Back to school? Culinary school that is!

I’m a bigger believer both in education and in experience.  Given the choice though, I think that street smarts beats book smarts any day!  Sounds weird from someone who studied a lot and pursued more than 1 degree, but I think that people who take a hands on approach to their craft build skills in a way much different from anything you can learn in a classroom.

That being said, I’m going back to school!  No, I’m not quitting my job to become a chef!  That sounds like a great book or movie script but I’m happy being a part time homemaker as the name of this site suggests.  🙂  I’ve enrolled myself in a 5 session culinary foundation course in Enderun Extension in Fort Bonifacio, Taguig.  It will run for just 3 hours a day for 5 Saturdays which fits perfectly into my schedule.  I wanted to take the intermediate course because that’s where you really get to cook, but the beginner course is a prerequisite (which makes a lot of sense hehe).

We’ll only be taught the fundamentals, but I know I’ll learn a lot since my knife skills are amateur at best and I know next to nothing about butchery.  And I figure that having good basic skills will make me a much better and more efficient (!) home cook.  Here’s the agenda taken from their website:

Day 1 | Knife skills

Julienne of carrots & leeks; Brunoise of carrots, onion, garlic, celery; Chiffonade of spinach, cabbage, basil

Day 2 | Knife skills

Florettes of brocolli and cauliflower, pommes frites, battonette, use of mandolline, squash, carrots, potato, daikon

Day 3 | Butchery

Trussing, poaching, 8 cut,4 cut, grilling, deboning of legs and breast, ballotine, chicken lollipop

Day 4 | Butchery

Pork tenderloin, pork rack, lamb leg, lamb saddle, beef tendeloin ; chateubriand, meddalion, tips

Day 5 | Seafood

Flat fish, clean and fillet; round fish, clean and fillet ; processing squid ; processing shrimp ; open oysters

If I enjoy it, I’ll definitely look into taking the intermediate and advanced courses next time.  🙂

Bread Salad

To go with the roasted chicken, I made two side dishes, roasted potatoes and a yummy bread salad, inspired by the Zuni Cafe recipe for bread salad.  I didn’t have most of the things in the recipe on hand, so this is a very loosely adapted recipe that came out great!

Bread salad with arugula, walnuts and grapes

To serve 2 hungry people, I used 3 slices of thick cut rye bread, cut out the crusts, and tore it up into chunks (you can use whatever bread you like, the recipe just says not to use sourdough).  I tossed them with some good olive oil and baked them for around 5-10 minutes while I was preheating the oven for the chicken.  I put them in when the oven was at around 400 degrees, they crisped up pretty quickly.

Combine 1/3 cup olive oil with 2 tablespoons of vinegar.  I used sherry vinegar since that’s what i had on hand.  Add salt and pepper to taste.  I ended up adding around half a tablespoon more vinegar since I like my vinaigrettes quite tart.  Toss two-thirds of your vinaigrette with the bread and taste again.  Adjust your seasonings to your liking.

Put your bread mixture in the oven for 10 minutes along with a little chicken stock or water (since I was roasting a chicken I added a spoonful of pan juices).  It will come out stuffing-like and delicious – of course I had to have another taste!

To assemble:

Tear up your arugula and toss with the bread.  Add walnuts (I toasted them first) and some grapes.  I love the way the sweetness of the grapes plays off the peppery arugula and the tart vinaigrette.  This was delicious with the roast chicken!

Zuni Cafe’s Roasted Chicken

I’ve always been kind of ashamed to admit that I’ve never roasted a whole chicken!  I feel like it’s something every home cook should master – it’s basic, homey and comforting, but I’ve always been intimidated by the task for some reason.  So last Friday (it’s Sunday today) I decided to prepare a roast chicken for Sunday lunch.  I decided to go with Zuni Cafe’s Roasted Chicken since it seems to have so many rave reviews even if the preparation is a little (okay, a lot) longer than I’m used to.  It’s worth it though!  Here’s how I prepared it:

Friday – Day 1, 6 pm

I started out with a 1.2 kg Bounty Fresh chicken from S&R (don’t use a chicken that is too big since we’re going to be roasting at high heat).  First, remove the lump of fat and any innards left inside the chicken, rinse it thoroughly and pat it dry.  All instructions said to be thorough here since a wet chicken will spend too much time steaming before it begins to turn golden brown.  And in our house, we’re all about the crispy, golden skin!

From the edge of the cavity, slide a finger under the skin of each of the breasts, making 2 little pockets. Now use the tip of your finger to gently loosen a pocket of skin on the outside of the thickest section of each thigh. Using your finger, shove an herb sprig (whatever you like, I used tarragon) into each of the 4 pockets.

