to anyway, not as easy for others. The discussion about Quiet Kitchen though was one of those “come to Jesus” talks as my college voice teacher calls them, which is apparently what a lot of other people call them too, but that’s when it really stuck with me. (I’ve had many “come to Jesus” talks, but never placed a name to them till college when it was obvious I hadn’t been practicing my singing.)

10: Since I’m gone all morning, the dogs get lonely even though my mom stays behind. Still, because my personal dog, Coco, has long nails (which reminds me, I should set up a grooming appointment for him), when he scratches me… I don’t know, man, they’re like for life. I had to wear gloves in the kitchen because hot water hurts the broken skin and I figured that since I was in Knife Skills, some of the juices (i.e. peppers or oranges) would sting. Like. A lot.

Point number 11: Remember in the movie “The Incredibles”? They have a Leftover Day, which is pretty self-explanatory. Well, knowing what I know now about how fresh a food should be in order to eat it…is that really a good idea? I was thinking they were eating leftovers from the entire week, but now that I think about it, finishing off week-old meals? Maybe for the past couple days, I could see. And, honestly, it’s a really good idea. For example, today was my own leftover day. I’m on an awesome streak of amazing dishes (the past two nights anyway…Mom cooked tonight so I could catch up on schoolwork and the blog). I’ll get to what I made in just a second because I have one more point to get to.

There’s an adorable children’s cookbook out there by Rachael Ray. There are cartoon versions of her making the dishes and they have fun names. It was probably in middle school when I got mine, not that I was into cooking. I didn’t start cooking until after college. Before then it was just ramen noodles or boiling water. Actually, that was for the ramen noodles. I had no real interest in cooking; just attracted to the colors, really. I never used it, so I threw it out, especially as I grew older because those were kiddie recipes. The only thing I remember is the Chicken Cacciatore, which she renamed “catch-a-tory”, so the kids could pronounce it. That’s literally all I remember.

Let me see if I can track down that book though. It shouldn’t be hard to find. I mean, how many children’s cookbooks could Rachael Ray have published since then? (Watch there be an entire library devoted to recipes specifically for kids.) Aha! Cooking Rocks! Rachael Ray 30-Minute Meals for Kids. And it’s $4 on ThriftBooks! Whatever that is. Here’s the cover: 51HHFPR5BVL._SL300_.jpg

It’s pretty cute, right? Well, I was so inspired that one night, I wanted to be like, “Ooh, I can be a chef, too!” I had this plan to set up menus and I’d cook whatever they’d want. Of course, I was unprepared for any of that: not just with what ingredients to get, but five separate dishes for one little girl? Let alone the mise en place or the amount of time it’d take to actually make? As cute as that experience was (or lack thereof), I now choose what I get to make with mere suggestions from my parents.

I  made…(let me check my awesome bullet journal since I started a list of “Dishes Made” now)…Lemon Chicken on Thursday, Pesto Cavatappi on Friday, and Succulent Chicken Parmesan w/ Bruschetta on Saturday.

Here’s the entry for the last time I made Lemon Chicken, courtesy of The Food Network’s Rachael Ray. I skimmed over this in preparation for this attempt. I made sure to add vinegar this time because of that Dad had said. I did not, however, add broccoli this time, like I wanted, but noted for next time. Sort of. If I actually read this entry first. As you can see, I added a little side salad there. Went with cherry tomatoes this time, but no recipe. I keep forgetting that this recipe tends to be too sweet. I know that’s from the lemon curd, which is store-bought. I mean, I suppose I could experiment with just half the jar rather than the whole thing, but I’m not sure if that’d mean I would need more water in order to have more chicken coating.

Friday was the Pesto Cavatappi. Mom’s best friend from high school stayed the night and I wanted to make her something good. I’d made this dish quite a few times now, so I knew the drill. Everyone said it was delicious and, while I know taste is something you must experience, judge for yourself. How does it look? Okay? 

I know I’ve made it several times before, but I don’t have the experience documented here for some reason, even when I look up “Pesto Cavatappi”. Well, here’s the recipe for it anyway. It turns out I needed a little more pesto. I thought one jar was enough because that’s how much I’d previously used, but I suppose those recipes were cut in half. Oh well. It’s pesto. I think that’s more for the taste, not the way it’s cooked.

