Monday, February 20, 2012

Tuesdays with Dorie

I've just started participating in a fun adventure.  It's called Tuesdays with Dorie and a group of people are going to be cooking their way through Baking with Julia by Dorie Greenspan.  The first week (which I didn't participate in) was making the White Bread Loaves.  I got the recipe from Jules' blog and got to baking, since I needed some bread anyway.  One of the rules of participating is you have to own the book, which I just ordered using a gift certificate that I got for my birthday.  It's a book that's been on my wish list anyway, so I'm glad I will now be able to use it.

This bread is so easy to make and is so good - tastes just like a good white bread should.  The one thing I didn't like is it kneads for 10 minutes in your mixer and I think it was taking a toll on my mixer by going that long.  But, all came out well and they were pretty AND tasty!

You can see step by step on Jules' blog.  I just have the finished results.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

The horse in the truck

This site is in Old Town Alexandria, about a block from where I work.  It makes me laugh and do a double take every time I go past it, especially if I'm driving by.  I'm not sure what it's used for, but that horse gets decorated seasonally.  It's usually parked in the same spot, but I have seen it in different places along King Street, so I don't know if it's used as a promotion for something.  When I decided on the picture thing, I knew that I would have to include this.

Monday, January 2, 2012


Brabo is the restaurant that I'm working at for my internship.  Right now I'm doing prep cook work.  I do a lot of chopping, peeling and the like.  I also do make some of the sauces, stocks and soups, although usually the two other prep cooks do most of the cooking.  I am learning, and it is very hard work.  Most days I enjoy it, but there are days when I ask myself why I spent all that money in culinary school just to clean mushrooms and peel tomatoes.  It does build speed, though, and even though I'm still pretty slow, I'm catching on and speeding up.  Some tasks are just tedious and take awhile.

I'm hoping to move from prep cook into the butcher shop.  I've done a little bit of butchering, but would like to learn more - it's a good skill to have.

If you want to take a closer look at the restaurant, you can check them out at  Be sure to check out all three restaurants - Brabo, Brabo Tasting Room and The Butcher Shop.  It's an interesting place.

Happy New Year 2012!

I thought a good way to chronicle 2012 was in pictures.  Since this will be a huge transition year, I thought I would take a picture a day to document the day to day, or maybe the new in this year.  Also, I want to improve my photography skills using my DSLR, so I thought this would be a good goal and a picture a day should help me to improve.

I thought of the idea on my walk yesterday, so I thought it was fitting to take a picture of my running shoes.  The shoes haven't seen much running lately, but I do get out to exercise a few times a week - hopefully more now that my schedule is a little more settled.

Anyway, here's the picture for January 1, 2012.  I'm a day late in posting.

As an aside, I made Buffalo Chicken Rice last night for dinner.  I was watching Sara Moulton on PBS yesterday and she made it - it's one of her 5 ingredient weeknight meals and I had all five ingredients!  I didn't take a picture (because it's pretty boring looking), but it was sure tasty.  Here's the recipe:

Buffalo Chicken Rice
8 ounces chicken breast, cubed
1 cup long-grain rice, uncooked
2 Tablespoons butter
4 ounces blue cheese
2 Tablespoons hot sauce (I added two, but wish I would have added more)

Cook rice according the directions on package.  Remember to add salt to your boiling water before adding the rice - trust me on this.

Season chicken with salt and pepper.  Melt butter in large skillet and add chicken and cook until brown and cooked through - this should only take a few minutes.  Add hot sauce to chicken and stir to coat.  Add hot rice to chicken and top with blue cheese.  Stir to combine and continue to stir until blue cheese is melted.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

I'm back!

For those few of you who actually read this,  school is done, except for a few classes in the next few months.  I've started my externship, finally, after having two places fall through.  I'm about a month behind my classmates, but since I'm working full time, it shouldn't be hard for me to catch up and I will definitely be done before graduation in June.  There's a reason that people start out in restaurants when they're 20 - it's grueling work!

