Archive | February, 2010

EGGIES!

15 Feb

Well, as some of you know already, I have been a little under the weather this last week.  So, I didn’t feel up to making a new dish this week.

However, that doesn’t mean that I slacked on my cooking school lessons.  This week I am learning about eggs.

Okay, okay, I know your initial reaction is probably the same as mine.  Eggs?  Do I really need to learn about eggs.  Eggs are like the first thing that people learn to make as a kid.  You’d think that by the time you are an adult that you would at least have eggs down, right?  WRONG!

Okay, so we’ll all need to put our egg pride behind us and I’ll share some interesting info on eggs that I have been learning.  Believe me I am really surprised at all of the different things that I am learning.

White Eggs, Brown Eggs, Little Eggs, Big Eggs, Blue Eggs, Turkey Leggs.  The color or shape of the egg doesn’t make an egg healthier or less healthier for you.  It depends on the feed that the chickens were given.  I always look for eggs that have been  given Omega-3 and Omega-6.  It is also important to me that they are range free organic eggs.

You’ll notice the yolk will be orange in color rather than yellow.  The nutritional value is much higher than a regular hen that is just fed grain.

Range free means that the hens were allowed to roam the yard and feed on bugs, grass and anything else  they can find.  I’m sure that they are still fed grain as well.

Don’t get me wrong I don’t always buy my eggs like this, sometimes I can be a cheapo and just buy regular white eggs.  For some reason I always had it stuck in my head that brown eggs were healthier.

Boiling Eggs:

Get your pan full of cold water add about 2 tsp of salt per liter of water and then bring it to a boil, turn down to a simmer and with a large spoon add each egg being careful not to crack the shell.

Soft Boiled Eggs: 8 Min.

Med. Boiled Eggs: 10 Min.

Hard Boiled Eggs: 12 Min.

Once your egg timer goes off put your eggs in a bath of cold ice water to stop the cooking or you might end up with grey egg yolks. P.S. Your yolks should remain a bright yellow color.

The best way to enjoy a hard-boiled egg is to slice it open and add pat of butter, salt and a shake of pepper.  Try it… you just might like it too!

Did you know that you can check the freshness of an egg by putting it in a bowl of water?  If it sinks then it is pretty fresh, if the pointy part of the egg floats a little bit then it is less than fresh, and if it floats all together throw the egg away, it’s old.  This is because the shell of an egg can absorb air and moisture which accumulates at the tip of the egg.  Have you ever noticed the air pocket at the top of a hard boiled egg?  This is why the old ones float the older they are the more air it absorbs.  I thought that was interesting.

Oddly enough older eggs make better hard boiled eggs, go figure??

If you find yourself saying, “I forgot whether I boiled this egg or not”; No worries, just spin it!  Yes, just put it on the counter if it spins pretty fast then it’s already been boiled.  If it barely spins then it hasn’t been boiled.  I thought that was pretty cool.

There is lots of other stuff that I will have to share with you another time.

These were some of the basics but in the future I will be learning about:

  • Scrambling Eggs

  • Making Omelets

  • Poaching Eggs

  • Making a Frittata

  • Braising Eggs

  • Pan Frying

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SAUCES!!!

8 Feb

Basic Tomato Sauce

I love sauce! Don’t you?  I will confess I am a dipper at heart.  If some kind of sauce or dip is involved I am very happy!

So this last week I have been concentrating on learning the sauce section in the culinary school.  The 5 Mother Sauces. Once you learn these you will be able to make any dinner into a gourmet delight!

On Sunday, I made the basic tomato sauce from the Rouxbe Online Cooking School that I am studying with.   But let me tell you, this was no basic tomato taste.

It turned out fabulous.  Reminded me of your authentic Italian style marinara, but I’m talking authentic!!  It was awesome I was drooling to try it before the sauce was even finished.  I held out though…

It all started with Whole Canned Tomatoes, Tomato Paste, Garlic Cloves, a little Onion and some Olive Oil.  That’s it, that’s all that went into it.

Here’s the recipe:

1/4 Onion
4      Large Cloves Garlic
1/2  Cup Olive Oil
4      Cans 28 oz. Whole Tomatoes
1       Can Tomato Paste 5.5 oz.

The first step is to seed your tomatoes.  (Yes, you are going to take all the seeds out.)  They recommend that you do this with a food mill.  If you do not have one of these things on hand, get a large bowl and a large mesh sieve and you can do it by hand.  Remember to keep the sauce is in the can you will use all of this.

This is how I did it.  The first tomato went fast, I was like this isn’t so bad, until I realized how many whole tomatoes are in a 28 oz. can.  Don’t get me wrong; it is so worth it, but for next time I will be getting a food mill.

