The Inside Dish: Culinary School Lessons 25-60

Grilled Salmon Tranche, Israeli Couscous, Duck Confit, Falafel with Tahini Sauce, Ravioli di Zucca, Crepes Normandy – you name it, I’ve cooked it (and eaten it). Officially halfway through my 6-month culinary school program, I find myself gaining a sense of confidence in the kitchen as I fall more in love with cooking every day.

Dinner conversations have evolved from chitchat over favorite restaurants to full-blown table tutorials about the proper way to sauté a chicken breast (hand motions included). Dialogue with new friends has shifted from “I love to cook” to “I eat for a living, ” as my palette has traveled from Burgundy to Beijing and beyond.

Wine Essentials: Part 3

I’ve never met a glass of white wine or champagne that I didn’t like. But red wine? We aren’t exactly amigos.

Up until yesterday, I had probably consumed a lifetime total of 1.3 glasses of red wine. My reluctance resulted from the burgundy-colored beverage smelling strange, tasting even worse and adding an awkward element, or what I’ve coined as Purple Tooth Syndrome, to social gatherings. Despite my reservations, the latest installment of my Wine Essentials program led me to discover that I may in fact have a taste for the red stuff.

The Ultimate Pizza Dough

I don’t do dough. I don’t do bread. I don’t do yeast. Or so I thought …

Alton Brown first introduced me to the wonderful world of bread-making a few months ago, but it wasn’t until a recent culinary school lesson that I really felt I’d perfected the simple yet finicky process of making dough. Once frozen with intimidation, I can now finally say “Fear not, my fellow dough doubters!” Check the list of tips below then tie on an apron and let the flour-flinging begin with my recipe for The Ultimate Pizza Dough.

Tips + Tricks for Total Doughmination:

  • When dissolving the yeast, use hot water – as in water that’s at a temperature your hand can stand. If your hand likes it, the yeast will like it.
  • Adding a tablespoon of flour to the yeast while it’s dissolving will make for a better rise (better rise = better dough).
  • “Knocking down” the dough refers to throwing it firmly against your work surface while holding on to one end. Fold the dough in half, then do it again. This helps to evenly distribute the yeast.
  • For storing the dough in a “warm dry place,” try your dryer shortly after it’s been used.

Wine Essentials: Part 2

Two hours. Four kinds of cheese. Eleven types of wine. From Burgundy to Bordeaux, this week’s Wine Essentials class covered the classic wines of France. The timing of the class paired perfectly with my current place in culinary school as I finish up our section on regional French cuisine. I find that as I cook more with wine, I also have a greater appreciation for it as a complement to food. My favorite flavor pairing of salty with sweet has evolved from pretzels and vanilla buttercream to fresh goat cheese rolled in chevril and Entre Deaux Mers, Blanc Reserve, Chateau Tour de Mirambeau 2008.

Can I say “Entre Deaux Mers, Blanc Reserve, Chateau Tour de Mirambeau” with confidence (and a straight face)? Not entirely. But I’m getting there!

Wine Essentials: Part 1

You’re presented a bottle of wine. You swirl. You sniff. You sip. And if you’re like me, you do a quick glance around the restaurant and pray that the fake show you just put on was actually accepted by your fellow dining patrons.

I love wine. I just don’t know a darn thing about it.