Friday, May 30, 2008
Recently I worked at a Kitchen's restaurant. Actually it was the first time I stepped into a such big Kitchen's restaurant. It was a great opportunity for me, to work with a great chef, to learn about some techniques. OK, OK you go to a restaurant and you prize the Chef for its Cuisine. But I have to tell you, yes of course Chefs are in the kitchen and cook. But the hard work is around them.
The guys who wash dishes have a huge job, the china, glasses are put in a automatic dishwasher, but the huge pants, pots, you are using are washed by hand. During some days the guys are really in front of a huge mountains of pots. They are sweating a lot , they do not stop.
And depending on their shift, at the end of the day / the night they clean up the floor, all the sinks, they empty the fryer oil.... The 2 guys I worked with were really, nice, helpful and always in a good mood to cheer you up.
Then you have people who do everything : they clean the mussels, they peel the potatoes, they dice the onions, they do all the preparation for the chef and the Cooks. Even if the Cooks do also all the major preparations. This is a big job too. When you crack eggs you crack 60 eggs, when you clean and cut the parsley you are talking about 50-60 bunches, when you clean the salad same thing you have a ton of salad in front of you. All the quantities are huge. Another thing I learn you prepare everything far in advance 1,2 3 days before using it. This way you are ready to cook on demand where the orders are coming. The Chef and its Cooks have their own stations and everything is used upon orders coming.
Cooks are doing also a tremendous job, they second the Chef, and they are the ones in front of all the ovens ( we had 3), the open grill, the stove and the open fryer. When orders arrive they do not breath, they provide and provide like automatic robots. They can't even go to the bathroom!
Safety first. Not sure about that. First you need to wear special slip-resistant shoes. Then be prepared to cut yourself many times and more often to burn yourself.
Each cook is in charge of its own station ( cold) or(hot), the Chef is the one who does both when necessary.
The menus? We had 4 different... so you need to learn what is in every dish. All the different sauce, dressings...
FOH - Front of house they are the waiters/ waitresses. Same here they do a big job.
They handle huge weight, plates and everything need to arrive still nice in front of the customers. First you need to learn what is in the menu and what ingredients are in, then you need to learn how to use the computer to pass the order, this is not that simple. Because when people order something this is like " When Harry meets Sally" every thing on the side... so complicated. At the end some people want to split everything, they split the price of the bottle of wine in two, they want to use 2 different credit cards. So when you have a huge table ....this is really hard work. Next time you go with friends try to use an easy way of payment!
Overall it was a good experience at every level, but this is a very hard business and job. You standing for 8 hours on your legs, you take only 30 minutes of break ( not paid) so you really work 8 hours straight, in very hard conditions.
The best time is when you are in a the Kitchen behind you station and when you see the busboys coming back with empty and cleaned plates : you know that the customer liked what you cooked for him!
Thursday, May 29, 2008
A Taste of Light: Opéra Cake, here is the Daring Bakers ( my #3 challenge)
This recipe is based on Opéra Cake recipes in Dorie Greenspan’s Paris Sweets and Tish Boyle and Timothy Moriarty’s Chocolate Passion.
I checked on different pictures related to the Opera Cake and they all looked stunning and beautiful and delicious!
Yes it was a challenge. I made the Opera Cake Step my step. One day I baked the Joconde. And the day after I made the ganache/ mouse, the buttercream, the sirop...
I did not like the fact that for our challenge no Coffee, or chocolate could be used.
I really think that Coffee buttercream with the Joconde made with almonds will be delicious. And I did not like White chocolate either.
I use white chocolate for the ganache/mousse because I had some in my pantry. And it was easy to use actually.
For the Sirup I used Cointreau for more flavor.
And for the icing I use Lemon icing and Apricot Marmelade to give a nice orange color.
I was not very satisfied with my realisation. The buttercream was not fluffy.
The weight of the Joconde each time I put on the cream or ganache made the cake heavier and heavier.
The cake is still in the fridge I had only once slice. My husband ate half of the cake. This is a good sign.
