Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Makin' Bacon.

The intention for this post was to talk about the next Culinary Arts course I took, Culinary Arts II... 

...I am going to go out of sequence here a little and talk about Bacon.  I love Bacon.  All types of Bacon.  It makes me happy. 

A couple of weeks ago I started the newly offered Butchery and Charcuterie class at GBC.  I really had no idea what to expect.  I enrolled in it because butchery seemed like a good skill to have.   To my delight, I discovered that on the first day of class, (bright and early on a Saturday morning) we were 'makin' bacon'!  I was like a kid on Christmas.  I had a big goofy smile on my face for the whole class.  

First, we were given a pork belly and the ingredients to make a rub for the pork belly in order to 'dry cure' it.  After rinsing, drying and scoring the skin side of the pork belly with a knife, we massaged it with the rub and left it to cure for the week in GBC's industrial-sized fridges. 

Pork Belly Rub for Dry Curing
(for 6KL pork belly)
216g kosher salt
108g brown sugar

(look at that colour!  Perfection...)

The next week....
We massaged it once again with maple syrup (Mmmmm....maple syrup).  And then smoked it in an oven (@350 degrees for about 3 hours, skin side up) with wood chips. 

(see that brown stuff in the pan?  I totally stuck my finger in it....It tasted like maple-fatty-goodness)

I felt pure joy through the whole process of bacon making.  I have a feeling its because I love bacon so much.  (and no, I do not have a

One of the best things I found with 'makin' bacon' is that the method demonstrated in class is completely replicable at home (and after tasting the end product, I would say that it's definitely worth doing).  We soaked and heated the wood chips (in a foil pan) on a stove top until they began to smoke, at which point we covered them with a foil cover.  We then poked holes in the foil cover so all that yummy smoke could infuse the pork belly in the oven. 

When I attempt this at home, I think I will be using a backyard bbq as I (unfortunately) do not have the industrial fans that the George Brown kitchens do to suck all the smoke that is emitted out before everything (jackets, furniture, carpets, clothes, hair etc.) smells like smoking wood (don't get me wrong, eau de 'camp fire' is great, but only to a certain extent).

So far, the Butchery and Charcuterie course is getting a big *thumbs up* from me...and there is still a whole class on sausage making to come!

Happy Cooking!   

Friday, November 11, 2011

Epic Peach Pie

I thought this would be a good time to share the first of my very favourite recipes. 

Mmmmm....peach pie....

Epic Peach Pie. 

For my sisters engagement party a couple of months ago, she requested peach pie.  To this point in my life I have never made, let alone attempted, to make peach pie. 

So I did what I do when I don't know something...I walked over to my trusty laptop and I Googled 'Peach Pie'. 
However I did apply a little bit of my own logic (usually I just let Google do it all for me).  I knew that peach pie was a southern thing.  And who better to know about southern cooking then Paula Deen.  In this health conscious society (and yes, sadly because of the prevalence of heart disease and cancer in my family, I am one of the healthy-lemmings too - *most* of the time) it's nice to sit down and watch Paula Deen on the Food Network, knowing that if I were to eat that much butter as she cooks with everyday I'd look like one of the 'two fat ladies.'

And of course, Paula Deen didn't let me down.  She had a recipe for 'Peach Pie'.  Since I had never made peach pie before and it was my sister's engagement party, I decided to make a 'test pie' which turned into 3 separate attempts at the 'test pie'....and luckily all this practice made it 'Epic'.  I had so many compliments on the night of my sister's engagement party. 

The main things I changed were adding cinnamon, vanilla, reducing the amount of sugar and removing the juices that are given off during the 'stewing' process. 

Peach Pie
(yield = one 9" pie)

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Culinary Arts I - Recipes

The recipes taught in this course serve to develop skills by teaching the basics in order to inspire creativity.  You'll learn the basic stocks (chicken, beef & fish) and how to make sauces out of those, how to roast a chicken, and many other things (more details below) essentially lots of 'quick wins' recipes to ensure that even the most inexperienced of chef feels good about the end product which works as encouragement to continue.  There amount of food that you are sent home with from each class (that has a lab) could literally feed a person (with an average appetite) for at least 5 days.

My professor was lovely.  I had a bit of cooking experience from years of helping my mother in the kitchen, but for those who were just starting out (i.e. those who were still burning toast) she was patient and nurturing.  Not at all like Gordon Ramsey.  More like Ina Garden. 

Week 1: Stock 'er up!
This is a demonstration class only (meaning no practice lab).  This class serves as an introduction to the Culinary Arts program at George Brown, discussing the uniform and tools needed to be successful.   The professor demonstrated Fish, Chicken and Beef stocks and then turned those into sauces (Beef - Sauce Espagnole, Chicken - Chicken Veloute etc.) and introduced the sauce hierarchy (how to build on stocks to make variety of delectable sauces).