Once you seed your tomatoes, (EDIT: I forgot to tell all of you people doing this by hand that you will need to crush your tomatoes afterward, picture marinara sauce.)

You will need to get a large pot heated to about med/low.  A heavy bottomed pot works the best.  While that’s heating go ahead and get the rest of your mise en place*(see note below) ready.  Small dice your onion, emince ( A-MAHN-SAY; to finely slice-not mince) your garlic, measure out your tomato paste and olive oil.

Once your pot is at the right temperature add your olive oil, then add your onion.  Saute them until they are lightly golden, DO NOT OVERCOOK THEM as they can give the sauce a bitter taste.  Same goes for the garlic.  Once the onions are slightly golden throw your garlic in and stir.  Let them cook between 30 sec to a minute.

Tomato Paste and Garlic

Then put your tomato paste in.  Keep mixing the tomato paste in with the onion and garlic, it will still be pretty pasty.  You are looking for the paste to darken a shade in color.
Once this has happened it is time to add your tomatoes and the sauce that came with them.  Bring the whole thing to a simmer and cook uncovered for about an hour.  Keep stirring from time to time to prevent scorching.

This recipe will make 3 Liters of sauce.  I halved the recipe as I didn’t have enough canned tomatoes and it was perfect.  If making the full recipe you can freeze this sauce and it will be great re-heated slowly.

My sauce turned out fabulously, we put it over pasta but there are many many wonderful uses for this sauce as it could also be used as a base in many recipes. (Chicken Parmesan, Lasagna, Pizza etc.)

Tonight I plan on putting over a thin crusted pizza will fresh basil for a snack.  I’m drooling just thinking about it.


I did take some pictures of this process, but realized that I am going to have to hire my talented husband in the future, as I am not gifted in this area, plus it’s hard to take a picture of yourself seeding tomatoes while your up to your ears in tomato juice and seeds.  That would have made a good picture!!  I ‘ll post my not-so-professional pictures later.

I encourage you to try this recipe as it was a LOT of fun to make and reminded me of Cascone’s authentic Italian Marinara.

Almost forgot, after the sauce has finished thickening, you can add a drizzle of olive oil and some torn fresh basil to make it even more yummy.

I am definitely going to make a HUGE batch next time so that I can freeze some for later.  The half batch that I made wasn’t enough for much left overs, it’s almost gone!!

*Mise En Place– This by far has been the most beneficial thing that I have learned in cooking school yet.  Seriously, this french phrase as been the foundation for me to becoming the cook that I desire to be.

Pronounced Meez-Ahn-Plahs (I’m no english teacher, but I get the job done.)

This is a french culinary term meaning to have all your ingredients diced, sliced and on the ready before you start.

EVERYTHING IN IT’S PLACE

Today it is used much more loosely as it means to just gather all your ingredients and having yourself set up for the recipe.

More than a culinary term; it is also a state of mind.

If you are making a dish or recipe that has a lot of ingredients that require prepping you MUST have you mise en place ready.  It is essential to having everything come out right.

Flip on the food channel and watch the chefs cook, they have everything pretty much ready to go.  I always thought that was just TV but there was something to it.

Now I am sure to do this ahead of time with whatever I am cooking and I have an easier time managing a bunch of different things at once.

If I could only paint you a before picture of what I used to look like while preparing a meal.  It wasn’t pretty people!

So when you here me say mise en place, you know what I mean.

Asian Pork Pot Roast!

1 Feb

A Big Hit!!! Secret Ingredient: Star Anise and Szechuan Peppercorns

Yesterday I made Asian Pork Pot Roast with Jasmine Rice and Glazed Carrots.  I was very excited to see how it would come out.  I went out earlier in the day searching for some of the special ingredients (which was so worth it!)

I cooked the Pot Roast for 4 1/2 hours on 200°.  It came out so good that my husband couldn’t stop raving about it.  My husband is a VERY picky eater so to get his approval is really a trophy.  So afterward, he complemented the dinner again.  I was very proud and thankful that I made a dinner that he enjoyed so much.

As we were laying in bed drifting off to sleep, my husband started to talk about he meal AGAIN!  I had to politely tell him to go to sleep, but at that point I realized it was starting to happen.  I was starting to LOVE to cook.  This was one of my goals in this endeavor.

You see it’s like this in anything you do in life.  If you put your heart into something and you really go after it, you will become better at it.  Most things in this life are attainable, some things are easier than others, and some things are more difficult but if you really buckle down and don’t give  up you can do anything you set out to do.

With these little victories that you start accomplishing, little by little they will add up to confidence boosters and your cooking skills will really start to shine.

I have started to realize that I am starting to really love cooking.  I’m sure that you will too!

Here’s a link to the recipe!