Saffron Rice is a variation of rice pilaf that goes great with Grilled Chicken, Sausage and Shrimp.
Rice is perfect for long term storage at home which is more important than ever at this time. Rice can be prepared in many different ways. It can also be used for many types of dishes, perhaps that is why it is one of the world’s most basic foods. In this post, I will feature three ways that I have recently prepared it at home for my wife and myself.
Two of the most basic types of rice that are widely used are short-grain rice (used for sushi and risotto), and long grain rice (long-grain white, basmati, jasmine). For this post, I will focus on long-grain rice and the technique for cooking it known as the pilaf technique in a variation of saffron rice. Two other ways that I prepared rice this past month are with cooked lentils and leftover rice in stirfried application with duck breast and cashews.
Rice Pilaf is made with long grain rice it is easy to make once the technique is understood and the ratio of rice to liquid is measured correctly. Pilaf in its most basic form is made in 4 simple steps:
Brown the rice in butter until it is light brown and fragrant (normally a small about of minced onions is also used)
Add hot chicken broth or water and a pinch of salt and a bay leaf ( in a ratio of 1 part rice to 1 1/2 up to 2 parts liquid) in the saffron rice in this post I used 1 cup rice to 13/4 cups chicken broth.
Bring to a boil, then cover and bake at 350F for 20 to 25 minutes (until all of the broth is absorbed)
Remove from the oven, discard the bay leaf, and fluff up the rice loosely with a fork, then let it sit for 5 minutes and serve.
Variations that can lead to one-pot meals are Jambalaya, Paella, and Arroz con Pollo.
Rice Pilaf can also be made with other vegetables such as carrots, celery, bell peppers or mushrooms in the first step and other spices as well such as paprika, curry powder or cumin. After the rice is cooked, frozen peas, cooked beans or other grains can be added as well. Diced cooked chicken or shrimp can also be added.
Learning to cook rice with its many types and variations will open a whole new world of culinary possibilities. Enjoy and be safe and well my friends!
During this time of a world-wide pandemic and home isolation, many people will need to cook who previously may have frequently eaten out or had food delivered. This can be challenging and even frustrating for some, however, cooking can be made easier, less stressful and even satisfying and joyful when basic techniques and recipes are used.
Marinating food prior to cooking is one way to improve flavor and preserve it for a longer period of time which is even more important than ever at this time. The process of marinating will preserve meat and seafood for 5 up to 7 days, also the food can be frozen which can help prevent freezer burn and when thawed the flavor will be enhanced once cooked. Here are three of my favorite marinades that are easy to prepare with basic pantry ingredients.
Mustard Garlic Marinade
Yield ½ cup- 2 chicken breasts or 4 to 6 chicken thighs
1 Tbl. Whole grain mustard (Dijon can also be used)
1 Tbl. Balsamic Vinegar
1 Tbl. Sugar
2 each Garlic Cloves, chopped
6 turns Black pepper from a pepper mill
¼ cup Vegetable oil
Mix first 5 ingredients together in a small bowl
Whisk in the oil in a slow steady stream to form a thick (emulsified) marinade
Use to marinate chicken or refrigerate to use later.
Maple Apple Cider Vinegar Marinade
Yield 1 ½ cups- 6 to 8 large pork chops
½ cup Pure maple syrup
¼ cup Apple cider vinegar
¼ cup Finely chopped shallots
1/2 Tbl. Fresh tarragon leaves (cut the amount in half if using dried herbs)
1 Tbl. Fresh thyme leaves (cut the amount in half if using dried herbs)
1/4 cup Vegetable oil
1 Tbl. Coarse ground black pepper
1 tsp. Crushed red pepper flakes
Mix all ingredients together and marinate pork chops or refrigerate for later use.
White Wine Herb Marinade
Yield ¾ cup- 3 to 4 pieces of salmon or chicken
¼ cup White wine
1 Tbl. Finely chopped shallots
1 Tbl. Chopped fresh herbs such as basil, tarragon, dill or chives (use 1 teaspoon for dry herbs)
6 turns Black Pepper from a pepper mill
½ cup Olive Oil
Mix all together and marinate salmon or chicken or store for later use.
