8/31/11

Culinary Fundamentals--Week #2--Roast Chicken

Luckily, I showed up early for Culinary class this week as the other eager students had the same idea--to get a spot at the front table where we can see Chef Charles Fredericks' demos up close! In fact, someone had taken my left corner spot, so I ended up directly in front of his prep area so I could snag a few shots of the chef in action. We paired up in teams of two and made yummy roast chicken au jus. I've roasted many a fine chicken, but will never make pan gravy again with flour after having the richly flavored au jus made from stock and mirepoix--which is diced onion, carrot and celery in a 2:1:1 ratio. Here's the procedure:


ROAST CHICKEN WITH AU JUS:
1 roasting chicken
rock salt
pepper
1 onion
1 celery stalk
1 carrot
several stalks of fresh marjoram
1 lemon
3 cloves garlic
bit of cooking twine
about 2 cups chicken stock, or more
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Trim the excess fat off the chicken. Cut the wings mid-joint, leaving the meaty part of the wing drummette still attached. Set the trimmed off wing ends aside. (The breasts will become what is termed airline breasts after roasting--(watch the middle part of this video to understand where to cut the wings and how the breast will be separated after roasting to make an airline breast). Salt and pepper the inside of the bird. Make the mirepoix: cut half onion, celery and carrot into a large dice of equal size and combine in a ratio of 50% onion, 25% celery and 25% carrot. Mound at the bottom of a roasting pan, place the wing trimmings on top.
Slice the lemon into 1/4" slices. Mince the garlic. Slice the other half of the onion as thinly as possible. Combine these three ingredients with the fresh marjoram and stuff into the cavity of the bird. Tie the legs together. Salt and pepper the outside of the chicken. Place the chicken on the bed of mirepoix on a roasting pan and pour enough chicken stock to cover the vegetables. Place in oven and roast for 18-20 minutes per pound until cooked through and the juices run clear. If the mirepoix starts to dry out, add more stock. Set the chicken on a plate and cover with foil to keep warm. Strain the mirepoix, putting the broth into a saucepan. Simmer until reduced at least by half. Cut the legs off the chicken, then cut the breast off by running a sharp knife along the breast bone. Then, slice the breast carefully and transfer to your serving plate intact, pour some of the au jus onto the plate. We had our chicken with mashed potatoes and green beans--simple, but excellent!

8/28/11

Culinary Fundamentals--Week #1

Chef Charles Fredericks
I dusted off my chef's whites and dug out my checkered pants to start fall semester's Culinary Fundamentals at SBCC's School of Culinary Arts. I'm working my way backwards! I started with the most advanced class: Modern Food: Design, Style, Theory with Chef Vincent Van Hecke and am working now on the introductory classes, including this one taught by Chef Charles Fredricks. It's going to be a fun, educational class--last week we spent mostly working on our basic knife skills--cutting carrots into julienne strips and brunoise (here's a link to basic knife cuts) and learning a bit about Chef Fredericks and our fellow students. Chef Fredericks has an interesting story: he spent the first three years out of high school as a ski bum, then was spurred to attend college by his parents. He chose the Culinary Institute of America and after graduating, flew to Europe with $900 and his knife kit. He ended up working all over Europe for 18 months--a great encouragement to the new students who can see by his example one can make a living and travel the world with skill in the kitchen. He worked at Luxe in New York,  Auberge du Soleil in Napa and helped open Bouchon in Santa Barbara. He was also selected to be a dinner chef at the James Beard Foundation. As a chef, he worked on every continent, both as an ambassador for California cuisine and as a personal chef aboard a yacht. But, after his children were born, he wanted to find a way to spend more time with them, so turned to teaching and running a restaurant consulting business. Fortunate for us!

Had a wonderful stay and dinner at the Cliff House in Ventura. Here is my shaky iphone video of the tremendous view of the Pacific which pounds the breakwater less than forty yards from the inn and restaurant. My battery went out, so I have no photo of the seared ahi and wakame salad or Caesar with grilled shrimp, but they were lovely.
video



8/17/11

First Wine Themed Crossword

Ok, one of the highlights of my week is getting my hands on Will Shortz's Sunday crossword. So, I decided to try my hand at creating my own crossword--wine themed, of course! It's not so easy to fill in the blanks at the end, so I had to get creative by using some rather esoteric terms. In fact, in one clue I basically give you the answer. Sorry if it's too difficult to solve--but please try your hand at this and let me know what you think!




You can download a PDF version of the puzzle or download a PDF for the solution on this page.

Solve this in AcrossLite.



8/5/11

Wine Pairing Luncheon -- Brys Estate and Rodney Strong

The highlight of our Touring & Tasting Mediterranean cruise was our Tuscan Grille wine pairing luncheon with Brys Estate and Rodney Strong single vineyard and Reserve wines. The appetizer choice of Chilled Tian of Shrimp, Mango and Avocado with Passionfruit Vinaigrette was paired with the Brys Estate Bubbly--a Rose' sparkling wine. The Brie Fondue was paired with the 2009 Rodney Strong Chalk Hill Chardonnay.

The roasted fig and arugula salad garnished with goat cheese and toasted pine nuts was paired with the 2010 Brys Estate "Naked" Chardonnay and 2008 Rodney Strong Reserve Russian River Chardonnay.

