Monday, May 15, 2006

Cooking School Dropout...

No graduation day for you.
Cooking School dropout,
Missed your midterms and flunked braising, too!

(a little Frankie Avalon and Grease homage here...or should we be doing Queen's "Another One Bites the Dust"?)

Not me, silly! We just lost another member of our merry band today, just one class day before the practical's getting kinda scary here. The reason this member dropped out is because she's really only interested in baking. She has no desire to be a savory cook and doesn't plan to do anything but baking and she was stressing out in a major way over the upcoming practical. The previous baking chef/teacher was like that--he was pretty frank in that all he had ever done was baking and had never done any savory cooking and had no real desire to do any.

Class was very small today...we had a dropout, a latecomer, and one who was sick, so we only had 6 people in line up this morning, and we were looking pretty lonely. This rolled downhill later when it came time for Dining Room, and we were 2 people short. Two peoplethat we desperately needed. I think the service went fine, considering that we were short-staffed, and today was the day we, the class, had to start doing the cooking. I'm supposed to cook next Monday, which will be another thing to lose some sleep over. Joy.

So, I told Chef about the plantar fasciitis thing and told him that I could only take one class next quarter and which one would he recommend--Baking I or Regional Cooking? He said definitely Regional, since the only thing I could take after Baking would be Baking II, and I needed Regional to continue with the cooking classes. My heart sort of leapt for joy at that, because this means that I don't have to go to class until 12:00 NOON!!!! NOON, people!! NOON!!!! I can actually sleep to a normal hour...and get some sleep. Sleep, glorious's all I live for!

Today, we finished up with some of the pasta and grain things that we skipped last week. We made 2 kinds of gnocchi (I only thought there was one); one with semolina flour, and one with the potatoes (this is the one I am most familiar with). The semolina ones are sort of like polenta in looks and texture, and you don't cook them in water. Someone asked what you would serve the (potato) gnocchi with, and I piped up with "Vodka sauce!" Chef looked at me like I was insane, and said "Vodka sauce?!" and shook his head. I could never get out of him what the hell was wrong with vodka sauce. He probably feels that it's some bastardized tomato sauce and not part of the true religion of gnocchi, polenta, and tomato sauce. Personally, I like a good vodka sauce, and I believe that I make a good one. I got the recipe from the Internet, repository of all things holy and unholy, and it turns out perfect every time. Unfortunately, I cannot remember where on the Internet I got it, or I would credit the author. I did email her at the time and tell her how much I liked, and she said to pass it along freely. So, here I shall pass it along to all of you!

Tomato-Vodka Sauce


1 tablespoon butter
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 onion, chopped
1 (28 ounce) can canned peeled and diced tomatoes (preferably some Italian brand like San Marzano)
1 cup heavy whipping cream
1/4 cup vodka
1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
salt and pepper to taste
1 pound penne pasta
2 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese (yeah, right! I use shredded and a bunch of it...never can be too cheesy for me!)


In a large skillet over medium heat, melt butter with oil; add onion and saute for 8 minutes or until transparent. Add tomatoes and cook for 25 minutes or until almost no liquid remains in skillet; stir frequently.

Increase heat and add cream, vodka and red pepper flakes; boil for 2 minutes or until thickened to sauce consistency. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Bring a large pot of lightly salted water to a boil. Add penne and cook for 8 to 10 minutes or until al dente; drain and transfer to a large bowl.

Bring sauce to a simmer and pour over pasta; toss to coat. Sprinkle with Parmesan cheese; serve.

See, it's easy! And Maggiano's charges $15.95 a plate for gnocchi in vodka sauce...and I think this one is better, but that's just me. : )

The gnocchi part is actually easier than you think, too. Just potatoes and a little flour and egg to make a simple dough. I've made it several times, before I went to school, and it turned out great...although, the time I made it with the heavy bleu cheese sauce was a bit interesting. It was too heavy as an entree, but the leftovers worked fine as a side for a ribeye steak.

We also made risotto, polenta, and one of my all time fab faves, spatzle!! Too bad we didn't have a weiner schnitzel and some gravy! Chef threw some eggs in while he sauteed the spatzle, and that was a fine and wonderful thing, that scrambled eggs and spatzle. Do you like Green Eggs and Spatzle, Sam I am? Do you like them in a box? With a fox? or maybe with some lox and cream cheese and a bagel!!!

And, I got a potato ricer today at Target for $6! Gonna rice me up some taters tomorrow night and make those Duchesse Potatoes (you know, the ones that looked like poodle poo before?). But, tonight, tonight we are going out! Because I have to turn in a Shopper's Report that evaluates a restaurant on Service Standards. We've done a couple of these reports in previous classes, and they each focused on a different aspect. We did one in Safety and Sanitation that focused us more on how clean was the restaurant? Did they use proper safety and sanitation procedures when serving food? Et cetera, et cetera, et cetera. This one is for the Dining Room class and focuses on type of service we got (or didn't get as the case may be!). Besides, what better excuse is there to eat out than I have to do it for homework?

No comments: