Sunday, 19 October 2014

Our 50th Anniversary Sell-Out. Hail ! Monarch Park


Wasn't THAT a party?!

Yesterday almost 800 of Monarch Park alumni and former staff visited their school again ... Michelle Duncan did a wonderful job of organization ... and every face had delight written all over it. Mary Card, who taught math (and other subjects) at Monarch for 40 years, returned and thrilled many people. Former and present staff gathered at the "North Staff Room" (a.k.a. Sarah's) for a pint and sharing of favourite stories about teaching, students and administration.

Monarch Park Collegiate ... home of simply fabulous students and teachers.

Somehow, in all this, our wonderful MPC Culinary Arts students managed to feed almost 170 people with our special lunch offerings and through our cappuccino bar service. We offered a special plate of our home-made coq-au-vin, freshly-roasted sweet potatoes and Wala Wala onions with a rosemary dressing, and fresh, steamed asparagus. We have a few left-overs, but mainly great memories. Our alumni were VERY generous, and all the Culinary Arts students each took home almost $5 in tips!

Kareem, one of our extra-special Culinary Arts alumni, returned to both help out in the kitchen with preparation AND do tours of the entire Culinary Arts program and process. His pride showed through with every group he spoke to. Thanks, Kareem!

So, for Auld Lang Syne, here is the crew who came in on Saturday at 08h00 to prepare, cook, set-up, present and knock down for the 50th Anniversary of Monarch Park Collegiate.

Thanks, Team!

Hail! Monarch Park (our school song)

Hail! Monarch Park
Where victory shall resound;

Green, White and Gold
With honour ever found.

Out teams will fight to crush our foes
And always will we reach our goals;

We strive, Monarch Park
Your glory to secure

Friday, 17 October 2014

Coq-Au-Vin and flavour-layering skills

Well, 200 or so of our closest friends are coming for lunch on Saturday to celebrate Monarch Park Collegiate's 50th Anniversary. What to do? What to do? Pizza? K-fry?


We will make and offer one of the great classical dishes of French cuisine: Coq-Au-Vin (translated, roughly, as chicken in wine). It is simply delicious ... the tasting I did with you in class 2 days ago was sensational ... you all loved it ... and now I am teaching you to make this wonderful dish that can be one of your go-tos if someone asks you to make a good meal.

Coq-Au-Vin can be made on the day of service, or the day before and just refrigerated. You can even freeze it! Here are a few hints so you can do it well.

First, make sure you have all the necessary ingredients ... the main ones are the chicken, the thick bacon or pancetta for lardons, the pearl onions and the mushrooms. As well, try to use the most lovely fresh Thyme you can find ... it is best to grow your own ... and fresh, whole Bay Laurel leaves.

Second, the way I have taught you is to do all your mis-en-place and reserve everything in small bowls so all ingredients are at hand as you work your magic with the heat and your hands.

Third, use a good, deep pan and don't try to cook too fast ... remember the two words you never want to hear from anyone who is cooking, so SLOW DOWN and cook carefully.

Fourth, as soon as you have finished prepping your chicken, clean, clean, clean your equipment with lots of soap and hot water, then rinse well. You do not ever want to cross-contaminate, particularly with poultry. Slow and safe is good.

Last, measure your wine and stock so you have a pretty close 50/50 split. It tastes better that way. IF you have to add a little more later on, make a little more of the mix.

A couple of comments, then a warning:

If you can make your own stock, do so and freeze it. You will always enjoy working with ingredients you have made with your own hands and skills, and your guests will be VERY impressed with your breadth of skills and knowledge. Remember, most people run out of cooking imagination at the end of an egg or two. Don't be that person!

My other comment is about taking time to layer your flavours carefully ... rub the thyme, don't be afraid to use good pepper and salt ... and don't use cheap or 'off' wine. If you aren't much of a wine person (and why should you be as high school students?), ask a knowledgeable parent or parental friend for good advice and then follow it.

