Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Growing Up From Scratch

When I grew up we had breakfast together every morning, Monday through Friday, on the weekends my brother and I were on our own for giant bowls of cereal filled with sugary milk (only because we added spoonfuls to the low sugar cereals my mother always bought). We ate dinner together every night at the table far away from any TV as long as there wasn’t a school sporting event or band or work. Every summer we shucked and froze corn, picked beans, made jams and jellies, canned cherries, pears, and peaches, and watched movies while we cracked walnuts to get ready for the winter. I grew up with homemade bread and dessert served with almost every dinner. The kitchen table was covered with bowls making batches and batches of cookies for the county fair. My mom cooked a lot, I mean a lot a lot. I didn’t find out until college that she really didn’t like to cook. It was a chore for her, something she felt was her job and luckily for me she felt that it was really important that her family had good food. Now does that mean that my mom was a whirlwind of Julia Child phenomenal meals? No not so much, love you mom, but we all know what disliking does to product. I was really lucky, I was given an excellent platform to launch from, I had all of the cooking basics down and I was driven to make better tasting meals. Once again, love you mom I’m glad you aren’t reading my blog. I had a childhood of unprocessed foods and family meals something many (unfortunately many) people didn’t and don’t have. I’m thrilled now that my mom calls for recipes and advice and is learning new things. Cooking is becoming more fun for her and I’m sure that comes from it being less of a “have to” activity. Bring your kids in for classes, teach them some valuable life skills, make cooking less of chore by learning how to do it well and simply, and sit down together once in awhile. I guarantee it will be something they will appreciate. And if we can help you make cooking fun, we are happy to do so.

Friday, September 9, 2011

Culinary Tip #8 Ten Thousand Hours of Mastery!

One of the theories that holds me enrapt is one that Malcolm Gladwell talks of in his book Outliers. It originated from Dr. K Anders Ericsson and it discusses the ten thousand hours of mastery. It fascinates me because it shows over and over that no matter economic status, gender, background or a slew of other variables, that if someone practices they will always catch up to someone with inherent ability. Anyone can achieve a level of mastery at ten thousand hours. Do you know what that means? That means my mother was right about practicing the piano, and seeing that now is really irritating. But it also means that if I decided today that I wanted to master the piano I still could if I practiced. It also means that I am invested even more so in teaching because I believe that if I can give people information and tools they need to learn to cook in a very clear way, that they will get better if they practice. That makes me happy, that means everyone can be successful in the kitchen! I have had culinary students who get discouraged because the person cutting next to them is so much better than they are even though they started school at the same time. Well everyone starts school with a different level of practice under their belts and trust me on this one, bad practice will set you back some when you learn the right way to do things, you have to relearn and that’s okay, start over, clean slate! I promised those students and I promise you, you’ll get better if you practice and that’s going to come with time. Guess what the handy thing is that you eat everyday, so if you have the inclination to learn you have three chances a day to practice. So no pressure, we’ll give you the tools, information, heck we’ll give you the space, but if you want to get better, you’re going to have to practice! But we believe in you and we think it’s important so we’ll help you along the way, and this one of the few places you’ll here it, pick up the knife and get started!

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Culinary Tip #7 Lemongrass Lime Coconut Cream Pie with Lime Graham Crust

It was Susana’s birthday on Sunday. HAPPY BIRTHDAY SUSANA!!!!! Business partner extraordinaire and best friend.
Anyway for her birthday, which she reminded me about on a regular basis, she wanted a lemongrass lime coconut cream pie with lime graham crust. Guess what people, you don’t need a recipe to make something that your friend has completely pulled out of her... head... and has to have to make her birthday complete. All right you need one recipe pastry cream, but even then, you are changing it quite a bit.
Pastry cream, the lovely base for cream puffs, éclairs, cream pies, cake layers, and multitudes of other delights, is made of milk or half & half, sugar, cornstarch and eggs with a tad of butter and vanilla in the end. So instead of the dairy use coconut milk, scratch the vanilla and butter and you are ready to go.

2 C coconut milk
¼ C sugar
2 yolks
1 egg
¼ C cornstarch
1/3 C sugar
1 stalk lemongrass (crush with butt of the knife and cut into 2” lengths)
2 ea lime zested (1/2 for crust)
pinch of salt

1 C graham crumbs
½ cup sugar
¼ c melted butter

It’s against my better judgment to write this all down but here you go. Mix crumbs, sugar, zest from one lime, and melted butter together. Press into pie shell and bake at 350 for ten minutes.

Put the coconut milk, ¼ c sugar, lemongrass, and zest from one lime. Steep at low heat for at least 20 min.

In a bowl whisk remaining sugar, eggs, yolk and cornstarch

Strain coconut milk ad whisk hot liquid slowly into egg mixture put it back into saucepan and bring up to simmer to activate the cornstarch. Whisk at first and then switch to high temp spatula. Once it’s thick take off the heat.

Pour over baked crust and chill.

Pipe on some chantilly, make a meringue or eat it just the way it is. Yum!

Monday, August 22, 2011

Culinary Tip Week 6 Pork the Magical Animal

Culinary Tip Week 6

Thank goodness for the pig and the magical animal that it is. I don’t really care which part you are serving me I will happily eat it. I am a total utilization food girl. And yes deep-frying is cheating; you can make it taste good in many other ways.

Even though the fat on the back of the shoulder is called the clear plate and the fat on the loin is called the fat back, it is used interchangeably. Pork fat is an awesome thing because of the flavor and the melting temp. It is the fat used mostly for sausages and many other tasty adventures. I think duck fat might be catching up a little, but it still has miles to go before it’s as popular as pork fat for cooking.

Let’s break it down

The Boston Butt you will see called a myriad of things, boston shoulder, shoulder, butt shoulder, butt roast, shoulder roast. Then to make things a little more complicated the Picnic Shoulder is right below it and that’s called a variety of things too and many times you will see them package together as one big piece of meat (ok maybe only at Costco).

Boston Butt: shoulder chops, country style ribs (anterior region of the loin ribs), shoulder roast, boston roast, ground

Don’t worry about trying to keep them separate they are so similar in make-up that it will make very little difference in how you cook them. I used to tell students that you can tell which one is the picnic because it can’t pick up the basket the arm is missing. That sounds a little disturbing but I bet you won’t forget it now. Look for the arm bone and you are good to go.

Other things coming from the Picnic Shoulder: arm roast, arm steak, picnic roast

Loin: full loin, loin chops, sirloin chops, tenderloin (different from the loin), rib chops, crown roast, sirloin cutlet, top loin chop, country style ribs, back ribs, Canadian bacon, loin roast, sirloin

The loin itself is very lean so brine it, marinate it, and don’t over cook it!! Thank goodness they just lowered the cooking temperature of pork to 145°. Please please pull it at 140° it’ll continue to cook and you won’t have tough dry meat. Blech.

Leg or Fresh Ham: it’s not a ham until it’s been cured and/or smoked. leg roasts

The picture isn’t great the belly is the entire section of the both the Fresh Bacon and the Spare Ribs. The ribs are lying on top of the fresh bacon, so once those have been peeled off you have the two individual pieces. Salt pork also comes from this area

The hocks are almost always cured and smoked and great for flavoring soups, stews and beans of course.

Pig’s feet or trotters are full of collagen a connective tissue that breaks down with most heat cooking and adds wonderful flavor and body to stocks. Besides the classic pickled pigs feet, many chefs will split the trotters lengthwise and use them in stock.

The same goes for pig as beef, the high motion areas of the animal are going to be tougher. Pig has a lot of collagen in the should region that makes it ideal for braising and slow low heat cooking because of all the tenderness and flavor it imparts, that’s where we get our beautiful pulled pork.

The last thing is the jowl and if you ever see bacon ends and pieces in a grocery store that’s what you are probably getting, it looks and tastes exactly like bacon especially if it’s been cured and smoked. In fact I just made some jowl bacon last week. Guanciale is something that is a fad right now at least in Portland. It’s the unsmoked and dry cured jowl that’s an Italian classic. Now you know. If you see it on a menu, order it!

Cooking Tip Week 5ish Taking the Mystery out of Meat Cuts!

Let’s talk about meat. As a teacher first and foremost I get really irritated by the packaging in grocery stores. It gets more and more confusing trying to figure out what’s what in the meat department with all of the marketing terms that they use. It seems like it’s meant more to fool you than to help you to make a decision about what you want to put on your table for your family.

Now that there are dozens of cuts that you can get you really have to know your stuff, or you just stick to the things you know really well and don’t venture into the land of strange names. Fair enough I don’t blame you one bit. There is a lot out there so I am going to tackle as much as I can and see if we can’t answer some of those burning questions I’m sure you’ve been dying to ask.

First let’s start with the cow. Anything that is in the high motion areas of the animal are going to be tough pieces of meat. Tough but flavorful! Tough, flavorful and CHEAP! So if you know how to cook them or prepare them properly, you are going to be able to have tastier and cheaper meat. Sounds like a win-win to me.