Week 2:  Salad, salad and more salad
Vegetable cuts (Julienne, Julienne Allumette, Batonnet, Brunoise etc) are introduced in this class, as well as three salads, Cucumber Salad, Asian Beef Salad and Italian Pasta Salad - the latter is actually part of the first lab of the course.  The Italian Pasta Salad was really tasty (and as I said before) there was enough  of it to feed an army.  I had it cold for a few days, but then because there is cheese and prosciutto in it, I threw it in the oven  for a bit to make a hot pasta dish out of it.  This turned out to be a successful experiment. 

Week 3: Soup Kitchen
Minestrone and Chicken Noodle soup are covered in this class, with the Minestrone being part of the lab.  The Chicken Noodle Soup that the instructor demonstrated was clear and comforting - like what you would expect of a restaurant. 

Week 4: Lasagne C'est si bon!
In this class you'll learn how (and actually execute) to make a Sauce Bolognese with which you'll use to put together a lasagne.
The instructor was great at suggesting different ways to flavour a basic tomato sauce to achieve different flavours. 
Also demonstrated in this class was a very rich (and so yummy) cheesy-garlic bread (because what is Lasagne without garlic bread?!?) and a basic tossed salad and vinaigrette.  (Canada's food guide says you have eat your veggies!)

Week 5: Potatoes and a lil' bit of Fish.
An overview of potatoes starts this class off.  Everything from Grade (who knew that potato could be graded?!?) to types of potato and what type of cooking is best for each kind.  A demonstration of Duchesse, Marquis and Croquette potatoes (basically very fancy (think old school restaurant) ways to make potatoes)follows this introduction.  The lab for this class has (funnily enough) nothing to do with potatoes.   In the lab you'll be glazing carrots (believe it or not, there is a right and wrong way to glaze carrots...Who knew?!?)  and making 'Sole Bonne Femme' (which - as it turns out - is a delightful fish recipe). 

Week 6: The Incredible Edible Egg
The egg farmers of Canada would be proud.  This week is devoted entirely to eggs.  History, storage, grading and cookery of the egg start this class off.  Followed by a demonstration Eggs Benedict, a Classic French Omlette and a Quiche Lorraine.   The Quiche is part of the lab.  I had never tried Quiche before and it turned out that I do like them, so this class was great.  Pastry making is also covered in this class as you have to have something to put all that Quiche filling into before baking it.

Week 7: The Cooking Process
Now, this title does sound very vague, but it is exactly what it says...In this class you'll review the cooking process from roasting and pan frying to how to cook a green vegetable so that it stays a rich green appeasing colour that everyone including all the children at the table will want to eat -and doesn't turn into a puke-y green colour which the dog wouldn't even touch.  The lab in this class is a Braised Steak in Red Wine and something called 'Vegetable Macedoine' (which is basically the fresh version of a frozen vegetable medley from Green Giant).    The Braised Steak is good (go easy on the brown stock though).  Chateau Potato (which is basically another fancy presentation on a basic potato) is also demonstrated in this class. 

Week 8: The Classic Roasted Chicken
This is something every amateur chef should know how to do in my opinion (and since this is my blog, there will be a lot of my opinion included).  It's a staple 'go-to' that even the most picky eaters will like, and when served with mashed potatoes, stuffing, maybe some mac & cheese and gravy serves as wonderful comfort food.  This week's lab includes a classic roast chicken and Zucchini Provencal.  (Bless George Brown for always doing their best at including some sort of vegetable dish).  Onion and Sage Stuffing is also demonstrated in this class. 

Week 9: Eastern Europe
One of the things I love most about taking cooking classes with George Brown is that it expands my horizons to new foods that, for the most part, I have never even heard of.   I am pretty sure this is the class where I had my Oprah 'A-ha' moment and decided that I wanted to take more Culinary Arts courses.   This week we ventured to Eastern European cuisine and covered off Pork Goulash, Beef Stroganoff and Spatzle.  I had never heard of or tried Spatzle before, and something about the nutmeg-y flavour of this German pasta made my taste buds very happy.  I have made this many times since being introduced to it (which has in turn has kept the dust off of my running shoes).  Pork Goulash is also demonstrated in this class.  Beef Stroganoff is part of the lab for this class.  Let me start by saying that this is not like the hamburger helper stroganoff which I was used to.  It's more like what one would get if ordering it in a restaurant.  It was kind of tangy which added a new dimension to this stew and has (thankfully) forever turned me off of the boxed version. 

Week 10:  Coq au Vin & Rice Pilaf
In this class we covered off marinating chicken before cooking it (Coq au Vin).  And Rice Pilaf (which was a good dish to show those who didn't know, how to make rice).  Because of the time restraints of the class, the chicken couldn't be marinated overnight as what was recommended by the recipe, but it was still pretty good.

