Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Student's Choice/End of Semester

To close out the semester, the students suggested what they wanted to make. One said pork dumplings, another said fried calamari, the third suggested brownies, to which I steered to the next step up in elegance: flourless chocolate cake. One three students suggesting 2 appetizers and a dessert does not a meal make, so I rounded it out with a dish I wish I had hit up on grains day: risotto.

First up was making the cake. Flourless chocolate cake was trendy a few years ago, but now that everyone has taken a crack at it, people have recognized it for what it is: an extra dense brownie that doesn't have much chew.


Yield: 16 small serving
Semisweet chocolate 4 oz
Butter ½ cup
White sugar ¾ cup
Cocoa powder ½ cup
Eggs, beaten 3 each
Vanilla bean, scrapings 1 each
1. Preheat oven to 300 degrees. Grease an 8” round springform pan, dust with cocoa powder.
2. Melt chocolate and butter in a double boiler. Remove from heat, stir in sugar, cocoa powder and vanilla.
3. Stir in eggs. Pour into prepared pan.
4. Bake in preheated oven for 30 minutes. Let cool for 10 minutes, turn out onto a wire rack and cool completely.

This is a VERY chocolaty and rich dessert, requiring something to compliment and mute it's strength. Vanilla ice cream (which I made at home and brought in -- not enough time and not enough equipment to make it at school) is a nice, straightforward companion, but a fruit sauce is also pretty classic.


Yield: 2 cups
Raspberries 1 pint
White sugar ¼ cup
Orange juice 2 tbsp
Cornstarch 2 tbsp
Cold water 1 cup
1. Combine raspberries, sugar and orange juice in a saucepan. In a separate bowl, whisk cornstarch into cold water until smooth. Combine cornstarch mixture into the sauce pan, BTB RTS
2. Simmer for 5 minutes or so until the desired consistency, constantly stirring. Note: sauce will thicken further as it cools.
3. Puree in blender. Pour through fine metal sieve. Serve warm or chilled.

Fried calamari is as simple as simple can be. I didn't really do any deep frying in class because it doesn't take much skill or talent to do it -- monkeys run the deep fryers at fast food restaurants. But if we were going to do it, I'm glad it was squid -- I got a student to take whole squid and take them apart. And unlike somethings, calamari only needs a minute in the fryer. Our first few batches came out perfect, but the last was a flop -- the temp of the oil dropped, and instead of coming out light and crisp, the last calamari came out heavy, greasy, overcooked and nasty. Mistakes are a learning opportunity.


Yield: 16 small appetizer portions
Peanut oil 1 gallon
Squid, tubes & tentacles 2 lbs
AP flour 1 cup
Plain cornmeal 1 cup
Salt to taste
Ground black pepper to taste
1. Place oil in appropriate vessel. Bring to 375˚, measuring with fry thermometer.
2. Combine flour and cornmeal in a mixing bowl.
3. When ready to fry, in small handfuls, dredge the squid in the flour and cornmeal mixture and shake off the excess. In batches, gently lower the squid into the hot oil. Cook for 1 minute. The squid will not be browned, but lightly golden in color. Remove the squid and transfer to a cooling rack turned upside down set over a newspaper-lined sheet pan. Season with salt and pepper, as desired. Repeat until all of the squid is cooked. Make sure to check the temperature of the oil before each batch to ensure it is 375 degrees F. Serve immediately.

Dumplings at their core are meatballs wrapped in dough. In this case, a Chinese-style pork dumpling involves pureeing the pork to make a mouse, spiked with a variety of Asian flavors like ginger, scallion, garlic, sesame, soy sauce and rice wine. We didn't have time to make the dough, but the premade goza wrappers were pretty good.

The dipping sauce was made on the fly, mixing ingredients from the recipe (soy sauce, sesame oil) and spiking it with a bit of vinegar.


Yield: 60 dumplings
Pork, ground 2 lbs
Gingerroot, minced 3 tbsp
Scallions, mostly green, minced 4 each
Rice wine 1 tbsp + 1 tsp
Soy sauce 1 tbsp + 1 tsp
Sesame oil 1 tbsp + 1 tsp
Egg white 4 each
Cornstarch 3 tbsp
Fresh water chestnuts, fine dice 2 oz
Thin round dumpling skins 60 each
1. Hand mix pork, ginger, scallion, rice wine, soy sauce, sesame oil, egg white and cornstarch. In batches, place mix in a food processor. Pulse to mix further, then puree.
2. Once the entire batch in pureed, fold in the water chestnuts. Chill until ready to use.
3. Place approximately 2 tsp of the filling in the center of a wrapper. Bring sides up and push/pleat sides together so that the dumpling has an “Empire waist” and some of the filling pushes out the top. Place the shao mai on a cookie sheet and cover with a damp cotton towel until you are ready to steam them.
4. Place enough water into a wok or pan so that it comes up to inch below the steamer basket. BTB. Open the steamer and arrange the dumplings in the steamer basket with space between them. Steam until meat is cooked through, about 5 to 8 minutes. Serve immediately with dipping sauce.

Risotto is a very interactive method. Once you have sauteed the aromatics and the rice andcooked off the wine, it's all about stirring while adding small portions of the liquid, to bring out the starch in the rice to make that thick sauce between the grains. Finished with lots of fatty things, it doesn't take a lot of add ons (in this case asparagus) to make a loud flavor.


Yield: 14 servings
XV OO ½ cup
Onion, medium, dice 2 each
Garlic, minced 1 tbsp
Asparagus, peeled, diced 2 bunch
Asparagus spear tips 2 bunch
Rice, Arborio 3 cups
White wine 1 cup
Chicken stock, hot 16 cups
Butter, cold 8 tbsp
Parmegano-Regiano, grated 1 cup
Mascarpone 17.5 oz
Parsley, minced 3 tbsp
Chicken breasts, large dice 6 each
1. Sautee cubed chicken until medium rare. Set aside. Deep fry asparagus spear tips for 1 minute in 375˚ oil, set aside.
2. Heat oil in a large rondeau, add onion and asparagus, sweat until translucent. Add rice and cook until toasted and opaque, 3-4 minutes.
3. Add wine and cook until alcohol smell dissipates.
4. Add 1-2 ladles of stock at a time until absorbed, constantly stirring. Keep adding ladle by ladle, absorbing fully each time, until all is gone.
5. Remove from heat. Add butter, cheeses and parsley. Stir 30 seconds. Season. Add cooked chicken. Garnish with more grated cheese, parsley and fried asparagus spears.

And that was that. My wife and child came to the school, a few extra staff joined us, and rather than do family-style, I did some plating with the students, using garnishes to decorate appropriate sized portions.

After eating and clean up, I thanked the students, and told them that they were better than the other 7 students who dropped out over the semeseter -- in their professional lives, just being consistent and showing up will be a large part of what proves them to be successful, more than the flakes and the fakers.

There was some talk of starting a new semester in March, perhaps twice a week -- we could get through a lot more recipes and methods, and drill much deeper into theory and directed experimentation. So until then, have a happy new year!