Don’t mean to toot my own horn, but I’d say the following dish was even better, mainly because I tackled two recipes at the same time. The timing is what I’m most proud of, especially since neither of them took too much anyway. I used two recipes from a site called Yummly.

First was the Bruschetta. The first time I’d ever seen or heard of this dish was when I was in a choir conference in Europe. We had toured Vienna, Salzburg and Prague. In fact, I distinctly remember visiting the chapel where they filmed the wedding scene in “The Sound of Music”–which isn’t where Maria and Captan von Trapp actually got married–and stopping by a restaurant directly in front of it and taking note of a rather handsome waiter and then posing for a picture with him. Apparently, other girls were itching for a photo with him and I was the first one.

This was in Vienna, I believe, and we were having dinner with our chaperones and choir directors. I remember overhearing a conversation taking place between our director and one of the altos and we were looking at the menu, which was still given to us even though our dishes were already chosen for us. He asked the alto, “Have you ever tried bruschetta? It’s delicious.”

So that was the first time the idea of bruschetta came to be, in my life. After that, I’d only seen them in other restaurants, but I’d never tried them. Yesterday, I was watching “Julie & Julia” for the hundredth time and decided, “Hey, why not try bruschetta?” It was one of the very first scenes where they’re talking about what Julie could write a blog about. That husband was REALLY into that bruschetta.

I didn’t expect bruschetta to be so hard–I mean, I was aware that that’s part of the meal, the toughness of the skin–but when Mom texted me that it was really good, I asked her if it was too hard and she said no. So I shrugged and said, “Okay, another successful dinner!”

Since Dad got home earlier than usual, I had to get started as soon as I got home from the store. Because the chicken needed more baking time than the bread, I decided to start with that first. (Plus, the oven temperature for the chicken was slightly lower than the bread so it was perfect since I didn’t have to worry about any cooling down period.) I didn’t really measure the panko since we had a little left. However much there was, it was the perfect amount. I mean, really, perfect. The scraps were, like, a pinch.

Also, this must be my Blue Bloods/Jamie Reagan-obsessed brain talking, but does anybody else (who watches the show anyway) think of “Janko” when they see or hear the word “panko”? I mean, it makes sense, since they’re just one letter off, but that damn name. Have I mentioned this before?

Sorry. Veered slightly off track there.

While the Succulent Chicken Parmesan was baking (the best way to cook meat, in my opinion, because my chicken always tends to be messy, dry, and burnt when I try to fry it), I got started on the Bruschetta. I was going to get basil leaves, but at the same time, didn’t really feel like it, and I knew we had fresh greens, so I took my chances. We didn’t have it at home, so instead I had an option to use cilantro or Italian parsley. I asked for Mom’s opinion and she said that for a basil substitution, she’d go with the parsley.

Bruschetta is surprisingly simple. The only ingredients you worry about is the vegetable mixture and you can mix it by hand. I thought that spooning them onto the baked bread slices would’ve also been a challenge, but you’re free to drop as many pieces as you’d like and there would still be enough leftovers to top off some pasta for the next day, which is what I did, mainly because the recipe says I have the freedom to.

Something I was wondering was which side of the bread to put the vegetable mixture on: the oily side that faces the foil or the clean side? I put it on the clean side or else the bottom would just be dry.

The bruschetta mixture took a little longer than expected, so I had to take out the chicken once it was done and then put it back in the oven after the bread was finished baking. Only while the oven was cooling down, hoping that whatever residual heat there was, was still enough to keep the chicken warm.

Janko Panko-coated chicken

Pre-baked bread slices. I was afraid of it not fitting onto the entire sheet, but it was actually perfect! Don’t you love it when that happens? When you rely solely on gut instinct and it turns out to be a happy ending?

The entire tray of bruschetta pre-serving.

And best of all: plating.

Unfortunately, the chicken did cool down, but that’s because nobody came to the dinner table in time. In fact, I had to take Dad’s plate upstairs to him because he wasn’t coming down and I didn’t want him to eat cold chicken.