Here are some tips for proper marinating:
Make sure that the meats and fish are all well coated on all sides prior to storing them.
All of these marinades add the most flavor when they are left overnight in the refrigerator to enable the flavors to fully penetrate the proteins.
Turning the meats or fish after 8 to 10 hours helps to ensure more even penetration of the marinade.
If a shorter time is needed to marinate the protein in the case of the Maple Cider Vinegar or White Wine Herb Vinegar the marinade can be heated on the stove or microwaved then cooled prior to use.
Marinating foods prior to cooking is just one example and an easy way to create great meals at home when combined with good cooking principles and flavorful accompaniments. I hope you enjoy these recipes and be safe and well during these trying times.
October is the perfect time to cook traditional German foods. I first learned how to make this dish when I was a young 19-year-old sous chef working for a world-class German chef at the brand new 22-story Sheraton Hotel in Billings, Montana. Many decades later I revived this classic dish known as “Rind Fleisch Rouladen” in Germany in our student-run restaurant at Ozarks Technical Community College and we quickly sold out of all of the orders. Here is how I made it.
I started by using the nerve end of the striploin of beef. Normally the top sirloin or top round is used for this, however, the strip loin end with the tendon going through the middle of the loin is a perfect way to use this portion of the strip which is often sold as a steak in stores (buyer beware). I then covered the sliced strip ends with a layer of plastic and pounded the meat with a meat mallet to tenderize it and make it thinner.
Next step was to brush with whole grain mustard and top with sauteed red onions, crisp bacon, and a julienne of dill pickles with the seeds cut out.
In the last step before braising the roulades, I rolled up the meat (hence the name Rouladen) and secured them together with skewers making sure that the seams of the meat are pushed tightly together. Then I browned them and braised them slowly in rich brown veal stock. At home, a good quality low sodium canned beef broth could be used. Here is the full recipe;
German Style Beef Roulade
By Chef Daniel Pliska CEC AAC
Yield 12 portions
24 Each 6 oz strip loin nerve end slices or top sirloin slices pounded thin
24 each thick bacon slices, cooked and cut in half
12 each Dill Pickle spears split in half lengthwise, seeds cut out
4 each Red onions, medium size, peeled and cut into julienne and sauteed
1 cup German, whole grain or Dijon mustard
1 quart Seasoned flour with salt, black pepper, Hungarian paprika
3 quarts Brown veal stock
½ cup Tomato paste
Vegetable oil for sautéing ( bacon fat mixed with oil can also be used)
1 1/2 cups Red Wine
½ cup Red wine vinegar
2 Tablespoons Chopped Shallots
12 sprigs Thyme
4 Bay leaves
1 teaspoon Whole black peppercorns
Cornstarch for slurry if needed
2 cups Sour cream
Salt and black pepper if needed to adjust the seasoning
Sautee the red onions until translucent
Layout the top sirloin slices and brush with the mustard
Top with 2 half slices of bacon, red onion, and julienne of pickle spears
Roll up tightly and secure with toothpicks or skewers
Dredge in the seasoned flour and brown well in a Sautee or braising pan
Take out and place into hotel pans
Deglaze with some red wine, add tomato paste and veal stock and bring to a boil
Pour over the beef roulades and braise covered in the oven until tender at 350 F
While the beef is cooking make a reduction with wine, vinegar, herbs, and spices and reduce to 25 % of original volume and reserve
When the roulades are cooked and tender remove from the pan and reserve warm, strain the braising liquid and degrease by skimming well
Put into a pot and return to the stove and bring to a simmer
Add the reduction and tighten if needed with cornstarch slurry or with a roux made with 50/50% corn starch and flour.
Temper a small amount of the sauce into the sour cream in a metal bowl and then add into the pot of the sauce
Remove the toothpicks from the roulades and serve two per order with the appropriate starch and vegetables.
