Monday, October 18, 2010

Start of a New Life...

So it's been a little over a week now and Vino e Olio has been great. I am loving my new surroundings and profession. In fact I have already learned so much in the last week, I have begun practicing at home. Today I made our pepper sauce, ravioli in beet root sauce, gnudi, and acquacotta. We'll find out what the family thinks, but I know one thing practice makes perfect, and that is exactly what I intend to do...

Here are some pics of the sauces I made so far; along with a few pics from the restaurant.





Thursday, September 23, 2010


Our final week of cooking showcased the culinary world of Russia. We made Borshch Moskovsky (Moscow style Beet Soup); Blini (Buckwheat Pancakes); Kulebiaka (salmon in pastry); Grechnevaya Kasha (Buckwheat Groats); Chahohbili (Georgian-style Chicken); Loby (String Beans in Sour Cream Sauce); Syrniki (Sweet Cheese Fritter with Berry Kissel)
This menu was very good...the Borshch is what most people know; a beet soup. This soup can be served cold or hot and is usually garnished with a dollop of sour cream. I thought it was really good; kind of reminds me of a potato vegetable soup. It's made by rendering bacon in a pot, sweating some garlic, onion, celery and carrots. Then add cabbage, potatoes, beets, red wine vinegar, stock (or water), sugar, tomatoes and simmer. Puree the soup or leave it chunky...

I made the Blini pancakes and the Kulebiaka; blini is a Russian pancake made with buckwheat flour. The batter is made with yeast and allowed to rest before pouring onto a hot buttered pan. Serve with caviar, meat, fish or even fruit. The kulebiaka is a puff pastry filled with a rice filling which consists of rice, onion, mushrooms and dill. The filling is placed on the puff pastry and then a salmon fillet is placed on top, then more filling on top of the fillet. Bake the pastry after decorating it and creating holes for steam. As you will see in these pictures I made a salmon head...

Kasha was made by Maria and it is basically buckwheat groats mixed with bow tie noodles. The desert was a savory desert; syrniki with berry kissel. Berry kissel is a sweet fruit topping kind of like a jelly...the syrnikis are sweet cheese fritters made with; cottage cheese, egg yolks, flour, sugar, salt and butter. Then they are fried in a pan with some oil...they are VERY VERY GOOD!

Overall great class and awesome menu...another great class with Chef Bill!


During Germany week we made: Kartoffelsuppe mit Miesmuscheln und Lauch (Potato Soup with Mussels and Leeks); Rahmilinsen mit Salat (Lentil Ragout with Greens); Kalbslebersteak mit Roter Zwiebelmarmelade (Calf’s liver with red onion marmalade); Schweinelendchen im Schwarzbratmantel (Pork Tenderloin in a Dark Bread Crust); Rotkraut und SpƤtzle (Braised Red Cabbage and Spaetzle); Mohncreme mit Rotweinbrinen (Poppy seed cream with pears in red wine). Ok I still can't pronounce most of those words but if you look carefully you will see words in them that sound just like English; example - Schwein = swine = pork...awwwww get it now?
The food was great; I made the Lentil Ragout which is a warm lentil salad. You saute some bacon and then add carrots, celery, onion, leek, garlic; saute till soft and add stock, cream, herbs, spices, cooked lentils and potatoes. Simmer this mixture until the potatoes are soft and add honey and vinegar to the warm ragout. Spoon some of the Ragout over baby greens and tomato wedges for garnish.

The Braised red cabbage was very easy to make also; it consists of sauteed onion in butter, apples, sugar and red cabbage. All of this is braised in red wine, red wine vinegar, water and red currant jelly. You thicken the mixture with some cornstarch and it's served with the yummy pork rolls which Mike made. I've made these pork rolls before and you can get my pictures and recipe by searching this blog. Mike stuffed the flattened pork tenderloin with dried fruit (apricots, cherries, cranberries) and topped with bacon just as I did prior. When the pork is finished you slice it on the bias and place over top of the cabbage. Also accompany the pork with a very good portion of German dumpling or spatzle. Spatzle is made my pressing a batter made of flour, nutmeg, salt, egg, milk and butter through a colander into boiling water. Strain the spatzle and toss in melted butter...YUM! Maria also made a potato leek soup which was accompanied with mussels and leeks...overall the weeks menu was excellent and the spatzle was spot on...hahaha!

