Week 10 – Russia

As I walk into the kitchen of my Classical European cuisine class, Chef Bill is wearing a brilliant red hockey jersey with large white letters on the front which reads C C C P. Instantly, memories of the 1980 U.S. olympic hockey team rush into my head. Mike Eruzione running on the ice in celebration as he scores a goal against our hated Russian rivals. I thought for sure I would be disliking this weeks class due to the distain left in my mouth for the Russians. But that was over 30 years ago. The cold war is over and Billy Joel is no longer “starting a fire”. So how is the cuisine of Russia? Do you believe in miracles? I do.

The first item on the menu is Borshch Moskovsky (Moscow-sytle Beet Soup). I enjoy beets and thought this would be a delightful soup. I found it to taste just as it sounds, beety. It was ok. I felt it was missing a component or two. The dollop of sour cream didn’t help as I thought it might. I guess you can say that this dish is an aquired taste.

Next up is the Blini (Buckwheat Pancakes). This was a nice item. Obviously a side dish of sorts, the Blini is like a russian crepe. I wasn’t sure what to do with it but it tasted good. It had a sweetness to it that felt like it should be served as dessert. But we have other plans for the dessert course.

Our next item on the menu is Chahohbili (Georgian-style Chicken). This dish reminded me of chicken cacciatore. I took a whole chicken and cut it into 8 pieces. After sauteeing onions, peppers and garlic, I put the chicken in the pot, deglazed with white wine, covered and simmered for 30 to 45 minutes. The meat fell off the bone. The sauce had tomatoes in it and I added brown sugar to the onions so it was nice and sweet. However, crushed red pepper brought the dish to life. We all enjoyed this dish immensely.

Our next dish was Loby (string beans in sour cream sauce) but Chef asked us not to make the sauce as he doesn’t care for the taste of it. So I made sauteed string beans with diced tomatoes and onions. I used it as a bed for the chicken which was an obvious match.

Finally, the dessert is called Syrniki (Sweet Cheese Fritters with Berry Kissel). The fritters were a nice and savory accompaniment to the berry kissel. Berry kissel is basically a berry marmalade cooked down with sugar. I decided to strain out the seeds of the raspberries and blackberries and use it as a sauce and I took the marmalade and dolloped it on top. I freshened the dish up with a few fresh berries and sprinkled powdered sugar over the top. All in all it was a nice successful and well presented dish.

Well, that’s it. Next week is our practical final and the sememster is finally ending. I will miss this class along with its zany but highly educational Chef Instructor.

Published in: on March 21, 2011 at 3:38 pm  Leave a Comment  

Week 8 – Germany

With only a few weeks left of my Classical European cuisine class, we have moved west northwest into the country of Germany. This cold environment brings us warm and hearty dishes like Kartoffelsuppe mit Miesmuscheln und Lauch (Potato Soup with Mussels and Leeks), Rahmilinsen mit Salat (Lentil Ragout with Greens), Kalbslebersteak mit Roter Zwiebelmarmelade und Senfesauce (Calf’s liver with red onion marmalade and mustard sauce), Schweinelendchen im Schwarzbratmantel, (Pork Tenderloin in a Dark Bread Crust), Rotkraut und Spätzle (Braised Red Cabbage and Spaetzle), and finally Mohncreme mit Rotweinbrinen (Poppy seed cream with pears in red wine).

First up is the Potato Soup with Mussels and Leeks. Honestly this recipe is just like the Soupe de Legumes aux Petits Coquillages from Week 5-France I. We replaced the other vegetables with potato and leeks. Potato and leek soup is also called Vichyssoise which is very comforting but I wasn’t a big fan of the addition of mussels. It felt forced and I would rather have kept the dishes separate. The dish also needed to be seasoned more. I found it odd that mussels were apart of the German cuisine which Chef Bill explained is because the country borders both the North and Baltic Seas’.

Next recipe is Lentil Ragout with greens. I decided to leave off the baby greens and tomatoes and serve this as a bed of lentils with the port instead of a salad. The lentils were seasoned perfectly. This was a heavy dish and I’m glad I used it sparringly. The touch of honey in the end really brightened up the beans and vegetables.

Laid on top of egg noodles is the Calf’s Liver topped with a Red Onion Marmalade. A very simple application, the onions are finely sliced and cooked down in red wine, honey and butter for 45 minutes. They were very sweet and delicious. A great topping for toast but even better with the liver. Now, normally I wouldn’t go near liver, but it was not bad at all. It was tender and juicy and not gamey at all which are my usual issues with liver. We left the mustard sauce off the dish and used some of the onion liquid instead.