Some possible sides could be- Spätzle, buttered noodles, knodel, red Cabbage, green beans with bacon, mashed root vegetables.
Farmers markets are becoming more popular and prevalent all over the country and when in season are the best place to buy vegetables and fruits that are locally grown. Many other types of foods and goods are also being sold at these markets and with a little thought and guidance, your trip to the market can be fun and fruitful as well.
I love buying my vegetables at the farmers market! Here are my top reasons why!
The freshest vegetables in season.
Because they are so fresh they last longer at home.
Finding out where and how the vegetables are grown.
Getting some good deals on vegetables with slight blemishes.
Supporting our local small farmers.
Many of the vegetables and fruits are pesticide-free, make sure you ask.
Here are some tips for finding the best deals and using the vegetables once you get home.
Walk the market and compare prices before you buy. Often the best deals are on the fringes of the market in the smaller stands.
Look for small or imperfect vegetables and fruits they are often marked down and if you plan to cut them up and cook them then it won’t matter if they are the not the perfect size or have some small blemishes.
Alternatively, if you are seeking the best perfect produce go early to get the first picks.
However, if you shop at the closing time you can sometimes find good markdowns because the farmers don’t want to take all of the vegetables back to there farms.
Resist the emotion of getting caught in the moment and buying vegetables or fruits that you don’t know how to cook or won’t cook when you get home. Beets is my example. I don’t like them even though they are cheap and very healthful.
Make sure you cook them properly and season them accordingly once you use them at home.
Pattypan, summer squash and zucchini cook quickly when sauteed. To mix them with other vegetables such as green beans or carrots in a sautee application it is best to first pre-cook the other vegetables by steaming or boiling them and then stopping the cooking (shocking) of the vegetables by chilling them in ice water. To prepare a tasty medley of these vegetables sautee them with minced shallots in butter or olive oil and then finish them with sea salt, fresh ground black pepper, and chopped fresh basil.
Using the abundant amounts of vegetables once they are harvested before they go bad has been an issue since ancient times. Preparing vegetable soups is one way to use them and they can also be frozen for use later in the year. Here is one of my recipes for a delicious cream of tomato soup. This recipe was previously published in the Missouri Life magazine. Use imperfect tomatoes which are cheaper and plentiful later in the season at your local farmers market. For an extra special garnish top with whipped goat cheese and crunchy croutons. To see the article and learn more about tomatoes go to page 71 of the Missouri Life issue found at the following link- https://issuu.com/missourilifemagazine/docs/ml0817lr
Cream of Tomato Fennel Soup By Chef Daniel Pliska
Yield: 6 cups Ingredients:
2 pounds Tomatoes cut in quarters
1 cup Red Bell Peppers large diced
½ cup Yellow Onions, large diced
½ cup Leeks, white part only, rinsed well and large diced
½ cup Celery, large diced
1 cup Fennel, large diced
1 Tablespoon Garlic, minced
3 Tablespoons Olive oil
3 Tablespoons All-purpose flour
½ cup White wine
2 Tablespoons Tomato paste
6 cups Water or Chicken Broth
1 Tablespoon Balsamic vinegar
1 teaspoon Sugar
½ cup Heavy Cream
2 Tablespoons Fresh Basil chopped
1 Tablespoon Fresh Chives chopped
To Taste Salt and pepper
Olive oil for roasting the tomatoes and bell peppers
Toss the quartered tomatoes and bell peppers in a small amount of olive oil
Roast for 30 minutes at 400 F
Sauté the onions, leeks, celery, fennel, and garlic in three tablespoons olive oil
Add the flour and stir in
Add the white wine
Add the water or chicken broth, balsamic vinegar and sugar
Bring to a light boil and skim off the scum and reduce to a simmer
Cook for 1 hour while skimming off any scum
Puree in a blender and return to the pot and cook 30 minutes
Strain and add ½ cup of cream, and continue to cook until the right consistency is met.
Add the chopped herbs, season with salt and pepper if needed and serve.
For more ways and tips for preparing vegetables, go to my previous post, On cooking vegetables- 7 tips! Enjoy and live well!
