Sunday, January 29, 2012

French Toast Pie

I tend to avoid starch and carbs if at all possible. I think I can blame my parents for this. My dad for uncovering a diet that actually worked for him (meat and veg only!) and my vegetarian mother who insisted on having 5 different colored vegetables on the table every night for dinner. For me it's not that hard to forgo potatoes and bread. I'm not one of those people who could live off of bread alone. However when you are trying to save money by eating whatever culinary schools gives you, you might end up with a lot of starch and carbs. I don't mind really. 

You've seen the croutons already and I've spared you the tuna fish sandwiches and freezer full of breadcrumbs. I have already posted twice about french toast but this was too good not to document.  I'm calling it a French Toast Pie and it was amazing. Maybe the best. Maybe the best French Toasted thing I've ever had. I think the bread making students are really the ones who deserve the acclaim- they provided the whole grain loaf and the stunning Kugelhopf- a traditional bread from the Alsace region of France. It tastes like brioche with a sweet and slightly crunchy crust, mine was topped with almonds and studded with raisins and dried cherries. 

Spoils from the new job. A box full of baby's breath
I only made this pie so I could be terribly clever and have it in the freezer for a surprise instant brunch one morning. The surprise was on me- it lasted one day in the freezer and one morning on the table. Delicious!

French Toast Pie
The Kugelhopf really makes this dish amazing. If you can't find one- do not fret! Just substitute in some brioche and add dried raisins and cherries. This freezes well, just wrap the pie in 2 layers of cling film and 2 layers of aluminum foil. Press the bread down with some frozen food to submerge all the food into the custard. To reheat the pie, place it in a preheated 375 degree oven for about 30 minutes or until heated through. If the top starts getting brown, cover with foil.

  • 1/3 small whole grain loaf (about 2 cups, shredded)
  • 1/4 loaf kugelhopf or brioche (about 4 cups, shredded)
  • Raisins, dried cherries and almonds (optional)
  • 4 eggs
  • 1 cup half & half
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1 tablespoon cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp almond extract (optional)
  • 1-2 tablespoons Demerara sugar
Tear bread into pieces and layer it into the pie dish. If using brioche, throw in the dried fruits and nuts. Try to make the top of the pie relatively flat- you can even squash it down if necessary. In a medium bowl whisk the eggs, half & half, milk, cinnamon and extract, if using. Pour over the bread- you may have some extra. Wrap the pie up with two layers of cling film and one layer of aluminium foil. Place the pie in the fridge overnight but place some heavy object on top of the pie to help submerge all the bread into the custard. 

The following day, preheat your oven to 375 degrees. 
Sprinkle the Demerara sugar over the pie and bake uncovered for about 30 minutes. If you can't see the custard, top it off with some extra milk. You really want custard all the way up! If the pie starts to brown, cover it with some of the foil. Your pie is done when the bread has absorbed most of the custard and everything is spongy, golden and delicious looking.

Enjoy with maple syrup, a pat of butter and coffee. 

Freeze it for a rainy, lazy sunday morning! Maybe after going to the gym?

Sunday, January 22, 2012

French Croutons

Hey guess what? I got a job! I now work at a flower shop! Woo! I also ran out of allergy medecine the day before starting! I just couldn't understand later that night why I kept sneezing in cooking class. I think my classmate was ultimately the one to figure it out. "Do you have allergies?" OH right! I do! To flowers and stuff! I can be so thick sometimes. 

Today I made my first bouquet and I was so damn nervous. I haven't been quite trained yet so this was totally on the fly but by the third bouquet (3 people came in for a bouquet!) I think I had it down. White and pink hydrangeas, ornamental kale and some baby's breath. I really wish I could have taken a picture. 

Meanwhile culinary school has been keeping me well fed with bread, leftovers and bread. My last haul included a duck confit leg, gravlax, an oatmeal loaf and a kugelhopf. I left the bread out a little too long and needed to find a plan B that didn't result in even more breadcrumbs for the freezer. I thought I'd practice something we did in class as part of Soup Day. Buttered croutons! Lotsa BUTTER croutons. 