The Pork dish was very nicely prepared. The tenderloin was butterflied and stuffed with dried apricots, cherries and raisins stuffing and rolled, tied with twine and cooked. It was delicious. The sweetness of the fruit with the lightness of the pork was a big hit. I topped it with the braised cabbage which was next on the list It was prepared just like the marmalade but thickened a bit at the end with cornstarch. Both preparations were very easy and tasty.

Spatzle is a type of german pasta which is quite fun to make, especially with kids. You make a somewhat thin dough-type batter and pour it through a colander into a pot of boiling water. It will make funny shapes and taste good too. I used the spatzle as a bed for the liver also, but I decided to make egg noodles as well. The texture of the Spatzle was like a light dumpling. Not much flavor just like pasta.

FInally, for dessert is a Poppy Seed Cream with Pears in Red Wine. This is a simple custard with bright flavors like orange zest and the warmth of cinnamon. The pears were poached in the red wine which added a tangyness to the dish. Yummm!

Published in: on March 7, 2011 at 4:43 pm  Leave a Comment  

Week 7 – France III

Ah, the final week of French cuisine. A fond farewell with a menu consisting of Huitres Chaudes aux Courgettes (Warm Oysters with Zucchini), Poulet Saute Marengo (Chicken Saute Marengo), Endives au Lait d’Amandes Douces (Braised Endive with Almond Cream), Tomato Clamart and Potatoes Parmentier, Salade Bigouden (Lettuce Salad), and Creme Brulee.

First is the Warm Oysters with Zucchini. This seemed as though it was going to be an odd combination. The oyster sauce really gave a powerful oyster flavor and with the cream added, made it nice and rich. I wasn’t crazy about eating oysters warm but thats just because I am used to eating them raw. The addition of zucchini to the dish helped but the sauce and really complimented the oyster well.

Next is the Braised Endive. Chef Bill said not to make the almond sauce because it is quite dredful. Preparation for braised endive became very simple. Braised in lemon juice, oil, sugar and salt. See, simple. When completed, it makes a nice vegetable to a dish however, it is a bit bitter and sour with the ingredients so make sure you pair it properly. I combined the endive with the tomato clamart dish.

Chicken Marengo is a classic french dish. Many ingredients and several steps but such a nice presentation and very tasty. I piped mashed potatoes around the border of the dish, placed the toasted bread hearts ontop of the sunny-side up eggs and placed the shrimp ontop of the chicken in the center. The chicken is browned and removed, then the mushrooms, shallots and garlic are sauteed. Then add tomato paste and chopped tomatoes. Add wine and reduce, then add the chicken back. Yummm. The shrimp is simmered in stock and the eggs are fried in the remaining chicken fat. Delicious.

Tomato Clamart is next. This one was quite easy to make. Roma tomatoes with the skin peeled off. Cut the base so that they can stand and then cut the top. With a melon-baller, scoop out the insides of the tomato. I then sauteed peas in butter and onions and used it to stuff the tomatoes. Then I baked them for a few minutes to soften the tomato. A nice addition to a meal and fun presentation. They tasted good too.

Salade Bigouden was simply a lettuce salad tossed in a sweet vinegar dressing. Not much to discuss here. Boston lettuce, cider vinegar and sugar. More of a palate cleanser here.

Finally, Creme Brulee. A beautiful and sweet custard topped with sugar and caramalized with a blowtorch. Delicious. It had just the right amount of sweetness and so creamy. I will definitely be making this classic french dessert again.

Published in: on February 28, 2011 at 4:08 pm  Leave a Comment  

Week 6 – France II

Week 6 of Classical European cuisine brings us our second week of French cuisine. The menu this week includes Soupe a l Oignon (French Onion Soup), Navarin d’Agneau (Lamb Stew), Farcis de Blettes (Stuffed Swiss Chard), Watercress Salad with Endive and Cucumbers, and Crepe Suzette.

A simple dish, French Onion soup was delicious. Caramelized onions in a beef broth with Gruyee cheese melted on top is very easy to make. The hardest part is cooking the onions and that is only because it takes 15-20 minutes. A deglaze with white wine gives a nice tangy flavor to the soup. I enjoyed this dish and look forward to not only making it but twisting up the recipe a bit.

