Wednesday, December 7, 2011


I wanted to make a second thing for A to bring to his work function, thinking I would try out a new cookie recipe. But I was working at the hockey game yesterday and the pastry girl had made marshmallows, and I decided that's what I wanted to do. I told her my plan and she suggested that I made smores instead. Brilliant. So I made a basic graham cracker crust, covered it with ganache, and then placed the marshmallows on top. If I had a torch, I would probably try brulee-ing the tops of the marshmallow to give it that toasted taste. Delicious.

Adapted from this recipe on
Yield: 1 9x13 pan or 36 1.5x2.25 inch bars
Print recipe

icing sugar, for dusting
3 tbsp gelatin
1/2 cup water
2 cups sugar
2/3 cup light corn syrup
1/4 cup water
1/4 tsp salt
1 tsp vanilla extract
  1. Prepare a 9x13 glass dish by greasing it with butter and sifting icing sugar over the bottom and sides of pan.

  2. In the bowl of a food processor, combine gelatin and 1/2 cup water. Let bloom for 10 minutes.

  3. In the meantime, in a pot, combine sugar, corn syrup, and 1/4 cup water.

  4. Over medium-high heat, bring to a boil. Allow to boil until temperature passes 250F.

  5. Turn mixer on at low speed, and drizzle in hot sugar.

  6. Once all syrup is mixed in, turn mixer to medium-high speed, and add salt.

  7. Continue mixing for 8 to 10 minutes. Once volume of marshmallow has stopped increasing, add vanilla or other flavouring (I also added almond extract).

  8. Pour marshmallow into prepared pan. Use a buttered rubber spatula to spread mixture.

  9. Let marshmallow cool and set for 4 hours or overnight.

  10. Turn out onto a cutting board dusted with icing sugar. Using a pizza wheel, section the marshmallows into desired shapes. Dredge each piece in icing sugar.

  11. Store in airtight container.

Ginger Cake

I made this ginger cake last week. I was looking through the Joy of Cooking for new recipes and was captured by the description of this cake: "Some of the best cooks we know sweat by versions of this cake. The large quantity of fresh ginger (don't be afraid) and the absence of other spices produces a sophisticated cake." The recipe called for 1/2 cup of ginger, but I found it a bit too ginger-y. I made it again today, for A to bring to a work function tomorrow, and reduced the ginger to 1/3 cup, and I think it turned out much better. It is a really easy cake to make, and I think the description calling it "sophisticated" is perfect.

Ginger Cake
Adapted from Joy of Cooking
Yield: 1 8x8 square pan, or 9 2.5-inch squares
Print recipe

1/2 cup butter
1/2 cup water
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup molasses
1/4 cup honey
1 egg
1/3 cup finely minced ginger
1 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
  1. Preheat oven to 350F.

  2. Line an 8-inch square baking pan with parchment, leaving a slight overhang on all sides.

  3. In a small pot, combine butter and water and heat until butter is melted.

  4. In a large bowl, whisk together brown sugar, molasses, honey, and egg. Add ginger and whisk to combine.

  5. Whisk butter mixture into molasses mixture.

  6. In a small bowl, combine flour, baking soda, and salt. Add to molasses mixture and stir in just until smooth.

  7. Scrape batter into pan and bake until toothpick inserted into center comes out clean, about 25 to 30 minutes. 

  8. Cool completely.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Fromage Frais

I had a really fun weekend making fromage frais. My mom bought me a cheesemaking book and I've been looking forward to trying some recipes from it for a while. We spent Saturday shopping for rennet, a coagulant, and for the bacterial culture, which we ended up finding at Les Amis du Fromage, which we had never been to before, but were impressed by - we'll definitely go back to buy cheese another time.

The recipe was really easy - it only took about 10 minutes to do. The milk had to sit out at room temperature for about 12 hours, so Sunday morning before work, I drained it into cheesecloth. It wasn't really like the ricotta or paneer I had made before, where the curds separate visibly from the whey. I poured the entire pot into the cheesecloth, and it seemed very watery. I wasn't quite sure how it was going to turn out, but I was really excited to come home from work to find it had set up perfectly. I was happy.

I haven't quite had time to figure out what to do with it yet because on Monday I got really sick. I'll post some pictures once I make something with the cheese. But I will definitely be making more cheese in the future, maybe some goat's cheese, if I can find goat's milk, and feta one day soon too.

Fromage Frais
From 200 Easy Homemade Cheese Recipes
Yield: 1L
Print recipe

4L whole milk
1/4 tsp aroma or mesophilic culture
2 drops liquid rennet
kosher salt
  1. In a large pot, warm milk over medium heat to 77F (25C), stirring gently to prevent scorching. Remove from heat.

  2. Sprinkle culture over surface of milk and let stand about 5 minutes to rehydrate.

  3. Using a skimmer and an up-and-down motion, gently draw culture down into milk without breaking surface of milk.

  4. Dilute rennet in 1 tablespoon of cool water. 

  5. Add diluted rennet to milk. Using same up-and-down motion, draw rennet down into milk until well blended.

  6. Cover and let set at room temperature in a draft-free location for 12 hours.

  7. Using a skimmer, ladle curd into a cloth-lined colander and let drain. The draining will take several hours, depending on how firm you want your final product to be.

  8. Remove cheese from cloth and place in a bowl. Weigh cheese, then add 1% of the weight in salt.

  9. Store in the coldest part of the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Broccoli, Cheddar, and Quinoa Soup

My mom bought me a book of quinoa recipes that I have been excited to try. I finally made a couple of things last night, but the only one of the three that I liked was this soup. You don't really even notice the quinoa in the soup, so it's a super easy way to add nutrition to a meal. And with the weather cooling down, the soup is a perfect way to keep warm.

