110 Lessons to the Toque

And so it ends. Six hundred fifty hours. One hundred ten lessons. Zero major cuts. Countless burns.

The crowning of a toque signaled the end to my six-month culinary school journey at The Institute of Culinary Education. And while graduating from any experience can be bittersweet, I am thankful to have captured every julienne, every sauté and every braise through the lens of my camera and the school’s blog, a concept I dreamed into a reality just under a year ago.

Though the classroom lessons have ended, I know the learning has just begun as I take my first steps into a test kitchen and into the professional world of food. I feel prepared, energized and ready for what lies ahead and I look forward to continuing to share my experiences with food on Just a Taste. I have some new ideas in the works as I try to continually improve the site, so check back soon for updates!

The Inside Dish: Culinary School Lessons 61-107

One hundred seventy-one days ago I learned how to hold a chef’s knife for the first time. It felt heavy and awkward and eerily dangerous. I remember dicing vegetables during the first few weeks of school and thinking, “Holy canoli, I’m going to lose an appendage here.” Not a finger. An appendage.

I’m three lessons away from getting my toque and I’m injury-free, save a few burns and minor cuts. My battle wounds.

If you’d asked me six months ago what I thought culinary school would be like, I probably would have responded with the following: “Some knife skills and bread-baking and a 30-pound weight gain.” Simple, shallow and oh-so incredibly wrong.

Chocolate Pots de Crème and Almond Wafers

Master baker Nick Malgieri’s Perfect Chocolate Loaf Cake was, well, perfect.

And chocolate cake perfection can only be topped by one thing – chocolate custard perfection. So, naturally, I referred back to one of the nation’s best bakers for the seamless marriage of creamy and crunchy and sweet and savory. Meet Chocolate Pots de Crème with Almond Wafers. And by wafers, I mean spoons. It’s function meets flavor, and is it ever a hit.

I’m a big fan of individual desserts, and really just individual anything (hello Middle Child Syndrome). Pour the custard into single-serving ramekins or small aluminum cups and chill them up to 24 hours in advance. Continue to entertain with ease as you bake off a batch of Almond Wafers then tuck one into the custards to pack a nutty crunch into each chocolate bite.

ReciPeeps

Up your Easter sugar rush with the following list of Peeped-out crafts and creations for ‘mallow lovers of all ages and adventure levels.

ReciPeeps:

The Just a Taste Doughnuthon

One day. Three bakeries. Five miles. Nine doughnuts. Welcome to The Just a Taste Doughnuthon.

I know what you’re thinking, “This girl needs to get a life.” But I’ve lived in New York City for almost two years now, and I still have yet to find a jaw-dropping, fancily frosted, circuitous ‘nut-o-perfection that leaves an impression lasting longer than the glaze on my fingers. And have I mentioned that doughnuts are my favorite food group?

Here were the rules:

  • I compiled a list of bakeries based on previous rankings and my own curiosity and understanding of New York City’s doughnut scene.
  • I had to buy the three most popular doughnuts from each bakery, based on the recommendation of the person taking my order.
  • I had to speed-walk (Are you getting the visual here? Feel free to laugh at/with me) from one doughnut spot to the next, hence the marathon aspect of my adventure.