Lesson 26: The Deets

As culinary school comes to an end, I thought I'd share some of the nitty, gritty details...i.e. I don't have anything else to post b/c I've been busy packing to come back to the homeland.

But I hope this answers some FAQs.

1) What does your school look like? 
It's in Belgrano, a leafy neighborhood in Buenos Aires where lots of families live.
This is the outside:

It has three floors, with amphitheaters for lectures like this:

And each floor has kitchens for practice like this with ovens, stoves, pots, pans and utensils:

2) Do you get to eat the food you make?
Yes. This is what we go home with. We also get to keep whatever raw materials we don't use. For instance, I currently have a large leg of lamb in my freezer that I should probably use before the next tenants get here...

What do your uniforms look like?
Like this. As you can see, they are cleverly designed to make one look as obese as possible; you can't trust a skinny chef.



Butchering baby cow: what a great way to spend an afternoon. It's winter here, so for all you veal-lovers out there, I send you a moo to keep you warm (creepy or cute? I can't decide).

Imagine this but about 3x the size. We sawed it in thirds with a bone saw. Then, I hacked off the backbone and cleaned off the top of the ribs!

Wanna see something gross? How about this layer of fat I trimmed off the ribs (that's about a 1/2 inch thick)!

I apologize that this is such a terrible picture. Like a true American, I tried to crowd too much on my plate...but here's a veal chop seared rare with red wine sauce, bacon-flecked cabbage and spicey butternut squash purée!


Lesson 25: Exotic Meats!

You know you've reached the end of a 5-month culinary program when you start cooking wild boar (javalí), hare (liebre) and emu (ñandú)...

And not just survive: aside from being less fatty and a little tougher, this stuff was actually really tasty. It does have a "gamey" taste, but I think that just means it has a stronger flavor than your average boneless, skinless chicken breast.

I cooked Pumba. First, we seared the boar on both sides...
Then, we braised it for about an hour in a mirepoix (diced carrots, celery, onion), tomato, herbs, red wine and stock.

Meanwhile, we made some beans (here, they're porotos instead of frijoles like in Mexico) with bacon, onion, tomato, herbs and stock...these were really good.
Ever wonder what blood sausage (morcilla) looks like? Here ya go. Here, we mixed it with puréed squash. We're also making it next week. Then I never want to see it again.
EL FIN: Braised game for the Brian Robeson within us.

Side note: Wow. Gary Paulsen= new hero.


Lesson 24: Sous Vide

I could write a complicated post about the sous vide stuff we made in class. Instead I'm just going to direct you to this exhaustive website (who is this guy?)... Nifty, but I think I'll leave it to the restaurant chefs so they have something to show off with.


Lesson 23: Brioche

Ever wonder why brioche is so tasty?

Take this (that's about 4 sticks of butter):

Plus this (and that's EIGHT EGGS if you're counting):


Oh, but it's allllllll worth it in the end:


Between Meals: 30 Years of Wedded Bliss

Happy Anniversary, padres!

Pops gleefully "borrowing" some torrontés cuttings for an experiment at home:

Mamacita checking out some tombs:


Lesson 22: Fishes o' the Sea

Going from this...
to THIS:
...takes some work! But it means some fresh and delicious fish once you get the hang of it.

Fortunately, this week we got to practice our skillz with some fish of the sea! 

Step 1: Remove guts
- To remove the a fish's intestines etc., you make a cut along the ventral (belly) side of the fish
- The cut should stretch from the middle toward the head as shown here.
- Then you have to scrape out the guts w/ your knife or the handle of a spoon (warning: GROSS!).
Step 2: Remove fins
- Use kitchen shears to snip off all the fins except those on the tail
Step 3: Scale the fish
- The least messy way to do this is inside a plastic bag over the sink.
- Holding the fish by the tail w/ one hand, use a spoon to scrape the scales from tail to head (here they use a knife, but using a spoon makes it easier to avoid damaging the fish if you're, uh, less than graceful).
Step 4: Fillet the fish
- This is a great guide for both big and small.
- Use a SHARP knife!
- Cut through the skin first.
- Don't press too hard.
- Your strokes should be small and quick rather than long and slow.

Then use your beautiful fillets to make the dish above- red snapper wrapped in prosciutto and spinach with polenta and shitake mushrooms- that cancels out the health benefits of eating some lean protein...


Lesson 21: Mom's Favorites

This week's pastry class was a belated Mother's Day present for my mom: pate a choux.

Pate a choux- a salty puff pastry that can be combined with either sweet or savory flavors- is the basis for two of her favorite desserts: eclairs and profiteroles.

Though we didn't make these in class, this infinitely adaptable dough is the basis for a few other addictive pastries: beignets, that delightful New Orleans morning treat, and gougeres (recipe here or here), which I first tasted at Tartine in SF.


Lesson 20: Finger Foods

Fancy schmancy!

Appetizers to delight. Just imagine them being carried around by your servants at your next soiree...

Blinis w/ dill butter, homemade creme fraiche and smoked salmon:

CAVIAR up close and personal:

Puff pastry stuffed w/ mushroom cream:

Shrimp and leak skewers with coconut milk foam and crawfish cream- oh, the drama of dunking things in shotglasses!