Week 11:  Stuffing Things...
This week taught us how to safely stuff a pork chop, using the very sharp (and scary) boning knife (scary because my boning knife was so sharp that I barely had to look at it and somehow I would end up with a cut on my hands).  The Pork Chops are stuffed with a prune stuffing, which wouldn't have been my first  choice but when combined with apple sauce (which is also made in the lab part of this class) tasted pretty good.  Spanish rice was only demonstrated in the class.  This turned out to be a good basic rice dish that was a little more fancy then the rice pilaf and went well with many dishes.  I have made this a few times since. 

Week 12:  Glazed Ham....
This was the final class and was a demo only class.  Glazed Ham with cider sauce, scalloped potatoes and asparagus polonaise were demonstrated.  After watching the glazed ham demo, I did try this at home and it turned out pretty good and was a lot easier then I thought it would be. 

I learned a lot of techniques in this class which I have been able to apply to other courses offered in this program and also my every day cooking.  I forgot to mention that each student gets to taste all the recipes after the demonstration portion of the class is completed - When i say 'taste', it actually turns into a small meal because of the sheer amount of food made during the demonstrations. 

I hope my review has helped/inspired someone out there in the great big blogosphere. 
I've taken a few of these courses so there are more reviews to come.  Stay tuned!

Happy Cooking.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Culinary Arts I

Culinary Arts I - Tools and Techniques.

This is a great introductory course to all things culinary and serves as a good foundation for taking subsequent culinary arts courses with George Brown College through their Continuing Education program. 

Before I started taking this course I was slightly concerned that it was going to be a little basic, but I knew I had to take it in order to take the rest of the courses this program has to offer.  As it turns out, I was wrong.  As the course progressed, I learned a wealth valuable information.  I believe that even experienced cooks would be hard pressed not to learn something. 

For a person starting out, this course provides a great foundation for obtaining an excellent 'toolkit' of kitchen essentials.  It's like having a toolkit from the hardware store, except instead of a hammer, the tools are knives and spatulas.  Although it seemed like a lot of things to buy at first, there was not one thing from the list of culinary tools which was suggested that I don't use to this day.  I went to Williams Sonoma for a lot of the listed required tools, but that's not to say that everyone has to spend a lot of money in order to have quality essentials (...I have a weakness for Williams Sonoma - it always smells so good in that store!). 

In the first class there is a really great introduction to knives.  Before taking this class I usually just used which ever knife was clean and would cut.  In the first few classes, you really cover the characteristics of a good knife, knife safety and how to properly (and safely) sharpen a knife(if you've ever sharpened a knife with a steel, you'll understand how this can go horribly wrong). 

The techniques covered in this course was very interesting.  By the end of the second class, I knew the difference between Julienne, Julienne Allumette, Batonnet, Brunoise, Small/Medium/Large dice and a Paysanne.  (if you are saying 'Huh?' right now, don't worry, I did too). 

Things that I thought were interesting which I didn't expect to learn, but I did:
=> The history and structure of an egg, how to properly store them, how they are graded, and how they are used in the cooking process (i.e. As a binding agent, to thicken, etc.).
=> The different cooking processes - pan frying, deep frying, boiling (I was surprised that some students didn't know how to boil pasta), roasting, sautéing, simmering, poaching and the list goes on.  I knew how to apply heat in order to cook food, but learning the correct way to do this (and yes, there is a correct way) was a completely different story.  I learned that heat can actually be thought of as an ingredient in a recipe, which I never even considered before.
=> How cooking methods and timing differs between different coloured veggies to maximize the nutrients and colour.

I could go on...I really thought this was a great course for learning the basics and developing technique. 

Don't get me wrong, I am fully aware that these things could be Googled or learned by watching the Food Network (and on a regular basis, I do a lot of both of those things) but the thing I found the most helpful (and that really made the lessons stick) was that once I watched the professor's demonstration, I was able to apply them during the practice labs which are part of almost every class. 

Next up....a review of the recipes.  Stay tuned!

Happy Cooking. 

Monday, November 7, 2011

Holy blog delay Batman!

Wow....I have not been very good at blogging at all. I guess it's one of those things that has to become a part of the daily routine.

The update since I last sat down to write (2 months ago....yikes!) is that I am halfway through my French cooking class (where I have learned to make the most epic beef stew ever), I have just started a Butchery and Charcuterie class (which is more Charcuterie then Butchery....minor details), I have learned how to pronounce the word 'Charcuterie' (Char-cout-erie), and have found a good recipe for peach pie, tweaked it and made it epic. (I use the word 'epic' a lot....I find it applies when something is more then 'fantastic' or 'amazing')

Stay tuned for my review of Culinary Arts I. If all the stars align, I should be able to complete it by the end of the week....

Happy cooking!