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The Rush

At the very end of the last lesson of Module 2, Chef Anna left our sweaty, scrappy, practical-surviving class with an ominous message:

The next five lessons are going to be the hardest nights of your life. That’s no BS. Prepare yourselves.”

We all stared at her for a moment, dumbfounded, as she slowly nodded. But then she let out her signature bark of a laugh, popped a cork, and we all smiled. We drank champagne, and later she told us that after the fifth lesson of Module 3, the world would re-right itself and things would go back to normal in our kitchen classroom – challenging and enjoyable, minus the break-neck pace and scary intensity.

It’s hard to believe that will ever be true after the first two lessons of Mod 3.

Sunday night was our first class with our new instructor; after four  months with Chef Anna, we bid her farewell in order to learn from and work under a new chef. Most of us had a sneaking suspicion that this chef’s primary role would be to whip us into shape – and, as I realized when our new chef instructed me to stomp animatedly on his foot to demonstrate the difference between his standard regulation steel-toed shoes and my far less adequate brand new Crocs – we were right.

The past three nights we have staggered out of the doors of the kitchen soaked in sweat, coated in remnants of everything from Fois Gras to Sweetbreads to Blood Orange juice; mushroom gills and caul fat lodged under our fingernails, comis caps pushed back on our beading foreheads yet somehow still in place, chef coats buttoned all the way up to our flushed necks. But. But. I finally get what chefs mean when they talk about “The Rush.” And the best part is – this is only the beginning.

The challenge of the first five nights of Mod 3, unbeknownst to us when we finished Mod 2 and couldn’t see further than the two-week vacation in our path, is the practice of prepping, cooking, and plating to near-perfection a full dinner menu for two people, in real-time. That means that class starts at six PM, lecture ends somewhere in the ballpark of 6:30 to 7, and we are required to plate our appetizer at eight, first entrée at eight-thirty, and second entrée at nine. As unseasoned culinary students, we pull this off with nowhere near the savvy or style of Top Chef contestants, but still, the tension and urgency in our classroom rides akin to that of a QuickFire challenge.

Sunday night, we started things off on a very doable note: Ahi Tuna Carpaccio with Micro-Greens, Radish Sprouts, Oil-Bloomed Capers and a Spicy Horseradish Aioli. The tuna was more fragile than a hot crepe, and it was all I could do not to tear it as it stubbornly stuck to my fingers, the plastic wrap, and generally everything but the plate. After a few minutes of struggling, finally, success…

Continuing our seafood theme, up next were a duo of Seared Sea Scallops, Braised Cabbage Chiffonade with Lardons, Parsnip Sauce and Miniature Pommes Frites. This was crazy-good and I could literally drink that parsnip sauce out of a mug. I know what you’re thinking – of course there was butter in it! Does anyone drink anything besides butter-laden sauces out of mugs anymore? Come on…

We ended Night 1 under pressure, but strong, with the bizarrely named “Sautéed Halibut and Warm Vinaigrette.” For the record, our class spent the first ten minutes of class trying to identify what exactly about this dish actually constituted a vinaigrette. We concluded that the name was a farce. Our new Chef rationalized that if it were summer, perhaps you would put this on a menu as a “Vinaigrette” to highlight the spring vegetables and light flavors, which are far more seasonal than a “Vegetable stew.” Either way, it was totally delicious and rocked the house. I’ll be making this one again.

Sautéed Halibut with Warm Citrus Vegetables: White and Green Asparagus, Turned Artichokes, Tomato Confit and Fennel.

Night one was hard, no question about it, but the general mood leaving the classroom Sunday night was positive, upbeat, and excited.

Night two was a different story.

Chef had toyed with the notion of cutting the Arctic Char from our Monday night menu. Perhaps he thought, like I did, that something about mixing Fois Gras, Sweetbread, Quail, Culinary students and Mondays was just asking for trouble. But then, he changed his mind. A Chef’s prerogative, I guess.