Mine was too heavy, so I am sure this is not the way it suppose to be.
Next time I will use with ral Chocolate and Coffee!
For the joconde
(Note: The joconde can be made up to 1 day in advance and kept wrapped at room temperate)
What you’ll need:
•2 12½ x 15½-inch (31 x 39-cm) jelly-roll pans (Note: If you do not have jelly-roll pans this size, do not fear! You can use different-sized jelly-roll pans like 10 x 15-inches.)
•a few tablespoons of melted butter (in addition to what’s called for in the ingredients’ list) and a brush (to grease the pans)
•a whisk and a paddle attachment for a stand mixer or for a handheld mixer
•two mixing bowls (you can make do with one but it’s preferable to have two)
6 large egg whites, at room temperature
2 tbsp. (30 grams) granulated sugar
2 cups (225 grams) ground blanched almonds (Note: If you do not want to use almond meal, you can use another nut meal like hazelnut. You can buy almond meal in bulk food stores or health food stores, or you can make it at home by grinding almonds in the food processor with a tablespoon or two of the flour that you would use in the cake. The reason you need the flour is to prevent the almonds from turning oily or pasty in the processor. You will need about 2 cups of blanched almonds to create enough almond meal for this cake.)
2 cups icing sugar, sifted
6 large eggs
½ cup (70 grams) all-purpose flour
3 tbsp. (1½ ounces; 45 grams) unsalted butter, melted and cooled
1.Divide the oven into thirds by positioning a rack in the upper third of the oven and the lower third of the oven.
2.Preheat the oven to 425◦F. (220◦C).
3.Line two 12½ x 15½- inch (31 x 39-cm) jelly-roll pans with parchment paper and brush with melted butter.
4.In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment (or using a handheld mixer), beat the egg whites until they form soft peaks. Add the granulated sugar and beat until the peaks are stiff and glossy. If you do not have another mixer bowl, gently scrape the meringue into another bowl and set aside.
5.If you only have one bowl, wash it after removing the egg whites or if you have a second bowl, use that one. Attach the paddle attachment to the stand mixer (or using a handheld mixer again) and beat the almonds, icing sugar and eggs on medium speed until light and voluminous, about 3 minutes.
6.Add the flour and beat on low speed until the flour is just combined (be very careful not to overmix here!!!).
7.Using a rubber spatula, gently fold the meringue into the almond mixture and then fold in the melted butter. Divide the batter between the pans and spread it evenly to cover the entire surface of each pan.
8.Bake the cake layers until they are lightly browned and just springy to the touch. This could take anywhere from 5 to 9 minutes depending on your oven. Place one jelly-roll pan in the middle of the oven and the second jelly-roll pan in the bottom third of the oven.
9.Put the pans on a heatproof counter and run a sharp knife along the edges of the cake to loosen it from the pan. Cover each with a sheet of parchment or wax paper, turn the pans over, and unmold.
10.Carefully peel away the parchment, then turn the parchment over and use it to cover the cakes. Let the cakes cool to room temperature.
For the syrup
(Note: The syrup can be made up to 1 week in advance and kept covered in the refrigerator.)
What you’ll need:
•a small saucepan
½ cup (125 grams) water
⅓ cup (65 grams) granulated sugar
1 to 2 tbsp. of the flavouring of Cointreau ( orange liquor)
1.Stir all the syrup ingredients together in the saucepan and bring to a boil.
2.Remove from the heat and let cool to room temperature.
For the buttercream
(Note: The buttercream can be made up to 1 month in advance and packed in an airtight container. If made way in advance, you can freeze the buttercream. Alternatively you can refrigerate it for up to 4 days after making it. To use the buttercream simply bring it to room temperature and then beat it briefly to restore its consistency.)
