Archive for Cooking School

October 15th, 2010


Why, hello, strangers.

Well it’s about halfway through the semester and I’ve learned a ton. I haven’t been very great about updating but I thought I’d catch you guys up on what I’ve been doing.

Sorry for the crappy cell pics. I can’t exactly bring my nice big camera to class while I’m lugging all my other tools. I’m also still a little new to the photoshop thing so things are going to look a little rough around the edges on my picture layouts…

Egg Chapter

Eggs Benedict and Cheese Souffle

Omelette and Quiche
I forgot to fold the omelette over because I was so excited that I had successfully tossed and flipped it in the pan. One victory at a time, ladies and gents.

Class sit down meal 1
Every group is assigned a course. Ours were the bread/butter and the dessert. This was after our chicken chapter and we decided as a class to do a French theme.
chicken practical
Top left: bread with herbed compound butter
Top right: escargot in mushroom caps
Middle: Chicken en cocotte with Cote du Rhone, haricot vert, butternut squach gnocchi
Bottom left: Salad with walnuts and goat cheese
Bottom right: Tarte tatin with vanilla ice cream

Class sit down meal 2

This was after our fish chapter. Our group made the vegetable and starch sides.

fish meal
Top: Mushroom and brie in puff pastry pouches
2nd picture: Tuna tartare
3rd picture: Smoked salmon entre, pepper salad, French potato salad, vegetable tagliatelle
4th picture: Bread pudding

I haven’t had a lot of chances to take pictures in my baking class because it seems like we are always in such a rush. By the time the product is out of the ovens, we’re usually just in a hurry to pack them up so we can leave. That class is from 7 pm to 10 pm so you can imagine people are itching to get home by then.

Cinnamon buns
Cinnamon buns


Stay tuned: Next post will be about all the cooking I’m doing outside of culinary school!

February 15th, 2010

Soup, Snow and Strangers

Last Saturday it was a little tough to get to class. It was a day after The Great Snowmaggedon of 2010. We got 12 inches of snow in Dallas, which I learned later is the most snow we’ve had in over a hundred years. It was bewildering and exciting and damned cold. I know you Northerners/Europeans/polar bears chuckle at how a foot of snow renders us Southerners helpless and giddy at the same time, but haters to the left please. We had us a good time.


Anyway, it snowed on Thursday and Friday but by the time Saturday rolled around, the magical white stuff had started to melt a little. I woke up on Saturday full of loathing for myself. I was coming down with a sore throat and the thought of driving 20-something miles through this strange Texan winter wonderland early on a weekend seemed ludicrous. I called myself crazy for embarking on this silly personal project but I finally convinced myself to go, and despite feeling really tired, really cold, and a little sick, I was really happy I did.

There was a guy hanging around on the corner where I was waiting to cross the street to get to class. He didn’t seem in any hurry to get anywhere although he seemed unnaturally happy to be out and about so early on a cold Saturday morning. He saw my houndstooth pants and my knife kit and asked loudly, “You going to culinary school?”

“Er, yes…”

“I was in that industry for years! Food industry, man. Learned all the mother sauces and everything. Great times, great times!”

By this time the light had turned and I had to cross the street. All I could think to say was, “Wow, great!” before walking on. I waved goodbye to him and as I got to the other side, he yelled at me, “Stick with it! You won’t regret it!”

It’s odd but that stranger really helped get me through the day.

It also helped that we were doing soups that day. Five soups, to be exact. Perfect for a cold day.



French onion

Cream of Broccoli

Split Pea (we actually used lentils since there were no peas)

Consomme (no picture because it was a pain in the ass to make so I didn’t have time to snap a pic)

All of these were good but I’ll share my favorite with you: the French Onion Soup. After making this, I was really perplexed as to why this soup in particular has a stigma of being really difficult to make when really it’s not. It takes a while to cook, sure, and it uses up an unreal amount of onions, but other than that it’s not the most complicated thing. Try it out if you are a French Onion Soup fan. It’s pretty excellent.