Broccoli, Cheddar, and Quinoa Soup
Adapted from Quinoa 365
Yield: 4-6 servings
Print recipe

3 cups broccoli florets
1 tbsp butter
1 cup onion, chopped
1/4 cup quinoa
3 cups chicken or vegetable stock
1 cup whipping cream
1 cup cheddar cheese, shredded
salt and pepper, to taste
  1. In a large pot, melt butter over medium heat.

  2. Add onion and saute until soft, about 10 minutes.

  3. Add broccoli, quinoa, and stock. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to medium-low. Simmer until quinoa is tender, about 20 minutes.

  4. Puree with a hand blender or food processor.

  5. Add cream and season with salt and pepper.

  6. While soup is hot, stir in cheese until just melted. Serve immediately.

Potato Salad

I've been meaning to post this recipe for a long time now. I made this summery potato salad a few times over the bbq season. You can add any vegetables you like, but I used red nugget potatoes, yellow and green beans, tomatoes, and baby carrots. Blanch all the vegetables separately (besides the tomatoes of course) and cut into bite-sized pieces before combining.

Potato Salad Dressing
Yield: 1 1/2 cups
Print recipe

1 cup mayonnaise
1 tbsp dijon mustard
1 tbsp prepared pesto
1 tbsp white wine vinegar
1 tbsp apple cider vinegar
1 tbsp sherry vinegar
fresh dill, to taste
fresh parsley, chopped, to taste
salt and pepper, to taste
  1. In a bowl, combine all ingredients.

  2. Toss with vegetables.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Back in the Kitchen

It's been a while since I posted anything on here. It's definitely been a strange few weeks.

I started at Hawksworth a few weeks ago, and it was incredibly exciting. Every day, I was learning something new, tasting delicious food, and just soaking in everything about opening a restaurant. The days were really long, and I would come home exhausted, but really happy.

I was working nights for the first two weeks, and I eventually got assigned to be the assistant for the hot appetizer station at dinner. There was some great food on that station, like scallops in house-made XO sauce and sweetbreads cooked in bacon fat and maple syrup, so I was looking forward to learning all those dishes. But somehow things would never quite work out and I would end up helping with some other job or station, so it was a little bit frustrating at times, feeling like I wasn't really learning the station I was assigned to and thus not really feeling like I was doing a good job.

I was still really enjoying the whole experience, until the second night of soft openings when Chef Hawksworth talked to me and told me that I was going to not be working for a few weeks. I had been assigned to be one of the breakfast cooks and to save on labour costs, the restaurant wasn't going to serve breakfast until closer to the hotel opening, scheduled for some point later in the summer. It was a bit of a blow. I had always kind of expected to be assigned to breakfast, but I had gotten so used to working at night and with the team at night, who are pretty amazing cooks, and the prospect of not working for a few weeks had me a little disappointed.

It ended up working out not so badly. I worked a number of Canucks playoff games, which are always a lot of fun, and I went to bartending school on my days off, which was something I had been thinking about doing anyway. I also got more used to the idea of breakfast and the perks that went along with that - getting my own station instead of being someone's assistant and thus getting to actually cook instead of doing prep all day, and also getting to enjoy the summer at little bit since I'd be done work in the early afternoon.

So yesterday was my first day back in the Hawksworth kitchen after three and a half weeks away. It felt really good to be back. And things are pretty exciting - we're learning the breakfast menu and experimenting with new recipes. It also feels good to actually be working. It's strange how different life is when you don't have a job - free time is great, but having less of it makes you appreciate it more I guess. The only downside is starting work at 5am. I am definitely not used to that yet. I probably won't really ever be used to it.

We have our first brunch service this weekend, nothing next week, brunch again next weekend, and then we are open for breakfast every day starting next Monday. I'm looking forward to all of it.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Mexican Wedding Cakes

These are my new favourite cookies. They are buttery and crumbly and really easy to make.

Mexican Wedding Cakes
Adapted from this Martha Stewart recipe
Yield: 3 dozen
Print recipe

1 1/2 cup pecans
1 1/2 cup flour
3/8 cup sugar
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/8 tsp salt
3/4 cup butter, cut into small cubes
1 cup icing sugar
  1. In a food processor, combine pecans, flour, sugar, cinnamon, and salt. Pulse until mixture resembles coarse meal.

  2. Add butter and pulse until a dough forms.

  3. Shape dough into a disc and wrap tightly in plastic. Refrigerate for 30 to 60 minutes.

  4. Preheat oven to 325F.

  5. Remove dough from refrigerator. Pinch off about 1 tbsp of dough and roll into balls. Place on parchment lined baking sheet, about 1 inch apart.

  6. Bake about 20 minutes or until the cookies are just golden at the edges.

  7. Cool for 5 minutes on sheets, and then cool completely on racks.

  8. Roll cooled cookies in icing sugar twice to coat thoroughly.

Monday, May 2, 2011

Chocolate Mint Cookies

Today was my first official day at Hawksworth. Basically, it was just a safety orientation because the hotel is still a construction zone. We actually had to wear hard hats throughout the session, and we got scolded from some of the construction guys for not having steel-toed shoes. We got to see the kitchen, which is looking good. Lots of nice, new equipment. The pans are all Le Creuset, pretty and blue. The team is really young, and I know a couple of people, which is a bit of a relief. We get to start in the kitchen tomorrow, testing recipes and whatnot, while they assess our skill sets to figure out where we'll work when the restaurant opens. I wasn't too excited before because I was so nervous, but now that I've seen the kitchen and the people and the menu, I'm definitely starting to get into it more.