I'm working as a prep cook in the restaurant.  It's just like it sounds - prepping for that evening's service or a banquet.  I chop potatoes and celery, peel onions (150 pounds of them in 2 days!), carrots and tomatoes and clean and debeard mussels.  There's more to it than that, but I'm the low man on the totem pole, so I get to do a lot of the most grunt work.  As I start to learn the ropes, I will be making stock, soups, roast beef and the like, in addition to the chopping tasks.

I still have all fingers attached, although all of the onion and tomato peeling have left the tips of my fingers very sore.  I also have the customary blister on my right index finger from chopping so much.  Eventually it will callous over.

Today is Sunday, so it's pretty slow for the prep cooks.  There were two of us on, so we got things done pretty quickly and then we were sent home.  Nice to have the time back, but, unlike my salary-paying job, if I don't work, I don't get paid.  My biggest job of the day was to pass about 30 pounds of cooked potatoes through the tami (it's like a huge fine-mesh strainer) and make mashed potatoes.  In addition to the callouses, I'm going to have huge forearms if I do that a lot.

The people who I work with are nice, for the most part.  Many don't speak much English, which makes it difficult at times to communicate, especially when I have a "why" question, but it'll work out.  As I didn't have a day off between leaving my old job and starting this one, I've now worked 7 days in a row and have 3 more to go before having 2 days off.

Do I like it?  Well, it's ok.  I knew that restaurant work wouldn't be my dream job, but I think I'll learn a lot that will take me in other fields.

Stay tuned - I'll try to keep you up to date on my adventures.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

A more normal week

I think this week should be more normal than last week - it was hard going to school Wednesday, Thursday, Friday and Saturday.  I like having that Friday break, it's needed.

Last night was a cold dish appetizer night.  We started out with a carrot and fennel salad with a champagne vinaigrette.  My chef is starting to really talk to us about different textures in dishes - smooth, crunchy, etc.  So, what I thought would be an easy salad of julienned carrots and fennel was not so easy.  We started out cooking some carrots in butter and then pureeing them with some champagne to make a smooth puree.  This was laid on the bottom of the dish and topped with julienned fennel that had been mixed with the champagne vinaigrette.  On top of the fennel was fried carrot strips - just plain julienned carrots that were deep fried.  Scattered around the dish was some fennel brittle - just hard caramel with fennel seeds added.  It was good.

We also made steak tartare - raw ground beef served with an egg on top.  It's supposed to be a raw egg yolk, but we poached ours.  We also had a parmesan tuile on the side and a little arugula salad to go with it.  When I went for my interview with the school, this was what I had for lunch.  It's not bad - not as bad as you think.  I wouldn't eat it all the time, but it was tasty.  We started with a top butt of meat and chopped our own finely.

Friday, July 8, 2011

An odd week

It's been an odd week at school.  We had off on Saturday and Monday for the 4th of July holiday, so we came back to school on Wednesday and then Thursday we had the second session of our wine-tasting class.  Tonight (Friday) we have a make up class for missing Monday but we are doing a taste sensation class with the head chef from school, no producing anything.  I have no idea what taste sensation entails, but I'll let you know - I guess it has to do with the sweet, salty, bitter, sour, etc. sensations.  Tomorrow is a big cook day (7 items!).  I'll be ready for some sleep when it's all said and done.

On Wednesday, our cook night this week, we made a cold cucumber and mint soup.  It was refreshing, but a little too "cucumber-y" for me.  I like cucumbers, but it was a bit much.  It had cucumber, mint, garlic, anise seeds and some sherry vinegar and yogurt all blended in the blender until smooth.  We had seeded the cucumber and mixed the seeds with some chives for the topping - interesting.

We also did paella.  Yum!  How can you go wrong with chicken, onions, chorizo, peppers, tomatoes, shrimp, mussels and peas?  Add the rice and some saffron in and it's a little bit of heaven on a plate.  Best part?  Lots of ingredients, but only one pot!  Sorry I didn't get a picture, because it was pretty all there in the paella pan with some fancy lemon wedges on the top.

I'm starting to look at places to do my externship - looking at some higher end hotels around the area.  Praying something comes of one of them.

Have a great weekend!