I'm just gonna brag a little bit and say that I was able to perfectly toss these bread cubes in that pan. Just like they say: it's all in the wrist (and the hands of god). 

French Croutons
This will probably seem like too much butter at first, but the croutons will soak it all up and taste delicious. Eat these soon as they won't keep that long with all that butter. Shouldn't be a difficult task.

2 thick slices of hearty loaf bread
2 tablespoons butter
Salt & Pepper

Cut the bread slices into equal sized cubes. In a saute pan melt the butter on medium heat. Wait until the butter has stopped foaming and throw in the bread cubes. Toss the cubes to coat them in butter. Keep tossing until they start to turn gold. Aggressively season the cubes with salt and pepper (as in- lots of both!). Taste a cube and adjust. If the croutons seem too greasy, lay them out to dry on some paper towel. 

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Leftover Culinary Student Clam Chowder

My plan for feeding myself through culinary school was simple: family meal at school, leftovers from class and tuna fish sandwiches. I've done pretty well thus far but it turns out that I've had to change my plans somewhat since it looks like I could pretty mich live off of the bread left out from the bread making class. I've also been eating my homework. Julienned carrots, macedoined turnips or most recently: potatoes cocotte. When our chefs gave us the option of taking home some fish veloute sauce, I thought that I had just about everything to make some clam chowder. And I was right- All I had to buy was, well- the clams. 

Just some regular ol' sliced celery and carrots. Can you spot the cocotte potatoes? Swimming in their starchy water

Have I mentioned that I don't have a place to live yet? Or a job? Yeah- shit has been real round these parts but it's all good. Things are going to work out because- as the career services lady at school said: well, they just have to work out. Chowder is certainly a comfort food but for me it's also the soup that my mom made for Thanksgiving every year in France. She would have my dad bring back a few cans of clam chowder from the States and would doctor them up and serve it in a beautiful stoneware tureen. For years I had no idea that she didn't make this soup from scratch. I was shocked. But sometimes you have to make do with what you have or if you can't get what you want, you have to improvise. This is my improvised and indeed very comforting clam chowder. 

I'm sure I don't have to tell you that I didn't have a soup tureen in which to serve this, right? Ah well, I'll have time for that once I move into my own place. 

Almost perfect cocotte! Just another 50 or so potato and I should get it

Leftover Culinary Student Clam Chowder
This recipe is clearly not for everyone as you probably don't have leftover fish veloute lying around. To make it at home, buy 2 cans of clams and use the juice from both cans and adjust with cream or milk as needed. You can also add the clams from both cans instead of just one. If you don't feel like learning to cocotte a potato, just peel and dice 2 potatoes into roughly the same size. 

  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 2 shallots, minced
  • 3 stalks of celery, sliced
  • 2 carrots, sliced
  • 4 cups fish veloute
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 10oz can of clams in their juices
  • 12 cocotte potatoes (or 2 potatoes peeled and diced)
  • Salt + Pepper
In a dutch oven or medium-low heat, melt the butter. Add the shallots and slowly sauté until translucent. Add the carrots and celery and continue to cook slowly until tender. Add the fish veloute, heavy and the juice of the clams. Stir to combine and adjust with more cream, milk or clam juice as needed. Add the potatoes and slowly simmer until the potatoes are tender. Add the clams and heat through. Season the soup with salt and pepper. Enjoy with some crusty bread. 

Friday, January 6, 2012

Felted Hot Water Bottle

Is it cold enough? Has it ever been this cold? I came to New York prepared but I can't seem to wear enough layers to make it out alive. Luckily culinary school has me running around enough to keep me warm on the walk back home when it's nearing midnight. 

Full discloser- it has not snowed in NY. This picture is from THE PAST!