Anyway, I had most of the day off, so I figured I should do some cooking at home. I haven't been baking too much and I kind of had a craving for something sweet, so I started looking up some cookie recipes. I was thinking about the Brussels cookies from Pepperidge Farm that I used to eat when I was a kid (there were mint Brussels back then), and decided I wanted chocolate mint cookies. No one seems to have any recipes to replicate the Brussels cookies, so a quick google search on chocolate mint cookies took me to Oprah's recipe for her version of the Girl Guide chocolate mint cookies, which I also love. Perfect.

They have a very similar taste to the Girl Guide cookies, but I didn't coat them in chocolate (too lazy), so it's missing a bit of charm. They also spread a lot more than I anticipated, so perhaps next time, I would make the log a little bit smaller, probably more like 1 inch.

Chocolate Mint Cookies
Adapted from this Oprah recipe
Yield: 3 dozen
Print recipe

3/4 cup flour
1/4 cup cocoa powder
5/8 cup sugar
1/4 tsp baking powder
1/8 tsp baking soda
1/8 tsp salt
3/4 cup butter, cut into small cubes
1 egg yolk
1/2 tsp vanilla
1 tsp peppermint extract
  1. Combine flour, cocoa powder, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in bowl of food processor or stand mixer. Mix to combine.

  2. Add butter. Mix until butter is combined. Mixture will not come together.

  3. Add the egg yolk, vanilla, and peppermint and mix until dough comes together.

  4. Remove dough from bowl and shape into a 1-inch wide log.

  5. Wrap in parchment paper and refrigerate for at least 2 hours.

  6. Preheat oven to 350F.

  7. Remove dough from refrigerator. Cut into 1/4-inch discs and place on parchment lined baking sheet, about 1 inch apart.

  8. Bake 8 to 10 minutes or until the cookies are light golden brown at the edges. Cool completely on racks.

  9. Can also be coated in tempered chocolate.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Spinach and Tomatoes with Paneer

My mom was in town for a visit and of course we did some Indian cooking while she was here. One night, we made a vegetarian dinner that included spinach and tomatoes with paneer. We used an updated paneer recipe from Vij's second book, and it is actually a lot better in both texture and taste than the recipe I previously posted.

Spinach and Tomatoes with Paneer
Adapted from Vij's At Home
Yield: 4-6 servings, as a side dish
Print recipe

1/3 cup vegetable oil
6 cloves garlic, finely chopped
3/4 can diced tomatoes, liquid removed
1 tsp salt
1 tsp turmeric
1 tbsp ground cumin
1/2 tbsp ground coriander
5 cloves
1 tsp cayenne pepper
10 oz paneer, cut into bite-size cubes
3 bunches fresh spinach, chopped into 1-inch pieces
  1. In a large pot, heat oil on medium heat for 1 minute.

  2. Add garlic and saute for 30 seconds.

  3. Stir in tomatoes.

  4. Add salt, turmeric, cumin, coriander, cloves, and cayenne. Cook for 3 to 4 minutes, or until the oil glistens on top.

  5. Stir in paneer and spinach and mix well.

  6. Cover and cook for 2 to 3 minutes or until spinach is wilted.

Adapted from Vij's At Home
Yield: 10 oz
Print recipe

1/2 cup water
2L whole milk
1/4 cup white vinegar

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

  2. Slowly add milk.

  3. Turn the heat to medium and bring the milk to a boil. This will probably take about 20 to 30 minutes.

  4. As the milk nears the boiling point, watch it very carefully with vinegar in hand.

  5. The milk will start to rise in the pot. Once it has risen 3 inches, turn off the heat.

  6. Swirl in the vinegar (do not stir in). The milk will stop rising, and solids will begin to separate from the liquid. Allow mixture to sit for 10 minutes until the liquid is completely separated from the solids.

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

  8. Strain the milk mixture through the cheesecloth, leaving the paneer in the sieve for about 15 minutes to drain completely.

  9. Using your hands, gather the edges of the cheesecloth, bringing them together 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.

  10. 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.

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

  12. 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.

P.S. Happy Birthday D!
P.P.S I start at Hawksworth tomorrow - SO nervous!

Tuesday, April 19, 2011


At Raincity Grill, one of the first things I learned was that you can make ricotta. And that it's super easy.

We made paneer at home a while back and it's actually very similar. Basically, all you do is take some whole milk and buttermilk, warm it up until the milk solids separate, and then strain. It turns out more dry than the ricotta you can buy in the store (though apparently you can control the consistency of the cheese by the length of time you drain it - for a drier ricotta drain for 15 minutes or more, for a ricotta that is a bit creamier, drain for less). It's also somewhat bland so you need to season it with salt for savoury applications, but I think it's really fun to make, and tasty too.

I used the cheese in a spinach and ricotta cannelloni, but I wasn't very happy with how it turned out, so I'll perfect the cannelloni recipe before I post it.

Yield: 500mL
Print recipe

2L whole milk
2 cups buttermilk

  1. Place milk and buttermilk in a large heavy-bottomed pan.

  2. Turn the heat to medium. After 10 to 15 minutes, the solids will start to separate from the liquid.

  3. Once the mixture reaches 175F, turn off the heat.

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

  5. Strain the milk mixture through the cheesecloth, leaving the ricotta in the sieve for about 15 to 20 minutes to drain completely.

