Texture …

Texture modification day at the French Culinary Institute today.  After the motherload of short ribs yesterday, I am looking forward to something lighter today: fish, chicken and fruits.  The vacuum machine used in sous-vide cooking can be set to take various amounts of air from the bag which create various textural changes in whatever is in the bag.  It also means that other flavors can be pushed into the empty cells …pears infused with elderflower cordial and yuzu; apples infused with curry oil; cucumber infused with vermouth; watermelon infused with salty lime.  Yum!

Pretty tasty additions to a cocktail, for sure …

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What is this?

Today is Day 1 of a sous-vide class at The French Culinary Institute.  Wow!  What fun.  Just when you think you know how to make the *best* something, there is now another *new* way to do it.  Take the air out, cook it at 57C …for 48 hours (yes, forty-eight).  We had 15 tastings of short ribs: cooked at variable temperatures, for variable times, with variable variables in the bag …and then, in case there weren’t enough things changing, they added a few more, such as pre, post and no sear options.  Some of them had the flavor of short ribs and the texture of chewing gum.  Some had the texture of traditional shorts ribs with only moderate flavor.  They were all good enough that I wouldn’t have sent it back had I ordered it, however a few were so delicious that I would have ordered it in a heartbeat had I not felt like I’d just eaten a cow.

What was my favorite? Temp: 60C …Time: 48 hours …Searing: pre and post …in the bag: just oxtail + red wine redux

Tomorrow is texture modification …

Barley, Malt and Hops …take 2!

…turning point for beer was University.  I was never much of a party girl, however Frat parties were just downright boring without some sort of intoxicating lubricant.  It was certainly then that I decided beer was pretty gross, however a necessary *evil* to get me through a Friday and Saturday evening without being the sober one amongst a sea of drunkards.  In saying that, I played the *designated driver* card as much as possible …

Shortly out of University I tried stout …is this really beer?  I quickly fell in love.  Yet another thing that was first met with disdain, was now a new friend.  I think that it was sweet enough to mask the bitterness that lay beneath.  From there came all the others, one at a time …didn’t love most of them at first, however with persistence, I’ve grown to like something unique about each and every one.

Barley, malt and hops …

Beer in another of those things which has been slow to develop on my palate.  As a child, my mother used to drink shandy’s …a drink served in most Commonwealth countries and consists of beer and 7-Up (aka – lemonade).  She would come in from a hot afternoon of mowing the lawns and yearn for something to quench her thirst.  She would always offer my sister, Penelope, and I a child-sized portion.  We would always feel so grown up and important when we were offered one.

When I look back, she probably put in about 2 tablespoons of beer to 1 cup of 7-Up, thus the reason it always tasted so good and sweet.  Spring forward 15 years and I thought beer was revolting.  It was this savory, bitter drink that made me burp after I’d had it.  Yuck.

The tortoise or the hare …

So, I’ve found that some of my favorite things (and people) in life weren’t quite that way to begin with.  Some of my best friends were met with raised hackles upon first glance.  The same is true of many of the foods I love as an adult: wine, beer, coffee, dark chocolate, kumquats, beef …the list is endless.

When I was a few days more than 21, and far from being a wine lover, I was invited on a business trip to Napa Valley.  The group had booked tours and tastings at some of the most exclusive vineyards in the area. Cakebread Cellars was number 2 on the list and there was such a hype leading up to the tour.  To this point, my experience of wine was Boone’s Strawberry Farm, the sweetest, cheapest wine we could find at the supermarket which always did the trick of not tasting like beer and providing sufficient alcohol content to feel no pain.  Being naive and not wanting anyone to realize my ignorance, I, too, exclaimed my excitement.  So, we started the tastings with a white which was tasty enough, however certainly lost on my untrained and unsophisticated palate.  Then, we got to the reds.  ‘Delicious, lovely, full-bodied’ were all words that I’d heard from the first vineyard, so I mimicked them when it came time to *describe* the reds at Cakebread.  One of the fellow travelmates was elated at my enjoyment and bought me a case …’what the hell do I do with a case of wine which I think is atrocious?’ was all that could cross my mind.  Thankfully, my parents had taught me well, so my knee-jerk reaction was an overwhelming ‘thank you!’

It wasn’t until a few years later when I was introduced to wines gradually (white wines first!) and learned that they actually can be delicious, lovely and full-bodied.  It was then that my interest in wine was piqued and I slowly and surely have entered into a lifetime of self-education.  My love for wine certainly didn’t develop quickly, however it has developed in a way that makes me chuckle every time I think about my experience at Cakebread.  How could I ever have thought that such a well-structured wine was nearly worth spitting out?

When looking back through, I find that the things I hold dearest are the things I reach slowly.  As for my love of wine, I think I’m more like the tortoise …tap, tap, tap on the shell.

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