Thursday, April 30, 2009

Lazy Susan and Sam - Or "Why I just have to use instant potatoes"

Okay, the title should pretty much speak for itself. But just in case, I included both Susan and Sam as both men and women are guilty of this at one time or another. Being lazy in the kitchen that is. Heck, even I have had my moments!

So, it's Wednesday night and it has already been a long week. You get home and the family is expecting dinner. You have 3 choices:

A. You call your favorite pizza place for delivery.

B. You cook up a nice casserole, but use instant Au Gratin potatoes.

C. You do B, but instead of instant, you peel and slice fresh potatoes.

While A is a good answer, it is not as nutritious. B is the "lazy" way. First of all, how long does it REALLY take to peel and slice 4 or 5 potatoes? Even 6 for that matter? And they taste a whole lot better than anything out of a box!

What got me on this "rant"? Last night my son's girlfriend said she would give me a break in the kitchen and make her "famous" chicken, broccoli, potato, and cheese casserole. It sounded good, so I said go for it. We had all the ingredients, including some Yukon Gold potatoes that I showed her and said they had to be used. I went out to run some errands, since I didn't have to cook, and when I came back, she had left my son in charge to watch the casserole in the oven, while she ran out to see a friend. Okay, not the best thing to do to earn my respect in the kitchen. By the time the casserole was done, or at least we thought it was done, she had returned. I had gotten my plate and was taking a bite when I noticed the potatoes were kind of "crunchy". I let her know, and she said, "well, I guess they need to stay in a little longer. I didn't use your potatoes, I used a box of instant Au Gratin I had left over." I felt like tossing it out then and there, but I maintained and kept my cool. No need to start a family feud over instant potatoes, right? Suffice to say she will never cook in my kitchen again.

The moral? Don't be a "lazy" cook, whether you or a "Susan" or "Sam". Take the extra few minutes to use the "fresh" stuff, it makes a world of difference.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Chef's Anonymous or Why I haven't posted in a few days!

Well, I haven’t been doing any cooking lately, it has been kind of nuts at home and work. The last couple of nights have either been take-out of something simple. My wife made her “spaghetti and sauce” Sunday night, sauce out of a jar. I think it was Ragu or one of those. I’m not positive, but I think it had mushrooms in it, at least I think that is what those little tasteless brown things were. (Can’t be sure.) I’m not saying she is a bad cook, far from it, but she gets lazy in the kitchen. Everything she does lately is canned, out of a jar, or frozen. While there is nothing wrong with “quick and easy”, there is something wrong with wanting to cook that way all the time. Okay, I’m biased. I love food, especially good, fresh food. What can I say, I’m spoiled! When I get in the kitchen, I use as much from scratch as possible. Some things I will use are pre-cooked, but not often. The problem is, lately, I think the wife is getting pissed that I am spending more time in the kitchen than she does. Is it kitchen envy? Cooking jealousy? The “Green” monster? I can’t help it if I love to cook, that I love food. What am I supposed to do? Quit cooking? Cook in secret, hiding my ingredients until no one is looking and then cook like crazy? Become a “closet” cook? Do they have Chefs Anonymous? What should I do?

Sunday, April 26, 2009

And the man behind the mask is...

Okay. I finally decided to quit hiding behind that bag I have had over my face. It is time to show myself. I guess I will have to change my user name too? (Well, after all, I'm not exactly "unknown" any longer, am I?)

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Le Cordon Bleu in Dallas Texas

I went to Le Cordon Bleu School of Culinary Arts in Dallas Texas today. Yes, there is a Le Cordon Bleu in Texas. (Actually there are two, but one does not have the Cordon Bleu name, it is in Austin, as the Texas Culinary Academy.)

