Friday, August 30, 2013

Culinary School Week 30

...And I'm back in the kitchen. Culinary School started off again this week with a bang. I feel like I went from elementary school to an MBA program. My semester is split into two blocks first half I get to spend Wednesday - Thursday nights in Restaurant Forte. Our student run fine dining restaurant and second block I'll be in Advanced baking.

My class changed this semester which is unusual, normally in the program you start and end with the same people. My original class was split and I joined a class of day students who on the first day referred to me as "night class" and made sure to welcome me to the "big leagues". I laughed and played along modestly itching to get into the kitchen so that I could make my presence (and abilities) known to the class. 

I had the opportunity on the second day of class when our Chef announced that our two day practical exam would start then. I fell right back into the flow of the flow of the kitchen and prepared 4 really awesome dishes. Day one was an appetizer of duck breast with a cherry gastrique, and an entree of red trout with a tomato compote over orzo pasta. Then on day two I made scallops in a white wine and browned butter sauce as an appetizer and an entree of chicken breast with a mushroom sauce and rice pilaf, with pretty vegetables. I went from being "night class" to the girl people ask when they don't know if their wine is reduced enough, or the girl who is on the other end of questions like:"hey taste this sauce, does it need any more thyme? Or salt? Do you feel like I should finish it with a little cream?". I really love being good at this. I love getting better. I love going to school and learning more and more and absorbing everything I can from my experiences and from the people I work with. But probably more than anything I love the confidence it gives me. Being away from this program for the summer was nice in how cool it was to spend time with my husband...or how awesome it was to not be sleep deprived. But I live for this, I thrive in this environment and, boy, does it feel good to be back.

These first 7 weeks of the semester the restaurant will be cool. Each week my classmates and I will rotate positions. One week I'll be the garde manger chef, one week the baker, one week the sous chef, one week the pastry chef, all our positions change. Additionally the restaurant cuisine changes, one week Thai, one week French etc. It's going to be challenging but I'm really excited for it. 

Next week is the first week the restaurant is open. German week here we come! 

My new classroom

My day two entree

Monday, August 12, 2013

Reno, Tahoe, San Francisco and the Amtrak

 We'd been planning to visit Adam's brother and wife all summer. Scott and Christie live in Reno and we figured why not, plus we wanted to check out Lake Tahoe and a quick trip to San Francisco wouldn't be all that bad either. Of course I expected we'd make a road trip out of it so you can only imagine my surprise when I got a text from Adam the day before we left that said: We're taking the train to Reno I just bought our tickets. Awesome, I thought, I'll be riding in some box car with transients and hippies. Who rides Amtrak anyway..? But after doing a bit of research I became really excited, observation cars, cushy lounge chairs, a restaurant on board. We were in for a luxurious ride across the desert.

Our train left Salt Lake at 11:30pm on Thursday and arrived in Reno at 8:30am Friday. We slept all night and woke up in a new place ready to take on adventure.

When we got to Reno we threw on our swimsuits and loaded up the car and drove into the mountains to Lake Tahoe. 

 The lake was stunning, tall mountains surrounding clear blue water with huge pine trees.
It was heavenly.

 We picnicked on the beach and wandered around the trails surrounding the water.

 Later we rented a paddle board and decided that it's much harder to keep balanced with two people on board than just one. Ha! The experienced paddle boarding crowd on shore was probably getting a kick out of us amateurs!

After the lake we cleaned up and headed out to "Hot August Nights" in down town Reno. Where one of the largest car shows in the world was taking place. A seemingly never ending parade of cars drove down the main street and casino parking lots were filled with row after row of hot rods. 

 While in the city we decided to try the famous Awful, Awful burger at the diner in the Little Nugget.
It's awful big, and awful good, just like they say.

 The next days destination was San Francisco!

 We hit fisherman's wharf for some clam chowder and shrimp sandwiches on sourdough and then Ghirardelli for treats. 
(Salted Caramel banana shake, we love you!!)

 Later we road the trolley car and hit up China town.

 Where we got some pretty killer Chinese food.

 Adam's favorite part about the restaurant were the sea creatures waiting for their demise.

 On Sunday when we got dropped off at the train station we took the elevator to an empty platform with no waiting train. Come to find out we missed our train because of a miscommunication. After a bit of panic the wonderful Amtrak workers switched our ticket and we had one more day of vacation. Ha! Whoops. Tonight we'll go hop our train home and be there tomorrow morning. After traveling by train I will definitely do it again, it's so comfortable, cost effective, and very convenient, it takes longer than flying BUT when you sleep on the train overnight it's no big deal. We're already trying to decide where we want to go next!

Overall a great trip with great company!

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

BBQ Coka-Cola Ribs

In my house there one disagreement: to Coke or not to Coke. I can't stand the stuff. My husband has to detach his coke IV to take a shower. I've never been much of a soda drinker. It's just not my thing. But when Adam spent two years of his life in Mexico where water is "no bueno" the replacement was Coke. He brushed his teeth with the stuff for crying out loud. You can imagine Adams excitement when I told him about a recipe for Coke Bar B Que sauce I came across a few weeks ago. COKE + BBQ = Happy Adam. We decided to smear said bar b que sauce on some meaty pork ribs. And here's were things get really Coke-y before finishing the ribs on the grill, they get boiled in a Coke bath until cooked through. COKE + COKE + BBQ = Ecstatic Adam. Let me remind you that I'm not Coke fan BUT wow these ribs were GREAT. They were tender and juicy and the bbq sauce was sticky and smokey and so perfect. If you have a Coke lover in your life, make their day and grill up some Coke ribs!  

Bar B Que Coka-Cola Ribs
For the Ribs1 (1.5 liter) bottle of Coca-Cola (not diet)
1 large onion, quartered
6 cloves garlic, peeled and smashed
2 bay leaves
1 tablespoon whole black peppercorns
2 racks baby back ribs (about 4 pounds)

For the Sauce
2/3 stick unsalted butter
1 small white onion, diced
2 cloves of garlic, minced
1 cup ketchup
1½ tablespoons yellow mustard
¼ cup dark brown sugar
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
1 (12 ounce) can Coca-Cola (not diet)
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

In a large pot, add the (1.5 liter) bottle of Coca-Cola, onion, garlic, bay leaves and peppercorns. Add the ribs and, if necessary a bit of water just to ensure the ribs are submerged completely. Bring to a boil and reduce heat to a simmer, turning the ribs occasionally, until the meat pulls away from the bone, about 1 hour.

Meanwhile, to make the sauce combine the butter, onion, garlic, ketchup, mustard, brown sugar, Worcestershire sauce, and (12 ounces) Coca-Cola in large heavy sauce pan. Bring to a boil and reduce heat. Simmer for about 25 minutes stirring often until sauce is thickened and reduced. Season to taste with salt and pepper and let cool slightly. Using a blender, puree the sauce.

Preheat the grill to high.

Remove the ribs from the pot, pat dry, season with salt and pepper and brush liberally with the sauce. Grill, turning often, until charred on the outside, about 8 minutes. Loosely tent the ribs with foil and let rest for 5 minutes before cutting into individual ribs. Serve extra sauce on the side for dipping.