Mention the word Garde Manger to a group of non-culinary people and prepare yourself for a blank stare or the question “What are you talking about?”. In this age of chef celebrities, Youtube how-to videos and TV food shows the world of Garde Manger is not well known. In its simplest form Garde Manger could be described as the art of cold food preparation and presentation.
Garde Manger is taught in most culinary schools in only one semester in a 3-credit hour class. However, since it is such a broad topic there are a number of textbooks that are written about it. Here is an outline of the categories used in Garde Manger and basically how I teach it in my 8-week class at Ozarks Technical Community College:
Salads – tossed, composed and bound
Cold hors d’oeuvres and appetizers (canapes and tea sandwiches)
Charcuterie (includes pates, terrines, mousses, rillettes, and sausages)
Cold food trays and platters (crudite- vegetables, fruit displays, cheese trays and cold cut and deli trays, etc)
Food Art – Vegetable carving, Fruit Carving
Non-food Art – Ice Sculptor, dough sculptors, butter and tallow sculptors all used as centerpieces for cold buffets
Salads can be divided into three sub-categories: Tossed, Composed and Bound. The most common tossed salad is undoubtedly a green salad made up of a variety of greens and lightly tossed with an oil and vinegar based dressing. Composed Salads are salads that are laid out in a decorative manner and then served drizzled with dressing or dressing served on the side for the guest to use. Bound salads are salads that mixed with a dressing that binds all of the ingredients together – think chicken or tuna salad. Bound salads can be served as is on a bed of greens, in sandwiches or as an hors d’oeuvre such as a single bite serving presented on spoons, as shown in the image above. Two of the most important concepts for this category that I cover are the ratio of oil to vinegar, 3 to 1, to make a simple vinaigrette and the method for preparing mayonnaise to understand the emulsification process.
Canapes and tea sandwiches are very popular and used for butler-passed appetizers, on a buffet or served on platters as is done in a classic tea party. Canapes are normally made with three components with a standard ratio of a 1/3rd base such as a croustade, 1/3rd spread, 1/3rd main item or garnish. In my class, I offer alternative ideas for bases such as tartlettes, choux puffs, crisp wontons, puff pastry, phyllo pastry, and vegetables. When combined with all of the spreads such as compound butter or herb cream cheese mixtures along with delectable main items such as shrimp, smoked salmon, ham, beef tenderloin or caviar, to name but a few, the possibilities are endless.
Finger sandwiches and tea sandwiches are small dainty sandwiches which are larger than single bite canapes. They are normally two or three bites and usually built with fresh bread. Some examples are chicken salad, ham salad, egg salad or watercress cucumber, to name but a few.
Chilled, smoked and cured seafood covers a vast amount of specialties that include smoked salmon, poached seafood (shrimp and lobster), gravlox and the ever popular sushi. We cover these types of cold food in 2 class periods… not much time when you consider the vast amount of presentations and types of seafood that are served in this way.
Charcuterie is a time-honored traditional method for cooking, preserving, and utilizing all of the meat and organs from a pig after it is slaughtered. It includes pates, terrines, rillettes, and sausages of all types. Over time it has evolved into the practice of using other meats (such as game and poultry) and some seafood and vegetables as well. This topic is recently becoming popular again and is the sole subject of some books. A subcategory of Garde Manger, Charcuterie is a highly advanced skill that takes years to master. The methods that I cover in our class are forcemeats, of which there are four types, that are used for pates, terrines, and galantines. We also prepare a simple fresh sausage method so the students can learn the technique of how to stuff sausages into casings. We also discuss some of the other methods and ingredients used in the practice of Charcuterie.
Tray and platter design is like any other visual art form and it employs methods and techniques for laying out food in the most decorative eye appealing way. For this portion of the class, I discuss, draw out, show pictures and books that illustrate some of these basic concepts. These are the focal point, flow, slicing, serpentine, tin solder and the use of negative space.
