Monthly Archives: August 2007


I’ve been absent for a few days, but with good reason! I had several tests in the span of a few days and I needed to study. But now I am back and eager to share what I’ve been eating – errr, I mean, preparing. Since the lobster episode, we’ve made a number of tasty meals at school – suprême de caneton sautée et cuisse braisée à l’orange (sautéed duck breast with braised duck legs and orange sauce), poulet sauté chasseur (sautéed chicken, hunter style), poulet rôti grand-mère (roasted chicken, grandmother style), contre-filet grillé / sauce choron (grilled strip with a béarnaise-like sauce), to name a few.

It’s been a veritable smorgasbord of meats and butter, and yes my friends, potatoes once more! I’ve been trying to eat small portions, but regardless of the efforts, I confess: I eat all day long. The most piggy of my days was the day we had the contre-filet with the sauce choron…and fries. I had, aside from the steak, eaten a grilled chicken preparation earlier in the day. It was delicious and I ate a full plate. In an attempt at daintiness, I vowed not to eat the steak, but failed miserably. I ate the whole steak. And the potatoes.

Now for the kicker: When I got home that afternoon, my mister, in an attempt at satiating my constant craving for read meat, had a piece of skirt steak waiting. I sighed, gulped, and quickly reviewed my options. Rather than politely declining to eat meat, or anything else for that matter, I decided to not be a sissy and do the right thing: MAKE BEARNAISE FOR THE STEAK.

Admittedly, I had been making up excuses not to attempt to make the beastly béarnaise after the previous debacle, but this was my chance to redeem myself.

And I did! I successfully made the sauce. Encore you say? We’ll see…

High Heels & Frijoles


I have a 10-year-old brother who owns a guinea pig named Diego. I met Diego for the first time a month or so ago when I went to visit and it was an interesting encounter. I saw Diego peek out from the little plastic castle in which he spends most of his time and I cooed, “Ohhh, how cute.” I was overcome with warm, fuzzy feelings. And just as I was experiencing these pleasant emotions, Diego crept out of his cage. He was a little bit like a bunny. And a lot like a rat. Remember Wuzzles? They were these cartoon animals that were two animals in one…like Eleroo (elephant / kangaroo)… So I guess a guinea pig would be like a burat (bunny/rat) or a runny (rat/bunny)… Even now when I think about it I’m confused. Do I love Diego and his kind? Are they meant to be cuddly pets or pests that should be exterminated? In any case, the more relevant question to this discussion is: SHOULD GUINEA PIGS BE EATEN?

My little brother was appalled when I told him some cultures are rather fond of guinea pigs – as food.

High Heels & Frijoles


It was Miss Scarlet, in the kitchen, with a knife.

I exaggerate. It was a lot less fraught than I’m making it out to be. But a live creature was in fact sacrificed and I wielded the weapon: Homarus americanus, aka, lobster. Did I feel bad? I’m sorry to admit that I did not feel an ounce of pity for the thing. I dug in the knife and that was that. Even now I’m thinking back to the moment and I got nothin’. Zip. Zero. Nada.

Anyway, the lobster cooking process was quite the production. I won’t even get into it because it’s ridiculous. It was also ridiculously delicious, but seriously, this is not something you want to try at home. Especially if stabbing something is too dastardly a deed for you to stomach.

Does shucking clams and oysters also count as murder? Because I did some of that, too. I’m a serial killer…

By the way, whomever was the first person to decide you could eat bivalve mollusks must have been famished because it was labor-intense work to pry those little suckers open. I managed a few blue points and two clams and decided that, like homarus up there, they’re better eaten in the comfort of a restaurant. Let someone else do the grunt work I say.

High Heels & Frijoles


Today was Potato Day, and what a day it was. I must have consumed at least 7 kilos of potatoes and 8 liters of butter. (Note: I’m trying really hard to use the metric system as all school recipes come in that format. That’s about 15 lbs. of potatoes and 33 cups of butter). By the end of it all, I was ready to wave my white flag. Turns out it’s true that one can have too much of a good thing.

We started with your basic pommes purée, then moved on to pommes duchesse, followed by pommes dauphinois, pommes Anna, pommes sautées à cru, and finally pommes gaufrette. Chef warned us about pacing ourselves – I guess there have been other Tuber Gluttons before us – but it is doubtful that anyone heeded his advice. I certainly did not, and by 10:15am I had consumed my first preparation (needed more butter).

