This Week in Culinary School: Week 11

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Top Three Things I Learned This Week

  1.  How to Make Pasta– One of our instructors, Chef Kirsten, previously worked at Mario Batali’s Babbo, so we basically got schooled in the art of pasta making by a master. The basic pasta dough recipe we learned calls for 1/3 kilo of flour, 5 egg yolks, 2 eggs, some salt and some water, and we mixed it by hand.  In subsequent steps, we used a Kitchen Aid attachment to roll out the dough and then cut and shaped our rolled out dough into various forms by hand.  (This reminds me of my pasta making lesson at an agriturismo in Tuscany a few years ago, when I was disappointed that we mixed our dough for pici in a Kitchen Aid!) You could do this with a manual hand crank style pasta machine as well.  I’m thinking of adding one to my wish list.  A pasta machine is a must-have if you want to make the fetuccine, above, or the hand-rolled garganelli (similar to penne) below.  We also made handmade orecchiette in the 2nd photo below using a semolina-based recipe.

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Recipe idea: Orecchiette with wilted escarole, cranberry beans and tomato.

2.  How to Bake Bread– We explored a gentler, softer side of gluten in a bread workshop with Chef and baker Michael Kalanty.  We made three types of bread: baguettes, and the whole wheat boule and pain au lait rolls pictured below.  The workshop made me more comfortable with working with dough (still a work in progress), but confirmed my suspicion that to make a proper baguette, you need a steam oven.  The whole wheat boule and my favorite, the pain au lait rolls, on the other hand, could be made at home.

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3.  Passion is Everything– We had a workshop with the fascinating Chef Matthew Dolan of 25 Lusk.  He shared tales of his culinary journey beginning with apprenticeships in top New York restaurants, to Emeril’s in New Orleans, to San Francisco, to Europe and back.  He shared his passion for cooking– even after two decades, waking up each morning feeling excited to cook.  He talked about the privilege of cooking food for people, and working 18 hour days six days a week, and loving it.  He also talked about various setbacks in his career, none of which appeared to stop him.  Meeting Chef Matthew and some of the other guest chefs we’ve worked with makes me realize that it’s not just food and cooking that I love, it’s the particular brand of passion that seems common to people who work in food.  There has to be passion, because working in restaurants is not an easy life! After sharing his story, Chef Matthew assigned us the task of doing “something interesting with a vegetable and something interesting with potatoes,” Chopped style, while he roasted a whole 15 lb salmon.  He capped off the afternoon by teaching three brave/foolish volunteers how to saber a bottle of champagne. Even wilder, it wasn’t until Chef packed up to leave, motorcycle helmet in hand, that we realized that he had ridden his motorcycle to our school with a backpack containing the large whole salmon, three bottles of champagne, and a saber.  (Thankfully, we already had the blowtorch he’s using to touch up the crisped salmon skin below.)

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Thanks for coming by! If you’re curious what it’s like to be in culinary school, check out my previous posts and also come back weekly for my latest updates. I’ll be sharing tips, ingredients, and recipe ideas straight from the classroom. And for more healthy cooking and eating tips, join my community on Facebook at The Doctor’s Spicebox.