Vegetable and fruit carving can be simple and yet quite effective if done correctly and used in the proper combination with various foods. By learning and practicing basic techniques one can start the journey to more complicated and elaborate presentations such as those used in Thai melon carving which has a history of being served to the royalty of Thailand hundreds of years ago. This food art form takes extreme skill and practice to become proficient.
Fruit and Cheese is a classic combination and is served in many different ways and presented in all types of banquets and receptions. We cover the steps of cheese production and some of the types of cheese that are produced arranged by texture. In the kitchen lab, the students learn some methods on how to display and serve it with fruit.
The last subcategory of Garde Manger is taught as an overview. This class focuses on centerpieces and sculpture or carvings and covers the methods used to produce ice carvings (the most popular of centerpieces) as well as dough sculpture and the history of tallow and butter sculpture which has fallen out of fashion and is rarely seen today.
In only sixteen class periods, the broad subject of Garde Manger can only be covered as an overview or in academic terms as an exploration class. Consider the fact that baking and pastry arts are taught in a two-year period due to the current interest of many of today’s students. The subject of Garde Manger takes just as much time to learn and master and can be every bit as artistic as those in the pastry arts field. Furthermore, it is a major sector of culinary arts. Hopefully, it will become more widely known again so as not to become the subject of another lost art form- that would be a shame!
Our greatest joys as chefs are cooking, serving and educating students and staff about the many types of seafood that are available to purchase. Shellfish is one type of seafood that is both delicious and available to cook, both in professional kitchens and in our homes. In this post, I will focus on three types that are featured in the opening image. Oysters, clams, and lobster.
Although most of the earth is covered with oceans much of our treasured wild seafood is being overfished. That being said it is important for us to learn about the types of seafood that are sustainable to serve and to make sure that we as chefs and home cooks treat the seafood with the care and respect that it deserves. As a culinary arts teacher, I emphasize this on a continuing basis in our kitchen labs and classrooms. For a good resource for checking on which fish and seafood to use and to avoid see the link from the Monterey Bay Aquarium:
Here are a few tips for how to cook, care for and serve some of these beloved shellfish that come from the seas.
Littleneck clams are the smallest size available of the Atlantic clam species. These are easiest to serve by cooking them quickly in a very hot pan with shallots, garlic, parsley, and white wine, covered and steamed to release their own juices. Cook them until they open wide and serve with crusty French bread.
Another way that takes more effort is to cool them after they are cooked and then remove one of the shells and serve them topped with a garlic herb butter, bread crumbs and crisp bacon. To make this even more interesting I remove the clams from the shells, then chop them and add them to a tomato, fennel, bell pepper and onion mixture that I reduce down with the clam cooking liquid prior to cooling and topping with bread crumbs and bacon. This is my way to create the classic “Clams Casino” which, as legend has it, is said to have been created in 1917 by a Maitre de’ in New England.
Maine lobster is a cold water species that is famous for being one of the finest lobsters in the world. The best way to purchase it is alive! After killing it by piercing the head between the eyes with a heavy chefs knife immediately cook it in a steamer or rapidly boiling salted water for 7 to 8 minutes per pound. Then split and serve it or ice it down and cool for another use. I like to serve 1 1/2 to 2-pound lobsters which are the most tender.
If I remove the meat from the shells I always go on to use the shells for a lobster stock or lobster cream by roasting them and then crushing them up prior to sauteeing them with 25% mirepoix and a little tomato paste. The next step is to add a good amount of brandy and then carefully ignite (flambee) prior to adding herbs and water for a lobster stock or heavy cream and a small amount of water for a decadent sauce.
Eating oysters raw on the half shell just after being shucked is an acquired taste. However, it is cherished by many who love the creaminess and briny saltiness that can only be found in these raw bi-valve creatures that are farmed or harvested wild from our coastal regions. There are many different types of oysters available in this country, all of which belong to only 5 species. They are Atlantic, Pacific, Kumamoto, Belon or European flat and Olympia all of which are different in taste and size. Atlantic Bluepoint oysters, which are the ones pictured in the opening image of this post, are one of the most popular types; some of the best come from the Chesapeake Bay in Maryland. For more on oysters go to
As with all oysters, when served raw it is best to know where they originate specifically and purchase them from repeatable dealers. This is due to the fact that eating them raw can be dangerous to your health if the oyster has been tainted by toxins or pollutants that can cause serious illness if consumed raw. Cooking them is a safer way to eat them and two of the best ways to do this are either fried or baked as in the classic oyster dish “Oysters Rockefeller”.
