Serious Foodie Course; Day 2

27 Jan

Last night was the second night of my Serious Foodie cooking course and I’m still digesting today! We cooked and ate three courses;

  • Beet, pear, and fennel salad
  • Mac and cheese (with a twist)
  • Salmon rillettes

In regards to the salad, the lesson wasn’t so much about the construction of the salad but more a guide to making your own vinaigrette and how to plate the salad. By making your own vinaigrette you are able to control what goes into it, meaning no nasty emulsifiers or “what the hell is that?” ingredients. It tastes fresher and vinaigrettes, or dressings, are really simple to make (Jamie Oliver has a bunch of good recipes in his “Ministry of Food” cookbook). The vinaigrette, which we made from lemon juice, Dijon mustard, olive oil, and toasted fennel seeds, was refreshing and had a slight tang. It paired very well with the salad which was full of nutritious yummies, like roasted beets, pear, thinly sliced fennel and radishes, toasted pecans, faro and mixed greens.

We used our fingers to toss the salad (something I had already learnt from Mr. Jamie Oliver) and we used our hands to plate the salad. Honestly, if you don’t already do this, you should. By using your (clean) hands to distribute the vinaigrette, you can coat your salad evenly and spare your salad a beating from those big salad forks. And don’t stop there! Use your hands to plate the salad as well (unless you are at a dinner party, of course). Start by grabbing a small handful of the heaviest bits of the salad (in this case, the beets, nuts, pears, etc) and place that in the middle of your plate, and then build on top of that with greens and few pieces of the salad that you want to showcase. You want a little bit of height but don’t overdo it…nobody wants to eat a tower of salad.

Seriously, who doesn’t love mac and cheese? I just love it! Last night, I was introduced to a completely different flavour of mac and cheese and I must admit; I was impressed (even if there were veggies in it!). In my mind, mac and cheese is one of those comfort foods where you don’t really need to change anything. So long as it has copious amounts of cheese, milk and butter, I’m happy! But after trying the recipe last night, which had prosciutto, celery, red peppers, jalapeno, smoked paprika, and beer in it, I might be converted. Sure, it still had all the cheesy, milky goodness that you’d expect from mac and cheese but there were definitely different levels of flavour within this mac and cheese. I could mostly taste the smokiness of the paprika but there was also a slight hint of jalapeno and prosciutto.

When Chef Tony announced that we would be making salmon rillettes, I was left scratching my head. I had no idea what rillettes was! I suppose that is why I signed up to the class – to find out new things. So, in case you are like me, here is a brief explanation. Rillettes typically refers to meat (or in this case salmon) braised in herbs, wine, and fat until very tender and then it is pounded into a paste with the reduced cooking liquid. It is usually served as a spread over toast, as an appetizer or a snack. It was really quite simple to make but I think the plating (a modern layered approach) makes it look quite impressive. I had never poached fish before but it is as simple as putting the fish in pot of water with some wine, shallots, butter, garlic and letting it sit over a REALLY low heat for about 7 minutes or so. That was it! I will definitely give the poaching another try at home.

Helpful tips that I learnt last night:

  • Different species of salmon have different levels of fat content. For example, Chinook or King salmon have a lot of fat content (i.e. tastier/juicier), whereas Pink or Chum salmon have very little fat content so they aren’t very good to eat.
  • You can wrap beets in foil (with a little water) and roast them at about 400F. This concentrates their sweetness. I didn’t know this – I’ve always boiled mine.
  • The shiny side of the aluminum foil should be the side that touches the food, not the dull side.
  • When making béchamel, make sure you temper the milk and cheese. In other words, add the milk or cheese in parts to the sauce but do not stir immediately. You want to allow the milk or cheese to come to the same temperature as the sauce before you stir.
  • You can make your béchamel for mac and cheese with beer!! For added flavour, we substituted ¼ cup of the milk with a nut brown beer. Yum!
  • Olive oil is a complex ingredient when it comes to quality; the stuff we get in the stores is mostly junk, made from the odds and ends of shitty olives from many different farms. You should be looking for an estate grown oil, with low acidity. It’s not always the case but the best oils will generally be the most expensive ones.
  • And one for the ladies: olive oil can be used as a moisturizer and a hair conditioner!

So, there you have it. Day 2 was a lot of fun and I got to learn quite a lot from this class. I’m excited to see what next week brings.

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2 Responses to “Serious Foodie Course; Day 2”

  1. Angie January 27, 2011 at 10:05 pm #

    Such pretty plating! You know how to make food look good. I LOVE that salmon rillette recipe. I use it regularly with company – it has great wow factor.

    So glad you’re enjoying the course!

    • greedyguts January 28, 2011 at 10:04 am #

      Thanks Angie! I bet the salmon rillette has that wow factor. I can imagine serving it up at a dinner party and pretending like it was really difficult! 😀

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