  6. Season to taste. Can be used right away or can be kept, in an airtight container, refrigerated for up to 4 days.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Rabbit with Mustard

When we were at Cioffi's the other day, we also bought a whole rabbit. I think I've eaten rabbit once before, in Quebec, when I was younger, but I didn't really remember it, so I was excited to try it again, and cook it myself.

I opened up the package, slightly surprised to find a whole rabbit, so I had to butcher the rabbit myself. I didn't really have any idea what I was doing, but I managed to cut it into six reasonable pieces, four legs and two loins. I braised the meat, and while the sauce was really delicious, the meat ended up somewhat tough. I don't know exactly how it's supposed to be, but I think it could definitely be more moist. I'll have to try it again.

Rabbit with Mustard
Adapted from Joy of Cooking
Yield: 2 servings
Print recipe

1 rabbit, cut into 6-8 pieces
1/3 cup dijon mustard
1 tbsp fresh thyme leaves
3 tbsp olive oil
1/4 cup onion or shallot, chopped
1 cup white wine
1 1/2 cup chicken stock
1/2 cup heavy cream
1 tbsp chopped flat-leaf parsley
1 tbsp chopped chives
1 tbsp lemon juice
  1. Mix the dijon mustard and thyme leaves in a small bowl.

  2. Generously brush it over each piece of rabbit. Season with salt and pepper.

  3. In a large pot with a lid, heat oil over medium heat.

  4. Add the rabbit pieces and lightly brown on both sides.

  5. Remove meat and reduce heat to medium-low.

  6. Add the onions or shallots to the pan and cook until lightly browned, 1 or 2 minutes.

  7. Add wine, stock, and cream. Increase the heat to high and bring to a boil.

  8. Reduce heat and simmer for about 5 minutes.

  9. Return rabbit to pan, cover, and cook gently until tender but still moist, about 45 minutes.

  10. Remove rabbit from sauce, and bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce until sauce is reduced to about 2 cups.

  11. Add parsley, chives, and lemon juice and season to taste with salt and pepper. Serve immediately.

Sunday, April 17, 2011


I've always wanted to make brioche. It's a rich, egg-y, delicious bread, and perfect for French toast.

Adapted from Joy of Cooking
Yield: 1 loaf
Print recipe

2 1/4 tsp dry active yeast
1/3 cup whole milk, warmed to 105F-115F
1 cup all-purpose flour
3 eggs, lightly beaten
3 tbsp sugar
2 tbsp whole milk
1 tsp salt
1 3/4 cup bread flour
3/4 cup butter, softened
  1. Combine the yeast and warm milk in the bowl of a stand mixer. Let stand until yeast is dissolved, about 5 minutes.

  2. Add the all-purpose flour, eggs, sugar, remaining milk, and salt. Mix on low speed.

  3. Gradually stir in the bread flour. Mix until all ingredients are blended.

  4. Knead with the dough hook on low to medium speed for 7 to 10 minutes until the dough cleans the sides of the bowl.

  5. Add butter and knead vigorously until butter is completely incorporated and the dough is once again smooth.

  6. Transfer dough to a buttered bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and let rise in a warm place (75F-80F) until doubled in volume, about 90 minutes.

  7. Punch the dough down, knead briefly, and refrigerate, covered, for 4 to 12 hours.

  8. Divide the dough into four equal pieces. Roll each piece into a ball and let rest for 10 minutes.

  9. Stand the balls in a buttered loaf pan so they are touching.

  10. Cover loosely with plastic wrap and let rise in a warm place until doubled in volume, and dough fills the pan, about 1 hour.

  11. Preheat the oven to 375F.

  12. Bake until golden brown and a knife inserted in the center of the loaf comes out clean, about 30 minutes.

  13. Let cool slightly, then move loaf to a rack to cool completely.

Osso Bucco

We had the best dinner last night. We found this new butcher, Cioffi's, and they have the most amazing selection - whole ducks, rendered duck fat, foie gras, any cut of veal or beef or pork - basically a cook's dream. We bought some veal shanks to make osso bucco, which I served with saffron risotto. I wish I took a picture of the meal because it was probably the best one I've made in a while.

Osso Bucco
Adapted from Joy of Cooking
Yield: 2 servings
Print recipe

2 veal shanks
2 tbsp olive oil
1/2 cup carrots, diced
1/2 cup celery, diced
1/2 cup onions, diced
4 cloves garlic, mashed
2 bay leaves
1/4 cup parsley stems
2 sprigs fresh thyme
1 cup white wine
1 cup chicken stock
2 tbsp chopped flat-leaf parsley
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 tsp lemon zest
  1. Preheat oven to 325F.

  2. Pat dry shanks and season with salt and pepper.

  3. In a Dutch oven with a lid, heat oil over medium-high heat.

  4. Add the shanks and brown well on both sides.

  5. Remove shanks and add carrots, celery, onion, garlic, bay leaves, parsley, and thyme. Cook until vegetables are softened, about 5 minutes.

  6. Return shanks to pan. Add wine and stock. The liquid should reach about halfway up the shanks.

  7. Increase the heat to high, bring to a boil, cover with a lid, then place in the oven.

  8. Braise for one hour. Turn shanks over. Add more chicken stock if needed to keep liquid level halfway up shanks.

  9. Braise for another hour or until the meat is tender is offers no resistance when pierced with a knife.

  10. Meanwhile, prepare the gremolata by mixing together the parsley, garlic, and lemon zest.

  11. When veal is cooked, add the gremolata and season to taste with salt and pepper.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Fish and Chips

Done school. It was rough for a few days, but I'm finally more relaxed, and motivated to start cooking again. First dish up - fish and chips.