Pears in Red Wine Sauce

France - Chicken Marengo

Napoleon Bonaparte, malaria, refrigeration and the man on the moon. We made the dish infamous to the battle of Marengo fought on June 14, 1800 in Piedmont, Italy. You are probably wondering about the first sentence and how malaria, refrigeration and the man on the moon have anything in common with Chicken Marengo; well to find out you will have to watch James Burke's episode called Eat, Drink and be Merry (watch below).

Eat Drink and be Merry FULL EPISODE

Now that you have watched the episode that was aired on PBS in the early 1980's; you can understand the big concept of the Chicken Marengo dish. Our version is pictured here to the right...
As a matter of fact we all played a roll in making this dish; as you can see there are a lot of components. There is of course piped mashed potatoes which you can see to the right. Croutons in the shape of hearts as you can also see to the right, fried eggs (one for everyone) and of course shavings of black truffles. But the mass of this dish would be in the chicken and the shrimp. In the original crayfish was used and anything else the cooks could find on the battle field. The chicken is made by lightly seasoning the pieces of chicken (one bird split into eight pieces) and lightly pan fry all sides. Remove the chicken and place aside. Next brown mushrooms, shallots and garlic; add tomato paste and chopped tomato to the mushroom mix. Add wine to the mix in the pan and reduce; then add the chicken to the mix with 12 ounces of demi glaze, espagnole sauce or brown stock. Bring this mixture to a simmer and slowly stew/braise for 25 -30 minutes. Add the cleaned shrimp or crayfish at the end of cooking to the sauce and cook till done (about 2-3 minutes). Top the chicken and shrimp mix with fried eggs and pipe the finished mashed potato around the side of the plate. Of course finish the dish by adding some croutons toasted in butter in a saute pan and shaped like hearts.

The rest of the evening we made braised endive which was braised in an oven at 350 degrees and seasoned with salt, sugar, butter, oil, and lemon juice. Tomato Clamart (clamart = peas) which are pictured here...they are tomatoes which are peeled and cored; then filled with cooked peas. You finish them off in the oven with a slice of butter on top. Of course season with salt and pepper...

A blast from the past we made beef consomme with vegetables and Maria made warm oysters on top of zucchini. That was an acquired taste I must say and the beef consomme was the same technique we used in fundamentals by making a raft, basting it and then straining the ladled soup into container. Overall the food was great and Chicken Marengo is a masterpiece within itself!

Bologna, Italy - Pasta Making

Chef Morena Merighi came by our class in mid August and gave us a "true" demonstration on homemade pasta!

We were very fortunate Chef Morena came by the school to have dinner a few nights before and decided to come back and share with us her expertise. Chef Morena is from Bologna, Italy and has been making homemade pasta for years. We learned all they use in Bologna is flour and natural added salt, oil, etc. The salt she says, comes from the salted water the pasta is boiled in; and the pasta takes on the sauce it is paired with. She made for us a sauteed onions simmered in balsamic vinegar sauce for the tortelloni or tagliatelle we made. Chef Morena also invited us to par-take in the pasta making with her; and filmed the evening. The videos are posted on YouTube; here is one of them...


Chef Morena made for us homemade Ragu; not the meat sauce in a jar sold in stores, but the real Bolognese favorite. Here are two recipes of classic Bolognese Ragu; one by Emeril Lagasse - classic ragu bolognese recipe and the other by Mario Batali - ragu bolognese recipe.

Chef Morena obviously had her own recipe but the two above may suffice for you. She showed us the difference between Tortelloni and Tortellini. Tortellini was made to look like a belly button because the chef it is credited too was in love with a woman's navel...weird I know! But the big difference between the two pastas are the fillings and the size. The tortelloni are bigger and are traditionally stuffed with a cheese mixture of; Ricotta cheese, nutmeg, parmesan, salt and pepper. The tortellini are smaller and are stuffed with a mixture of mortadella and prosciutto. Chef Morena made the Tortelloni with a clarified butter/sage sauce. The sauce is extremely simple and consists of melted butter/olive oil and ripped pieces of fresh sage. Always toss the portioned pasta into the desired sauce and serve twirled or stacked in the center of the plate. Below you will find some pictures of our visit and another part of evening's video...Thank to Chef Bill (mgourmet).