For those of you who haven’t had the pleasure of working with such delicacies as Fois Gras and Sweetbreads, let me lift the veil of mystery for you. Fois Gras is essentially the overgrown liver of force-fed ducks, making it high in fat and politically incorrect undertones. It’s really exploded in popularity lately, but that doesn’t mean it’s become any less of a pain to prep. Fois Gras is loaded with tons of tiny, thread-like veins, which mostly still contain blood and need to be removed with tweezers before cooking. Ideally, this is done without mangling the two lobes of the liver. As Chef Anna would have said, “don’t go digging for gold.” In my own words, it’s a pain in the you-know-what.

Meanwhile, Sweetbreads are the thymus gland of veal (more politically incorrect-ness) which need to be soaked in milk, blanched off, removed of their membrane, and broken up into “nuggets” before they can be cooked.

Plus four pounds of mushrooms that had to be brushed free of sticky, stubborn dirt by hand. Plus venison.

Optimism, my friends. Optimism.

We were really moving along quite nicely – at one point around 7:45 there was even a lull that perhaps gave way to false overconfidence – and were able to put up the appetizer, seared Arctic char over mixed greens with citrus vinaigrette, blood orange supremes, herbes fines oil and candied blood orange zest, with little problem. We even allowed ourselves a short break to dig into the dish and enjoy a bit of dinner before turning to our entrees.

From there, things got hellish as we attempted to stuff baby quail with sweetbread “marmalade” while searing off our venison. There was one point where the bunch of us stood with saggy sheets of caul fat, some more than others clumsily wrapping their birds up like presents, more bow-tying than trussing with kitchen twine. I looked up in the midst of this process, realizing that I personally had zero clue whether my venison was on the stove or in the oven; my brain had shot off in various different directions with no intention of allowing me to keep up. I was simultaneously clocking how long the mushroom gratin had been in the salamander, locating my venison and approximating its doneness; stuffing, wrapping and trussing my quail, and trying to remember where the chestnut compound butter was. This is what chefs do.

In the end though, we survived. The quail came up at 9:10, rather than 8:30, and no, Chef was not pleased. But the cranberry sauce was thick and syrupy, the quail moist and succulent, and the overall effect dramatic. Perhaps the most startling and abstract food photo I’ve taken, Pan-Roasted Quail stuffed with Sweetbread Marmalade; Fois Gras Bread Pudding; Macerated cranberry pan sauce.

The venison, amazingly, came out cooked to medium-rare perfection (I was pleased, as red-meat is one of my greatest challenges) and Chef’s greatest criticism was that I should have left the sauce to the side. We served the venison and its chestnut-red wine pan sauce alongside a four-mushroom and potato gratin and sweet-potato-pine-nut puree, an earthy, satisfying and strongly autumnal combination. But because we plated this dish nearly forty minutes past deadline, there wasn’t even a moment to snap a photo.

And so we dragged our bodies from the kitchen a good thirty minutes past ten, pondering inwardly and aloud how we could possibly prevent such madness from ensuing again, and how long before we could unwind with a beer in hand. Some questions are more easily answered than others…

Stay tuned for Mod 3, night 3 later this week!

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After a nearly two-week long break from culinary classes, during which there was much catching up on sleep, fun in the sun, summery cocktails and helping the boyfriend with one big interstate move, I was finally back in the kitchens of ICE last night for our final class of Module 2. It feels completely surreal to wake up one July morning and realize Culinary School is one-third over, and we all have over four hefty months of experience under our belts. A lot has changed for most of us in the past few months – some have become avid volunteers in the culinary world, some have bridged the gap from classroom to professional kitchen, I’ve changed my mind, and changed it back again about what I want to do with my life post-ICE. Oh yes, and we’ve all become much stronger cooks.

Monday night saw quite the send-off as our last night cooking under the direction of Chef Anna. Starting next week, we’ll be receiving instruction from a new chef-essor, one who I have a feeling will make it his mission to whip us into shape. The fact is, while culinary school has up to this point definitely been work, and even extremely hard work at times, Chef Anna has inspired such fun, creativity, and a warm social atmosphere in our kitchen that any fears I had of learning from a screaming head chef vanished during my first few weeks at ICE. While I’m definitely looking forward to our next Chef being challenging and raising the bar for our cuisine and technique, I can only hope that he or she lives up to Chef Anna’s unique and charismatic methods of teaching.

