Monday, February 15, 2010

Valentine's Dessert

I made my first tart last night for dessert. I made a shortbread crust and a lemon filling and topped the tart with fresh raspberries. It looked beautiful and tasted even better.

Lemon Raspberry Tart
Adapted from Joy of Cooking
Yield: 8-inch tart pan, 4-6 servings
Print recipe

Shortbread Crust
1/4 cup butter
1/6 cup sugar
1/2 cup flour
  1. Preheat oven to 350F.

  2. Cream butter and sugar together until light.

  3. Mix in flour.

  4. Pat into bottom and up the sides of the tart pan.

  5. Prick bottom all over with a fork.

  6. Bake for 10 minutes. Crust should not be coloured.

Lemon Filling
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cup butter
4 egg yolks
1/4 cup lemon juice
1/2 tbs lemon zest
fresh raspberries
  1. Combine sugar and butter in a heatproof bowl.

  2. In a small pot, bring 1 inch of water to a bare simmer.

  3. Set the bowl over the pot and stir until the butter is melted.

  4. Remove from heat. Add and beat in the egg yolks until no yellow streaks remain.

  5. Stir in lemon juice.

  6. Return the bowl to the heat and, stirring gently, heat the mixture until the mixture has thickened to the consistency of heavy cream (lightly coats a spoon), 6 to 8 minutes.

  7. Strain the lemon mixture through a fine-mesh sieve.

  8. Stir in the lemon zest.

  9. Pour the filling into the tart crust.

  10. Bake the tart until the center looks set, but still quivery, like gelatin, when the pan is nudged, 15 to 20 minutes.

  11. Let cool completely.

  12. Arrange raspberries on top as desired.

Valentine's Dinner

My mom was out volunteering yesterday, so A and I had the afternoon to cook ourselves a Valentine's Day dinner. We made another curry from Vij's cookbook and we also tried making paneer from scratch. Both were really delicious and surprisingly easy to make.

We ate the paneer with some leftover sauce from the beef short ribs we made the other day. I'm not sure I love the combination, so next time we'll try it with a different sauce that better compliments the paneer.

I also made a tart for dessert, but I'll post that separately.

Vij Family's Chicken Curry
Adapted from Vij's Elegant and Inspired Indian Cuisine
Yield: 6 servings
Print recipe

1/2 cup vegetable oil
2 large onions, finely chopped
1 3-inch piece of cinnamon bark
3 tbsp garlic, finely chopped
2 tbsp ginger, finely chopped
1 can diced tomatoes
1 tbsp salt
1/2 tsp ground black pepper
1 tsp turmeric
1 tbsp ground cumin
1 tbsp ground coriander
1 tbsp garam masala
1/2 tsp ground cayenne pepper
3 lbs chicken thighs (we used drumsticks)
1 cup sour cream
2 cups water
1/2 cup chopped cilantro

  1. In a large pot, heat oil on medium heat for 1 minute.

  2. Add onions and cinnamon and saute for 5 to 8 minutes, until onions are golden.

  3. Add garlic and saute for another 2 minutes.

  4. Add ginger, tomatoes, salt, black pepper, turmeric, cumin, coriander, garam masala, and cayenne. Cook for 5 minutes, or until the oil separates from the masala.

  5. Remove and discard skin from the chicken thighs. Wash thighs and add them to the masala. Stir well.

  6. Cook thighs for 10 minutes, until chicken looks cooked on the outside.

  7. Add sour cream and water. Stir well.

  8. Increase the heat to medium-high and bring curry to a boil.

  9. Reduce heat to medium, and cover and cook for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally, until chicken is completely cooked.

  10. Peel the chicken meat off the bones and stir the meat back into the curry.

  11. Just before serving, bring the curry to a light boil on medium heat.

  12. Stir in cilantro.

  13. Serve with plain basmati rice.

Adapted from Vij's Elegant and Inspired Indian Cuisine
Yield: 1 1/2 lbs
Print recipe

1/4 cup water
4 L whole milk
1 1/2 tsp sugar
1/3 cup white vinegar
3 squares of cheesecloth, each 2ft x 2ft

  1. Place water in a large heavy-bottomed pan.

  2. Slowly add milk, then stir in sugar.

  3. Turn the heat to medium and bring the milk to a boil. (We scorched the bottom of the pan and were later told that the way to prevent it is to stir, stir, stir!)

  4. Just as the milk rises, but before it spills over the side of the pot, add vinegar and turn off the heat. The milk will stop rising, and solids will begin to separate from the liquid. Wait 5 minutes until the liquid is completely separated from the solids.

  5. Line a fine-mesh sieve with triple-layered chessecloth and place it in the sink.

  6. Strain the milk mixture through the cheesecloth, leaving the paneer in the sieve for about 5 minutes to drain completely.

  7. Using your hands, gather the edges of the cheesecloth, bringing them togther above the paneer. Enclose paneer tightly in the cheesecloth by twisting the gathered edges against the paneer to seal out any air. Tie the gathered ends into a double knot.

