Sunday, 21 September 2014

Triple Ginger and Peel Biscotti

Sunday Afternoon ... what to do ...


This recipe is a friend and family favourite.

Biscotti means 'twice-baked' in Italian. "Bi" means two, as in bicycle (two wheels), and 'scotere' means to bake. These cookies are baked two times, once in loaf-form, the second time cut into fingers.

Follow the recipe and just enjoy!

Remember to let the first baking cool properly ... chef usually takes the baking sheets out of the oven and sets them on top of the racks for a minute or so, then gently peels the long loaves off the silpats with a large pastry knife, and lets the loaves cool directly on the racks (so humidity can escape out the un-seared bottom of the loaves) and cooling is even and quick. Keep the oven hot, and cut with quick, authoritative slices on a large board with a gently serrated knife. Position the cut fingers back on the racks with a bit of space between each finger so the drying will be even and thorough. Chef just puts the racks directly into the oven and, after the second baking is done, simply moves the racks onto the counter-top to cool. At home you may wish to put the racks onto the stove-top (if it is cool and you have space) to complete the drying and cooling.

Do NOT put these cookies away warm! Let them cool and dry thoroughly before storing in a ceramic container. Do not store in something air-tight, and do not store in the frig.

Biscotti are supposed to be dry, and you should treat them like home-made sponges ... enjoy each with a dip into strong coffee, cappuccino or (gasp!) red wine or port! Be bold ... let the dryness of the cookies work for you ... enjoy sharing the results.


The Tale of Custard ... and Semifreddo

A few of you will remember this tale about Custard the Dragon. It starts like this ...

"Belinda lived in a little white house,
With a little black kitten and a little gray mouse,
And a little yellow dog and a little red wagon,
And a realio, trulio, little pet dragon.

Now the name of the little black kitten was Ink,
And the little gray mouse, she called her Blink,
And the little yellow dog was sharp as Mustard,
But the dragon was a coward, and she called him Custard.

Custard the dragon had big sharp teeth,
And spikes on top of him and scales underneath,
Mouth like a fireplace, chimney for a nose,
And realio, trulio, daggers on his toes.

The story goes on to tell about the arrival of a pirate, and how Custard the Dragon defended Belinda and everyone else. The pirate had a wooden leg, and bad aim. You should read it sometime!

This blog entry is about custard, how to make it and what you can do with it.

Learn to make a basic custard ... take egg yolks and slowly cook 'em with steam in a double-boiler. Add what you wish to make wonderful food!
Go onto a good chefs' website, like and hunt for ideas that will tickle your fancy.

If you use a basic custard and add a bit of wine and sugar, you will make Sabayon.

If you make basic custard and add a bit of sugar, a lot of lemon juice and citrus peel zest and then (later) some chilled whipped cream, you can make a delicious semifreddo.

Make your custard carefully. Once on the heat, don't stop stirring with a whisk ... and don't boil the water hard. 'Piano, piano', as one of my teaching chefs used to say. 'Softly, softly'. This is custard you are making, not tuning Dad's Chevy with Vice-Grips.

Here's a recipe for delicious semifreddo. I have added a basic way to make a berry coulis. Experiment! Don't be afraid ... every mess can be cleaned up.

So, at the end, you might be making a delicious, delightful dish like this for your customers:

Wednesday, 17 September 2014

Pasta And You!

Pasta ... of COURSE you're excited about home-made pasta ... and you're going to learn how to do it right every single time.

To start , use good 'strong' flour ... in Canada use what is known as "All-Purpose" flour, either never bleached (unbleached) or white. Use the freshest eggs you can possibly buy ... try a farmers' market. Use the best olive oil you can afford. Follow this recipe:

Start by making the pasta on a clean dry counter. I tell my students NOT to use a cutting-board of any sort, as it will move around on them. Put the flour on the counter after weighing, and in a bowl put the opened 3 eggs and the extra yolk and the olive oil (the EVO). Make the well in the centre by heaping up the flour so it looks like a little volcano, then use three fingers in a circular motion plunged into the flour to push the flour aside and make a well in the middle with 'walls' evenly all around.
Some chefs then start the mixing with a fork, others (I am one) just use bare fingers from the get-go. As the eggs and oil are mixed, start to incorporate the flour by flicking the OUTSIDE of the walls over the top and into the developing mixture. Do this so the egg mixture does not run away on you and dribble along, or off, the counter! As soon as you can, move from using a mixing motion to a kneading motion. Try not to incorporate all the flour at once ... up to 10% should be left aside, and it may (or may not) get finally incorporated into the pasta you are making. Knead and knead with a circular rocking motion until the result is butter-smooth and a deep yellow colour. Try to knead with your full body-weight supported only on your toes as you rock forward and, with fairly stiff shoulders and elbows, transfer all your weight onto the pasta, kneading with the heels of the hands to develop long, strong glutens. When it is ready, wrap it in plastic for about 15 - 30 minutes and reserve in the frig.