Tagliatelle al Ragu
Tortelloni Butter Sage

Thursday, August 12, 2010

France - Week 1

Ok so after this week I am making a conscientious effort to get my posts in sooner; so you can see everything up to the minute (so to speak). This week we made cuisine traditional to the country of France...I know we have done a lot of French cuisine. Then again they are considered the fore-fathers of the modern kitchen/cuisine.

The menu consisted of: Soupe de Legumes aux Petits Coquillages (Vegetable Soup with Shellfish); Le Blanc de Poisson Belle Mouginoise (Fillet of Fish Bell Mouginoise); Filet de Porc Farci Lyonnaise (Stuffed Pork Tenderloin); Ratatouille; Salade de Poire (Pear Salad); and Mousse au Chocolat (Chocolate Mousse). Peggy made the vegetable shellfish soup and chocolate mousse, Kelsey (sp) made the pear salad and ratatouille, Maria made the white fish (fillet of fish), and I made the stuffed pork tenderloin.

The vegetable shellfish soup was really good; it included clams, mussels and scallops (which were added in at the last minute; just before serving so they do not get tough). The clams and mussels are steamed open in some clam juice and placed aside. You then sweat some vegetables, add some diced tomato, place the mussels back in bring to a boil with the clam juice, and then add the clams and scallops at the end. Viola, a great cup of shellfish soup; of course remember to taste and add salt and pepper to your liking. The fish was prepared by Maria and it was perfect...

Maria began by thinly slicing tomatoes, cucumbers and white mushrooms; she then arranged them nicely on top of the lightly seasoned fish fillets (any skinless, boneless, firm white fish will do in this recipe). You can see the pattern in the picture shown here. You then add the layered fish onto a buttered pan; large enough to hold the fillets. Almost forgot...make sure to also spread some minced shallots to the buttered pan; then place the fish on top of the shallots. Add some vermouth and white wine to the pan (approximately 4 1/2 oz) in a preheated oven at 400 degrees F; the cooking should not take more than 4 -6 minutes or until cooked (do not overcook). Remove the fish from the cooking liquid and set aside to keep moist and warm. Add some fish stock (fume) and a little heavy cream to the cooking liquid, reduce the liquids to sauce consistency (coating the back of the spoon). After it is reduced you whisk in butter and chives vigorously; until shiny and creamy. Correct the seasoning in the sauce and then pour over the top of the finished fish layed out on a serving platter.

The stuffed pork tenderloin is made by the same method I have spoken about a few times now in this blog. Start by butterflying a pork tenderloin; pound it out with a meat clever; lightly season with salt, pepper and olive oil; then stuff with a prepared stuffing. In this case the stuffing consisted of sauteed onions and garlic, raw ground pork, salt, pepper, chopped herbs (oregano, chervil, sage, and parsley), breadcrumbs and one egg. Of course roll up the stuffed tenderloin tightly and secure closed by trussing it in twine. Pan sear the roll ups in a small amount of oil; place aside and drain off the fat. Deglaze the pan with red wine; add in a bay leaf or two, some herbs (sage, oregano, parsley stems, chervil); place back in the pork and fill halfway up the meat with brown stock and diced tomatoes. Bring to a boil and braise in the oven at 350 degrees for about 35 - 45 minutes. When finished take out the pork and keep warm in a covered plate...reduce the sauce and take out the leaves, stems, etc. Add a little dissolved arrowroot (or cornstarch) and finish off with a little melted butter. Slice the pork on the bias, thinly, and serve on a plate topped with the reduced sauce. This meal goes great with Ratatouille; which Kelsey made and it turned out great! Kelsey's ratatouille was also served by itself in a small bowl; accompanied with toasted french bread brushed with olive oil.

The chocolate mousse is made using the same recipe I have outlined before in past posts (use the search bar above to find recipe). The difference in this mousse was the presentation; I got creative and split an orange. I then carved out the fruit from the skin from half; and used a melon-baller to scoop out the rest of the fibers stuck to the rind. The other half of the orange I segmented and julienned some of the skin. Peggy piped the finished mousse into the empty half of orange and I topped it with julienned orange zest. We then surrounded the finished product with the segmented orange slices. Again a night of great food and awesome photos...

