Sunday, January 23, 2011

Orange-zested Pancakes with Blueberry Syrup

It's gameday and I am definitely not hungry for a cheesy omelet.  The Chicago Bears are playing the Green Bay Packers, and fans on either side of NFL's oldest rivaly are ready to go.  I popped out of bed this morning and rather than don the typical sweatpants and a sweatshirt for a lazy Sunday morning, I reached for my jersey.  We're not lolling about today.  We're getting ready.  Gameday ready.

We always have about 5 or 6 eggs sitting around on the weekends and are quite good about using up our stash of eggs just in time for the next week to start.  These days, the chickens are laying only 1 egg per day.  One of them is molting, so the poor dear is losing her feathers mid-winter AND not supplying us with any eggs.  Guh.  The others have slowed down in production, so we think they alternate laying every other day.  Five speckled eggs were just what we needed for this morning's pancakes. 


As I was simmering my blueberries in syrup and my trooper-of-a-roommate is zesting orange into the batter she exclaims, "JO!!!!  These are BEARS pancakes!  Orange and blue!!"  We hadn't even planned it.  It was almost as if the professional sports gods were shining especially brightly in our kitchen that morning.  The pancakes were whisked up, syrup simmered down and our eager selves stuffed and ready for the game.  Unfortunately, the results of the game were less than favorable but at least I've got a new delicious breakfast recipe from it.  We are Chicagoans after all and so we are very good at saying, maybe next year Bears.  Maybe next year.

Orange-zest Pancakes with Blueberry syrup

5 eggs
1 1/2 cups milk
2 cups flour
1/4 cup sugar
zest of one orange

1 cup maple syrup
1 1/2 cups frozen blueberries

Whisk eggs and milk together.  Then slowly add in flour and sugar.  Fold in orange zest.  Place batter in the fridge for 30 minutes to let it cool and thicken.

In a small saucepan simmer syrup and blueberries together until reduced to one cup.  Set aside. 

Pour about 1/4-1/3 cup batter onto a griddle at medium heat.  Your pancake should be about 4 inches across and thin.  Cook, flip, store in the oven at 200 until your through flipping.  Spoon blueberry sauce atop pancakes. 

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Culinary School 3: Methods of Cooking

Remember when I'm still in culinary school?  Oh right.  This Christmas break was delightfully relaxing, but reminded me that I'm about 6 months overdue in telling you all about what I'm learning. As you'll recall, thus far I had cut myself and burned myself though I had successfully learned how to cut onions, chicken, duck, carrots, celery, and make some pretty fantastic soup.  It's a steep learning curve to be sure but absolutely worth the pain.  By the time Methods of Cooking came a long, I finally had the basics down and made it through the whole class without any serious injuries of note.  At least, none that were photo worthy.  Phew.

The structure of Methods itself was radically different than the two classes I had taken previously.  Rather than build day by day on the techniques that we had learned, each class was treated as one unique session, in which we had 3-4 opportunities to practice that method.  The logic is this:  if you can learn how to properly perform any of these methods, when approaching a new recipe, you will simply read it through and say, "oh, this is just a braising recipe with ingredients that I've never seen before.  I know this method, just not these ingredients."  I guess we're building kitchen confidence one step by step method at a time. So, my chef would say, you want to know how to saute?  Here: take broccoli, fish and veal and see what sauteing does differently to each of these things.  Then wash your pans, get new recipes and do the same thing for frying, grilling, poaching, you get the idea.  So here's what I learned and what we cooked.

Saute: using high fast heat to cook quickly over a flame
Trout a la meuniere, veal scallopini, and stir-fried broccoli 

Braise: sear meat and then cook in liquid, on the stove top or in the oven, using slow heat.  As you slowly cook the meat, the cartilage melts thereby thickening the sauce and softening the meat.  
London Broil, lamb stews, beef stroganoff
Below: Brad, gingerly pouring Guinness into our lamb stew, wishing he could have just one sip.

Fry: To cook in heated fat, either battered or simply placed into oil to crisp and brown.  
fish and chips, shrimp and vegetable tempura, apple fritters.

Grill: to place food directly over a flame, no pan used to cook and then blacken.  
vegetable skewers, pork chops with a grilled pineapple, red pepper salsa 

Not pictured, but still practiced:  Roast, and all kinds of "wet cooking" ie Boil, Poach, Blanche I suppose these just weren't photogenic enough for me to snap, or those 11pm nights in the kitchen had worn me out to the point of forgetting to take pictures.