So back to class. “Sandwich Night” is fairly mythological at ICE. Months ago, in my wine class, I heard whisperings of it from other students who were in Mod 2, who wistfully recalled the sheer deliciousness of the evening’s haul. And when I noticed the majority of ICE’s staff meandering past our classroom a bit more often than usual last night, it was clear that “Sandwich Night’s” allure reached far beyond the confines of the kitchen-classroom. One whisper of “Croque-Monsieur,” and they flocked like moths to the flame.

The prep work was easily divided – there were about ten sandwiches, and nine of us, so nearly everyone got the opportunity to exclusively work on their recipe and perfect its flavor and presentation. The result…

Well, it was downright glorious.

The Tea Sandwiches, like this Egg Salad on Pumpernickle bite, were definitely my favorite. The perfect bite-sized portions and the ideal balance of a creamy, savory filling with the hearty dark bread led to me downing about five of these at once!

Also phenomenal were the curried chicken salad baguette bites! This was a light, refreshing spin on chicken salad that married the smoky, exotic flavors of curry with the light, cool essence of chicken salad, sealing the deal with crunchy bits of cashew. I’ll definitely be making this for my next summertime picnic…

You may have noticed that a few little stow-aways were sprinkled in there – Smoked Salmon and Chive Creme Fraiche Canapés! Chef dug deep into her Fine Dining repertoire of knowledge and taught us how to make smoked salmon roses to jazz up the canapés. Almost to beautiful to eat (…almost…).

The other canapés were also delicious – the open-faced Shrimp Brochette, for example: blissfully sautéed shrimp on a crispy slice of baguette with an herb compound butter and julienne radish.

There were also some rich, almost-too-heavy-for-summer-months hot sandwiches; a croque monsieur stuffed with bechamel that in and of itself was able to convey the sumptuous stigma of French cuisine. While I know eating one would lead to an inevitable stomach ache, I couldn’t bear seeing these get tossed out, so I boxed one up and brought it home with me.

One of my Israeli classmates, Corey, whipped up steaming hot reubens stuffed with homemade sauerkraut – by far the BEST reuben I’ve ever tasted.

Oh – and there were also chicken burgers with swiss cheese …

And grilled Salmon BLTs. No big deal… 

The biggest surprise of the night was far and away the Deviled Ham Tea Sandwiches. When re-writing the recipe onto note cards before class, I noticed the recipe called for chunked boiled ham pureed in a food processor with mustard, mayo, and cayenne pepper. The idea of pureed boiled ham was, in a word, revolting, and I immediately volunteered to prep a different dish when this was up for grabs. Later, when it came time to sample, my ever-enthusiastic classmate Leigh Ann who had made these sandwiches begged me to try one. So I did, and as I should have suspected, I was way off base. The flavor of the ham filling was reminiscent of a hot dog, albeit spicier, with the white bread mimicking the bun. Just goes to show you, never judge a recipe by its… cover.

After all this, my instruction under Chef Anna comes to a final end tonight with hardest challenge we have been faced with as Culinary students thus far: The Timed Practical. We have 1 hour and fifteen minutes to prep, cook, and provide service for a New York Strip Steak with shallot pan sauce, crispy garlic-herb potatoes and sautéed green beans. My immediate reaction is that this will be more than enough time; my second instinct is to not get cocky! Here’s to a successful run tonight, and more exciting adventures in Mods 3 – 5!

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The name of this dish alone is enough to inspire an appetite. Totally classic, some-might-call retro throw-back comfort food, appropriate any time of year, as comfortable along side burgers and dogs, straight off the grill under the blazing summer sun as it is on a chilly winter evening, soaking up the run-off juice from supper’s pot roast. Baked potatoes are as familiar and common as side-dishes come, and yet there is nothing run-of-the-mill about this starchy, satisfying spin on the classic spud that we whipped up in class this week.

