Dead Sexy Pate a Choux

The proper way to say this is "Paht ah Zsu!!" There, now don't you feel French? I'm feeling more and more "French" as I go through culinary history, food techniques and even having a little fun working on french pastries during a recent class I took at Kitchen Kapers. It's all about food with the French and expressing life and moods through what you make. You can apply any feeling to food, as long you always add love.

And speaking of love, nothing is as passionately creamy as a little St. Honore' cake. Made with a circle of puff pastry, pate a choux piped around the edge, baked, filled with vanilla pastry cream and then topped with whipped cream and optional additions of cherries and spun sugar, this is the food that your love should go to the trouble of making to win your heart. The french pastry is dead sexy

My Grandma's Easy Chuck Roast Recipe

This is something that my Grandma Ada made for us every time we would visit to her cozy home in Park Hill, Oklahoma. Surrounded by endless trees, roses, blackberry bushes, dirt roads and a sunset vista of rolling hills and cattle farms, it brings back warm memories of love and comfort. You use the beef juices to make a delicious gravy. I highly recommend making a side of mashed potatoes and my Grandma's extra sweet corn to go with it (see note about corn at bottom).

Ingredients:

3-4 pound chuck roast
Salt
Pepper
Flour
Unsalted Butter
2-3 Tbsp Cold Coffee

I like to start making this at 12 noon for dinner at 5 or 6. It's a great Sunday dinner plan.

You Know You're a Foodie When...

I have been a terrible blogger this past week. I'm generally on my computer all day long and all night long, with short breaks in between to play referee between my son and the dog. But I have indeed been damn busy!

Firstly, I was successful in make 5 quarts of white beef stock! Woohoo! See the picture to the left? Not so appetizing, huh? Well, it's not supposed to be right now. While it was simmering, it smelled faintly of beef and onions. You are not supposed to add salt during simmering either because you are to add it later when you are making your sauces from it. So, when I tasted it, it was pretty bland. But again, after storage in the freezer, one is to defrost it and make a reduction mixed with a pale roux and other delicious aromatics/seasonings to bring out the fine flavor. Was it worth the trouble? Well, if it turns out to make a ridiculously fantastic veloute and bechamel, then I would say so.

Also you all know how I feel about factory processed broths. They are high in CRAP. Meaning, they all kinds of

Preparing To Make My First White Stock

All of my culinary textbooks start with preparing a few different kinds of stocks. As a chef, one needs to learn to do this and develop an understanding of the "mother" sauces that is used in grande, classic and some nouvelle cuisines. A good homemade stock is the base of the mother sauces and has many applications for adding silky, velvety texture and flavor to your dishes.

So I have purchased a 12 quart stock pot complete with the steam and immersion baskets as these will come in handy for straining. The other items I (and you if you are following) will need to aquire:

8-12 Large Glass Canning Jars, caps and lids (run through the dishwasher one time)
Cheesecloth
Twine
2 Bricks
1 bag of Ice
Large Ladle
16 lbs. beef bones (or combination beef and veal)
1 lb. onion, chopped large chunks
1/2 lb. parsnip, chopped large chunks
1/2 lb. celery, chopped large chunks
dried thyme and bay leaf for bouquet garni

(Note: the simmering is going to take 8-10 hours. The mirepoix  (veggies) need to be chopped large because of the long simmering time).

I will let you know how the acquisition of 16 lbs. of beef bones is a success.

Lesson 5: A Mad Crazy Boss!

Ma GastronomieMy eyes have read the words and discovered the early 20th century equivalent to Gordon Ramsay: Fernand Point! The guy was the ultimate perfectionist. It is no wonder he is one of the most famous chefs who ever lived. While he may have been a total pain in the ass to work for, the man had a serious relationship with his food. He was the first one to assert that one could spend his whole life learning how to fry an egg perfectly.

He started out in a train station kitchen with his parents and they recognized early on that he was more than a mere cook. They helped nurture Fernand's interest and opened a new restaurant just for him. Fernand excelled and eventually opened his own restaurant with his lovely wife. The restaurant was called La Pyramide.

Really, the thing to note about Fernand was the way he thought about food. He believed in high quality ingredients and eventually established a relationship with top merchants and suppliers. His daily menu would change based on what was the highest quality food available. He charged a flat price (instead of a la carte) and created the "whole dining experience" for guests. He was a stickler for details. He got up at 4:30 every morning and worked until 11pm every night. No detail of the kitchen or dining room was too insignificant to overlook...even the dust on the curtains. He was very strict about the number of guests that could be served at once: only 50. Even if the Queen of England herself was guest number 51, she would not be allowed in.