  8. Place wrapped paneer on a large plate with a weight on top to flatten the paneer to about 2 inches thick, pressing out any remaining water. Allow paneer to sit for 1 hour.

  9. Unwrap paneer and place on clean plate. With a large sharp knife, cut paneer as desired.

  10. Can be used right away or can be kept, uncut and tightly sealed, in plastic wrap or resealable plastic bag, refrigerated for up to 4 days.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Beef Short Ribs in Cinnamon and Red Wine Curry

The second curry recipe we tried from the Vij's cookbook was with beef short ribs. This curry was much spicier and I really enjoyed the tender meat.

Beef Short Ribs in Cinnamon and Red Wine Curry
Adapted from Vij's Elegant and Inspired Indian Cuisine
Yield: 8 servings
Print recipe

2 tbsp ghee or butter
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1 tbsp cumin seeds
2 large onions, finely chopped
10 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 can diced tomatoes
1 tsp ground fenugreek seeds
1 1/2 tbsp ground cumin
1/2 tsp turmeric
1/2 tsp ground cayenne pepper
1 1/2 tbsp Mexican chili powder
1 3-inch piece of cinnamon bark
5 cups chicken stock
1/2 cup red wine
2 1/2 lbs beef short ribs, bone removed and excess fat trimmed (each rib about 7 oz raw)
  1. In a large heavy pot, sear the short ribs. Remove from pot.

  2. In the same pot, melt ghee or butter on medium high heat.

  3. Add oil and cumin seeds. Allow seeds to sizzle for about 30 seconds, then add onions.

  4. Saute onions 8 to 10 minutes or until brown.

  5. Add garlic and saute until garlic is golden brown, about 3 minutes.

  6. Reduce heat to low and add tomatoes, fenugreek, cumin, turmeric, cayenne, chili, and cinnamon bark. Stir well.

  7. Increase heat to medium and cook, stirring regularly, until ghee/oil separates from the tomatoes, about 10 minutes.

  8. Stir in stock and red wine and bring to a boil.

  9. Cover and simmer, stirring occasionally, for about 15 minutes, or until ghee/oil separates from the stock and rises to the top.

  10. Add short ribs and stir well. Bring to a boil, cover, and simmer for about 4 hours, stirring occasionally.

  11. Serve with plain basmati rice.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Cilantro Mint Chicken Curry, New Camera, and the Olympic Torch

While we were away, my mom was in town house- and dog-sitting for us. She went to an Indian market and bought almost every ingredient listed in the Vij's cookbook, so expect a few posts on some Indian meals as we try out recipes from the book.

We made cilantro mint chicken curry last night for dinner. I don't think it's the best looking dish because it's pretty much just green, but it definitely had a nice taste. Not too spicy, has a good zing, and relatively easy to make.

It was fun taking pictures of the food with my new dSLR camera and very new 50mm lens. I don't really know what I'm doing with the camera yet, so the pictures are only using auto settings so far, but I still think they look way better than the old camera.

We hurriedly ate dinner so we could head out to watch the Olympic torch go by. There is a definite buzz in the city and it was the first time I really felt the magnitude of the Olympics. It's going to be a fun couple of weeks.

Cilantro Mint Chicken Curry
Adapted from Vij's Elegant and Inspired Indian Cuisine
Yield: 6 servings
Print recipe

Cilantro Mint Chutney
2 cups chopped cilantro (use leaves and stem)
2/3 cup chopped mint (leaves only)
2 jalapeno peppers, finely chopped
1 1/2 cups chopped red onion (about 1 large)
1 tbsp chopped ginger
2/3 cup water
  1. Mix cilantro, mint, jalapeno peppers, onion, and ginger in a large bowl.

  2. Pour one third of the mixture into a blender with one third of the water. Puree until smooth and then transfer to a clean bowl.

  3. Repeat two more times with the remaining cilantro mint mixture and remaining water.

  4. Set green chutney aside while preparing the curry.

1/2 cup vegetable oil
1 1/2 tbsp cumin seeds
1 tbsp coriander seeds
3 tbsp chopped garlic
1 tbsp salt
1 cup plain yogurt (or 3/4 cup buttermilk)
3 lbs chicken thighs (we used drumsticks)

  1. Heat oil in a heavy, shallow pot for one minute.

  2. Add cumin and coriander seeds and allow them to sizzle for about 30 seconds.

  3. Add garlic and saute for about 3 minutes, or until golden brown.

  4. Stir in salt, then turn off the heat.

  5. After 2 or 3 minutes, stir in yogurt (or buttermilk).

  6. Add the chicken thighs and stir well.

  7. Turn the heat to medium, cover, and cook for about 25 minutes, stirring regularly.

  8. Remove curry from the heat and cool for about 20 minutes.

  9. Peel the chicken meat off the bones and stir the meat back into the curry.

  10. Add the cilantro mint chutney and stir.

  11. About 15 minutes before serving, bring the curry to a boil on medium heat, then turn down and simmer, uncovered, for about 10 minutes.

  12. Serve with plain basmati rice.

The Soul of a Chef

While we were in Hawaii, I read The Soul of a Chef - The Journey Toward Perfection, the second book by Michael Ruhlman about the culinary world.