Shellfish are also often served cold for buffets, at raw bars and in the famous cold seafood platter known as “L’assiette fruits de mer” which when translated from French means, a platter of seafood. I like to serve cold seafood on canapes as well. Here are three of my favorites: Butter Poached Royal Rock Shrimp, Smoked Mussels and Cilantro Lime Grilled Scallops. Simply delicious!
Eating more vegetables should not be just a passing practice for a New Years resolution. As a self-proclaimed carnivore, I also enjoy balancing my daily intake of meat and seafood with vegetables and fruit. Here are some tips and thoughts for preparing vegetables in the new year.
Roasting vegetables such as carrots, parsnips, butternut squash, cauliflower, and Brussel sprouts is a great alternative for boiling them in water. Toss with olive or grapeseed oil and season with salt, pepper, and cumin or turmeric then roast until lightly brown.
Quick blanching and then wok stir frying is an Asian technique that yields very tasty vegetables. Try doing this with split baby Bok Choy. Stir fry it in sesame oil, garlic, and chili oil or oyster sauce then top with toasted sesame seeds. To do this use a pot of salted boiling water and wok or saute pan on two separate burners. Plunge the vegetables into the water for a brief few seconds then remove them with a strainer or tongs and stir fry them in the hot wok or sauté pan with the garlic, sesame oil, chili oil, and oyster sauce or fermented black bean paste.
Cooking vegetables Au Gratin is a classic French preparation which yields excellent results. The classic technique for this is to make a Bechamel Sauce, then blanch or steam the vegetables then shock them in ice water. Place the vegetables into a casserole dish then cover with the Bechamel Sauce and top with buttered bread crumbs mixed with grated parmesan or other suitable cheese and bake in the oven until golden brown. Try this with asparagus, cauliflower, Belgium endive, or Brussel sprouts.
Dips are a great way to add another flavor profile to vegetables when batter fried, steamed or roasted. Try using an aioli sauce with the vegetables. Aioli is classically prepared with raw egg yolk and olive oil. Due to salmonella risks, try using a good quality mayonnaise as a base for the aioli then mix in roasted garlic and olive oil to create a base sauce that can be flavored with saffron steeped with white wine or pureed with avocado and lime for very tasty dipping sauce.
Beer batter fried vegetables can be served with an Avacado Aioli. In this image, I served them in bamboo cones.
Mix mashed potatoes with other vegetables such as cauliflower or parsnips to decrease the white starch content in a side dish and to increase the vegetable portion. This is very easy to do, just boil or steam the vegetables until very soft and mash with the boiled potatoes. Finish with butter and hot milk or cream. Try adding roasted garlic, chives and a touch of nutmeg for additional flavor.
Try fennel and leeks if you have never had them. Fennel is a bulb that tastes like licorice and leeks is a green root vegetable in the onion family. Try fennel stewed with green beans, tomatoes, bell peppers, and garlic. Leeks can be sautéed with mushrooms, shallots, dry sherry and a splash of cream for a delicious sauce or gravy with mashed potatoes. They are also excellent when sautéed with spinach and then cooked down with cream and puréed.
Sautéing with shallots and toasted nuts or herbs is an excellent way to prepare many types of vegetables. Green Beans Amandine (sautéed with almonds) is the most well-known version of this preparation. To do this:
First steam or parboil the green beans until the desired point (al dente for some, fork tender for others)
Then plunge them into cold ice water to stop the cooking and retain the color,
Sautée some chopped shallots in butter and then add the toasted nuts,
Sautée briefly with the par-cooked vegetables to reheat them and season with salt and fresh cracked black pepper and serve. Try doing this with broccoli or cauliflower for a great result as well. Substitute the almonds with toasted chopped hazelnuts or pecans for another flavor profile. If you don’t care for nuts omit them and use fresh herbs such as basil, chives or green onions, adding them at the end of cooking just prior to serving.