A cherry and champagne sorbet cleansed our palate before the entree of either Sea Bass On A Potato and Truffle Puree paired with the 2008 Brys Estate Pinot Noir and the 2009 Rodney Strong Reserve Russian River Pinot Noir, or the Fillet Mignon with Foie Gras and porcini risotto paired with the 2007 Brys Estate Cabernet Franc or the 2008 Rodney Strong Single Vineyard "Alexander's Crown" Cabernet Sauvignon.

Dessert was either a warm chocolate lava cake with Frangelico Gelato paired with the 2007 Brys Estate Signature Red or the 2007 Rodney Strong Symmetry Meritage (one of my favorite wines) or the selection of bite-sized desserts paired with the 2007 Rodney Strong Reserve Port and the absolutely ethereal 2008 Brys Estate "Dry Ice" Ice Wine. This was our last event as a Touring and Tasting group aboard the Celebrity Solstice--a delicious way to end a wonderful trip with a terrific group of wine afficionados!
Eileen and Walter Brys of Brys Estate Winery and Paul Arganbright, President of Touring & Tasting

Wine From Montenegro

Kotor, Montenegro is at the end of one of the most beautiful inland passages in the world--a long, snaking fjord that takes 45 minutes to navigate. In the blue misty morning light, the surrounding mountains took on an ethereal beauty (my photo is inadequate) and the water was a palette of pastel colors. National Geographic named Montenegro as one of the "50 Places of a Lifetime" due to its historic architecture from the Byzantine and Ottoman Empires, pristine beaches and rugged mountains. It's becoming a tourism hot spot due to the natural beauty, the friendly people and low cost relative to other resorts on the Adriatic and Mediterranean.
We took a bus tour to the largest wine producer in the Balkans, Plantaže Winery, who also has the largest contiguous vineyard in Europe (with 11 million vines). Plantaže grows the indigenous grapes Vranac and Krstač which have been cultivated in the area for thousands of years. Vranac makes powerful red wines (the name means "black stallion") with a bright purple color, jammy fruit and plenty of tannins. Krstač yields a dry white wine with ample acidity and round pear flavors. The geology of Montenegro is karst--eroded limestone and dolomite--with extensive natural caves. I'm a bit fuzzy on the history of this area , but during a recent war with Serbia, caves were expanded and used to store aircraft since the technology at the time could not detect them when stored in rock. The Plantaže Winery is housed inside an extensive cave system which provides the perfect constant temperature for winemaking and wine storage. They prepared us a gourmet meal to accompany their wines, which though normally vegetarian, I did eat. The starter was paper thin dried beef (like beef jerky but not as chewy) in a salad with olives and two kinds of hard (cheddar style) cheese. There were three types of fluffy, warm breads, then the main course of tender pot roast, dumpling and roasted cherry tomatoes. As all the produce we sampled in Montenegro, the tomatoes and the salad were fantastic. The growing conditions in the valley where Plantaže Winery is located is ideal, with ample sun and water but a cooling influence from the sea and Montenegro's largest lake. The combination of limestone soil, ideal climate and unique varietals creates wonderful wines!

Wine shop, Montenegro
On the return trip, we visited another wine shop built into a cave and stopped at an overlook to view one of the many scenic beaches. I would love to return to Montenegro and Croatia--they were modern, clean, populated with friendly residents and the food and cuisine were excellent. Dubrovnik, Croatia was another cruise stop for us. One word of advice: explore the Old Town early in the morning! We arrived early and the main plaza was nearly empty. By the time we had circumnavigated the ancient stone wall which runs around the city, it was noon and the square was impassable due to all the thousands of tourists--it was literally wall-to-wall people packed like sardines in a can. Our Celebrity Solstice housed nearly 3,000 passengers, so imagine how many tourists were in this small town with four cruise ships in port!

8/2/11

The Grand Entrance Into Venice, Italy

Yesterday we entered Venice like a princess at the Ambassador's Ball sweeping down the grand staircase in her billowing ball gown. It was a sensation unlike any other to be 14 floors up--150 feet in the air--gliding down the waterway, being able to see all angles of the city from the towering height and seeing the tourists lining the canals turn to look and wave. Later, we were in St. Mark's Square when the Princess cruise ship passed by and it was a remarkable sight to see such an monstrous, modern floating hotel pass the ancient colonnaded buildings of Venezia.

We went to the Peggy Guggenheim Museum with modern art from the 20's-50's yesterday and ate dinner at La Sempione--the same restaurant that wowed us with their lasagna four years ago. Unfortunately, the meal was ungodly expensive and not at all tasty, but we had the most beautiful table overlooking a window box of flowers, a arch framed with a grape arbor, and an open window overlooking the canal where gondoliers were plying their trade. We also rode the elevator up one of the towers in St. Mark's just as the last golden light was slanting across the city, providing a breathtaking vista.

This morning, we had front row seats in the ferry. We sat in the bow and watched as the Grand Canal opened up before us, the majestic old residences revealing glimpses of rich interiors, gondoliers polishing their boats in preparation for a busy day, myriad boats of all sizes laden with goods to replenish the stores and restaurants along the water and a postman with his boat full of mail.

We marveled at room after room of monumental Renaissance and 16th and 17th century paintings in the Academy Gallery, then reluctantly turned back for the boat. I half wanted to miss the boat and be forced to stay in Venice a few days longer, but no, we are onboard, passing the outlying islands on our way back to the blue Mediterranean and Kotor, Montenegro.