Sunday, September 19, 2010

ah, school's overwhelming.

this past week was my birthday, and a biochem exam, and generally too much studying.

i've been cooking when i can, usually late night experiments.... it's therapeutic :)
but the fridge has been rather bare, i've been missing having many great ingredients at hand. it's made for an interesting menu as of late.

for example, i messed around with making puff pastry dough the other night... my vision was to stuff triangles with spiced ground turkey, onion and potatoes (indian-style spices) for a crispy puff pastry take on a samosa. woowwww what failure it was! starting off i didn't understand how temperamental puff pastry can be, especially when done carelessly and in a hurry (like how i did it). my pockets turned out pale, flat, dense, and extremely greasy. after some research i discovered the art that is the creation of pâte feuilletée... there is even pâte feuilletée inversée, an even more fussy version where the turns are completed with the butter on the outside. and chocolate versions, and a multitude of recipes for grease doughs, and fried malaysian spiral pockets based on the same ideas... what enlightment. i had no idea a mishap with puff pastry would open up a whole new world of laminated doughs for me, i am so excited to explore it. when time allows, ahh

also out of boredom and curiosity i looked more into the history of michelin and their infamously coveted stars... a very cool story of how andré michelin started his company, produced his guides, and grew to fame. michelin definitely keeps its iconic status alive by strict anonymity of its inspectors... even company executives don't often meet or learn the names of inspector candidates. the rigorous training program, intense work schedule, air of secrecy etc...reminds me of espionage thrillers and such. so cool! i could go on about this, so i'll leave you with this article... a great one, the only time michelin allowed an inspector to interview with the press. 

major highlight of this week, i pirated a copy of julia child's mastering the art of french cooking. a pdf file of over 700 pages! legendary book, the french cooking bible for the non-french. i was giddy like a schoolchild when i found i could torrent this... sorry julia, simca, louisette... i promise to purchase a tangible copy of your book as soon as i'm no longer a poor student :) anyhow this is what i've been reading in my downtime... so far i've made it through the soup chapter and it is quite an interesting read. it explains kitchen techniques, preparation of ingredients, equipment usage, translations of french cooking verbs... knowing this 2-vol set cut the pretense and made authentic french cooking accesible to all, gives me shivers.. awesome.

my strategy for eating healthy throughout the busy week was pretty simple. at the beginning of the week i cooked a huge pot of sticky rice and white quinoa in a 1:1 ratio in a rice cooker. i kept this in the fridge. when i'd come home from school, tired and hungry, i defrosted a tilapia filet while i chopped random vegetables. it started off with just bell pepper and zucchini on the first day... seasoned the fish with whatever and a little olive oil, and bake them all together in a foil-lined pan at 400ish for about 15 min.
the first day... ta-da
easy! just microwave the rice/quinoa and add the veggies and fish when they're done. throughout the week i changed up the veggies a bit, with mirepoix (a classic french aromatic mixture of celery, onion, and carrot) and whatever odds and ends in the fridge. added herbes de provence (with extra fennel!.. i've been having fun with my new birthday spice rack :D), red wine vinegar.... and the list goes on..

apologies if this entry is not well organized... i have so much i want to say but no time to smooth out my writing to make it sound pretty! got to go back to studying... this week i've been so excited about french cuisine for some reason... what i had previously thought of as superfluous and extremely pretentious actually has so many dimensions to it, there is sooo much more to it than just "haute cuisine" and fancy plating. it has a lot of soul and of course, don't overlook the history of traditions. what i love most is the focus on letting ingredients shine. i've lots to learn indeed.