Butter and Cheese and Cheese and Butter - Nothern Italy

The Northern Italians have the opportunity to keep things like dairy chilled in the winter and of course they like food that keep them warm as well. Welcome to butter and cheese and cheese and

Last week we made dishes classic of Northern Italy; they consisted of Vitello Tonnato (Veal in Tuna Sauce), Osso Buco Milanese, Risotto Alla Zafferano (Risotto with Saffron), Panna Cotta, and Gnocchi Di Patate Salsa Di Parmesan Reggiano E Poire (Potato Gnocchi in Parmesan Cheese and Leeks). Phew! that was a mouthful and believe me the menu was nothing short of big dishes.

Veal Tonnato
The veal in tuna sauce was made by Peggy; and is made a nice size of veal, eye round or top round, seasoned with salt and pepper wrapped in cheesecloth and tied up like a salami. You then combine brown stock, wine and a bouquet of parsley, bay leaves and oregano; and bring to a boil. After it comes to a boil you add the veal; cover and remove from the heat. The meat will poach for about 10 -15 minutes and will be kept medium rare. Finish making the tuna sauce which consists of pureed anchovies (canned in oil - drained), tuna fish (canned in oil - drained), capers, olive oil, salt and pepper. Take out the veal and chill in the fridge or place in a bowl with an ice bath underneath. After the meat is completely chilled slice into very thin pieces, line on a plate with thinly sliced lemon and accompany with cornichons, capers, tuna sauce, etc. This was not a winner with most; but I thought it to be pretty tasty once you added the tuna sauce.

Osso Buco with Risotto alla Zaffron
I made the Osso Buco which was pretty easy to make; not intimidating at all. Start by lightly seasoning your veal shanks and then in a small amount of olive oil sear the meat in a rondeau (Picture of a Rondeau); set the seared meat to the side. Add some diced mirepoix (onion, carrot, celery) to the pan and deglaze; then add minced garlic until aroma is released. Next add some red wine to the pan (off of the heat - after pouring in wine place back on heat); add some diced tomatoes and replace the meat back into the pot. Make sure to add brown stock to the pot; halfway up the side of the shanks. Put some bay leaves, oregano, rosemary, etc into the pot for seasoning. Bring to a boil, place the lid on the pot and braise in the oven at 350 degrees for about an hour. The meat should be tender and falling off the bone; be careful to not let the meat boil, but rather simmer in the oven. You can also flip the meat once or twice while waiting for the final verdict. Our dish turned a=out great and I topped it with a Germalotta (minced - parsley, lemon zest, garlic & boiled micro-diced carrots).

Maria made the Risotto with Saffron; it was awesome...great compliment to the richness of the Osso Buco. She made it using the standard risotto procedure; pan frying the risotto in a pan with a little oil and then adding wine to the rice until absorbed. Always stir the risotto making sure it does not stick to the pan because it is very easy to burn. You then add a little chicken stock at a time to the risotto until absorbed; continue this process until the risotto is no longer crunchy. Halfway through the cooking of the risotto with the chicken stock; add the dissolved saffron. You dissolve saffron by placing a pinch of it in a couple tablespoons of warm water (or chicken stock). Finish the risotto off with a little butter, cheese and serve with the Osso Buco. Risotto is a Northern Italian short grain rice which becomes very creamy; and can served as an appetiser or main dish at times.

Fresh Fruit with Mint
Overall the night was great; except for a couple of unexpected hiccups...the gnocchi tasted great! However, it either overcooked or was placed in too many at one time; so they clumped up in the strainer. I stress this however, the gnocchi tasted great. It is not an easy pasta to make and if it remains wet before placing it in the boiling water, it will fall apart on you. Also our Panna Cotta did not have enough time to set up in the oven; so we improvised; Maria made a fresh fruit plate with fresh mint and light sugar coating (pictured to the left).This week was awesome and I look forward to making some of these dishes a little on the lighter side.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Central Italy

This week we made dishes from Central Italy; which also includes Rome. The dishes from the region are very simplistic and easy to make. The ingredients are very fresh and homemade pasta is the norm for this area.
The dishes we prepared included: Homemade Tagliatelle Red Pepper pasta with a roasted garlic/olive oil sauce; eggplant rollatini; bruschetta, chicken sauteed with mushrooms and polenta; asparagus with Parmesan cheese and tiramisu.

