Culinary Sense

Adventures with Food and Life

Archive for the month “April, 2011”

POTATO DAY!!!!!!!!

Potato Day was awesome! We all came in with a classical French recipe and made a potato dish.  I chose scalloped potatoes (potato gratin; Kartoffelgratin in German), which is something I’ve made many times before. But never with this much heavy cream and salt! Our chef instructor has a salty palette, which she admits to, and kept telling me to add more salt! My mother would probably find this amusing, as she thinks I eat too much salt!!! (Hallo, Mama! Mir geht’s noch gut…)

I started by heating the heavy cream with aromatics. Since there wasn’t any marjoram in the kitchen, I used thyme instead. And LOTS of garlic. I love garlic. Also, nutmeg and cayenne for spices. Then I washed, peeled, and used the mandolin to cut up the potatoes into coins, simmered them in the cream until tender, and layered them in a casserole with lots more salt. Then I baked it until the potatoes were fully cooked and the cheese had browned.

We had a big feast at the end of class with all the different styles of potatoes we had made. Yum!

~ Carolynn



Pilaf and risotto

Hey Peeps!

Monday, again, and now in my third week of classes. Next week, we have the big final exam – both practical and written!!!! I’m excited, but also nervous, of course.

Today we finished up our segment on cooking grains. We made pilaf and risotto, all in one day!

Rice pilaf with tomato and garlic.

One thing I didn’t know about pilaf is that you can make it with different kinds of grains, not just with rice. I generally don’t eat a lot of rice, but I tasted a lot of different pilafs from other students, and found I kind of liked them! Maybe next time in a restaurant, I’ll go for it!

A classmate preps his risotto: leeks, garlic, cheese, butter.

Hot chicken stock for the risotto.

The risotto must be made with hot liquid, so we got some chicken stock simmering on the stove. You sweat the onions, then add the rice until it is coated with oil. We used Arborio rice, which is typical for risotto. The shorter grain means more surface area, which means more starch can be released when you stir the risotto. (The pilaf, on the other hand, should never be stirred because you don’t want the grains to stick together.)

Sweating the onions.

Once the rice is coated in oil, you can add the wine. Once all the wine has been absorbed by the rice, you can start adding the other liquid (usually stock or broth). You need to add the liquid gradually, but it also shouldn’t take forever, otherwise the rice will become mealy and gummy.

Rice and onions coated in oil, wine just added.

Finishing ingredients for the risotto.

Finishing the risotto with butter, cheese, and herbs.

Wrapping risotto to bring home.

Unfortunately, I only had one container to bring rice home in, so I had to wrap my risotto in plastic.

Now I have enormous amounts of rice at home, along with polenta and pasta from last week.

~ Carolynn

Grains: Polenta

Morning, Peeps!

Last Friday, we made polenta in class as part of the section on grains. I’ve never made polenta before, and only eaten it once or twice. The chef gave us freedom to flavor it any way we wanted, so I chose basil and mozzarella, and made a little mozzarella, basil, tomato salad for garnish.

Ingredients for polenta.

First, you sweat onions in oil, then add milk and bring to a simmer. Once the milk is simmering, “rain in the grain”: this means you sprinkle in the polenta while whisking. Once all the polenta is in the milk, it should thicken up pretty quickly on higher heat, and by whisking. Eventually, you have to use a spatula because it gets too thick for the whisk.

Polenta with basil and mozzarella.

Another important thing to remember is to cook the polenta long enough to remove the starchy, cereal flavor. Chef Emma said it will also burn a little bit on the bottom because of the protein, so that can’t be prevented.


While the polenta was cooking, I made tomato-basil-mozzarella salad (insalata caprese) on the side. To finish the polenta, add butter and cheese.

The final product: polenta caprese.

The final product tasted pretty good. Chef Mark said my polenta needed a bit of salt.

Polenta Indian style.

One of my classmates made a curry-style polenta that was sooooooo good. Wish I knew how to use spices like that!

Polenta wrapped in plastic.

Luckily, we got to take our polenta home. So today, it’s polenta-day at my house.

Next week: more on grains and cooking proteins.

~ Carolynn

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