Because there were four pieces of chicken and only three of us, there was one left, which was refrigerated and I ate for breakfast this morning. Since it was breakfast and I didn’t have my phone on me, and was also too lazy to get back upstairs, I ate it without taking a photo. It was too late anyway; by the time I realized it, I’d already taken a bite out.

I can describe it as best I can though: There was the chicken parmesan (half-breast), a few pieces of bruschetta, and some of the leftover pesto cavatappi. I sprinkled mozzarella all over the pesto and then microwaved it. This really helped with the bruschetta. It may be customary to eat hard, but I like my bread soft. The recipe for the bruschetta also suggests to use leftovers for pasta topping, which I did on the cavatappi.

This was my lunch, which got me thinking about that Leftover Day from “The Incredibles”. I figured maybe I can cook on the weekends and eat leftovers on Sundays. That way I can do my writing on Sundays and not have to worry about new updates. Plus, I will have time during the week to focus on school. 

But I suppose there’s only one day where I absolutely can’t cook. Since I get out in the early afternoons the other three schooldays, there’s no reason for me not to cook. The weekend thing is a definite plan though since I’ll actually have the energy to prep and execute.

For dinner, instead of eating what Mom made, I wanted to finish off the leftovers, so even more pesto cavatappi for me. (I’m gonna be morbidly obese by…there’s no end if this is gonna be my career.)

Break an egg!

P.S. If the culinary school stuff tends to be boring, I can definitely leave it out. I figured there was some wisdom I could share with you, but since I do talk a lot, I don’t want to be boring about it. Let me know, if you can! 🙂

P.P.S. I usually read over this, but it’s so long and I have to get to bed, like, now if I want to get to class by 7:30AM. Hope you understand!

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!

5/9/16

Writing this amateur chef’s blog, you can probably tell it’s similar to the film based on a true story, “Julie & Julia”. Although it has been out for seven years now, I can tell you the premise to save you from researching yourself: a woman who makes a living off of talking to survivors or family members of those lost on 9/11 in her cubicle leans toward cooking for the sake of her blog, which she started to maintain her sanity. Her goal is to go through Julia Child’s Mastering the Art of French Cooking in 365 days, just so she can finish something important in her life. If you’ve seen this film, you probably understand the similarities between this woman and myself, only I’m not setting any limits to myself. I’m just making what I want, when I want.

Well today, I finally made something by Julia Child. Sort of. I still think I did it wrong. See for yourself: 

It’s just the sauce, but how does it look? I used a fruit blender instead of a food processor and, somehow I think that’s why it looked like a smoothie…or is it supposed to look like that? The texture didn’t worry me so much as the color. It was so…pink…like watermelon smoothie. Well, because of this, I was especially irritated yesterday while making dinner. I just felt like nothing was going right, so while the sauce simmered for an hour, I went to the grocery store to buy backup sauce, but I obviously didn’t end up using it.

The spaghetti is a separate recipe and that didn’t go so perfectly either. I think it was stress, which is weird because I’ve made spaghetti before. Not these exact recipes, but they’re not too different from what I’ve worked with. There’s not much that you can do to spaghetti to ruin it. Except leave it undercooked. The recipe said to stop boiling when the noodles are almost ready, but not quite (still chalky in the middle). I figured, we’ll just go along with that since it’ll still cook with the oil. I tried. I really did. In fact, the highlight of this whole experience was using a pair of tongs to mix the noodles. I think of it as flipping them so the oil and vegetables could imbed themselves into the spaghetti.

This dish was supposed to go with artichokes, which my parents really want me to make because they want to learn how to eat it? I was too frustrated just by the pasta, so I’m like, “No. Artichokes aren’t happening tonight. Deal with it.”

The sauce was also the first time I’d used a “bouquet” of greens. It was supposed to stay in the pot with the sauce so I guess it was supposed to be a like filter or a teabag. Just add all the vegetables into the filter and tie up both ends and just…throw it in?

Instead of orange peel, I went with lemon zest.

By the end, it just wasn’t right. I don’t know what it was, but there were a lot of things off with it. Maybe I’ll try again when I gain more experience. I guess I just wasn’t ready for you, Julia.