If you are a vegan check out my recipe for spicy lentil rice cake on My Recipes tab. It is bound with flaxseed and water which is a vegan substitute for eggs often referred to as a “flaxseed egg”. Wishing you a happy and healthy 2019 with more vegetables in your daily diet.
Making the transition from working Executive Chef to Chef Instructor is and has been a natural progression for many chefs and is now the path that I have taken. Rewarding, humbling and challenging are three words that have summed up my experience so far.
Rewarding for me to be able to teach and demonstrate my style of culinary techniques for students who are eager to learn the necessary skills to be successful in the modern kitchen. To be more specific, the type of kitchen where food is the focus and culinary arts reigns supreme. I tell my students that although taste is king – presentation is queen when it comes to food because as we all know, that we eat with our eyes first before we ever take a bite.
In my first semester at Ozarks Technical College, I have taught classes in Garde Manger, Fabrication, World Cuisine, and Contemporary Cuisine. Garde Manger is basically the techniques and methods of cold food production. It includes many different skills that take years to learn and master and are applicable in many different environments. The main segments that I teach are cold appetizers, canapes, fruit and vegetable carving, salads, patés and terrines, and smoked and cured seafood. The class is an 8-week class and with a subject so broad I am only able to touch on many of the skills that are a part of this discipline. Certainly, a challenge to teach such a broad subject in such a short span of time.
Fabrication which was also an 8-week class is a technical name for a butchering class. This is also a broad field and encompasses both meat cutting and fish and seafood portioning and cooking. The challenge that students have is that cutting a piece of meat or filleting a fish once or twice does not enable them to become proficient. However, all chefs need to be quick and efficient in breaking down large pieces of meat such as beef, pork, chicken or game into usable parts before the cooking process begins. As with all eye/hand techniques practice is the key to mastering these skills.
Humbling is the word that best describes the emotion that I often feel when teaching culinary arts. So many students with different skill levels, abilities, and experiences. All look to me to lead them on the path of learning how to cook and run a kitchen. In our Contemporary Cooking class, we operate a working kitchen for lunch once a week in a 16-week span of the course. The students rotate through the stations of Sous chef, Sautée, Middle/vegetable, Grill, Pantry and Desserts in a 2-week cycle. They have to produce a core menu along with their own personal signature items on a weekly basis. Here is the menu that we serve.
In world cuisine, I share my experiences and philosophy for cooking ethnic cuisines from the major regions and countries on the globe in a 16-week class that meets once a week. As I expressed to the class, this type of cooking can be interpreted and produced in three ways: authentic, in the style of, and fusion. Most of the recipes and techniques that I teach in this class are from the area of what I label as “in the style of”. I have also been honored to have some authentic trained chefs come to visit the class as well. Chef Steve (Yutaka) Oshita is one of these chefs who hails from a well known Japanese restaurant here in Springfield. He came to class to demonstrate the basics of Sushi and also gave some history from his homeland in Japan as well. A field trip to visit Chef Andy Hampshire, owner of a British gastro pub (Farmers Gastro Pub) has also been a topic for one of these classes. Researching and studying the cuisines of the world has been quite a humbling experience. The challenge that I have discovered in this class is that the more I think I know about a subject the more I find out that I need to know before I write my lesson plans for world cuisine.
In closing, I am happy and honored to be have been given this chance to teach and share my experiences at OTC to a diverse range of students in a well-run ACF accredited program. A new path in my ever-evolving culinary journey.
Until next time I remain yours in all things culinary,
Chocolate candies are without question one of the most luxurious and enticeable treats that have ever been created. Ever since chocolate was first brought from the new world to Europe, where it was first used as a drink, it has held the fascination and appreciation of all who consume it. This complex compound is derived from the laborious process from the pod of Cocoa plant yields what we in the culinary and pastry trade know as Couverture, which is basically the refined chocolate solids mixed with sugar, cocoa butter, and lecithin. From couverture comes the multitude of chocolate candies. The two most well known are molded bonbons and chocolate truffles.