The next dish was a lamb stew. Yet another braising dish that was simple to make. A few minutes of prep and a couple of hours of braising and its done. I’m not a huge fan of lamb so when I tasted it I wished it was made with beef but overall it was very good. Turnips were a nice addition to the dish. It was flavorful due to the herbs and amount of vegetables, basically a standard braise.

Stuffed Swiss Chard is an interesting side dish. It reminds me of the stuffed cabbage that my mother makes. The chard is a slightly bitter leaf that is blanched and stuffed with rice. The ‘blanc’ technique is used to disperse flour through a strainer with water and used to boil the chard stalks.

For a salad course I made a watercress salad with endive and cucumbers. These are traditional french ingredients tossed in a simple vinaigrette. Nothing to complicated here. The salad was as good as it was simple. An easy dijon mustard vinaigrette was pleasing and complimented the ingredients well.

Finally, I made crepe suzettes. I’ve always wanted to know what it was and how it tasted. The answers are crepes in an orange glaze and delicious. First made a simple crepe batter and gently made my crepes in a non-stick pan. Then you start a simple caramel in a pan, add butter, flambe with your favorite orange liquour (grand marnier) and add the crepes to the pan. I folded the crepes into triagles and plates. Orange zest and fresh squeezed orange juice brightens it up nicely. Simply delicious.

Published in: on February 21, 2011 at 2:40 pm  Leave a Comment  

Week 5 – France I

Week 5 of Classical European cuisine is our first of three weeks of French cuisine. The menu consisted of Souipe de Legumes aux Petits Coquillages (Vegetable Soup with Shellfish), Le Blanc de Poisson Belle Mouginoise (Fillet of Fish Bell Mouginoise), Filet de Porc Farci Lyonnaise (Stuffed Pork Tenderloin), Ratatouille, and Salade de Poire (Pear Salad).

For the vegetable soup with shellfish chef surprised us by making Mussels in Pernod. We also made the soup but the mussels were outstanding. O.k., on to the soup. It lacked a little flavor. There is no reason to use vegetable stock when it is not a vegetarian dish. I would’ve made a seafood stock for more flavor.

For the filet of fish we used tilapia. It was alright. I would’ve preferred a better filet like snapper or sea bass rather than such a mild white fish. The vermouth seemed pointless and I felt it needed more white wine. I liked the ingredients however, it lacked in flavor. So far France, I’m not impressed.

Maybe the pork with lift the menu. Tenderloin stuffed with ground pork, onions and breading, how could it be bad. It wasn’t bad at all. The tenderloin needed to be pounded out thinner and it needed more flavor in the stuffing. I reduced the braising liquid and thickened it with arrowroot. Lacked a little salt but overall it was very good.

Ratatouille is next on the menu. This was a nice but I assumed it would be a soup. The recipe only called for the vegetables to be sauteed. The tomato wasn’t enough liquid and it reminded me more of a topping than a dish on its own. Maybe if it were prepared like a soup it would’ve been better.

I must admit, we didn’t spend too much time worrying about the pear salad. A simple vinaigrette added to pears is not on my palate list but it was ok. Nothing real special to mention here. Pear on a plate with dressing. The recipe called for pomegranate which would’ve been a nice touch.

Of course dessert is closing this week. Chocolate mousse is a staple french dessert. Chef gave us a ridiculously easy recipe for a perfect mousse. Whip egg whites and heavy cream separately, temper chocolate over a double boiler. Fold eggs and cream into chocolate. It was that simple…and good.

Published in: on February 14, 2011 at 4:10 pm  Leave a Comment  

Week 4 – Northern Italy

*Unfortunately, this week I do not have photos because I accidentally deleted them as I was trying to add them to this post.

Week 4 is a sad week. The final week of Italian cuisine for my Classical European class. At least it went out with a bang. The menu consisted of Vitello Tonnato (Veal in Tuna Sauce), Gnocchi Di Patate Salsa Di Parmesan REggiano E Porie (Potato Gnocchi in Parmesan Cheese and Leeks), Osso Bucco Milanese (Braised Veal Shanks), Risotto Alla Zafferano (Risotto with Saffron), Cicorietta Saltata Con Pancetta (Chicory sauteed with Pancetta), and Panna Cotta.

The first veal dish of the day was prepared in an interesting way. It was wrapped in cheesecloth and then cooked in stock like a soup. This style allowed the veal to be super tender. The Tonnato sauce was a nice blend of tuna, anchovy, garlic and capers. I felt it was too much tuna and thus felt like the dish was topped with tuna fish. The sauce can be adjusted to which ingredient you feel should be most dominant.

