Oh, where do I begin? I left my blogging to the end of the week again…although I did like the style of my last weekly blog entry. I’m experimenting, see? Yeah, that’s it. It has nothing to do with being too tired/busy/lazy to do a blog entry at the end of the day. Nope. Not. At. All.
Anyway…let’s talk about what I cooked this week. This turned out to be a short week in the kitchens, as we had a field trip on Thursday, which I’ll tell you about a little bit later. Overall, I think that I had a strong week.
- On Monday, I made a Thai green vegetable curry with basmati rice and some strawberry jam with redcurrant juice. The veg curry was delicious, and it’s definitely a dish that I’ll be making again. The strawberry jam was the jam! Oh, and the basmati rice came out fine, but come on, it’s basmati rice. It would be pretty hilarious if I screwed that up. (*knock on wood that I don’t screw up basmati rice for the rest of this course*)
- Tuesday was all about pasta-making. My Italian grandmother would be very proud of me (*shout out to Carmella Iadevaia…love you Nonni!*). I ended up making Pappardelle and Ravioli from scratch with my cooking partner and rolling out the dough with the pasta machine. It’s actually a lot of fun but very time-consuming. I can picture myself doing it in my later years though when I won’t be in such a rush with my life – you know, when my hair has gone even more gray than it is now and I wear knee highs for socks (with one rolled down to my ankle). I also made a chicken liver sauce to go with the pappardelle. I thought it would taste gross, but I liked it. Let’s just say that my savory tooth was pleasantly surprised. I also made a walnut cake with something called “American frosting.” Never heard of frosting having a national origin, but it was delicious, so I’ll go with it. I usually hate making cake, pies, and tarts (definitely no future for me as a pastry chef), but I will make the walnut cake again and bring it over and we can have some tea, okay? That’s how much I liked it. The only problem with walnut cake is getting good walnuts though…Darina pointed out that they go rancid quite easily, and most sold on the market are already rancid. In fact, I’m pretty sure that I’ve eaten so many rancid walnuts in my life before coming on this course that I never knew what they actually were supposed to taste like.
- On Friday, I made some mussels in a Goan sauce (a spicy Indian sauce). Amazing. I couldn’t stop eating them in the kitchen and kept sneaking them when my instructor wasn’t looking. Hee hee. I also made a classic tarte tartin. It came out a little bit goopy because I didn’t caramelize my apples as much as I should have. It’s hard because you think that if you keep them on the burner, they will definitely burn. As Darina mentioned you have to “hold your nerve” when making this…I think I need to start holding my nerve(s) more often. Patience definitely is a virtue in the kitchen…although so is being quick and efficient. Surprisingly, for the first time since I’ve been on the course, I was the first to finish in the kitchen today. This a huge deal when it happens for some reason, and the instructors stop everyone and make an announcement about it. I’m pretty sure that being first to finish will never happen to me again, since I’m usually pretty slow, inefficient, and succumb to the occasional daydream while working in the kitchen. Since I have no desire at the moment to work in an actual restaurant kitchen, I think I’ll be okay.
Wednesday morning began with an introduction to blue cheese (mmmm…new favorite: Crozier Blue – a sheep’s milk blue cheese) and a cooking demonstration on vegetarian cuisine. Even though I know that I will never become a vegetarian (sorry, there is just no way that I could ever give up meat), I actually enjoy vegetarian dishes. I’m a fan of food items that usually end up being vegetarian-esque: chick peas, tofu, beans, lentils, soy, and uhhh – vegetables. Hey, I even once tried seitan (a.k.a. wheat gluten – looks and kind of tastes like meat), and I kind of liked it. We then enjoyed a lunch of what had been demonstrated by Darina and Rachel, and frankly, I thought it was delicious. In fact, I heard a lot of the die-hard meat-eaters in the class comment on how good they thought the food was.
In the afternoon on Wednesday, we had our fifth wine lecture with Colm. When I first chatted with Colm at the beginning of the course about my interest in pursuing a career in wine, he suggested that I should present a wine to the class. I thought about it for a bit and finally decided on a wine that has recently become a favorite of mine – Nero d’Avola from Sicily. Well, this week, the focus was primarily on Spain and Italy, so it was the perfect opportunity to present my wine. I knew in my head what I wanted to say about the wine and had some notes written on it. I was pretty pumped to get up in front of the class to talk about this wine, but when the moment finally happened, I got super nervous about it. Fortunately, my nerves subsided once I got going…but still. I was relieved when it was all over and rewarded myself with a bag of salt and vinegar chipsticks, which I think is the first non-organic, non-locally sourced, chemically enhanced food item that I have ingested since being on this course…and I have to confess, they were pretty tasty.
Thursday was our field trip day, and we were lucky because the weather was spectacular for it. First on our stop was the Belvelly Smoke House near Cobh (where the Titanic was built incidentally) where artisan fish smoker Frank Hederman smokes organic salmon, mussels, eel, and mackerel in the traditional way. Then we took a ride over to the Mahon Point Farmers Market, had a chance to look around at all the stalls selling a variety of delicious foods, and had some lunch. After that, we were carted away to where they make Cashel Blue Cheese in Fethard, County Tipperary and were allowed to tour the entire facility and sample a lot of delicious cheese (including my new favorite – Crozier Blue – a blue cheese made from sheep’s milk). Finally, we were dropped off in Lismore, County Waterford to explore a number of different food business including McGrath’s Craft Butchers where we were shown around the butcher shop and abattoir (very cool), O’Brien’s Chop House to hear a little about the restaurant business, and finally, a stop at The Summer House Cafe, which is owned and managed by a Ballymaloe alum. All in all, it was a very informative and interesting day…and I got to ride on a bus with a bunch of fun people.
I’m also looking forward to this weekend. The usual suspects and I will be going down to Baltimore, as in West Cork, not Maryland. The good times just never end here…
I will update this later with some photos, but my internet is spotty at the moment.