(Update Note: The recipe for the buttercream that is listed below was originally based on the original but we had some typos. It's all very confusing (we're good at confusing ourselves) but here is the short of it: When testing the buttercream, we tested a modified version (we're crazy like that!!!) that had 2 cups sugar, ½ cup water and 1¾ cups butter. Yes. That's right. 1¾ cups of butter. The eggs remained the same. We ended up with a very creamy buttercream. VERY. CREAMY. But we don’t want anyone to be afraid of our modified version so you have the option of using the original version listed below or the quantities we’ve listed here in this note. If you are still confused and want to cry, then please e-mail us and we will comfort you!!! We promise!!!)
What you’ll need:
•a small saucepan
•a candy or instant-read thermometer
•a stand mixer or handheld mixer
•a bowl and a whisk attachment
1 cup (100 grams) granulated sugar
¼ cup (60 grams) water
1 tbsp. pure vanilla extract 1 large egg
1 large egg yolk
1¾ sticks (7 ounces; 200 grams) unsalted butter, at room temperature
flavouring of your choice lemon extract
1.Combine the sugar, water and vanilla bean seeds or extract in a small saucepan and warm over medium heat just until the sugar dissolves.
2.Continue to cook, without stirring, until the syrup reaches 225◦F (107◦C) [*Note: Original recipe indicates a temperature of 255◦F (124◦C), however, when testing the recipe I found that this was too high so we heated to 225◦F and it worked fine] on a candy or instant-read thermometer. Once it reaches that temperature, remove the syrup from the heat.
3.While the syrup is heating, begin whisking the egg and egg yolk at high speed in the bowl of your mixer using the whisk attachment. Whisk them until they are pale and foamy.
4.When the sugar syrup reaches the correct temperature and you remove it from the heat, reduce the mixer speed to low speed and begin slowly (very slowly) pouring the syrup down the side of the bowl being very careful not to splatter the syrup into the path of the whisk attachment. Some of the syrup will spin onto the sides of the bowl but don’t worry about this and don’t try to stir it into the mixture as it will harden!
5.Raise the speed to medium-high and continue beating until the eggs are thick and satiny and the mixture is cool to the touch (about 5 minutes or so).
6.While the egg mixture is beating, place the softened butter in a bowl and mash it with a spatula until you have a soft creamy mass.
7.With the mixer on medium speed, begin adding in two-tablespoon chunks. When all the butter has been incorporated, raise the mixer speed to high and beat until the buttercream is thick and shiny.
8.At this point add in your flavouring and beat for an additional minute or so.
9.Refrigerate the buttercream, stirring it often, until it’s set enough (firm enough) to spread when topped with a layer of cake (about 20 minutes).
For the white chocolate ganache/mousse (this step is optional – please see Elements of an Opéra Cake below)
(Note: The mousse can be made ahead and refrigerated until you’re ready to use it.)
What you’ll need:
•a small saucepan
•a mixer or handheld mixer
7 ounces white chocolate
1 cup plus 3 tbsp. heavy cream (35% cream)
1 tbsp. liquer of Cointreau
1.Melt the white chocolate and the 3 tbsp. of heavy cream in a small saucepan.
2.Stir to ensure that it’s smooth and that the chocolate is melted. Add the tablespoon of liqueur to the chocolate and stir. Set aside to cool completely.
3.In the bowl of a stand mixer, whip the remaining 1 cup of heavy cream until soft peaks form.
4.Gently fold the whipped cream into the cooled chocolate to form a mousse.
5.If it’s too thin, refrigerate it for a bit until it’s spreadable.
6.If you’re not going to use it right away, refrigerate until you’re ready to use.
For the glaze
(Note: It’s best to make the glaze right when you’re ready to finish the cake.)
What you’ll need:
•a small saucepan or double boiler
1 cup Icing sugar
3 tsp Lemon Juice
2 tbsp Organic Apricot Jam
1. Mix the sugar with lemon juice, heat on a medium heat.
2. add the Apricot jam
Assembling the Opéra Cake
(Note: The finished cake should be served slightly chilled. It can be kept in the refrigerator for up to 1 day).
Line a baking sheet with parchment or wax paper.