Chef let us venture off the beaten path for this one. With baked potatoes fairly straightforward to prepare, and nothing at all exciting about the recipe we were provided with, she procured for us a variety of extra ingredients and let us do whatever we liked with them in order to build the baked potato of our dreams. At one point she actually slapped a one-pound package of fresh bacon into my hand, winked at me, and said, “Use the whole thing.”

Aren’t potatoes the best? They can be rich, hot and creamy, cool and hearty, crisp, salty, vinegary… But they’ve gotten such a bad rap lately for being a super starchy, almost passe and nutritionally average vegetable. In a world where antioxidant rich, high fiber and high protien veggies seem to get all the attention and affection, what’s a poor potato-lover to do?

All good things in moderation, my friends.

I think you can see where this is going. But by the way, if plain old white potatoes aren’t a mainstay in your diet (they’re definitely not one in mine, despite my love for them), why not let yourself go for an evening with this indulgent side-dish? And here’s a thought! If you do want to “healthen” it up a bit, why not make it with a sweet potato? Take it even further and use your favorite cheese and other condiments to add a little melt and crunch to your potato base.

Great… now I’m totally fantasizing about how phenominal this would be if you used a sweet potato and stuffed with a little goat cheese, cinnamon and chopped pecan!

Like so many of my favorite recipes that I share, this one is more about understanding the process so that you can customize it with whatever foods you have on hand or flavors you prefer! The following recipe is absolutely a guideline to remixing any potato with whatever condiments, cheeses, nuts, or whatever your heart desires.

Twice-Baked Cheesy Bacon Potatoes- Yields 4 stuffed potatoes

From my own experimentation

Ingredients:

  • 4 large Idaho potatoes
  • 1/2 pound of bacon
  • 1 cup of shredded gruyere
  • 1 1/2 cups of broccoli florets
  • 8 ounces of heavy cream
  • 3 Tbsp of rendered bacon fat (from bacon above; you can also use butter)
  • 1/4 cup of minced chives (for garnish)
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • Canola oil

Method:

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. Wash your potatoes well, scrubbing to remove excess dirt, and dry them. Coat them well with canola oil and prick each potato with fork in a few spots. Place them on a sheet pan and roast in the oven for about an hour, or until you can easily insert a knife into a potato. Remove and let potatoes cool on a cooling rack.

While the potatoes are roasting, prepare your mix-ins. In this case, bacon and broccoli need to be prepped. Start with the bacon: Stack the strips of bacon in reasonable groupings; slice once long-ways down the middle, and then cut shortways so you are left with “lardons” or small cubes of bacon. Add the lardons to a large saute pan, and set over a medium-high flame. Cook bacon until crispy, removing the excess fat from the pan occassionally (reserve this bacon fat for later). Once bacon is crisp, remove from heat and reserve.

To prepare the broccoli, bring a small saucepan of water to a boil, and blanch the broccoli in boiling water in batches for about 2 to 3 minutes, or until the broccoli is cooked through. Shock in ice water. Once broccoli is cooled, separate stems from florets. Mince the stems and reserve. Set the florets aside as well.

Once potatoes have cooled, use a small knife to cut a 1/4 inch thick sliver off of the top of the potato. If desired, you can scrape the potato flesh out of this piece and reserve. Then, using a teaspoon and being very gentle, hold the remaining potato in your hand and scoop the starchy flesh out the potato skin. Reserve this ‘mashed’ potato and set skin aside. Repeat with all four potatoes. Pass the mashed potato through a ricer or foodmill, and stir in the minced broccoli stems.

Meanwhile, mix the heavy cream with 3 tablespoons of your reserved bacon fat and heat in a small saucepan. Once hot, add to the potato mixture, adding just a little at a time until the potatoes are smooth and creamy (how much you need will depend on how moist your potatoes were to start with). Season with salt and pepper, and any other seasonings or aromatics desired (roasted garlic, anyone?).

