Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Weekly Roundup - The Neverending Cold

Last Week At Chef School - Of course with only a few classes remaining in my first course at George Brown Chef School I would get terribly ill, so when I say "last week at chef school" I really mean two weeks ago at chef school, as I did not attend last weeks class, fearing for both my classmates and my own safety as I was deep in the midst of this terrible, seemingly neverending cold. Not surprisingly Sandwich Week at chef school was one of the easiest as of yet, with much of our cooking done as a team. With an invitation to an awesome-sounding event the same night as class, I was tempted to skip a class as simple as sandwich making, but then I asked myself "what sets apart a homemade sandwich from an 'industry level' sandwich?" Why is it that sandwiches and wraps taste so much better when you buy them at a restaurant or take-away? I wasn't quite sure. After the calmest class of them all so far, I now know that a lot of it has to do with common sense.

I learned that in order to keep the bread fresh and prevent it from going soggy, you should always coat the bread in some sort of spread, whether that's a mayo, tapenade, or other spread, you want to create a layer that separates your toppings from your bread or tortilla, while also helping it to stick together. You should also consider the order of ingredients that you put in your sandwich, for instance, in The Grilled Vegetable Paninis that we prepared in class we placed the roasted red peppers between the grilled zucchini, onion, and eggplant because it contains the most moisture. You should also consider where the sandwich is being served, our Smoked Salmon & Cucumber Tea Sandwiches and Open Face Shrimp Salad Sandwiches would be the type of sandwich served at a party or event, so you want them to be easy to hold and bite into so smartly-dressed guests don't make a mess of their outfit.
Feeding A Cold - Desperate to get rid of my horrible, gross, cold I tried to focus on eating healthy foods that would encourage my body to get better. Here is one example of a healthy and easy meal that I made for myself in an attempt to kick my Fall cold. Baked sweet potato with sautéed onions (onions love to help fight colds!) with mascarpone cheese, sautéed garlic spinach (the spinach helped to keep my iron levels up while the garlic acts as a cold fighting superhero!), worst-breath garlic bread with Summer Fresh Jalapeno Greek Yogurt Dip (spice helps your body to sweat out the toxins from the cold, with the greek yogurt giving your body the good bacteria it craves), and last but certainly not least, a special delivery from my Oma (my German grandmother), her family-favourite chicken noodle soup (filled with lots of love, which is the ultimate cold fighter!).
This Week At Chef School - How is it that some of the simplest-sounding classes at Chef School seem to end up being the most difficult? Just like Salad Week kicked my butt in class, Soup Week pretty much knocked me to the ground! On the menu this week was:
Beef Consommé
Butternut Squash Soup
Clam Chowder
Hot & Sour Soup
With a menu that included four soups to present, with access to only three burners, I knew it was bound to be a difficult and messy week. Although I have made Butternut Squash Soup and Clam Chowder before, and knew them to be relatively easy, it's a whole other ball game juggling those plus two more all at once. It was downright scary, let me tell you! I actually wondered at one point in the class if I was even going to be able to serve all four soups in time for "service". The soup that was by far the trickiest and longest to prepare was the Beef Consommé. Prior to my class, I had no clue how beef consommé was made, and now after learning the extremely odd process to achieving a perfect clear beef consommé, I wonder who in the heck would have ever thought to try this method to begin with. The strange process to making beef consommé begins by whipping egg whites until slightly frothy to loosen them up. You then add raw ground beef to the egg whites, breaking it up with your whisk so they combine. To that you add a mirepoix of onion, carrot, celery, leeks, and tomato concassé, mix, then stir in cold beef broth. Pour into a stock pot, throw in a spice bag and brulé onion and place on a stove just under medium heat, so you get some movement in the water, but you are not allowing the mixture to boil. After about 20-minutes or so, the meat, vegetable, and egg white mixture rises to the top and begins to form what is known as a "raft", a sold piece of grey sludge that allows the beef broth to bubble around the sides and stream into the centre of the raft to naturally filter out the impurities in the stock, resulting in a clear consommé that lets you to see down into the bottom of the bowl. How crazy is that?! I can't imagine how anyone would have thought to invent such a weird process. 

What did I learn this week?
  • How to make a beef consommé.
  • A trick to naturally thickening a soup is to grate raw potatoes into the soup.
  • Another trick to thickening up a soup (although it does not last forever) is by creating a slurry of cornstarch and cold water and stirring that into your soup. The cornstarch will eventually break down, so this trick only works for serving right away.
  • Hot & Sour Soup is probably the easiest and fastest soup ever! 
  • Add clams to clam chowder very late in the cooking process so they don't get rubbery.
On My Mind:
Best socks ever! I must own you!

If you haven't watched this unique interactive video for Bob Dylan's "Like A Rolling Stone", you must right now! Make sure to flip through the channels while watching.

Finally Martha doesn't make me feel like a complete failure when it comes to food. Hey Martha, your food photography sucks!

The Historic Distillery District's Christmas market is back! Make sure to check it out before it closes on December 15!

Please take a moment and check out my friends passion project "Michael Was Here" a short film about two estranged sisters who are reunited after the death of their brother, and sent on a road trip to fulfill his last will and testament. They need support to get this inspiring project up and running, so please donate whatever you can through their Indigogo campaign! 

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Listening To:
David Bowie - Let's Dance

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