A little warning ... practice your flambe skills where you won't start a fire ... do it outside (in good weather) and practice, practice, practice. There is no substitute for developed skill, and none of it comes from luck.

So, go and be not afraid! Offer to make this for your family, practice on people who will be supportive and gently forgiving. If you have problems or questions, speak with me in class or write a comment below. You too can end up looking like these happy young chefs!

Good luck!


Thursday, 9 October 2014

Thanksgiving Pumpkin Pie -- The Winning Combination!

Here we are ... early October ... and Thanksgiving is upon us. You are all budding young cooks ... what will you make to impress your family, friends and the crankypants next door?

I'll tell you what ... you make THIS fabulous pumpkin pie and they'll be pounding your door off its hinges, and the orders will flood in. No fooling!

We have run these recipes in class ... I have demonstrated, and today you have followed along well. We made litres of filling and kilos of pastry and the results are cooling now as I write this blogpost for you.

Here is what you have made:

Nothing finer than a whole counter lined with your hard work on proud display, eh?

The recipes we have used are at the end of this post. Remember three important things that will help a lot with the pastry; cube the butter and shortening FIRST then re-freeze for at least 30 minutes; have the ice water and vinegar ready immediately, and work quickly with as little hand-touch as possible.
last tip ... use the food processor as little as you can, because if the fats in the butter and shortening heat up, they will start to build the glutens in the flour, and that is exactly what you do NOT want! You want your pastry to be as short (i.e., flaky) as possible. Here is the pastry recipe:

For the filling,
roast the pumpkin with a smear of maple syrup (as the recipe states) and be sure to let the pumpkin cool for a good, long time (I prefer overnight) or else the egg will cook from the heat retained in the pumpkin pulp. (This would NOT be good!) Prepare the filling per; the instructions, and be sure to combine all the dries (the sugars, the spices, the salt), in one large bowl to make the addition simpler. If you do not have a stand-mixer at home, the recipe can simply be donE with a friend (if you have one!) stirring a large bowl with all the stuff going in in proper order, and them stirring with a large French whip.

So go and have fun on our holiday week-end, make some fabulous pie for your family and friends, share the recipes around and to each of you and your supportive families,


Monday, 6 October 2014

Scottish Shortbread -- posted for Sean

Sean has asked for this recipe and some commentary on technique, so here it is, Sean, just for you.
Everyone else can join in!

Scottish shortbread requires only a few ingredients ... the basics of all shortbread (butter, flour and sugar), then adds in a little egg and vanilla and a hefty two pinches of baking soda. Here is the recipe:
To make your baking life easier making shortbread, here are a few tips:

1) Keep the work surfaces and everything cool

2) Work quickly so no gluten has a chance to develop. The 'short' in 'shortbread' means no gluten development.

3) Do full mis-en-place

4) Pre-heat the oven for 30 minutes before baking, and position the oven racks before turning on the oven! One of the secrets to good baking is clean temperature management ... once the oven is hot, don't have the door open for more than 2 seconds at any time (to reduce temperature fluctuation).

5) If using parchment paper on a baking sheet, make sure the paper only covers the bottom of the sheet, with no 'ears' sticking up to reduce heat movement.

6) Remember to cool your shortbread on a rack for at least 10 minutes before service, and cool to room temperature before packing or boxing for keeping or shipping.

** Final Note ** Remember to use a cutter with no sharp spiky shape-parts ... gently rounded, circular, oval or slightly-bulging rectangles work best. Do not use a wash on top of any sort. Prick for traditional look (see photo).

Sunday, 5 October 2014

UBC Sticky Buns !! Woo Hoo !! About time !!

OK, ok, everyone, calm down. This post is for YOU ... something you can make at home or work or at a friend's place ... nothing fancy here ... but learn to make these and you'll be the coolest cat on the block. Seriously. I know. The papparazzi follow me everywhere.

? ? ? ? ?

Yeah ... sure ... Anyway, the University of British Columbia, where Chef did his undergraduate work and part of his graduate school makes these sticky buns.
They're a cultural tradition at UBC, and are so popular that the university now makes them and sells them downtown for all the former students who are suffering from withdrawl symptoms, or anyone who just wants to check out UBC's buns.