The fresh pasta was made with 3 cups of flour, 3 eggs, 1 tsp of powdered (crushed) red pepper flakes, 1 tsp of salt, 2 tbsp of olive oil, and 1/2 tbsp tomato paste. I started by by pouring the flour onto a clean surface and making a well in the middle of the flour; then crack the eggs into the well, add the olive oil, salt, paste and pepper flakes. Beat the mixture well with a fork in the well; then start incorporating some of the flour along the edges of the well with the fork. After a while you will begin to work it together with your clean hands and a dough scraper. Knead the dough using the heel of your hand until all of the ingredients are incorporated and smooth. If the dough is too wet slowly add some flour to get the smooth, silky feel. Form the dough into a round and cover tightly with plastic wrap. Allow the dough to sit out while you prepare the rest of your meal. Once the dough has rested for at least an hour uncover and cut into 4 equal pieces. With your pasta roller feed it through; constantly dusting it with flour to keep it dry. Be careful not to roll it out too thin, square off the flattened dough, and slowly roll the two sides into the middle. Slice the dough across both rolled in sides about 3/4 inches wide; slide your knife under the slices and lift. The dough should hang off of your chef knife and you can then separate the strips. Lay the strips of pasta out on a lined cookie sheet and dust with flour to dry. I have actually seen some homes where they line the pasta on a clothing line in order to dry it out. Be careful to not over cook the pasta (only to al dente) and make sure there is enough water to allow room for cooking. If you need to cook in batches, it is ok to do so...I roasted some garlic pressed out the finished product; mashed up the garlic with some salt and added it to 2 tbsp of olive oil and white wine in a pan. Brought this just up to a boil while constantly whisking; then tossed the pasta in the sauce and served with shavings of Parmigiano Reggiano.

Maria made the Eggplant Rollatini; which was dredged on paper towels after lightly dusting with salt; then pan fried to soften the eggplant; and stuffed with ham, asiago cheese. Finally they are rolled up and placed on a baking dish; topped with sauce and more asiago/mozzarella cheese. They are baked for a short period of time to heat and melt all of the ingredients.

The bruchetta was wonderful and made by Mike; he diced and concassed some yellow and red tomatoes into a bowl with minced garlic, shallots and chopped basil. The mixture is then tossed with olive oil, red wine and balsamic vinegars. Seasoned the mix with salt and pepper; then add thin slices of red onion which have sat in ice water to make crisp. The mix is served in a small bowl or plate accompanied with slices of country bread which is topped with a garlic aioli. The garlic aioli (garlic mayonnaise) gives taste and keeps the wet ingredients of the bruschetta from making the bread soggy.

The asparagus is made by snapping off the ends gently where it naturally breaks; then sliced at the bottoms to even them out. Then you place them in a pan and cover with slightly salted water; place it on the heat and bring to a boil. At the boil shut off the heat and remove from the pan from the coils/fire. Pull the asparagus out of the water immediately and place on paper towels to dry. Top them dry asparagus with grated Parmesan cheese and melt in the broiler.

Pollo alla Toscana; chicken with mushrooms is a dish which I think resembles chicken cacciatore. The dish consists of lightly flour chicken which is pan fried then removed from the pan to be put back in later. You then add sage leaves and wine, reduce to almost dry; add mushrooms and chicken stock and reduce by half. You add tomatoes, simmer for about 10 minutes and then correct the seasoning with salt and pepper. Place the chicken back into the sauce and let stew until chicken is done. The chicken is then served with slices of polenta; which Peggy made with mushrooms so it complimented the chicken well.

The tiramisu was a tricky dessert because it needs time to set up in the fridge and we did not have a lot of time that evening. The custard is a mixture of whipped egg yolks which have hot sugar (candy state) poured in while still being mixed. Marscapone cheese is then incorporated into the mixture and spread over layed out lady fingers. More lady fingers and then more cheese/cream; espresso, amaretto, or brandy is added to the cream as well. The idea is to allow the dessert to set up in the fridge overnight...overall the week was awesome and we made some pretty tasty dishes.

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