Working with one sheet of cake at a time, cut and trim each sheet so that you have two pieces (from each cake so you’ll have four pieces in total): one 10-inch (25-cm) square and one 10 x 5-inch (25 x 12½-cm) rectangle.
Place one square of cake on the baking sheet and moisten it gently with the flavoured syrup.
Spread about three-quarters of the buttercream over this layer.
Top with the two rectangular pieces of cake, placing them side by side to form a square. Moisten these pieces with the flavoured syrup.
Spread the remaining buttercream on the cake and then top with the third square of joconde. Use the remaining syrup to wet the joconde and then refrigerate until very firm (at least half an hour).
Prepare the ganache/mousse (if you haven’t already) and then spread it on the top of the last layer of the joconde. Refrigerate for at least two to three hours to give the ganache/mousse the opportunity to firm up.
Make the glaze and after it has cooled, pour/spread it over the top of the chilled cake. Refrigerate the cake again to set the glaze.
Serve the cake slightly chilled.
Monday, May 26, 2008
Five Easy Ways to Go Organic
I would like to share with you this New York Times arcticle, dtd October 22, 2007, 6:59 am
Got organic milk? (Tony Cenicola/The New York Times)Switching to organic is tough for many families who don’t want to pay higher prices or give up their favorite foods. But by choosing organic versions of just a few foods that you eat often, you can increase the percentage of organic food in your diet without big changes to your shopping cart or your spending.
The key is to be strategic in your organic purchases. Opting for organic produce, for instance, doesn’t necessarily have a big impact, depending on what you eat. According to the Environmental Working Group, commercially-farmed fruits and vegetables vary in their levels of pesticide residue. Some vegetables, like broccoli, asparagus and onions, as well as foods with peels, such as avocados, bananas and oranges, have relatively low levels compared to other fruits and vegetables.
So how do you make your organic choices count? Pediatrician Dr. Alan Greene, whose new book “Raising Baby Green” explains how to raise a child in an environmentally-friendly way, has identified a few “strategic” organic foods that he says can make the biggest impact on the family diet.
1. Milk: “When you choose a glass of conventional milk, you are buying into a whole chemical system of agriculture,'’ says Dr. Greene. People who switch to organic milk typically do so because they are concerned about the antibiotics, artificial hormones and pesticides used in the commercial dairy industry. One recent United States Department of Agriculture survey found certain pesticides in about 30 percent of conventional milk samples and low levels in only one organic sample. The level is relatively low compared to some other foods, but many kids consume milk in large quantities.
2. Potatoes: Potatoes are a staple of the American diet — one survey found they account for 30 percent of our overall vegetable consumption. A simple switch to organic potatoes has the potential to have a big impact because commercially-farmed potatoes are some of the most pesticide-contaminated vegetables. A 2006 U.S.D.A. test found 81 percent of potatoes tested still contained pesticides after being washed and peeled, and the potato has one of the the highest pesticide contents of 43 fruits and vegetables tested, according to the Environmental Working Group.
Go organic with kid favorites like peanut butter. (Lars Klove/The New York Times)3. Peanut butter: More acres are devoted to growing peanuts than any other fruits, vegetable or nut, according to the U.S.D.A. More than 99 percent of peanut farms use conventional farming practices, including the use of fungicide to treat mold, a common problem in peanut crops. Given that some kids eat peanut butter almost every day, this seems like a simple and practical switch. Commercial food firms now offer organic brands in the regular grocery store, but my daughter loves to go to the health food store and grind her own peanut butter.
4. Ketchup: For some families, ketchup accounts for a large part of the household vegetable intake. About 75 percent of tomato consumption is in the form of processed tomatoes, including juice, tomato paste and ketchup. Notably, recent research has shown organic ketchup has about double the antioxidants of conventional ketchup.
Organic apples are readily available. (The New York Times)5. Apples: Apples are the second most commonly eaten fresh fruit, after bananas, and they are also used in the second most popular juice, after oranges, according to Dr. Greene. But apples are also one of the most pesticide-contaminated fruits and vegetables. The good news is that organic apples are easy to find in regular grocery stores.