BEFORE rolling out the pasta, right after it has gone into the refrigerator, heat a generous amount of good olive oil in a heavy sauté pan. Do not heat to actually brown; instead, heat to extract flavour, which means low heat ... you just want the garlic and onion (if you use any) to relax in a hot bath and let all their flavours go into the oil. This creates an infusion. We usually add a little fresh-ground pepper (large grind, not powder) to the hot oil. Have this ready in the pan right next to where you will boil the pasta.

We boil the pasta in well-salted water and when it is al dente we get it quickly out of the water and into the sauté pan for a fast turn or two (no more) in the infusion. Then, immediately into pre-heated individual bowls, and top with a little parmegiano, and maybe a some freshly-torn cilantro or basil.

We sometimes add a little basil and thyme mixed and chopped into a chiffonade.

Do not put cheese on or in pastas with fish. Instead, finish with fresh lemon juice squeezed right over the dish just before presentation, as the diner watches. Do this also with clams and mussels. Artistic tip:

Roll pasta out very thin, and lay a fresh parsley or basil or cilantro leaf (washed) onto part of the pasta. Fold another part over the leaf, and re-roll to make a long noodle with whole leaves showing through both sides of the pasta. Use these noodles to make an open ravioli, for instance, or a very elegant pasta con olio e aglio.

Cookies ... Who Wants A Cookie?

All right, budding chefs, you know on the first day I just handed you a recipe and said "Make Me Cookies!". I always start each semester this way ... you have to poke around, find your way in the kitchen and pantries, and start talking to each other about what things are, what tools are called, use equipment and remember to turn on the ovens BEFORE you are all ready to bake.

I do this because I want to watch you work, and see what you might already know (or not). This loud, enthusiastic, disorganized morning is always fun for me to watch.

This semester the results were ... mixed. Mostly edible.

Do not try to bake on wax paper. This is always a no-no. You can taste the difference, and who wants to eat a candle?

Remember to learn how to check, test and judge your crust and crumb on every baked product you make. Be critical also of the work of commercial bakeries.

Look in the oven door's window ... don't crack the door to peek in, as you will drop the temperature suddenly and your product will suffer.

Remember to manage the heat carefully in any oven ... it takes time to get to know your oven, and using this knowledge is critical for successful baking.

A blowtorch comes in handy in the kitchen to assist your mixer (as well as the topping on Crème Brulee). What do you mean, your kitchen doesn't have a blow-torch? Solve that problem soon!

Now, for old time's sake, here is your recipe for delicious oatmeal-raisin cookies.

Green Onion Cakes from Edmonton -- Yum!

Many years ago Chef Aller-Stead and his partner lived in Edmonton, just down the back alley from a local restaurant named 'The Happy Garden'. It was their local restaurant, and it always smelt wonderful!

The restaurant's Chef, Chef Siu To with his partner Yeenar worked their magic every day and the neighbourhood loved them for it. Chef To is the one-man reason that Edmonton has the best Green Onion Cakes almost anywhere. Chef To learnt how to make them from his Mongolian grand-mother, and used her old rolling pin to roll them out. You can read the story of Chef To here.

After many years of begging, Chef Aller-Stead finally has the recipe for the most famous Green Onion Cakes in Canada (perhaps anywhere!) to share with you. You have made these in class ... now make them at home.

Chef makes a dipping sauce from a good dollop of Sambal Oelek (a hot sweet chili paste from Indonesia), a little spicy sesame oil, one drop of liquid smoke and about 5 ml of brown sugar.

Try this simply delicious dish at home and, just once, test it our on friends and neighbours. They will pound down the door for more!

Have fun making these delicious cakes ... they are simple and fast. Good luck!


Monday, 8 September 2014

Let's Get Started ... Welcome!

OK, budding chefs, this blog is FOR you and ABOUT you. You're really smart ... you have chosen to take the Monarch Park Culinary Arts & Hospitality program for a semester, and you're wondering what will go on, and what you'll learn. Come here each week to review what you've done, get special tips for your kitchen practice at home and find reminders about field trips coming up. Remember, Chef is always available by email or by simply making a comment on a blogpost. Easy and simple. Each week I will post one or two recipes you have done in class, AND will also post recipes you can try at home. If you want to try something special, and don't know where to find it or what techniques you need, just ask and I will make it up specially for you. Let's enjoy the ride together!
Chef Aller-Stead