The next dish was Gnocchi. I love potato gnocchi and this dish did not disappoint. Although it is made with potatoes, the pasta is light and holds sauces well. The dough was a bit too wet and the gnocchi did come out too gummy so I should have added more flour. However, the cheese sauce for the dish was excellent. It did not stray to far from alfredo sauce but I enjoyed the addition of leeks.

The next dish I had been waiting to make since I began my culinary journey; Osso Bucco. I never made it and never ate it and was excited to give it a whirl. I was surprised to see how easy it is to prepare. So much so that I will be making it more often at home. The veal shanks were a beautiful piece of meat. Seasoned, flour and seared, the flavor begins to build. Mirepoix and a deglaze of the pan with red wine and the braising liquid will cook the veal while keeping it nice and moist. The veal was tender and full of flavor. I plated it on top of risotto and topped the veal with a gremolata.

The risotto was a very nice accompaniment to the Osso Bucco. A traditional combination in italy, the risotto with saffron acted as a great vehicle to serve the hearty veal dish. The aborio rice was sauteed in butter and shallots until every grain has opened, then a deglaze of white wine fills the kernels with flavor. A chicken stock is added slowly to create a creamy consistancy. And finally, parmesan cheese is added to make a rich and flavorful risotto.

I also accompanied the risotto and veal with a vegetable. Chicory is a bitter vegetable but sauteed with pancetta and wine gives it a sweetness that is lovely. It is blanched first, then sauteed so it reminds me of collards. I would definitely use this vegetable recipe as a side dish to many other dishes.

Panna Cotta was our closing dessert to the Italian feast created in Week 4. Panna Cotta is a light milk custard and served with fresh fruit takes it to another level. Creamy and sweet with a mix of strawberries and blueberries is the perfect finishing dessert. A garnish of mint and powdered sugar creates a warmth I feel a dessert should allow. Panna Cotta will always be a favorite of mine.

Published in: on February 7, 2011 at 3:52 pm  Leave a Comment  

Week 3 – Central Italy

This week I studied the cuisine of Central Italy. The menu consisted of Tagliatelle al Peperoncino (Red Pepper Tagliatelle), Melanzane Involtino (Eggplant Roll), Bruschetta, Pollo alla Toscana (Chicken Sauteed with Mushrooms), Polenta, Asparagus with Parmesan Cheese, and Tiramisu.

First, I didn’t add the crushed red pepper to the pasta however, I wouldn’t mind trying it sometime. Instead, I used the very simple recipe from Chef Bill which was 2 cups of flour and 4 eggs. Then, once I ran it through the pasta roller, I cut up some tagliatelle, fettucine and papardelle. I presented the papardelle with a simple tomato sauce and garnished with a chiffonade of basil. Chef said the pasta was cooked perfectly (i.e. slightly firm and not gummy at all). Since it seems an imperfect science, I was relieved.

Eggplant Rolatini was next. This recipe was a bit of a process. You must slice the eggplant somewhat thin, drizzle with oil and bake just so that it softens and is workable to roll. The recipe called to stuff it with prosciutto, but I only had ham so I wasn’t thrilled with the end result. Normally, I would stuff it with ricotta but the great part is that it can be filled with anything (within reason). The dish wasn’t a great success but I knew going in it would never live up to my grandmothers.

I will preface this entry by saying the Bruschetta was awesome. I’ve had bruschetta many times and it’s always been good, but the addition of Aioli to the bread was a stroke of genius. I’m upset that I didn’t come up with that idea myself. And roasting the garlic is definitely key to the flavor.

Pollo alla Toscana was a good dish. I’m not a real fan of mushrooms but the addition of sage brought out a nice flavor. Although I am of italian heritage, my family and I rarely ever use sage and you must be careful not to use too much because it is a very potent herb. I think this dish lacked a bit of flavor and maybe needed a hint of salt and pepper. But I coiuld see where they were going with the recipe.

With the Polenta I decided to use the Roman Gnocchi presentation and unfortunately the butter sauce broke. But as from a previous post, you get the idea. I’ve never made polenta before but enjoyed it. I wish I had put more salt in it because it was a bit bland. I find that the polenta can be a great starch used in the presentation of the dish and hope to incorporate it in other presentations.

