This Week in Culinary School: Week 9

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Top Three Things I Learned This Week

 1. Pig Butchery and Charcuterie– While butchery is not in my future, it was inspiring to learn all about pigs from an excellent teacher, Taylor Boetticher from San Francisco and Napa’s artisanal charcuterie and butcher shop, Fatted Calf.  He spent two days this week sharing his immense knowledge and approach.  And even if you are not a big meat eater, like me, if you’re going to eat meat, you should eat the best you can.  I like this mission statement from Fatted Calf’s website:

“We source the best pigs and products because we care about the quality of life our animals receive. We do it because we want to make a larger impact on the people of our area and country. Here at Fatted Calf there is an extended effort to highlight the work of small farmers that work with passion and standards the exceed those around them. By choosing to use only pasture raised meats we hope to change the course of the American food system, and positively impact our community and others. We are not just selling pork chops and prosciutto; we are feeding people quality food that is better for them, the environment, and small business.”

One of the most interesting things Taylor showed us is caul fat, which according to Wikipedia is also known as lace fat, mesentery, crépine, greater omentum or fat netting.  It’s the thin membrane which surrounds the liver of a pigs and other animals. It is used as a casing for sausages, roulades, pâtés, and various other meat dishes.  We used it for a terrine.  Taylor is holding it up in the top photo.

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2.  Career Advice– This week we were also treated to a panel of guests that included Minh Tsai of Hodo Soy, Matt Cohen of Off the Grid, cookbook author Kate Leahy and food stylist Kim Kissling.  This was an opportunity for all of us students- both in my culinary program and the pastry program– to learn about nontraditional food careers.  Interestingly, when the almost 30 of us were asked about how many of us planned to own a restaurant in the future, only one person sort of raised her hand, so this was indeed a relevant panel. Aside from learning the stories of how each of the panelists got to where they are today, they each shared pearls of career advice which I found useful. Some of the pearls included

-Do one thing; other things will come into your path.  (Matt)

– Cookbooks don’t make money; they’re more for marketing or as a stepping stone. (Kate)

-Be an expert in something people need, so that networking is a mutually beneficial exchange of ideas. (Matt)

-Be easy to work with, meticulous and meet your deadlines.  (Kate)

-Learn what you’re good at and stay focused.
3.  Vegetable Recipes– okay, this is technically two items, but we need some vegetables to balance all of this pork! First,

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We learned about properly storing and prepping asparagus – Spring is around the corner and asparagus is now here! These are beautifully green stalks, pictured here as an accompaniment to sea bass poached in court bouillon.   We blanched and shocked the asparagus (translation: cooked until tender in boiling water, then cooled immediately in an ice bath), then reheated it just prior to serving in a bit of butter and salt, then topped with freshly toasted, chopped hazelnuts.

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We also made a lovely cabbage slaw – pork week meant many a not-light meal.  To accompany the various pork dishes we cooked, we had a bright and light slaw of thinly shredded cabbage with cilantro, and toasted cumin seeds, pepitas and sesame seeds, dressed in lime juice and peanut oil.  That’s the non-recipe recipe (pictured above, center), and I encourage you to try some.

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. My next class will be March 21st, featuring gluten-free recipes from around the world. Don’t miss out, register today: http://www.draegerscookingschool.com/event/2497/globally-gluten-free-linda-shiue-md

I hope to cook with you soon!

To your health!

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