Pommes duchesse (the pretty piped ones you find on your plate at a fancy restaurant, or at the farthest end of the spectrum, in a TV or airplane dinner) were next. They were rather lovely to look at but not much in the way of taste. Butter, you say? Alas, no. Duchesse is more about presentation. If you add butter the mix won’t be stiff enough to pipe out through your pastry bag. (I ate a few of my toasty pipings anyway).

Pommes dauphinois: Thinly slice peeled potatoes with a mandoline. Toss in bowl with cream + milk + minced garlic + nutmeg + S&P. Place mix in buttered pan, simmer on stovetop, and continue to cook in the oven. When the potatoes are almost done, sprinkle top with gruyère + butter and brown. Sounds good, right? It was.

By this point I was feeling a bit full, but Potato Day comes only once in blue moon and I was going to see it through…or eat it through.

Pommes Anna were extremely pretty and very, very tasty. The sautées à cru so-so, but po-tay-to, poh-tah-to, I like them both.

FINALLY – pommes gaufrette, aka waffle fries. Golden delicious goodies that were perfectly crispy and delicate. Or as a classmate so poetically put it: “These are just like Ruffles.”

High Heels & Frijoles


My first few days at culinary school have been going swimmingly, but I do wish I had a little more of that back-to-school feel I used to get as a kid. I’ve been trying my utmost to get into the spirit by stocking my bag with the basic school supplies a second-grader would find appealing: highlighters, pens, notecards, etc. I seriously considered some magic markers, but decided against it. After all, I am in school to be a proper chef, not a master doodler.

However, there are certain parallels between grade-schoolers and cooks, the most notable one being that getting filthy is part of the job description. Early last week my fellow students and I were being instructed in the art of making fumet. Fumet is fish stock, and of course, requires the use of fish. If you’re imagining a hunchback named Igor stirring fish heads and tails as they boil and bubble over a tall stockpot you’ve got the right image in mind, but how do said heads and tails wind up in the pot? They must first be fished out of their water bath of course!

Step 1: Roll sleeve up. High. Almost to your armpit.
Step 2: Plunge arm into fishy, bloody, gunky water.
Step 3: Pull out fish body part.
Step 4: Do not rinse, but do repeat, until you have a nice pile of fish chunks.

It’s rather like bobbing for apples, really, the prize being a fish head. I didn’t get a head, sadly, and was glumly setting about the task of chopping my fish chunks into smaller bits when I heard a faint “eeeww!” — the sound I was hoping for: someone didn’t want their fishy head…because a fish head has fishy eyes…and those fishy eyes must be gouged out. I valiantly volunteered, and with firm will and hand, scooped out the googly eyeballs with my melon baller. Yes, dear reader, a melon baller is actually a fish-eye-scooper-outer. It’s just called a melon baller (fancy alias: parisienne scoop) because how would “Sadistic Tool to Gouge Out Dead Fish Eyes” read in a Williams Sonoma catalog?

High Heels & Frijoles


We’ve been dealing with emulsions for a day or two at school and I’ve been feeling pretty confident. So confident in fact, that at dinner on Saturday night I tasted my mister’s sauce béarnaise and promptly scrunched up my nose saying, “The one I made was better.”

My confidence lingered on and I set out to replicate my better-than-thou béarnaise in the comfort of my own home.

It’s a fairly simple task:

1: Clarify some butter: Check!
2: Prepare reduction of dried tarragon, white wine vinegar, and minced shallots: Check!
3: Finely chop fresh tarragon and chervil: Check!
4: Whisk two egg yolks plus a splash of water in a bowl over a boiling pot of water: Check!
5: Whisk until a lovely, frothy, pale yellow sabayon comes into being: Check!
6: Slowly start pouring in clarified butter while whisking like mad: Check!
7: See glorious, velvety, very French sauce materialize: Houston, we have a problem.

My sauce broke, and with it my spirit…

Well, that’s being overly dramatic, but I am admittedly feeling really depressed about the broken béarnaise. Stay tuned for the sequel when I tackle the wretched recipe later on this week (I’d try it again tomorrow but I’m not allowed to eat red meat two days in a row, per my mister).

High Heels & Frijoles