Fernand also rejected the kitchen brigade established by Careme and Escoffier. While Escoffier simplified Careme with cuisine and kitchen staff, Fernand went further to simplify all that Escoffier taught.

Now, I haven't studied Careme and Escoffier and Fernand in depth to understand all the details that were simplified but I can tell you that what all three of these men have in common is that they made cuisine their own. They broke rules. (Hannah Glasse of Colonial America also rejected standard French cooking rules). Fernand Point believed one should make cuisine their very own, studying and using the pallette of basic food rules to deliver creativity and personality in your food. There are a lot of wonderful quotes by Fernand, which gives more of a look into his character, my favorite being, "If the divine creator has taken pains to give us delicious and exquisite things to eat, the least we can do is prepare them well and serve them with ceremony."

I think this quote speaks to the foodie and future chef in all of us. Also, be a rule breaker! Do to food what YOU love to do with it. Who knows, someone may even write a book about you.

Now, off on a mission to get a copy of Ma Gastronomie and make it a part of my teriyaki stained cookbook shelf.

To learn more about Fernand Point, I recommend reading this Fernand Point Biography and this Historic Chefs: Fernand Point

Lesson 4: Native American and Colonial Cuisine

The Art Of Cookery, Made Plain And Easy (1788)Ah, where to begin on the subject of Cuisines in my own words? Well, to start, I'm just going to say that before there was "cuisine" there was just basic survival cuisine. Native Americans cooked with campfires, just like you see in those survival movies and shows. Often using stones to throw in a pot of water to bring it to boiling temperature and then using that hot water to cook root vegetables. And pretty much everything else was put directly on a fire. Thought they did seem to invent clay cooking pots that could withstand the heat of fire and made cooking a little more of art beyond mere fire roasting. Some Native Americans created adobe clam-shelled type ovens in the ground. I think the origination of Boston Baked Beans was done in one of these ground ovens. The recipe:

A Comforting Helping of Grits

Grits, done well, are creamy, warm, buttery, salty and good. It is warm and filling. Just what a soul needs to get through the day. I know it's not the most popular menu item for many. When grits are done poorly, not even Pastor Silvertongue of the Church of Grits can extend high praise to a bowl of reconstituted sandpaper. Grits should prepared low and slow, just like the back of the package says. But make sure you add plenty of salt and butter. The finished result should be a hybrid of smooth risotto to firm polenta.  A good spoonful of grits is like a tiny mound of corn flavored molecule shaped pasta. Though it is not pasta, it actually comes from a lye-processed corn called hominy. A harder type of corn whose husks must be removed in order for the corn to be edible. Kind of similar to how life has to beat the stubborn rind off of us to see the truth of who we are and give ourselves permission to expand our authenticity and give it to the world.

I'll be headed to grits country this weekend.  I'll be giving hugs and taking moments to say my forever good bye to a very important person. Later on, I'll be stopping to smell the culinary roses. In this case, it will be a bowl of humble grits with sad butter and tearful salt; warm, dense and restorative.

Monday, it will be time to get back on the ball and keep the momentum going with our culinary studies. Thanks again for your comments, well wishes and patience.

With Love,
Michelle

Mourning The Loss of a Wonderful Man

This is supposed to be a food blog but I haven't been able to write about food for a while. Monday, I learned that a sweetheart of a friend throughout my school years - and later a boyfriend in the spring/summer of '94 - has passed. http://www.tributes.com/show/Fredric--Morriss-87977512

Though I lost touch with him, it was nice to reconnect with him on Facebook this past year. I was able to say hello to him and tell him how proud I was of his accomplishments as a professor of photography. Pictures of him and his girlfriend are so loving and beautiful, they looked like a perfect match - so in love and happy. That was Toby, optimistic and full of life and love. I was so immensely happy for him. It was nice to see him on his motorcycle, going on camping trips, taking pictures and having fun. Pictures of his Mom and Dad reminded me of many a school trip for which they chaperoned and later hosted parties for us teens by their big beautiful log cabin. He and his Dad and brother made spectacular camp fires. They played music and we all danced and talked and laughed under the stars and around the glow of the fire. His parents were there for all of us and loved Toby with all their hearts. Toby was a reflection of his gentle and loving parents. I truly cannot fathom the pain they must be feeling right now. My heart truly breaks for them.

My own profound sadness has caught me off guard. I haven't seen him in 15 years and wasn't expecting

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