We used cod, which I think I don't really like, so the fish wasn't my favourite part of the meal. But I LOVED the chips with the tartar sauce.

Beer Batter
Yield: 6-8 pieces of fish
Print recipe

1/2 tsp yeast
2 tbsp warm water
1/2 bottle room-temperature beer
2/3 cup flour
  1. In a bowl, combine the yeast and water. Let sit for about 5 minutes until the yeast is dissolved.

  2. Add the beer and flour. Whisk to combine.

  3. Let rest in a warm place for about 30 minutes before using.

Tartar Sauce
Yield: 1 cup
Print recipe

1 egg yolk
1 tsp dijon mustard
1 tsp white wine vinegar
1 cup vegetable oil
1 tbsp capers, chopped
1/4 cup gherkins, chopped
1 tbsp chives, chopped
1 tbsp parsley, chopped
1 tsp lemon juice
1 tsp worcestershire sauce
  1. In a bowl, whisk together the egg yolk, mustard, and vinegar.

  2. Using a hand blender, slowly drizzle in the oil. If the mayonnaise gets too thick, add a little bit of water.

  3. Fold in the remaining ingredients and season to taste.

Wedge Chips
Yield: 2-3 servings
Print recipe

5 russet potatoes
oil for frying
salt, to taste
  1. Peel potatoes and cut each potato into six wedges.

  2. Rinse wedges. Place in simmering water. Cook for 10-15 minutes or until just tender. Cool.

  3. Preheat oil to 360F. Carefully place half the wedges into the oil. Fry until golden brown, about 5 minutes.

  4. Season with salt immediately. Keep warm in the oven while frying the second batch.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Block 11: Week 4 - Vegetables

I'm done school! The year flew by in a flash. I still can't really believe it's over.

It took me a while to post because I was incredibly sad the past few days. Who knew I could get so attached to people in just 11 months? Embarrassingly, I even cried at the bar on Friday night when people started leaving.

Thinking back on the year, I really had an amazing time. There were definitely ups and downs, but overall, I am really happy that I had the opportunity to go to culinary school - I learned a lot about both cooking and myself and I made some wonderful friends.

It was a fun week of school. I was on the vegetable station, so each day we had to prepare three different vegetables, as well as rice and a potato dish. We had a different chef for the last week, so on Monday, I had to stay back and help the incoming dessert group. But desserts is pretty easy, so I spent the day making chocolate peanut butter macaroons, though they didn't really turn out. This week, chef let us all eat dinner in JJ's one night, and I was pretty irritated when the group who ate that night decided to send back their desserts because they weren't plated properly.

Tuesday and Wednesday were pretty regular - prepping veg and then cooking on the line. The line is probably the most intense for the veg group because you have to time things perfectly with the meat station and you don't want overcooked or undercooked veg, and of course, each dish has totally different veg on it.

Thursday was probably my favourite day, though I almost missed it. Chef wanted me to make macaroons again, for the buffet, so I made raspberry macaroons with pink peppercorn buttercream. They turned out really well. And it was my turn to eat dinner at JJ's, and I got to go with a great group of people. Saying goodbye to our IA chef Vanessa was pretty hilarious. It was 80's night at our usual hangout, which made for a great night out.

But it also made for a rough Friday morning, when I had to write the ITA level 2 test. It went surprisingly ok though. Hung out with a couple of classmates until school, counting the cut jar money with her insane cat, and eating a delicious sandwich at Meat and Bread.

The last day of school was a relatively easy day. It was a buffet day and we had done most of the prep the day before. There were supposedly ninety reservations in the books, but it actually seemed less busy than the previous buffet. I was a runner again, which was just fine for me - super easy. We cleaned up really fast again (everyone was pretty anxious to get out of there), and then we took a quick class photo before some celebratory champagne and then we were done! The whole class came out to the bar, which was awesome.

It was quite a year, and I am sad it's over. But I have some wonderful memories and some great friends to take with me. One chapter over. And now, onto new challenges. I'm excited to see what the next year will bring.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Block 11: Week 2 - Appetizers

My group was on appetizers this week, so I made a fraser valley greens salad with shaved vegetables, panko crusted goat cheese, and a truffle vinaigrette, french onion soup with braised short rib, and buttermilk fried chicken with creamy coleslaw. The one dish I didn't get to make was the mushroom risotto because Friday was buffet night. Appetizer station didn't really get to make much for the buffet because Block 9 makes all the salads, but we are changing to a spring menu next week, so I tested out one of the new appetizers, a tomato tart with puff pastry, goat cheese, basil, and balsamic reduction. I was also a floater one day, so I used up some leftover shrimp to make a wonton-wrapped shrimp for an amuse bouche.

There was an outside catering event that our station helped with by making citrus aioli (I burnt the citrus reduction - extremely irritating - and split the aioli twice), saffron risotto balls, tomato bocconcini skewers, and prosciutto-wrapped asparagus.

Outside of school, had lunch at La Taqueria and sushi at Zero One. We also went to Glowbal for the other A's birthday lunch, which was really delicious. His birthday drinks were fun, especially when we ran into some of F's co-workers. One invited me to lunch at Al Porto the next day, where we got a free antipasto platter, served to us by F.

Next week - desserts.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Block 11: Week 1 - Entrees

Block 11 - last block. Less than a month left of school. It is crazy how fast it has gone by.

Block 11 seems like it'll be a nice way to finish off the program. We're cooking dinner in JJ's, and it's not a really busy time of year, so service is pretty easy. Our chef is kind of the opposite of the previous chef - very relaxed and mellow. My group is totally different too, and probably the strongest group I've had in a long time. I finally don't feel like I have to babysit someone everyday.