What can I say about asparagus with parmesan cheese? It’s asparagus with parmesan cheese. It was good and I enjoy asparagus and the addition of the grated cheese lifts it up a bit. Not much else to say here. I guess it’s simply, you need to eat your vegetables.

Finally, it’s time for dessert. And on the menu is Tiramisu. One of my favorites. I adjusted the recipe and created a pudding type tiramisu and served it in a martini glass with the lady fingers. The recipe only calls for mascarpone, vanilla extract, coffee and marsala wine. The vanilla helps with the traditional tiramisu flavor. After that, I added heavy cream mixed with powdered sugar to sweeten the mascarpone mixture. Once I got a nice pudding consistency, I rolled the cookies in coffee, added them to the glass and topped it with the tiramisu and sprinkled cocoa. The finished product? A masterpiece. I love the presentation of this dessert and so do many people I’ve served this to. It’s fun and delicious.

Published in: on January 29, 2011 at 2:51 pm  Leave a Comment  

Week 2 – Southern Italy

Unfortunately, our 2nd week class fell on the Martin Luther King holiday and we missed out on the cuisine of Southern Italy. Next week, Central Italy.

Published in: on January 29, 2011 at 1:40 pm  Leave a Comment  

Week I – British Isles

Last week marked the first day of my Classical European class at the Art Institue of Ft. Lauderdale. This meant that we were to prepare the cuisine of the British Isles. The menu consisted of a Langostine Souffle, Fennel and Red Onion Salad with Tarragon Dressing, Roast Beef and Yorkshire Pudding, Cheese and Herb Bread and Strawberry Shortbread. The following is an account of each recipe.

The Langostine Souffles’ were an excellent starter. Although a traditional seafood stock and the use of actual Langostines instead of shrimp would have helped with the richness of the dish, I found it to be light, fluffy and somewhat full of flavor. This was a wonderful savory souffle and the use of lemon zest and nutmeg brought out great flavor. Also, depending on your palate, you could add more cayenne to kick up the heat.

The Fennel and Red Onlion Salad is just what it sounds like. Fennel and onion were sliced very thin and tossed with a typical tarragon vinaigrette. This recipe was nothing to write home about but it helped me understand the types of ingredients used in the region.

Next was the Roast Beef and Yorkshire Pudding. I’ll end the suspense…Yorkshire Pudding did not make it but the Roast Beef was excellent. As a carnivore, we could not wait to dig in and maybe rushed the slicing process a bit. The Roast shoudl have rested a little while longer but was still packed with flavor. There was a great crust on the outside simply made from salt and pepper. We served the meat with the Fennel & Onion Salad.

Finally, a Strawberry Shortbread for dessert. Sweet and creamy with fresh whipped cream. The surprise here was the fact that the shortbread was more like a cookie than a cake. I enjoyed it nonetheless. What’s there not to like. Strawberries and whipped cream? All good things. The shortbread made it tough to eat because of the hardness of it. I would probably find a better way to have served it because when you try to cut into it, the cookie pushed everything out.

All in all, it was successful day in the kitchen. The dishes, although amateur in nature, were an interesting look into the British cuisine. Next time I want to make fish and chips.

Published in: on January 24, 2011 at 3:21 pm  Leave a Comment  

Aragosta e ravioli (Lobster and Ravioli)

Aragosta e Ravioli2 servings

8-10 Ravioli, Quattro Formaggi (4 Cheese)
1 Lobster tail, meat removed and chopped
2 Garlic Cloves, minced
1 Shallot (med.), diced
1 tbl Olive Oil
1 tbl Unsalted Butter
1 cup Cherry Tomatoes, sliced in half or quartered
3-4 Basil leaves
1/2 cup White Wine
1/2 cup Heavy Cream, rm temp.
1/4 cup + garnish Parmesan Cheese

Bring salted water to a boil for ravioli.

In a saucepan, heat oil on med-high heat. Add butter and melt. Add garlic and shallots and saute until shallots are translucent (do not brown garlic). Add white wine and reduce by half. Season lobster meat with white pepper, add to pan and cook 1 minute. Remove from heat and set aside. Meanwhile, add ravioli to your boiling pot of water. You will know when they are done when they float to the top, about 3-5 minutes.
Add heavy cream and parmesan cheese to your garlic, shallot and wine mixture and place back on med heat. Add ravioli to pan and toss with the sauce. Add tomatoes until warm. Plate and garnish with parmesan cheese and chiffonade basil.

Published in: on June 5, 2010 at 3:42 am  Leave a Comment