From the back of the book:
In his second in-depth foray into the world of professional cooking, Michael Ruhlman journeys into the heart of the profession. Observing the rigorous Certified Master Chef exam at the CIA (Culinary Institute of America), the most influential cooking school in the country, Ruhlman enters the lives and kitchens of rising star Michael Symon of Lola and renowned Thomas Keller of the French Laundry. This in-depth treatment will satisfy any reader's hunger for knowledge about cooking and food, the secrets of successful chefs, at what point cooking becomes an art form, and more.

I really enjoyed reading about the Certified Master Chef exam, as the 10-day exam sounds fascinating and brutal at the same time. It would be amazing to participate in that one day, whether being an assistant or a judge or perhaps even attempting the exam myself.

Learning more about the lives of successful chefs was interesting as well. The life of a chef is definitely difficult and is something that requires an incredible amount of stamina and passion. I've always dreamed of running my own restaurant, so the book opened my eyes a bit more to what a typical day is like at two very different restaurants.

At this point, all I know for sure is that I am at the very beginning of my journey and I still have so much to learn. Reading books like this inspires me to keep going and see where this path leads. I am also really excited to start school, to which I have now officially been accepted, starting May 25. It can't come soon enough.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Lunch at KCC

We had an amazing lunch today at Kapi'olani Community College. It was actually a recommendation from a taxi driver who drove us to Diamond Head, because the college is at the base of the mountain. When we passed the college, he told us that the school has a large culinary program and that they have a restaurant, so we knew right then that we had to go.

They have a set menu for lunch, with a couple of choices. For appetizer, we had vichyssoise and a goat cheese tart with a tomato vinaigrette salad. Sadly, I forgot to take pictures of the appetizer course.

One of our entrees was braised lamb shank with tomato confit, beluga lentils, and roasted root vegetables.

The other entree was snapper en papillote, with beurre blanc and grilled shrimp in a nest of wilted greens and roasted fingerling potatoes.

We were also offered a selection of desserts made by the pastry students, so we ordered lemon meringue pie and a fruit tart.

To drink, we both had iced tea, which they served with a small glass of simple syrup, so you could sweeten your drink as much as you liked.

All of this for less than $20 per person. I love culinary school meals.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

The Making of a Chef and a Waikiki Sunset

I just finished the book The Making of a Chef - Mastering Heat at the Culinary Institute of America by Michael Ruhlman sitting on the lanai of our hotel watching the sunset overlooking Waikiki beach.

It was a rainy day today, so we spent most of the day sitting on our balcony, reading. I bought this book back in October and starting reading it right away, but just never got around to finishing it, so it was great to be able to spend some time with it on vacation.

From the back of the book:
In the winter of 1996, journalist Michael Ruhlman donned a chef's jacket and houndstooth-check pants to join the students at the Culinary Institute of America, the country's oldest and most influential cooking school. But The Making of a Chef is not just about holding a knife or slicing an onion, it's also about the nature and spirit of being a professional cook and the people who enter the profession. As Ruhlman - now an expert on the fundamentals of cooking - recounts his growing mastery of the skills of his adopted profession, he propels himself and his readers through a score of kitchens and classrooms in search of the elusive, unnameable elements of great food.

I learned a lot from this book about what culinary school is going to be like, and it made me really excited, more than I already was, about going to school. There is so much to learn. I also learned more about what it is like to work at an actual restaurant, which he makes sound pretty hard, but satisfying as well.

It was a perfect book for me, as someone who is about to go to culinary school and thinking about entering the culinary profession. I am going to recommend it to my parents so they can learn more about what my new life is going to be like.

A couple of passages really hit home with me. The first is Ruhlman's opinion on the nature of cooks and bakers.
I'd already discovered that I was a cook. I could know what cooking was, fully, in my bones. Cooks, I had learned, came to cooking not to fulfill a desire, but rather, by chance, to fulfill something already in their nature. The same, I believe, was true of bakers. They were different. I have no doubt that there are people in this world, toiling away, in offices and backhoes alike, who are fundamentally unhappy because they never tried working in kitchens.

The second is a chef's view on what to do after culinary school.
Know what you do? Find the top ten, top twenty places in that city, wherever you're gonna go, and go work there. Money really shouldn't be a big issue. Some of you it has to be, you may be older, you may have a family, you may have a wife, may have kids, or you have to worry a little more about money. But for a lot of you guys, money shouldn't be a major consideration for at least three to five years. I mean that. You make the right decisions, you work for the right people, you keep on working for places of that quality, later down the road, you're gonna be making more money than somebody who came right out and took a sous chef position at thirty-two at an average hotel; you're gonna end up passing them by a long way. Your education should be your major consideration at the beginning. Secondly, when you leave that place, this is something I've done, never take a step back in quality. Again, money can sometimes be a driving force. When you leave a job, keep going to a place that is better, and better, and better. The money comes later and the money'll be good, if you make the right decisions. That's real important.

Jo bought me the second book by the same author, titled The Soul of Chef, which I am looking forward to reading next, hopefully enjoying a few more Waikiki sunsets.