Season the chicken liberally all over with salt and pepper. Season the thick sections a little more heavily than the skinny ankles and wings. Twist and tuck the wing tips behind the shoulders.  This is what it looked like before I put it in a bowl and covered it with cling wrap.  Then it went into the refrigerator and I forgot about it until this morning (2 days later).

Sunday, Day 3

Preheat your oven to 475 degrees.  To roast, use a shallow roasting pan or dish not much bigger than your chicken or a 10-inch skillet with an all-metal handle.  I used my trusty 10-inch cast iron skillet, and preheated the pan over medium heat.  Wipe the chicken dry and set it breast side up in the pan. It will sizzle!

Put your chicken in the center of the oven, it should start browning within 20 minutes. If it doesn’t, raise the temperature progressively until it does. The skin should blister, but if the chicken begins to char, or the fat is smoking, reduce temperature by 25 degrees. After about 30 minutes, turn the bird over.  My chicken looked like this before I turned it over, it smelled wonderful already.

If you dried the chicken and preheated the pan, don’t worry about the skin sticking. Roast for another 10 to 20 minutes (I only roasted for 10 minutes since I used a smaller chicken), depending on size, then flip back over to recrisp the breast skin, another 5 to 10 minutes (5 minutes for me). Total oven time will be 45 minutes to an hour.

Let the chicken rest for around 10-15 minutes (do not skip this step!) to ensure that the chicken is tender and uniformly succulent.  I served this on a bread salad that I loosely adapted from Zuni’s recipe based on what I had on hand.  We thought we would have enough leftover chicken for sandwiches or soup but happily everything disappeared pretty quickly.  It was tender, moist and flavorful and was terrific with the bread salad.  This will definitely be a repeat dish in our house!

Crafts for Kids – Crayon Roll

Here’s a little break from the food posts (although I will post about Zuni Cafe’s Roast Chicken soon – excited to try that out)!

After my first sewing project, I leafed through my sewing/crafts books and tagged these projects online that I think would be good for beginners like me:

I had a hard time deciding since everything looks great, so I decided to just go through my fabric to see what inspired me.  I decided on this pretty cotton from Cotton Depot in Mall of Asia, I showed it to you guys before in this post.

I decided to do a crayon roll in anticipation of our baby on the way, plus I think it will be a great, handmade present for my friend’s kids and our little godchildren.

Crayon roll tutorial adapted from Pleated Poppy and Prudent Baby

You will need the following:

  • 2 pieces of fabric for outside and inside – 5″ x 16 1/2″
  • 1 piece of coordinating fabric for the pocket – 6″ x 16 1/2″ (Note:  I decided I like the printed part on the bottom, so I used the same fabric for outside and for the pocket)
  • 1 piece lining – 5″ x 16 1/2″
  • 1 hair elastic and button or 1 ribbon in a suitable color
  • Usual materials – needle, thread, ruler, cutting mat, marker/chalk
  • Oh and crayons of course!

To begin, cut out your fabric like so:

Take the fabric piece for your crayon pocket, fold it in half lengthwise, and iron it flat.  This is where I appreciated how easy cotton is to work with after starting with jersey for that first project!  Then pin together 3 of your fabric pieces:  the lining at the back, the fabric for the inside in the middle (wrong side down) and your pressed fabric for the pocket in front.  It should look like this:

Mark the middle line and continue marking 1 inch sections with your tailors chalk or disappearing marker.  I find it quite difficult to sew in straight lines (it’s harder than it sounds!), so I marked a piece of scrap cloth and practiced a lot first.  🙂  It made it much easier when I started on the crayon roll.  Sew from the middle down, backstitching at each beginning and end to secure your stitches.  Trim the excess thread, there will be a lot!

Stitch down the elastic or your ribbon on the rightmost end.  I decided to use an elastic this time but a ribbon would be pretty too.  I sewed 5 times in each direction to make sure it would stay.  I forgot to take a picture though!

Then take your outside fabric and pin it to your sewn fabric, right sides together.  It should look like this, with wrong sides out.  I marked my inseam to help me follow the lines and pinned it all together to make it easier to sew.  Leave an allowance (around 2 inches) because you will need to turn everything right side out.

When you’re done sewing all the sides, turn it right side out through your 2 inch gap!   This is where it started to get exciting for me since I could really see it taking shape.  🙂  Press it down to remove wrinkles and prepare for topstitching all around.

Stitch all around as close as you can to the outer edge.  This certainly wasn’t perfect even if I did sew quite slowly, but I’m happy with it for my first try!  🙂  Stick your crayons into the pockets (so cute!) and you’re almost done!

You just need to…roll it up and sew on your button by hand.

And voila!  My first crayon roll!  *Beaming with pride*  I will make another one soon to practice my sewing skills.  I wonder if this has potential for me to sell here in Manila!