Thursday, August 17, 2006
There's Shiitakes in them thar hills!!
Or maybe it's them thar trees! since they grow on logs.
Today's Regional Cuisine was that of the Pacific Coast, which included Nevada on our worksheets for some reason. Last time I checked, Nevada was nowhere near a coastline unless there's a casino that contains an ocean instead of a canal. Not that I'm knocking Vegas by any means, because have I ever got an idea for a casino--think Middle Earth, with a cafe named "Second Breakfast," a nightclub called "Elrond's," and a Brazilian-style steakhouse called the "Riders of Rohan Steakhouse," with the gaucho guys wander around in..but, I digress.
Today's exciting menu consisted of some yummy and not so yummy things...
Wonton Soup (Mother Hen made this, and Chef Regional pronounced it "perfect." I was really happy for her.
Pork Medallions with Red Onion Confit
Grilled Shiitake Mushrooms with Soy-Sesame glaze (I keep forgetting that second "i" in Shiitake)
Quinoa Pilaf with Roasted Red & Yellow peppers
Asparagus with Roasted Peppers and Shallot Chips
Polenta with Parmesan Cheese
Let's dissect the Quinoa Pilaf first. According to Wikipedia, "Quinoa (kin-wä) is a species of goosefoot (Chenopodium) grown as a crop primarily for its edible seeds. Considered to be a grain crop, it is a pseudocereal rather than a true cereal, as it is not a grass. Its leaves are also eaten as a leaf vegetable, much like amaranth, but the commercial availability of quinoa greens is currently limited." As far as I'm concerned, the "edible" seed should have a limited availability as well. The stuff looks like birdseed, and I'm not convinced that it wasn't. Walks like birdseed...talks like birdseed...you get the picture.
Anyway, I made it like we've done our rice pilafs in the past, and I added a lot more butter to it in hopes that it would be edible. It was okay, and it could have been worse, but I think I'll pass on it next time. The best part was roasting the peppers. I really love to do that, because it's just so cool how the roasting changes the flavor and texture of the pepper. (Gaaah!! I've become a food geek!!!)
The stir fry was completely unforgettable except for the scallops, which tasted fishy...not good. The Chiclet and I did the pork medallions with the red onion confit, which were pretty tasty. We did have to pop them back in the oven after presentation, because they were a little too pink (reddish would have been a better word for some of them!) for comfort. The red onion confit is a pretty tasty thing. It has a sweet-and-sour taste, which went really well with the pork.
Red Onion Confit (makes 10 portions)
2 lbs Red onions, julienne
4 fl oz Honey
4 fl oz Red Wine
5 fl oz Red Wine vinegar
Salt, as needed
Pepper, as needed
1. Combine honey, wine, and vinegar in a saucepot.
2. Simmer onions in honey mixture until mixture is the consistency of marmalade, about 40 minutes.
3. Adjust seasoning with S&P. Keep warm for service, or cool and store for later service.
(Reference: The Professional Chef, 7th edition)
Ours wasn't "marmalade-y" enough for my tastes, but we were working against the clock. We had made a confit last quarter that cooked for about 2 hours, and it was really good and gooey. You would serve this as a condiment with the pork, which we just sauteed in a little clarified butter after seasoning with salt and pepper.
We all got to torch a creme brulee, which was cool, because playing with fire and tools is always fun. After we had torched up our brulees and were admiring our handiwork, the advanced baking class that shares a kitchen with us finished presenting their desserts to their chef for grading and told us we could share. We immediately abandoned our lowly creme brulees for molten chocolate cakes, frozen banana souffles, and other things that had artistic decorations...you know, the high end stuff! Things that looked like this: With dollops of sauce and architectural features...can you blame us?
As we were packing up to go home, Chef reminds us that we're having a practical test on Monday, which he had mentioned this past Monday, but also lets us know that we're having a quiz as well. Thanks, chef. It's niced to be told things in advance...like when our team projects were due. He gives us our projects 2 weeks ago, and says he'll "let us know" when they are due...and then tells us last week that they are due this week. (And, it was just last week that he gave us the class calendar--a mere 4 weeks before the end of class.) The project involves each of us writing a paper, then designing a menu based on the region we were assigned, typing up the recipes for that region, making timelines of cooking those recipes, plating diagrams, requistion sheets, and a PowerPoint. He told us that the practical test on Monday would involve fabricating a chicken and a flat fish of some sort, and that we should practice. Guess we know what I'm feeding the relatives this weekend!