This is the first part, knowing where the cut comes from. If you know that the chuck, brisket, plate, round shanks and flank or tip come from the high motion areas you’ll know these cuts either need to:
1) Marinated or tenderized
2) Sliced very thinly (across the grain) or ground
3) Use a moist heat cooking method or long, slow cooking (roasting, smoking, BBQ)

For the rib or short loin, tenderloin, or parts of the sirloin you can use dry heat cooking methods. These are where your grilled steaks come from.

Now not to throw a wrench into the situation but there are a few exceptions to the rule and that comes with knowing that if a piece of meat is tucked up next to a bone sometimes it’s going to be tender without coming from the sedentary parts of the animal. That’s a whole other chapter I promise to cover later.

Here are some of the cuts you’ll see in the grocery store and where they come from

Chuck: chuck short ribs, chuck roast, chuck steak, stew meat, ground beef.

Rib: rib roast, rib steak, rib eye steaks, prime rib

Short Loin: loin steaks, T-bone steak, porterhouse, top loin steak, NY steak tenderloin

Sirloin: sirloin steak, wedge-bone steak, boneless sirloin, sirloin roast

Round: round steak, top round steak, bottom round steak, eye of round, heel, ground beef, rump roast

Shanks: cross cut, stew meat

Brisket: typically fresh or corned

Short Plate: short ribs, skirt steak, stew meat, ground beef

Flank: flank steak

Tip: tip steak tip roast (the tip is at the bottom of the sirloin into the round it’s not on the above picture)

If you are looking for the best tasting steak you are going to have to go to a butcher who actually cuts things up instead of pulling fabricated cuts from a box.

Ask for the chuck end of the rib you are getting closest to that high motion area and still having a tender piece of meat.

This is going to rub some of you wrong that really love that cross hatch on your steak, but if you really want a juice steak, flip it often, ever minute or so. I know I know it’s not going to be aesthetically pleasing. Put a pat of blue cheese butter on it and get over it. If you flip it often the meat doesn’t have a chance to dry out and overcook on the outside. If we had our way we’d have the same color all the way through rather than a brown ring all the way around.

All right that’s all for now, next time we’ll cover pork and a little more about the cooking of meat in general. Enjoy meat and please if you have any questions we’re happy to answer them!

Thursday, August 4, 2011

PCW Cooking Tip Week 4 Burnt Pan Be Gone!

Sorry I’m a couple days late, it took a couple days to recover from Teen Week, but we had a total blast and so did they. It’s nice to know that we helped a few kids learn some valuable life skills. If you missed it, it was so popular we scheduled another for Aug. 22-26th Sign up now before it fills up!

So this is a quick tip though highly valuable. If you are anything like me, the more I multitask the worse the individual results. I have to rely more and more on timers and reminders and the really messed up part is I even need one to remind me that I’m filling the wash sink. What??! It’s full of bubbles people, it doesn’t make any noise! I don’t remember until I hear the water pattering on the floor.

It wouldn’t be a surprise then that I have burned a pan or two in my lifetime. On of the best things I ever found out about is that if you put water in your burnt pan with a healthy shot of baking soda and put in on the stove to boil for a few minutes it takes most of the black off the pan like magic. Sometimes I run a scratch pad over it and then boil it so it has a few scratches in the carbon to gain a foothold. It really is a fabulous trick.

We hope you don’t have to use it but just in case you do, we hope this makes the job a little easier. See you next week for your next tip!

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

PCW Cooking Tip Week 3 Chicken Liver Mousse

My whole chicken comes with a little bag in it. When you buy whole chickens in the restaurant world you usually buy WOGs, or WithOut Guts, when you buy whole chickens at the regular grocery store most of the time they come with a little papery bag inside that contains the liver, kidney, heart and neck. I’m 100% sure that the pieces in that bag did not come from that same chicken, but you’ve got ‘em so you might as well use them!
Today we are concentrating on the livers. Save them! Put them all into a little baggy and throw them into the freezer until you get enough to make a cup or a pint depending on how many people you are feeding or how much you like Chicken Liver Mousse.
Once you have enough pull them out of the freezer and soak them overnight in milk. That pulls out the impurities. Strain them when you are ready to use.
Sauté up in a pan a little shallots/onions/garlic, add your livers and cook a little so they are brown on all sides. Deglaze the pan with a little white wine/marsala/madiera/sherry/brandy or juice. You can add orange zest if you like. Cook all of the liquid out of the pan.
Put everything in a food processor and puree, as it cools add whole cold butter. Season with salt!
You can eat it warm or you can refrigerate it and serve it later. Because of the butter it is going to get thicker as it cools. If you want it to have a very smooth consistency you can press the mouse through a wire sieve or tamis.
Are you annoyed that there are no amounts? You’ll live I promise. You are not going to screw this up if you put in more or less garlic. It depends on what you like.

Fortified Wine
Cold Butter

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