2 Tbsp butter
1 1/4 lb onions, sliced thin
4 1/2 cups beef stock
salt and pepper
1.5 oz sherry
French bread
Freshly grated Gruyere or Swiss cheese

1. Heat butter in a stockpot over moderate heat. Add onions and cook until golden. Stir occasionally. This will take about 20-30 minutes. Be patient, this is where the flavors build. Keep an eye on it though, you don’t want it to burn.
2. Add stock and bring to a boil. Simmer until onions are tender and flavors have blended, another 20 minutes.
3. Season with salt and pepper. Add the sherry.
4. Keep soup hot until you are just about to serve it.
5. Cut the bread into slices of 3/8 inches, enough to cover the top of a ramekin or small soup bowl.
6. Toast slices in the oven under the broiler.
7. For each portion, fill an individual ramekin with hot soup. Place 1 or 2 slices of the toast on top and cover with cheese. Pass under the broiler until the cheese is bubbling and lightly browned. Serve immediately.

February 12th, 2010

Definitely Not Too Cool for School

This spring I signed up for a cooking class at a local community college. Not just a one-night cooking class where you learn to make risotto for Valentine’s dinner… it’s an honest to goodness, uniform-wearing, knife-kit-having, basic food prep class. So far it has been exhilarating and exhausting. It’s only on Saturdays since it’s quite a drive from where I work and live. That means that it’s an extra-long class… almost 6 hours actually.

The first two sessions were lecture. We talked about history, safety and sanitation. There is a class entirely devoted only to Safety and Sanitation and I will have to take that class later on, before I can move on to more advanced cooking. We also learned how to convert recipes, menu structures and touched a little bit on food costing and pricing. Those first two Saturdays were spent in the classroom and there was a feeling of general anxiousness to get into the kitchen. Last Saturday we finally got the chance… and it was FUN.

The prof started off by outlining the plan for the day. Ratatouille, rice, fried chicken strips, french fries, chicken broth, clarified butter. Woof. It sounds like a lot (and it is) but we were divided into groups and the prof also decided that we would throw everyone’s ratatouille ingredients into one giant pot, and that he would take care of the rice for the most part.

He started off by showing us how to chop and julienne veggies. The ratatouille is the first recipe we work with because it provides a lot of practice for knife skills. Onions, zucchini, eggplant, tomatoes, herbs… chop chop chop. We also got a lesson on how to hold a knife properly, which is pretty uncomfortable at first but gives you complete control over your knife. We got even more knife practice by putting together a mirepoix, which is a combination of diced onions, celery and carrots. This is the foundation for a lot of classic cuisine so we’ll be seeing a  lot of this over the course of the semester.

This is how you hold a knife: Last three fingers wrapped around the handle, index finger and thumb squeezing the blade.

From then, it was a bit of a blur. One teammate took care of the broth (chicken bones into a pot of cold water and let simmer for a long time, then add mirepoix and herbs). We worked together on sautéing the veggies for the ratatouille, and we put a pound of butter (!!) into a pot to get clarified butter. Cut up some potatoes for fries. Cut up some chicken breast, season with salt and pepper, dump into flour, then egg wash, then bread crumbs.

In the middle of all this controlled chaos, we also had to make sure to wash our pots and pans. It’s better to wash as you go rather than waiting till the end so that you have a clean station at all times and so that team assigned to sink duty would not go on a murderous, greasy rampage.

By midday we were all starving. Good thing the fries and the chicken were scheduled for the deep fryer in time for lunch. The ratatouille and rice were done shortly after that and we all scarfed most of it down. The food itself was pretty simple but there is nothing like eating a hot meal after hours of hard work to make that meal. After that, we put together everyone’s clarified butter into a bin so that we could use it over the semester. We also strained everyone’s chicken broth into a giant bucket for later use. Prof had also roasted some mirepoix and beef bones in the oven so that we can have some beef broth to work with.

After that, each team was assigned a cleaning assignment. Sanitizing surfaces, cleaning the floor, sink duty, dish room duty. Needless to say this is the least fun part of the class but I’m glad we get to do it too. It instills a lot of discipline to keep the workplace clean and also to be held accountable for all the equipment that’s used.

I’d like to share pictures of all this craziness with you guys but honestly there’s not a lot of time to do anything BUT work while we’re in the kitchen. I’ll sneak in what I can but no promises!

Posted under Cooking School | 3 Comments