For a complete list of Dr. Greene’s strategic organic choices, visit Organic Rx on his website.
Sunday, May 25, 2008
This picture was taken 1 hour after the storm stopped.
Last Thursday was a terrible day in Southern California. We got in 20 minutes rain, storm, hail storm, Thunderstorm...the streets and roads were flooding with so much rain and water. Then suddently there was a huge hail storm right on our block where we live. Our cul-de-sac was all white. The good thing is that I just arrived in front of my home, coming back from the local Library when it happened. My kids could not believe it.
Our beautiful vegetable garden was devastated, so much work ... we do not know if our vegetable garden will survive.
It was pretty sad.
For dinner the only thing I could think of was SOUP, SOUP, SOUP....
For this soup I used all the vegetables I had in my fridge and pantry: corn, tomatoes, French Beans, carrots and peas. For the herbs I used Herbes de Provence and fresh Cilantro.
First I diced all the vegetables,I add 10 fresh Prawns I sauted them in olive oil. Then I add water, salt and pepper. I cooked for 20 minutes.
Then I took off the prawns. I peeled 4 of them and put them back in the vegetable broth. Then I reserved 6 others. In a blender I blended all begetables, prawns amd broth.
The green color ( merci les petits-pois) was amazing and so fresh.
It was an excellent soup, full with delicious flavors, rich, well balanced and healthy. Perfect for an early dinner on a chilly Californian day.
Wednesday, May 21, 2008
So many Food Blogs are available now. Some are based on a Specific Country cooking ( French, Italian, Asian...), some are about desserts only, others about Breakfasts, other about lunch boxes....so when opening one blog you can find all kind of edible treasures.
I am amazed everytime: 1. By the quality of the subject. 2. the way Bloggers write,some should be writters 3. the professional pictures displayed... some are pure beauty.4. Some bloggers can write almost every day about a new subject!How do you keep up on this impossible schedule.
I realise that having a Blog is 24/7 job! You need to think about your next recipe/ cooking, then you need to decide when you are going to cook it, then you make your list, go to the food market or grocery shop and then once it is done do not forget to take pictures, then you load them on your computer, then you write...
How do you write your own blog? do you take notes? How do you chose your subject?
More questions for you Edible bloggers:
My 1st question :How do you stay away from gaining weight... because when you write a blog, you cook and if you cook you eat, taste.
My 2nd question is: how do you keep a normal cooking/ baking budget when you write a blog: you need nice dishes and china to present your creations, you need to buy ingredients, sometimes they are expensive.... what is your secret?
NB. By the way on the pictures are some Turrons from Paries St Jean de Luz, Biarrits, Bayonne France Paries
Monday, May 19, 2008
Yesterday was a Hot Sunday in Murrieta...I guess 105F. The menu was simple.
I love Sunday Cooking. I can take my time around the kitchen, improvise some salad, and set the table outside for my family.
I made Organic Roasted chicken, Muhsroom risotto made with the Chicken sauce, and a delicious Mesclun salad from our vegetable garden... for dessert simple Organic local strawberries with sugar and Heavy Cream the best dessert on earth.
Simple, delicious roasted Organic Chicken1 to 2 hours, again, depending on size of chicken
1 large organic chicken
1 Teaspoon Olive Oil First pressed
1 Teaspoon Organic butter
21 Seasoning Salute ( TJ’s)
1 onion sliced- rings
Preheat the oven to 450°F.
Salt the chicken inside. Place the onion rings on the roasting pan.
Rub the chicken with butter and add olive oil. Put the chicken in the roasting pan .
Season the outside of the chicken generously with salt and 21 Seasoning.
Roast the chicken for 15 to 25 minutes at 450°F. Then turn down the oven to 375°F for the rest of the cooking time.
Check if your chicken is well cooked with a meat thermometer.
