Friday, July 23, 2010

Thoughts At Large

According to the calendar, I have 7 more Sundays sans culinary school. While I’ve been enjoying my summer holiday immensely, I’m also itching to get back into the groove of the kitchen and get back to my school friends. Also, I’m afraid I might suddenly forget the difference between a fond blanc and a fond brun, or forget the measurements of a brunoise cut, versus a macédoine, versus a parmentière. Quick, quick, what are the leading sauces? Béchamel, espagnole, tomato, hollandaise, veloute and demi-glace. Phew!
During the upcoming trimester, I have Introduction to Baking and Pastry to look forward to. Legend has it, that class usually gets out early and laden down with treats. See, the school has a strict policy that food does not leave the building. So if we don’t eat it for lunch or dinner, it gets put in the garbage. I understand the fear – if someone brings something home and stores it improperly, and it makes them sick, the school can be blamed. Their issue with donating the food to a shelter is similar. I get it. But seeing the amount of food that is dumped is heart-sickening. There have been a few moments when I’ve seen a little foil package of leftovers somehow “jump” into someone’s bag and “accidentally” escape. I’ll say no more about those incidents. But I have heard that the pastry chef is a tad more lenient about letting the occasional baguette or croissant go on a road trip.
Also coming this fall is Beverage Service. I’m expecting to enjoy this class as much as I did Dining Room. Secretly, there’s a part of me that loves to serve people. I love the rituals. And I love the way you can make a person feel happy and taken care of with such simple gestures.
In the meantime, I’ve been doing what I can to keep up my own personal momentum. Though it’s always a struggle to keep a balance between work, family and other pursuits, I’ve tried to cook, blog, visit restaurants and farmers’ markets, and read and follow recipes as much as possible over the course of the summer. I still can’t watch cooking competitions on television. Watching a show like Top Chef only reminds me how much I have to learn. I watch as these chefs are dropped into a convenience store to make a dish out of only gas station foods. “Could I have done that?” I ask myself. “Would I know what to do with bull testicles?” Uhhhh… no.
But that’s ok. I’m learning. I’m experimenting. And someday, when I’m deftly preparing Rocky Mountain oysters with a flourish, I’ll look back and appreciate the journey.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Chez Nom Nom Nom

Some nights, at some meals in particular, I become very aware of how lucky I am to appreciate amazing food and to live in Providence, where amazing food is so plentiful.

I took not a single photo at dinner tonight. I was too busy enjoying the company of my dinner companions. Lack of photos notwithstanding, our meal at Chez Pascal was just about perfect. It is Restaurant Week here in Providence, so we chose from the special menu provided for the occasion. (Psst... Restaurant Week lasts through July 24. There's still time for you!)

You'll have to indulge me in my copying of the dish descriptions straight from the Restaurant Week website. I'd rather admit that I copied and pasted, rather than rely on my shoddy memory and botch an important detail.

I started with the Stoney Hill Cattle Company braised pork meatballs with fennel, zucchini and green olives. The meatballs were small and delicate. By sight, I expected a heavy, Swedish style meatball. Not so. The sauce was flavorful, but not overwhelming. The qualities of the great fresh vegetables and olives were really allowed to come through.

For dinner I had the grilled swordfish fillet with a stew of local onions, carrots, zucchini and cilantro-espelette butter.  That butter! I don't think I ever want to eat another piece of meat or fish that doesn't have a sliver of compound butter melting over the top. The butter added a depth of flavor to the fresh fish that I haven't experienced anywhere else.

At this point, if I really listened to my body, I probably should have stopped. But there was dessert to be had. And you don't get to be a card-carrying Weight Watchers member by listening to your body tell you it's full! Jeez! For dessert, I chose the blueberry and almond tart with Chocolate Feuilletine Crunch and lavender ice cream. Warm. Crisp on the outside and tender on the inside. Balanced with the cool, not too sweet ice cream. I normally don't choose fruit desserts. But this was way more decadent than I would have thought. A fantastic finish to a perfect summer evening in Providence.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

A Little Bit of Comfort

It's funny what a difference a couple of days makes. The recipe that follows was created and committed to paper on Friday. Five days and about 1,000 degrees later, I can't even think about meatloaf. But maybe one of these days, the mercury will fall below 102, and a little comfort food will hit the spot. Here's hoping.

If you’ve been hanging around The Coquettish Cook long enough, you know that in my house, we’re all about simple, delicious comfort food. So it should come as no surprise to hear that last Friday, I had a mean craving for meatloaf.

I know what you’re thinking. Meatloaf. A childhood memory that really doesn’t deserve much thought as an adult. But this version came out juicy and flavorful. Served up with roasted zucchini and mashed sweet potatoes, this meal was very comforting. Details after the jump.

Sunday, July 4, 2010

What Says Independence Better Than Bacon?

It is the Fourth of July. I woke up bright-eyed and ready for breakfast at 7:30AM. There is nothing I love more than a leisurely Sunday morning with a big, lovingly made breakfast, a steaming hot cup of coffee and an episode of CBS Sunday Morning on the tube.

And what says "Independence Day" better than fluffy pancakes with fresh fruit, real maple syrup and confectioners sugar? Well, bacon does.

This is Boar's Head bacon, baked at 350 degrees for 30 minutes with a sprinkling of brown sugar and cracked black pepper. It forms a crispy crust and makes the bacon taste like... meat candy.

Good morning, indeed!

PS... To everyone who said to me, "Where the hell is your next blog post?" I thank you. It's so nice to know that there are actually people out there - if only one or two, who enjoy what I'm doing here. I'll be a better blogger, I swear!