Entree station cooked duck breast, halibut, lamb stuffed with garlic and herbs, and chick pea curry. There was a party that came in on Thursday, so we prepared a large amuse bouche for them - a deconstructed nicoise salad. It had confit albacore tuna, confit tomatoes, fingerling potatoes, frisee and green bean salad, nicoise olives, deep fried capers, and the highlight for me was the hard-boiled egg, which was steeped over night in saffron tea to make it a beautiful orange-red colour on the outside. A and a couple of friends came in for dinner on Thursday for A's birthday, and they really enjoyed the salad.

The best night this week was Tuesday - A and I went to Bao Bei for an early birthday dinner. I didn't know much about the restaurant expect that it was modern Chinese and had been voted one of the top ten new restaurants in Canada, so I was pleasantly surprised by everything. Tuesday was a rainy night and by the time I was out of school, we didn't end up getting to the restaurant until almost 9, so we were expecting it to be pretty dead, but it was actually full and we had to sit at the bar. The bartender was funny in an awkward kind of way, so we thought he was pretty entertaining. The menu was cool too - lots of word play, like my cocktail was called a John Wein, and our noodle dish was called Dan Dan Revolution. The food was pretty delicious, and just what we wanted for dinner. My favourite was the duck consomme with duck wontons. Amazing.

Next week - appetizers.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Block 10: Week 4 - Vegetables

A nice week to end the block. Vegetable station was relatively easy.

I was really only on the station for three days. My first day, I made potato wedges roasted in duck fat. I was supposed to just bring them to a simmer in a pot before roasting them, but I guess the pot boiled, so chef wasn't too happy with me for overcooking the potatoes. But they still turned out ok, and in fact, they were pretty delicious. The next day I was on soup, so I made a lentil soup with double smoked bacon and ham hock, garnished with an herb cracker. I was pretty happy with how the soup turned out, really tasty with a nice creamy texture.

Not too much exciting happened outside of school this week.

Next week - Block 11, last month of school.

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Block 10: Week 3 - Appetizers

This was a difficult week for me, emotionally. It started on Monday, because F was away sick, so I had to deal with my group without his help, though service went smoothly. Tuesday morning, I just knew it wasn't going to be a good day. A left mad at me, it was station switch day, and F was pushing my buttons and driving me nuts. Even though I found out that I probably got the job at Hawksworth (offer letters are going out in a couple of weeks), I felt pretty sad and alone that day. Wednesday I woke up feeling really sick, plus I wasn't quite over the day before, so it was a rough day for me. Thursday picked up though because the guy I dislike was away from school. It still amazes me how much one person can affect my mood so much. And Friday was a pretty fun day, more back to normal.

Appetizer station was also pretty easy. Shrimp and avocado salad, salmon and prawn cakes with lemongrass sauce, beet salad, and pate.

My special this week was a poached egg salad with bacon vinaigrette. No customers ordered it, which was kinda sad, but the two chefs and even chef JC ate it and they all enjoyed it, so that made up for it a bit.

I really only went out once this week, yesterday, to W's girlfriend's store opening. It was a pretty chill night - nice food, free wine, and nice clothes.

Next week - vegetables.

Monday, February 28, 2011

Block 10: Week 2 - Desserts

Dessert station was kinda fun. We made pavlova with berries, sticky toffee pudding, chocolate marquise with caramel espresso ice cream, and lemon souffle pudding.

We also get to make a special each day. My special was the apple pear thing, though for school, I called it a tart, even though it wasn't made in a tart shell. I made individual ones for service, but I ended up with a lot of ingredients leftover, so I made an extra big one for the class. Though it turns out that chef liked the big one better because he thought there was too much crust on the individual ones. But I liked the small ones because the crust is my favourite part. I served it with cinnamon ice cream, which was delicious.

Service was pretty easy, especially after the week on entrees. The desserts are all made in the morning, so when someone orders, it's basically just plating, which doesn't take much time at all. We had a couple of parties come in this week - one had chocolate marquise and the other had the sticky toffee pudding, and both parties went smoothly.

There was quite a bit of frustration this week too. One guy in my group is so hard to work with. The food he makes is SO terrible. He made apple crumble as his special, but he didn't even put butter or sugar into the crumble. He also made two batches of the chocolate marquise this week, both of which were not sellable. Also, since I'm the leader, I don't switch stations on Tuesday with the rest of the group. So my first day on dessert station, I didn't really have all the information that my group did, but the two people I trust in my group were helping at a function and weren't there to show me what they had learned the day before.

Training the new group was also a frustrating day. The people in the group I train are ok, but they don't really work together as a group at all. They are also a bit lazy. So I spent most of my day working with them, trying to get them up to speed on all things entree, and any free time I had, I had to try to pop over to the dessert station to find out as much as I could. We went out for some drinks after school and I think it's the last time we're going to Malones. A couple of us also went and saw Gnomeo and Juliet.

Friday, A and I went to 131 for G's birthday. I haven't been there much this year, so it was a bit awkward going there. But it got much more awkward when they essentially asked us to leave because they had another reservation coming in. One of G's friends took exception to this and went on a rampage, demanding that they pay our bill. I hate confrontation to begin with, and this one was worse because I'm kind of friends with the owner. It wasn't really a pleasant ending to the evening.

On Wednesday, after a reflective lunch at Subway, I had my interview for Hawksworth, the new restaurant I mentioned last week. The chef de cuisine is relatively young and seems pretty awesome. The interview went ok, but I'm not sure I sold myself very well. He's supposed to get back to me next week after contacting my references. Nervous.