Now comes the assembly. In the hollow potato skin, layer your broccoli florets, bacon bits, and shredded gruyere cheese. Then, using either a spoon, or if you want to get fancy (we did), a pastry bag with a fluted tip, fill the potato skins tightly with the mashed potato mixture. Feel free to get creative with the shapes and designs you can make with the pastry tip!!

Once your skins are full, top your stuffed potatoes with cheese if desired, and crank your oven up to 400. Pop these back in for another 15 to 20 minutes, or until golden brown. Then grab a fork and knife, and dig right in!!

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Getting ICED

Hey friends!

A very happy Wednesday to all you out there in cyberspace. Today’s post is just a quick update about a few minor changes to the blog. Those who stop by occassionally may not even notice these modifications, but for those who read more regularly, I wanted to make sure these changes were explained.

First, let me back up. For the past couple of months, I’ve been recounting and sharing my journey through culinary school at the Institute of Culinary Education here on my blog. It’s been an amazing journey so far, in which my skills as a cook (and breadth of experiences as an individual) have grown immensely. Perhaps more importantly, it’s been a delight to share pictures, stories, and some recipes with you all as a sort of “peak behind closed doors” at ICE.

But, as I probably should have considered, those doors are kept closed to non-students for a reason. I was recently contacted by the school and while they were extremely supportive of my blog and in favor of me sharing my experiences and photographs of classes at ICE with you all, they brought to my attention that their recipes are proprietary to the curriculum and property of the school. In plain English, they asked me to kindly stop posting them all on the Internet.

So now I feel kind of dumb :-/ While this rule wasn’t apparent to me from the get go, it does make a lot of sense. Part of ICE’s value add to their true-blue, tuition paying students is the classic technique that they teach through, well, their recipes! And as a food-blogger, I consider it my responsibility to anyone who reads my blog to be completely transparent and honest when it comes to any changes to the status-quo or backlogged posts I’ve written.

That being said, nearly everything about the blog will stay the same. I’ll still be sharing the occassional pictures, stories and general lessons learned from my classes at ICE with you. I’ll still focus on showing photos of specific dishes we make – the greatest difference will be that all recipes I direct you to will now be based off of public knowledge (i.e. Internet recipes available to the general public), or developed in my own kitchen. I have also replaced the handful of ICE recipes I posted in the past with ones that were similar in ingredients, technique and results, but from publicly available Internet sources. Please note that I have only chosen replacement recipes that I feel confident will yield equally successful results.

And so far as recipes from my own pint-sized New York City kitchen, or reviews of the myriad of foodie havens I visit, the only thing I plan on changing is the stories, along with increasingly engaging writing and photographs. Beyond informing others about all the random culinary knowledge I encounter, this blog has always been a tool for my own growth and learning, and it will continue to be one :)  

Thanks for reading!

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And so, it seems, does everybody else. This so called “miracle grain,” which is actually a seed, was hardly a household name five years ago; now it is practically ubiquitous, popping up everywhere from health food co-ops to Costco to tons of restaurant menus. In fact, mainstream Western consumption of this grain has supposedly grown so high that the native Peruvians of the areas where quinoa originates from, who have sustained their very existance off of this high-protein food for centuries, can no longer afford to purchase it.

Quinoa plants in bloom near Cachora, Apurímac, Peru

So why do we all love this teeny tiny curlicue of a grain (that is actually a seed) so much? Great question. Perhaps it starts right where most great food loves start – with taste. Quinoa is inherently earthy and nutty, akin to brown rice but with the size and texture of a couscous and, if cooked properly, a distinct crunch (particularly in the red and black varieties). It pairs well with everything under the sun – fresh, summery flavors of crisp, sweet vegetables and a citrus vinaigrette, or richer winter flavors like beans, sage and rosemary, or woody mushrooms. Even eaten plain with just a bit of salt and pepper, the flavors are still complex enough to satisfy any food-lover’s palate.