Lesson 19: Baked Goods

There comes a time in Argentine cooking school when they decide to teach you how to make "American" baked goods. 

The Argentine word for brownie? Brownie. The recipe used melted chocolate, similar to this one for Triple Chocolate Brownies, which is earth-shatteringly good.

The Argentine word for muffin? Muffin. These had "red fruits" in them.

These were delicious: Marbled and Lemon pound cake w/ chocolate and lemon glazes.


Between Meals: Regatta!

Ships that pass in the night?

No, gallant gents steering remote control boats around a pond in a park.


Lesson 18: Bunnies

I think if this week's butchering task had come with the ears on, it would have been the end of me....

Fortunately, this bunny was somewhat unrecognizable:

Thank god rabbits reproduce like...rabbits, because it is really popular here- like veal, I've seen it on almost every restaurant menu, including at the delicious Tegui, where they have a dish they describe as "compressed rabbit." Unappetizing translations aside, our rabbit dishes were pretty delicious... I made rabbit two ways: a creamy, anise liqueur-spiked rabbit stew with ravioli and a rabbit leg/paw stuffed w/ herbs and cheese.

The mise en place for the rabbit stew. Note pretty diamond-shaped veggies:

Bunny two ways: tasty but guaranteed to cause a coronary.


Between Meals: Mendoza

A somewhat sleepy, smallish city, Mendoza is the capital of the Argentine wine world. It's vying for the Bay Area for my favorite place on earth... absurdly cheap wine-tasting, gorgeous scenery, delicious food, exciting bike rides and a relaxing nightlife scene. It is truly a magical place.

Especially if you have such lovely travel companions! The placard says, "Virgin of the grape."

The town of Mendoza is built around a series of plazas, all of which are lovely (though someone MUST tell them that dyed-blue water isn't fooling anyone)

We biked to two wineries, a restaurant and a chocolate/liqueur factory, which you can see on this map if you scroll down to Maipú.

First we took a tour of the La Rural winery, which included a lot of giant steel silos and clumps of fermenting grape skins...mmmm. After lunch at Almacen del Sur, we headed to Tempus Alba for a "tasting," which, as you can see below, was actually 12 FULL glasses of wine for the four of us.

As if to confirm that Mendoza is truly a utopia, on the bus ride home, we chatted with an inquisitive and cherubic 5-year-old named Gimena, whose head-to-toe pink crochet outfit matched her rosy cheeks. Stupefyingly beautiful and amazingly fun, it was a day I'll never forget.


Lesson 17: Tarts

After weeks of non-stop savory, savory, savory, finally we had our first...

 I am a connoisseur of raw dough. I've spent many years refining the technique of snatching inconspicuous pieces of pie dough when my dad's back is turned. Today, my skills must have been a little rusty, though, because my pastry professor caught me munching and wagged her finger at me with a face that clearly meant, "How pathetic!" Hm. A little embarrassing.

In spite of my fixation on dough foraging, I managed to glean some tidbits that will help make your dough superb, whether you're a mature adult who possesses this new-fangled thing called "self-control" or a...hedonistic glutton.

1. unlike with breads, you want to avoid the formation of gluten, which makes the dough hard; so we had to keep kneading to a minimum
2. there are three types of tart dough:
- sucrée (sweet dough)
- sablée (crumbly, cakey offshoot of sucrée made with the butter creamed first instead of "cut" into the dough)
- brisée (all butter basic pie dough; used for both sweet and savory tarts)

We also talked about variations on a basic fruit tart, which I decided to practice today at home...
- you can replace part of the flour with another dry ingredient like cocoa or almond flour
- you can add essences or chocolate to the pastry cream after you've made it
- you can infuse the pastry cream with citrus or spices as you heat the milk

I tend to think normal fruit tarts are too sweet and soggy, so I decided to add some salt and some crunch to these babies.

And so, I present two jazzed up fruit tarts (all made with sucrée dough and pastry cream):

1. Mango Mint Tart:
- I put whole mint leaves in the milk I used to make the pastry cream (but fished them out before mixing in with the rest of the ingredients)
- after assembling, I put more chopped fresh mint on top
- I also added toasted and slightly salted pumpkin seeds (I would probably add some other kind of nut in the future, but nuts are sooo expensive in Buenos Aires...)

2. Kiwi Ginger Tart
- again, infused the milk with a small piece of fresh ginger that I then discarded
- on top, I put minced ginger that I fried in a little bit of salted butter

I'm saving these pretty things for some other pretty things- Genna, Caroline and Nicole- who arrive starting TOMORROW! 
Tarts for some not-tarts! 


Lesson 16: Focaccia and Potato Bread That Tasted Like Focaccia

We used oil instead of butter as the grease in these puppies. But the method was the same: corona of flour, liquid and grease in the middle, KNEAD!

I tricked my group members into doing all the hard work so that I could take pictures. Nice, eh?

At least they look happy while doing all the backbreaking labor.

Nice work, ayudantes. Tasty results.

Not sure what these are supposed to be- savory cinnamon rolls mayhaps?- but they were delectable.

Now, I can't move. Like every Monday night. Monday nights are supine nights round these parts.

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