Once cooked, the chicken should rest for 10 minutes before being carved, to allow the juices to redistribute themselves through the chicken. You can use the pan juices to make a gravy while you wait if you like, although I saved it this time for my Risotto.
Rice is as common in Northern Italy as pasta is in the south, and risotto is a uniquely Italian method of cooking it. The object is for the rice to absorb enough hot broth so that
it swells and becomes creamy while each grain still remains firm. When cooked, the rice
should be creamy, not runny. Only use all the liquid if you need it. If the rice is dry but
not cooked, add a little water and cook longer.
The best rice to use is a medium-grained Italian arborio
Risotto is really very simple to make and doesn't need a lot of time. You do need to stir
for most of the time it cooks, about 20 minutes.
Wild (Dry) Mushroom Risotto
1 1/2 cup chicken broth-sauce from your roasted chicken (see above)
1 ½ cup dry white wine
1 1/ 2 cup water
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 medium onion, sliced (about 1 cup)
1 medium garlic clove, crushed
1 TJ’s Dry wild Mushroom bag
1 ½ cup arborio
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
½ cup Heavy Cream
Combine chicken stock-sauce and water. Bring to a simmer and add your dry mushroom This can be done in a microwave. Let it soak for 20 minutes.
Heat 1/2 teaspoons oil in a medium nonstick skillet. Add onion and garlic and saute
2 minutes. Add rice and sauté until the rice is completely covered with olive oil. Add wine.
Pour in 1/2 cup of the broth mixture ( without the mushrooms). Cook over medium heat, stirring every few
minutes. As the rice absorbs the liquid, add a little more. Then add the mushrooms Continue to stir and add liquid as needed. This will take 20 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in remaining olive oil,
heavy cream . Add salt and pepper to taste.
I love salad. For those who know a little bit my Blog. I am crazy about salads. I use whatever I have in the fridge, pantry and I can say that all my salads are always delicious and different.
The components, ingredients can be different, but the vinaigrette is always adventurous.
I use fruits, dry fruits, cheeses, croutons ( homemade), different oils, different vinegar… it is endless…
So today since our Mesclun was perfect for my Sunday lunch, I just added some grapes, nuts, olive oil, White Balsamic vinegar, some, Kosher salt and fresh pepper.
It was so good with the Risotto and the Chicken.
Tuesday, May 13, 2008
There are two versions behind the French croque monsieur sandwich.
When I cook for my kids I make the simplest, most common version (not that different from standard-issue American classic, the grilled ham and cheese). But when I cook for adults I make le Vrai croque monsieur that requires a béchamel sauce. My croque monsieur, based on my family's recipe is layered with jambon de Paris (some American stores display Madrange ham or Ferrarini Roasted Rosemary Ham product of Italy) , Swiss Gruyère, and a rich béchamel sauce, encased between slices of toasted white bread, and topped with more béchamel and grated Gruyère. I like it straight from the oven—the cheese bubbling and golden-brown, melting over the sides of the bread, and with a rich, creamy center.
Croque-Monsieur with Bechamel Sauce
2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons all purpose flour
1 cup whole milk
Pinch of ground nutmeg
4 slices firm white sandwich bread
4 ounces sliced French ham ( Madrange) or Italian Ferrarini
4 ounces sliced Gruyère cheese
1 tablespoon melted butter
1/4 cup grated Gruyère cheese
PreparationMelt 2 tablespoons butter in small saucepan over medium heat. Add flour and stir 1 minute. Gradually whisk in milk. Add nutmeg. Increase heat to medium-high and boil until sauce thickens, whisking constantly, about 2 minutes. Season with salt and pepper.
Preheat broiler. Place 2 bread slices on work surface. Top each with half of ham and sliced Gruyère. Top with remaining bread. Heat heavy large skillet over low heat. Brush sandwiches with 1 tablespoon melted butter. Add to skillet and cook until deep golden brown, about 2 minutes per side. Transfer to small baking sheet. Spoon sauce, then grated cheese over sandwiches. Broil until cheese begins to brown, about 2 minutes.