But beyond that, quinoa delivers something that many other tasty and crave-able foods do not – it’s healthy; guilt-free; actually good for you! Packing a relatively moderate carb load for a starchy plant-based food, quinoa is most revered for it’s well-rounded nutritional content. It is high in fiber, but also gluten-free, making it easy to digest. It’s a great source of phosphorous, magnesium, and iron. And possibly quinoa’s greatest claim to fame, it is a ridiculously strong and complete source of protein for a plant-based food, with 14 grams of protein per every 100 gram serving (12% to 18% protein content). That means a person could in essence, survive off of quinoa without eating any actual meat/poultry/fish.  A vegan’s dream come true. A food so miraculous, NASA is considering making it a part of its Controlled Ecological Life Support System for long-duration manned spaceflights. Now that’s something to talk about.

So now that you can rest assured that your love for quinoa is justified, what the heck do you do with it?

Well, you cook it of course!

The Internet and every vegan or recent cookbook out there is circulating some new quinoa recipe to bank in on how versatile and easy to prepare this dish is. The greatest thing about it, in my opinion, is that it takes literally 12 minutes to cook, and then you can do whatever you want with it. It’s the whole-grain equivalent of a ColdStone sundae; mix in your favorite ingredients and it’s ready to eat!

In class last night, we experimented with cooking a variety of whole grains, including Farro, wheat berries, long-grain and short-grain rice, and of course, quinoa. The quinoa was by far the easiest to prepare, and debatably the most beautiful and delicious of the dishes. We simmered the small seeds in some chicken stock for exactly 12 minutes, until they had absorbed all the liquid and unfurled into tender, miniscule curls. Once fluffed with a fork, we added a brunoise of fresh veggies, pungent ginger, a drizzle of thick, green extra virgin olive oil and a squirt of fresh citrus for a quick, refreshing and nutrient-filled dish. We could barely keep it on the plate long enough to photograph it before gobbling it up.

And by that I mean that us classy culinary kids literally stood with spoons poised above the bowl while pictures like this one were taken, just waiting for the all-clear to dig in:

And then it all disappeared. There’s something to be said when there’s no leftovers from a four-serving batch.

Quinoa & Red Bell Pepper Salad – makes 4 servings

Adapted from About.com

Ingredients:

  • 1 1/2 cups of raw, whole grain quinoa (note that the pre-packaged kind does not need to be soaked and rinsed)
  • 4 cups of chicken or vegetable broth
  • 1 red bell pepper, diced in 1/4 inch pieces
  • 1/2 a cup of cucumber, quartered and sliced
  • 1 scallion, finely chopped
  • 1/4 cup of extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/3 cup of freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 2 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1/2 teaspoon of minced ginger
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Method:

In a medium saucepan, add salt to the broth and bring to a boil. Add the quinoa all at once and return to a boil. Reduce heat to low until quinoa is gently simmering. Cover and cook for about 12 to 15 minutes, or until the chicken stock is absorbed and the quinoa is aldente (tender with a bit of bite). The quinoa is done when the grains become translucent and the crescent-shaped germ (looks like a small white halo) separates.

While the quinoa is cooking, you can make the vinaigrette. Combine the lemon juice, olive oil, garlic and ginger in a bowl and whisk well. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

When quinoa is cooked, remove it from the heat and allow to stand for five minutes. Then fluff with a fork.

Transfer the quinoa to a serving bowl and add in the chopped red pepper, cucumber, and scallion. Toss to combine. Add the vinaigrette a little at a time, tasting as you go to determine the desired flavor and consistency – be careful not to over dress; half the vinaigrette is probably enough. I added a little extra lemon juice for more tang!

Adjust the seasoning with salt and pepper, and serve with extra minced scallions for garnish. This dish serves as a great side dish, a pot-luck dish for a summer barbeque or picnic (travels well), or a stand-alone lunch or dinner.

Oh, and PS: it’s probably worth mentioning – it’s pronounced Keen-Wah.

 

What’s your favorite quinoa recipe? Is it your favorite grain, or do you prefer something else?

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Last night in class, we made broccoli soufflé.

