Thursday, October 18, 2007

I can be punny too

We mixed up the schedule a little today and exchanged a day of food writing and Southern food for a day of flavors and menus with John. I really enjoyed today, although I had been excited for food writing and Southern food, because it gave us a chance to slow down and be more traditional students.

We started the day with a quick discussion about how flavors can influence a dish and why its important for each of us to be able to reference smells and tastes quickly when we discuss certain herbs and/or spices. I've been trying to develop my ability to explore the different flavors out there but it's not the easiest thing, particularly in Asian cuisine, where flavors blend together seamlessly and give a different, newer, flavor that you never would have thought would be there.

We took turns smelling every spice we could find in the pantry, including garam marsala and Chinese five spice. We learnt about what spices were seeds of popular herbs (coriander & and which spices were connected (nutmeg has a webbing that can be dried to make another spice: mace). There were a few points when I was convinced I was going to have a huge sneezing fit because of all the crazy things I was smelling. For the most part though, I think I just totally over-stimulated my nose.

Moving on from the spices, we had fun tasting and smelling fresh and dried herbs. There were some herbs I'd never tasted or seen fresh before. I'd never had marjoram before and (rather stupidly) stuck the whole leaf in my mouth. I think fresh marjoram tastes like over perfumed shampoo, it was just awful. I'm sure I've had it before cooked into food but I'd like to learn more about the applications of marjoram in recipes so I can not be so negative about it.

We were then all tasked with making a risotto with a flavoring of our choice and see how they turn out. I chose herbs de provence and made a tea out of the dried mixture of rosemary, marjoram, basil, bay leaf, thyme and lavender. I used to strained tea as the cooking liquid for the risotto. The flavor could definitely be tasted in the rice, and it was surprisingly good and familiar, but I think if I ever do it again, I'll let the tea steep for longer and develop a stronger flavor (I'd probably want to use fresher herbs too...).


In the afternoon, we were asked to create a menu for our pretend restaurants with a set list of proteins (salmon, chicken, duck, pork, scallops, steak, lamb and a vegetarian dish).

I've been chewing over an idea of a thematic tasting menu that touches on every continent, or at least touches on several different regions of the world. And because I have the most ridiculous sense of humor, I would call it something catchy. So, below is my menu...

"Around the World in Eight Entrees"

Broiled Soy-Ginger Salmon Fillet
with jasmine rice and sauteed mustard greens

Braised Duck Cassoulet
slow-cooked duck confit, white beans and farm sausage

Half-Shell Scallops au Gratin
Galician-style grilled whole scallops on a bed of roasted red pepper,
artichoke heart and green chili paella

Roasted Loin of Pork
stuffed with apple cranberry dressing, served with
caramelized Brussels sprouts, potato mousseline

Salsa Verde Cigars
shredded tomatillo chicken filled pastry rolls
over jicama and carrot slaw

Brazillian Beef Churrasco
"caipirinha" vinaigrette, braised kale,
yuca and manioc crisps

"Lamb Saag"
boneless rack of lamb in puff pastry over
spinach and garlic curry and mint oil

Eggplant Steak
served with a warm orzo salad and pan roasted asparagus