Next week - appetizers.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Dinner at West

Yesterday, I had my first day off since Christmas holidays. It was an amazing day - dim sum in the morning, some shopping at Costco, bought a Le Creuset dutch oven, and ended the day with dinner at West. Co and Nic bought us a gift certificate for Christmas, so we were all set to go. And it was probably the best dinner we've ever had. Thanks girls!

It wasn't a super busy night in the restaurant, so when we arrived, we asked if there were any tables where we could see the kitchen, and that's where we sat. It was great. I spent the night eating great food and watching the kitchen work. It was pretty cool because the chef David Gunawan was actually cooking. The kitchen was really quiet and clean and I loved seeing everyone in action.

We decided to splurge a little and we ordered the tasting menu. It was a five-course dinner, as well as an amuse bouche and petit fours. I had the February tasting menu and A had the Chef's tasting menu, and of course, we shared, so we got to taste tons. I included the menus below. A also had the wine pairings, which were excellent.

Also, our server was asking us about the kitchen and A mentioned that I work at Raincity Grill. I guess cooks get special treatment because she brought us each a plate of the appetizer special, which was a quail ballantine stuffed with sweetbreads and mushrooms and served with the most delicious foie gras I've ever had. It was an amazing meal.


Amuse Bouche - chrysanthemum consomme with shiitake mushrooms and seaweed

First - squid tempura with nori, quinoa, rice, radish, salsa verde

Second - qualicum bay scallops, oats, licorice, roasted cauliflower in tempura, scallop foam

Third - tagliatelle with mushrooms, sea urchin, mussels, ling cod, wasabi tobiko

Fourth - smoked sablefish, sunchoke puree, beech mushrooms, clams, maple glazed bacon, black malt

Palate Cleanser - cranberry sorbet and grapefruit

Dessert - whole wheat chocolate cake, tamarind cream, hibiscus ice cream

Petit Fours - coconut and passion fruit truffle, orange and almond frangipane


Amuse Bouche - chrysanthemum consomme with shiitake mushrooms and seaweed

First - albacore tuna marinated in squid ink, saffron risotto, tuna confit croquette, potato, chorizo, smoked paprika, squid ink smear

Second - five-spice braised pork belly, beluga lentils, cherry, peewee poached egg, lapcheung vinaigrette

Third - peking duck risotto, abalone mushroom

Fourth - beef tenderloin, pomme puree, sous vide short rib, wilted spinach, caramelized red onion, cognac and peppercorn jus

Palate Cleanser - cranberry sorbet and grapefruit

Dessert - apple spice cake, cinnamon creme anglaise, apple jelly, earl grey ice cream

Petit Fours - coconut and passion fruit truffle, orange and almond frangipane

Friday, February 18, 2011

Block 10: Week 1 - Entrees

Block 10 is a whole new ballgame. Our new chef is pretty serious - no more joking around. If you do something stupid, he will call you out in a second. He's a little scary. He's also not afraid to yell when someone is doing something particularly stupid. But he's a good chef. He knows what he's doing, and I like that he doesn't treat us like babies anymore. Basically, we are free to do as we like as long as everything is ready for service and the food is good.

We are cooking lunch in JJ's this block. Each week we are on a different station - appetizers, entrees, vegetables, and dessert. We are divided up into groups like the first few blocks of school. I was somewhat dreading this because while I like everyone in my class, I find it hard to work with some people every day for a whole month. And I had pretty mixed feelings when I found out who was in my group. The best person is my baking partner. Obviously we get along well enough and I have no problems working with him. There's a girl that I'm friends with outside of school, but we have never worked together at school. She's pretty competent, but not very confident. The other two group members are the challenging ones. One is from India and doesn't speak English all that well, and the other is probably the worst cook in the class. He is also extremely slow, which was ok in previous blocks where we didn't have any service, but becomes a huge impediment now that we are in an a la carte kitchen.

The new twist on the groups this month is that one person is designated the leader of the group. This person stays back one day when the rest of the group switches stations and trains the incoming group. Not surprising, I was chosen as one of the leaders. I probably would have taken a bit of a leadership role naturally, but with the title given to me, my group definitely treats me as more of a leader, relying on me for information and help. It's good for me to be in this position, as I definitely want to be a chef at some point in the future, and it's also good for me to learn to work with people who I find difficult. I was told that the two weak students were specifically put in my group so that I could help them along.

This week, we were on entrees station. So we were on the line (and on the camera, for anyone who's been to JJ's before) cooking the meat and fish and pasta. Our station makes a flank steak sandwich on focaccia with horseradish sauce and onion rings, lamb leg and lamb loin, a daily fish special, chicken pot pie, gnocchi with truffle cream sauce and artichoke and portobello mushroom bolognese, and veal ragu with pappardelle. Each day, we make one or two of those items, and then we switch the next day.

I had a lot of fun cooking on the line. It gets pretty hot up there, and chef is watching everything we do, which is nerve wracking, but it's finally more like a real kitchen. Some days, chef thought service didn't go very smoothly, but thinking about it later, I realized that even though we have a group of five people, we are almost really working with just three.

Fun after school activities - bowling with N and W, and lunch at Noodle Box. Going to Relish tonight for Ash's birthday.

Today I applied for a job at a new restaurant that hasn't even opened yet, but it's with an amazing chef and it would be an incredible opportunity. I don't think I'm really good enough to work there, so I'm pretty scared. We'll see what happens.

Next week - dessert station.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Block 9: Week 1

Block 9 - time is passing so fast. Less than three months left of school to go. Crazy.