I was very impressed, to put it mildly. They have 10 fully functional restaurant style kitchens. Everything from baking bread, cakes, regional cuisine, international, and everything in between. I had the opportunity to see a baking contest in progress, and taste some of the entries. I was treated to a cooking class where the chef prepared a pork stir fry in front of the group, and had the privilege of tasting the finished dish. I have to say it was excellent! The school teaches everything, from basic knife skills to advance culinary skills.
This is something I have wanted for a very long time, but never really had the, for lack of a better word, guts, to try. I know this is what I want to do, with all my heart. I love to cook, and had a passion for it since I was nine years old in my grandmothers’ kitchen. Now I just have to find a way to fund it. I know that they will work with me to get grants and Federal student loans, so that is not an issue. The issue is the balance, because no loan or grant is going to cover the full amount, which is $36,300.00. That may not seem like a lot to some people, but for someone who is just making it from pay check to pay check, it is a major obstacle. It might as well be a million dollars. I admit that I am not “hurting” when it comes to making a living, I do okay. But to come up with that kind of cash is a major thing. But they do say. “Where there is a will there is a way”, and I believe that. I am going to do this, because it is my dream. I want to become a ‘Chef” and live my dream. Yes, it may take me several years to obtain that goal, but no dream or goal worth going after is ever easy or cheap.

My favorite chef, Gordon Ramsay, did not give up, and look where he is today. I am no Gordon Ramsay, nor will I ever be, but I can always strive to be as good.
I am calling the school this week, Monday, and scheduling time to meet with the Financial Advisors to get started. Hopefully I will get funding, get accepted, and begin classes in May. Wish me luck!

Unknown Critic

Check me out on

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Chicken and Mushroom Risotto

Well, I did it. I made the risotto. It came out good this time. I first sauteed the mushrooms with a chopped shallot and garlic. I then deglazed the mushroom mixture twice using white wine. This gave the mushrooms a nice uniform brown color. I then added the chicken and and finally the rice, Arborio. I used 1 cup of white wine to start, then ladled in chicken stock as needed. Once the rice was al dente, but not too al dente, I added 4 tbsps of butter, 2 tbsps of chopped fresh chives, 1/3 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano, and 2 cloves of garlic, pressed. One thing though, it was not all that "soupy" as I have seen other risotto recipies, but the family loved it!

5 cups chicken stock as needed
3 tbsp olive oil, divided
1 cup crimini mushrooms, thinly sliced
1 cup white mushrooms, thinly sliced
1 small shallot, minced
2 cloves garlic, pressed
2 cups grilled cubed chicken breast (pre-cooked)
1 ½ cups Arborio rice
2 cups dry white wine, divided
salt to taste
freshly ground black pepper to taste
2 tbsp finely chopped chives
4 tbsp butter
1/3 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese (or any cheese you like)

In a saucepan, warm the stock over medium heat.

Add 2 tbsp olive oil in a sauté pan over medium-high heat. Stir in the mushrooms and shallot. Cook mushrooms until soft and start to brown, about 5 minutes. Add 1/2 cup white wine to deglaze. When wine reduces, add 1/2 cup more and let reduce. Mushrooms should have a uniform brown color.

Add 1 tbsp olive oil to the pan, and stir in the chicken. Cook 1 to 2 minutes. Add rice, stirring to coat with oil, about 2 minutes. When the rice has taken on a pale, golden color, pour in wine, stirring constantly until the wine is fully absorbed. Add ½ cup stock to the rice, and stir until the stock is absorbed. Continue adding stock ½ cup at a time, stirring continuously, until the liquid is absorbed and the rice is al dente, about 15 to 20 minutes.

Remove from heat, add butter, chives, pressed garlic, and Parmigiano- Reggiano. Stir together. Season with salt and pepper to taste.


Well, tonight will be my attempt at Risotto, again! The first time was okay, but the rice was a bit too mushy for my taste. I made the mistake of turning my back on it, getting distracted by the kids. So, hopefully tonights batch will turn out. I am planning on making a chicken and mushroom risotto. I am using 2 boneless/ skinless chicken breast, cubed, and crimini mushrooms, sauted. I will post pics later tonight or tomorrow. (depending on how it turns out that is!) *fingers crossed*