Before any type of chocolate candy, chocolate decoration or showpiece is made one must first learn how to properly melt and cool the chocolate so that it will set properly. If done correctly the cooled set chocolate will yield a shiny crisp finish after it has hardened. This process in technical terms used by chocolate makers and pastry chefs is known as crystallization or in older terminology as tempering. When the chocolate is properly crystalized it can be piped, formed, molded or poured onto thin sheets called acetate to create many different shapes and decorations. The process basically is done by melting and cooling the temperature of the chocolate through three temperature ranges which are: melting, cooling and working ranges and differ slightly on the brand and type of chocolate.
Chocolate does not have to be crystallized if mixed with something else, as in a chocolate mousse for example. Only when it is used on its own is it necessary to be concerned with the proper crystallization process.
A basic reason for this is that when chocolate (couverture) is melted and re-sets as it cools the various fats and solids contained in the chocolate set at different rates and at different specific temperatures. If done naturally without using a method to control the crystallization the chocolate would not set properly and would be grey and streaked when it hardened. Here is another way to look at it: Think of an instance in the summer when you left a chocolate bar somewhere hot and it became slightly melted and soft, then you took it into the house and refrigerated the bar. What happened once it rehardened? It had become an unsightly grey with streaks (this is called bloomed or fat bloomed in chocolate making jargon).
To crystalize (temper) the chocolate there are three basic methods. They are tabling, seeding and microwave methods.
The table method (the classical method used for generations) is accomplished on a marble slab. The chocolate is first melted to a specific temperature range and then a portion of it is poured onto the marble and then spread back and forth with an offset palette knife. When it begins to cool and set it is returned to the original bowl and stirred until the chocolate is cooled to the proper temperature. Lastly, the chocolate is then briefly re-warmed to bring it to the working temperature and ensure that it is fluid enough to work with.
In the seeding method, the chocolate is first melted to the correct temperature range and then a portion of pre-crystalized chocolate (that has not been melted and is shiny and hard when purchased) is added to the melted chocolate and then stirred until the chocolate has reached the proper temperature and the entire batch is crystallized properly. In both of these methods, the correct ranges of temperature along with the slow gentle stirring of the chocolate is of utmost importance in order to create the proper formation of the crystals, ensuring a smooth workable chocolate that will set properly when cooled.
For home use, the best way to work with chocolate is to use the microwave method. This is done in a plastic bowl by melting the chopped chocolate on 50% to75% power until about 3/4ths of it is melted. The bowl is then removed from the microwave and stirred until all of the chocolate has melted. This technique is accomplished because all of the chocolate is not melted and therefore the chocolate that is still solid remains in a crystallized state. When stirred with the melted chocolate this enables the entire batch to develop the crystallization needed to bring it in its proper state. If done right and then tested the chocolate can be used for candies, decoration, and showpieces.
In all of the methods, the temperature is of the utmost importance. If the chocolate does not reach or exceeds the top temperature then the chocolate will not crystallize properly. Make sure to use a good thermometer to check it throughout the phases. See the following guide.
Type of Chocolate
Rewarming/Working Temperature Range
113°F to 122°F
88°F to 90°F
104°F to 113°F
82°F to 84°F
96°F to 100°F
80°F to 82°F
Decorations made with crystallized chocolate is an art form that uses many techniques some of which are shavings, piping, ribbons, plaques, and filigree.
Piping chocolate is a technique that takes practice to create thin graceful lines with no breaks. Done with crystallized chocolate this technique which is also used for chocolate writing is a skill with many applications.
Chocolate curls, plaques and filigree can be used to make decorations or showpieces for elaborate presentations.
Chocolate is surely one of the most luxurious and enticing foods in the world. With knowledge and practice, it can be used to make candies and desserts and simple decorations in both the home and professional kitchen!