Block 9 is an interesting block. We are back in the kitchen, which is nice. And it's a bit like Block 1 all over again, but with better ingredients. We are learning about a la carte food, so we are cooking a lot fancier food as well as working on plating and presentation. Also, there is no service in this Block, so we get to work on palette development each day too, ie eating.

Our chef is a little bit crazy. I was dreading this block because of this chef. We had her in Block 4 for a week and it was a stressful week. She has really good intentions and really wants us to learn, but she likes things done her way and only her way and she also tends to ramble. A lot. This week wasn't quite as bad as I had expected, I guess because I am getting used to her more each day, but she's still definitely not my favourite.

We cook something different each day, and work with different people each day, like Block 1, so I like the format a lot. This week, we made pates, terrines, galantines, cold appetizers (my group made oysters on the half shell), hot appetizers (crab stuffed prawns in wonton wrappers with K and F), and canapes (I made roast lamb and wilted spinach on a polenta base).

It was a fun week outside of school too. We went to Caprice on Monday and crashed a UBC "white party" when I wasn't wearing white, had a crazy night at the Cambie on Wednesday and met F's friends Jenna and Jeremy (which made volunteering to make sushi at school the next morning pretty painful), saw Blue Valentine on Thursday which is my new favourite movie even though it was so sad, and had a few drinks at Rogue with a friend who already graduated school on Friday with a stop at Subway and the art gallery steps on the way home.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Block 8: Week 4

Our last week of serving was probably the most fun. Lots of friends and families came in for dinner which made it more interesting.

On Monday, my crazy friend from the cafeteria came in for dinner. I made a little side bet on how many drinks I could sell him, and I managed to get him to have three. I'm terrible. N and F's families came for dinner, and then we ended up going for drinks with F's sister afterwards.

Tuesday, A came in with some curling friends and a friend from university. I also had a table with my sous chef from Rogers Arena. It was a busy night, but much more fun serving people that I knew.

On Wednesday, my cousins came for dinner. It was a little weird serving them, but I think they really enjoyed their meal. We went out that night and ended up dancing at Republic. The best part was meeting Ronnie the Dancer. Haha.

Thursday the restaurant was closed for a private party. I worked the bar that night, though I wasn't really bartending - I was the cashier. I handled the money when people ordered drinks, kept tabs, and counted up the drinks. It was a little stressful before dinner started because the bar was so busy and so many people wanted to set up tabs, but it was a lot of fun. And the best part was we made $50 in tips. It was great.

Our last night was a buffet night. A came in again to try the buffet and said it was really good. The other A was on the bar, so I was super busy bringing drinks to my table. I think everyone had a good night. We tried to go out with the Block 11 class because it was their last day of school, but we lost them. We had a quiet night at our usual spot instead.

Next week - Block 9 - a la carte.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Block 8: Week 3

We are now serving dinner at JJ's. The first day back after the break was nice and short. We did a quick lecture on liqueurs and then we got to go home early since the restaurant was closed.

The whole week was really slow in terms of customers - I think the most we had was 9 one night. So chef let the students sit down and eat dinner to give both the kitchen and the servers something to do. I ate on Wednesday and it was amazing. Me and my "date" shared the onion soup with short rib and mushroom risotto for the appetizer, duck breast with herbed gnocchi and stuffed lamb with bacon fondant potatoes for the entree, and a lemon tart and a hazelnut chocolate cake for dessert. So delicious.

A and our curling team came for dinner on Thursday, so that was a lot of fun for me. They ordered lots of drinks and really enjoyed all the food. Friday was super slow, I think it was only one table of customers, and I served them. We went out for a drink afterwards, the first time of the new year. It was good to catch up with people.

Next week - still serving dinner, but the restaurant is full every night and I have friends coming almost every night as well. Should be fun.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Eggs Benedict

Happy New Year!

We just came back from a wonderful trip to Jamaica for the holidays. The weather was great, the food was delicious, and we had the most relaxing week. We stayed at a villa with a cook, so we got to try some home-cooked Jamaican dishes like ackee and saltfish, callaloo, and our new favourite, curry goat.

Now that we're home, and I have a few days off before school starts again, I'm cooking - what else? This morning, I made eggs benedict (doesn't exactly sound like I'm taking time off work though, does it?).

Basically, I toasted the English muffin and then buttered it. Sliced some peameal back bacon and warmed them up in a pan with a bit of oil. Poached the eggs in simmering water with some white wine vinegar for four minutes. Boiled the potatoes last night so I could just dice them and pan fry them in butter and salt and pepper this morning. And then made the hollandaise (recipe posted below). It was pretty easy to make, but it's very a-la-minute. And so rich.

Hollandaise Sauce
Yield: 500mL (4 or 5 servings)
Print recipe

1/4 cup white wine vinegar
2 tbsp apple cider vinegar
1 bay leaf
pinch of white pepper
1 small shallot, minced
2 egg yolks
1 tbsp water
1/2 cup clarified butter
lemon juice, to taste
Worcestershire sauce, to taste
tabasco sauce, to taste
salt and pepper, to taste
  1. Combine the vinegars, bay leaf, white pepper, and shallot in a small sauce pan.

  2. Reduce the mixture by half. Strain and cool.

  3. Combine the vinegar reduction with the egg yolks and water in a stainless steel bowl.

  4. Over a bain-marie, whisk the mixture until it is the texture of half-whipped cream.

  5. Remove the bowl from the heat and stream in the hot clarified butter while continuing to whisk.

  6. Season to taste with lemon juice, Worcestershire sauce, tabasco sauce, and salt and pepper.

  7. Because of the threat of bacterial contamination, prepare the sauce as close to service as possible.