The method itself was easy enough, rooted deeply in classical technique and simplified by the tools, both modern and time-tested, that we had on hand. Trim and prepare broccoli florets. Separate the yellows from the whites of eight eggs and let them rest, apart, at room temperature. Bring water to a boil. Finely grate gruyere and parmesan.

Simmer the florets until they are tender-crisp, then plunge them into an icy bath to rejuvinate their color and freeze their cooking process in time. Toss them into the VitaPrep (read: blender on crack, aka the best blender ever) with four-ish egg yolks, and pulse. Pulse. Pulse. Add the gruyere and what else? Butter, of course. Puree, as chef would say, “the crap outta it.” Reserve your exorcist-like mixture.

In the meantime, create your “lift.” Eight egg whites go into a preferrably non-reactive bowl, along with a drop of acid or a tip of your paring knife’s worth of cream of tartar. Crack your back and loosen your shoulders to prepare yourself for ten minutes of good, old-fashioned whisking. As soon as soft peaks form, stop. Just as over mixing will turn cream into butter, over whipping egg whites will create clumpy, squarish pockets of protein rather than soft, fluid peaks. Knowing where to strike the balance is key.

And then, the quintessential moment of soufflé preparation is upon you: the folding. One third of the whipped whites is added to the thick, pea-green base to “lighten it up.” Gentle folding in a motion akin to slowly turning a crank is required. Once the white grainy streaks have faded completely into the mint-colored river, add the remaining whites and continue to gently fold until you have a uniformly colored, slightly jiggly bowl before you.

The rest is a cake-walk. Spray small aluminum tins or ceramic ramekins with cooking spray (or butter), dust with a powder of parmesan you’ve acquired via MicroPlane, and fill each two-thirds to three-quarters with the batter, depending on your nerve. Rather than the water-bath, “by the book” method of soufflè preparation, these went directly onto a sheet pan and into the oven under a watchful eye. Four hundred degrees and twenty minutes later, we had soufflé that looked like, well, broccoli.

After all that, a window of approximately one-hundred and eighty seconds existed for us to consume these small green monsters before they began to decompress faster than you with a glass of Chablis after an eighty hour work week. They went from airy, elated puffs of dairy goodness to squishy cakes of green goop faster than we could photograph them (though as diligent culinary students, I promise we did our best).

And so given all that, I’m not quite sure how I feel about broccoli souffle. Sure, they taste full of the earthy tang of broccoli and the comforting richness of egg – none of that is lost in the three minutes during which texture disintegrates. The gruyere came through loud and clear in a savory, mouth-watering sort of way. But when the slightest hestitation lends itself to a deflated, soggy, spongy texture, you really have to ask yourself: is this worth it? Given the elbow grease and sheer anticipation that came with making this, I personally feel the flavors would be better delivered via a broccoli-gruyere quische or the like.

Plus, call me crazy, but aren’t soufflé supposed to be sweet? Now that is worth the wait.

 

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Sunday was a day full of family, fun and most of all food! Since a picture is worth a thousand words, and it’s still quite early in the week, I’ll save us all some reading and let the photographs speak for themselves!

My cousin Danie’s jaw-dropping home-made cake for her sister-in-law’s baby shower. Yellow and chocolate cake, buttercream, fondant.

The appetizers – tomato, roasted red pepper, fresh mozzarella, thyme, balsamic

Panko-breaded creamy cheesy risotto cakes

French Toast: challah bread, egg custard, blue berries, brown sugar, cinnamon

Quiche Lorraine

Tortellini, ricotta, pesto, sundried tomato, pine nuts

Marachino Cherry Parfait

Braising: Lamb shank, rosemary, thyme, merlot, veal stock, rondeau

Monkfish (the ugliest of all fish) searing in hot olive oil

Balsamic braised chicken thighs with a porcini-portobello-oyster-cremini-shitake mushroom cream sauce

After the oven: Fully braised lamb shanks emerge in a red wine reduction

Braised lamb shanks plated with red wine sauce and braised mirepoix

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