It was finally in Methods that the actual work of cooking hit me, like a stock pot right on your non-slip shoe covered toes.  Culinary school is exhausting.  Forgetting to take pictures in class was the least of my worries. We had lost about 5 of our original 25 people that all started the program together.  Those of us hangers-on realized that we no longer had time to work out, see friends, cook for ourselves at home (ironically) or get good sleep.  Personally, on nights after class I was getting 4-5 hours of sleep and then trying to work 10 hour days.  I am officially tired.  To any of you reading this who I used to be friends with before March 2010, this is your formal apology for dropping off the map.  I realized that with school, I had room in my life for 2-3 relationships outside of work, family and school and beyond that I had nothing left.  The good news is, I can make a dang good apple fritter. These are the sacrifices we make to follow our dreams.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Meatless: Curried (not)Red Lentil & Butternut Squash Soup

Photo credit: JustinC of Wikimedia
I realize the irony of this post.  Here I've been waxing away about the glories of locally sourced meat and I'm going meatless on you.  Never fear, it's just for one day.  In the next 3 weeks, I will be the proud owner of 1/4 of a pig, 1/8 of a cow and 1/2 a goat.  If anyone is in the market for some grass-fed organic meat of any kind, please consider me your #1 supplier. It's been a very meat heavy last few weeks.  Christmas Eve I made New Basics 3 citrus, ginger and rosemary glazed pork loin and then noshed on pork topped fruit salads for days afterward.
There was bacon on Christmas Eve morn, New Years Eve morn and again at New Years lunch.  Speaking of New Years, I celebrated the holiday in New Orleans and there found a new butcher whose pancetta mac n cheese, pork belly sandwich and gambino sandwich are still making me drool at the thought.  Also I found andouille sausage alligator cheesecake and fried chicken at Jacques-Imos, steak at Commander's and lots and lots of fish, which I'm not adding to my meat tally.
Now I'm ushering in 2011 with a freezer is full of carnage and Monday night I just didn't have the heart to face it.  I've been yearning for my "before cooking school days."  Happy memories of those days include intentionally consuming just one serving of meat daily, under salting my food, and steering toward whole wheat products.  And yet cooking school has taught me that lots of good meat is good, flavor is more important than one's shape, salt is everyone's friend and sometimes you just need a old fashioned baguette.
For Christmas, I received Soup and Bread's Cookbook and after meeting Martha through a friend, and respecting her culinary prowess, I am determined to cook my way through it.  First pick went to a Curried Red Lentil and Butternut Squash Soup.  After skimming the recipe and checking out the author I realize, I know this woman?! Bettina had carpooled with Damon and I to crop mob in Michigan on a cold Saturday last March. What small world this is.  Bettina's recipe was one of those that you read through and can taste the flavors melding together word by word.  Fresh ginger and cayenne give the soup a refreshing bite at the end, while the lentils, curry and squash mellow together for a rich, meaty base. Therein fulfilling my meat needs, meatlessly.  Though I couldn't find red lentils at any of the three stores I tried, one bag of green lentils is right around 0.99.  Forget buying spices at a big box store; go to your local spice shop for bulk prices.  The soup is hearty enough to fill you up after these 18 degree days and cheap to boot.

Get inspired, sign yourself up for meatless Mondays and try out this soup.  Or if you just can't find the motivation to cook it yourself, head over to the Hideout on Wednesdays from now until late April for more Soup & Bread favorites.

Bettina's Curried (not)Red Lentil & Butternut Squash Soup
2 T butter
1 medium butternut squash, peeled and chopped into 1 inch cubes
1 onion, diced
1 celery stalk, chopped
1 carrot, chopped
1 t salt
2 T fresh ginger, diced
2 cloves of garlic, diced
3/4 t cayenne pepper
2 t curry
1 quart water
1 cup lentils, rinsed

In a large stock pot, melt butter and saute squash, onion, celery, carrot, ginger, garlic and salt for about 15 minutes, until the vegetables have softened a bit but have not turned color.  Add in 1/4 t cayenne pepper and curry.  Stir well to combine and cook for another 2 minutes.  Add in water, then lentils and bring to a boil.  Reduce to a simmer and cook for 25-45 minutes, until the lentils have evenly softened.  Add remaining cayenne and salt to taste.

I served it with 101 Cookbooks' Shredded Brussels Sprouts and Apples, which also was my very first foray into the world of cooking with tofu.  I used honey, rather than maple syrup, just because it is what I had on hand and the crunch of the nuts and sweetness of the apples worked perfectly with the soup.