Stop laughing! This is a serious post. No giggling. none at all.

So, here's how you make these decadent, delicious things. Soon, in a matter of only a few hours, you too will have buns to die for. STOP GIGGLING !!

A few serious hints from experience ...

Make sure you have the kitchen or pantry warm for rising and proofing, and enough space to do it. Be sure you have enough flour ... Chef buys his at Fiesta Farms and presently at home is trying out "Mountain Path Organic All-Purpose Enriched Flour". Take time to plump the raisins (details below) and Chef uses more butter and sugar than the recipe calls for when preparing the pans and doing the centre-filling because he likes a more dripy bun than a dry bun. You do not have to use expensive butter, or expensive anything, to have great UBC Sticky Buns ... the recipe was developed by a Chef
in the 1950s, when there were still many shortages from the war, so originally the recipe called for margarine (for example) because it was more easily bought, and cheap. Now, we use butter. Try to avoid using food fakes.

To scald the milk, pour it into a pot with a large bottom (i.e., a wider pot is preferable to a taller pot) and heat on medium to medium-high while stirring with a whisk until bubbles start to form on the sides of the pot. Then turn the pot off and stir for a moment or so more, then decant the milk into whatever pot, bowl or pan you will need it in. In this case, I scald my milk and after I turn off the stove I toss in the butter that I have prepared by chopping it up roughly into small cubes so it has a large surface area and dissolves quickly.
In order to cool the milk, I put it into a thin-sided metal bowl and put it outside (in wintertime) or in the frig (in warmer weather) until it is down to room temperature or just a little above. The milk must be cooled so the eggs don't get cooked when you're making the dough!

Take time to really prepare your baking pans or muffin trays with a goodly load of the butter/sugar mixture ... you will be proofing in the tray or pan, then baking directly. Be sure to gently cover the trays or pans whilst proofing so the tops don't dry out. (Remove covers for baking!)

Have fun making your buns, and let Chef know how they turn out!

Breads and Bready Things

There is nothing on earth like the smell of fresh bread ... or is there? WHICH bread? WHEN? WHOSE kitchen?

From focaccia to fougasse, bannock or chappati to some awful white spongy loaf in a plastic bag, breads are, simply, the staff of life for most of us on earth. They are our most immediate connection to our culture and history and feelings about home and hearth, no matter how different the specifics may be.

There are south asian breads, native american breads and european breads, and these have spread out all over the world. Every bread we know derives from one of these cultural stocks. With bread, we are not ever truly alone.

My students have learnt, or will learn, about making 5 kinds of bread, and some of the recipes are enclosed in this blog posting or the next one. Focaccia and fougasse are essentially the same bread, relatively quick to make (a matter of hours, not days), ciabatta
takes more time 2 - 4 days, depending on the sourness desired), chappati are quick to make and take little space to produce, and the final one is the decadent, and justly famous, UBC Cinnamon Buns that Chef basically lived on for several years in Vancouver.

Sometimes a dough will work perfectly, other times things seem to go wrong. Temperature management is crucial, including the temperature of the basic ingredients AND the bowls worked with. If I am using a bowl to make a dough, I will always warm it up slightly under running water, then quickly polish it dry and use it immediately. Make sure the flour and all other ingredients are at room temperature unless otherwise directed. Arrange for a warm space to rise and proof your doughs ... this time and temperature will make all the difference.

Kneading takes time to learn ... learn by watching a then doing is best, but there are a few basics I always share ... do not use your fingertips, learn what over-kneading is and does, and learn to make and keep a good 'biga',
or starter (sometimes called a Poolish or Levain). Well-fed and maintained, a great biga will roll along for years. I worked with a chef near Venice whose biga had been inherited from his grandmother, and she had told him that it had been given to her! That biga carried almost a century of skill, knowledge, tradition and nourishing, and the bread made with it was remarkable.