This hot water bottle would certainly keep me warm but I gave it away. It was a Christmas gift I made as part of my handmade-gifts-because-I-now-have-student-loans. It turned exactly how I envisioned it which is weird because I happened upon this sweater by accident (IE: my brother moved out and left it behind. Score!)  I love this hot water bottle cover and should really make one to keep- just as soon as I find another perfect lambswool caramel colored sweater.... 

Don't worry about my brother and his swiped sweater- he was the recipient of one of these babies so he's probably warmer than I am right now.

Felted Hot Water Bottle Cover
If you have a sewing machine, this is super quick work. If you don't, you can probably hand stitch this puppy in an evening in front of the TV. When choosing a sweater, make sure it's 100% wool or it won't felt properly. The wool will get softer (IE: less itchy) once felted, but it always helps to find a soft wool sweater to start!

  • 1 old XL Men's WOOL sweater (will be enough for 2 hot water bottle covers)
  • 1 Hot water bottle
  • Needle, thread ect...

Start out by felting the sweater. If you have a mesh bag, throw your sweater in there as an extra precaution against fluff clogging up your washing machine. Set your machine to HOT and run the sweater through a short cycle first. The sweater will shrink A LOT. Check the felting- you shouldn't really be able to see the weave of the wool anymore. You can run the sweater through another cycle to felt it some more or if you're pretty satisfied, put it in the dryer. The dryer will also shrink the sweater if it is set to hot heat so keep that in mind when adjusting the time and temperature. 

Once you have a felted sweater, cut off the sleeves at the shoulder and cut up the seams on either side of the body to leave you with some flat pieces. Use the hot water bottle as a guide and cut around it, adding an extra 1/2 inch. 

Cut out another piece of the same size.

Cut the cuff off from one of the sleeves. Now you have all your pieces and are ready to sew! Pin the two large pieces together and sew all the way around leaving a 4 inch hole at the top where the neck will be.

Insert the cuff of the sleeve into the sewn body and pin the cut side of the cuff to the opening.  Sew around the cuff to attach it to the body. 

Flip everything right side out again and insert your hot water bottle.  Now you can be warm!

Fill me with hot water!!

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Momofuku Milk Bar Birthday Cake

SO, I'm in culinary school. My first class was on Thursday. We did a lot of chopping. I got a knife kit and homework (more chopping). I'm living in New York- or rather- couch surfing in Brooklyn- trying to get my life set-up. I still need a job and a place to live... I came here so prepared, right? If I sound a little shell-shocked it's because I am. It's just been such a long month and now I'm here. I've been working for months to get here and now I am. Holy shit.

Chiffonade - Textbooks and Turnips - Bringing the uniform home - Tranches of carrots - THE knife kit

 I won't be having a full weekend for the next 9 months, but it's all in the name of higher learning and food. When I found out on day 1 of culinary school that we would not be having class on New Years Eve, I was psyched about having 4 days off in a row and having just finished reading the new Momofuku Milk Bar cookbook, I decided to make one of their crazy cakes. A birthday cake seemed appropriate. 

I loved this cake. Not only because I made it as an excuse to over-indulge in sugar since I can't over-indulge in booze this NYE. And lemme tell you that it worked like a charm. I was totally hung-over on sugar this morning and proceeded to eat an eye-brow-raising amount of cake for dinner as well.

The cake is super fluffy and jam-packed full of sprinkles. The frosting has cream cheese and citric acid in it. And it's damn good. Like it out of the jar, but awesome. And the truly amazing part of this cake? Crumbs. Not just leftover cake, but birthday cake crumbs specifically baked to be crunchy and also packed full of sprinkles. I heeded Christina Tosi's advice and made a double batch to snack on and add to vanilla ice cream. I guess my new year's resolution is not to cut back on sugar...

Happy Birthday World! I wish I got some candles!

If you want the full recipe, please check out the cookbook- it's rather lengthy and involved but all together not that more difficult than a regular layer cake. Plus it looks like the cake from my childhood dreams. Bonkers.  I was so glad to end and begin a new year with this cake. 2012 is gonna be massive. I can just tell.