4/30/10

Cooking Class at 1789, Part 2

Have you read Part 1 of my Cooking Class at 1789? If not, what are you waiting for?

Here comes Part 2, in which I will share with you everything I learned about seafood from Daniel Giusti, executive chef at 1789.
The four types of fish that we had a pleasure of eating were: swordfish (on the left), red snapper (in the front), bronzino (the black skinned fish, that sounds like Bridezilla to me), sushi grade tuna (in the back) and halibut (that's the ginormous fish in the 2nd photo below). Despite the large amount of fish in the kitchen, nothing smelled fishy. Why? Because the fish was incredibly fresh. Fresh seafood smells of the sea.

Other things to check for when buying fish:
* clear eyes (by the way, speaking of eyes, if you are holding a whole fish, hold it by the eyes, not the tail. That's just one of the hints Dan gave us...not that I'm ever planning on buying and handling an entire fish)
* ask your fishmonger to scale the fish for you: otherwise, you'll be finding scales for weeks  to come in all of the places you would never ever want to have scales
* it's better to buy fish with skin on and then remove the skin than buying already skinned fish (that ensures freshness!)
* when storing fish, keep it on ice and covered in ice in the refrigerator for no longer than a day
* use a very sharp knife (preferably flexible) when cutting fish
* keep fish portions to about 5 ounces



Here is chef Dan at work cutting out filets from a halibut. Did you know halibut is a flat fish? 1789 usually charges $32/piece, and there are 35-40 portions in this fish: that's a lot of money!


And here is chef Dan removing the skin of the fish.



Bronzino was baked in kosher salt. Simply clean the fish and lay it on top of a layer of kosher salt. You can stuff the cavity of the fish with hardy herbs, such as rosemary. Cover the fish with more salt and bake at 300 for about 20-30 minutes. (When baking fish in salt, keep the skin and even scales on: they will act as a barrier to prevent the salt from penetrating too much of itself into the fish.)



The halibut was cooked directly on a stove with quite a bit of European butter. Why European? Because European butter has more of a fat content (less milk solids) and doesn't burn as quickly at high temperatures. After searing the fish on both sides, it was basted with the butter: divine!



Swordfish was grilled. Check out the grill marks! You'd never know that this piece of fish was rescued after being stuck to the grill because the temperature wasn't hot enough.



Before I show you photographs of our lunch, a few more tips:
* slightly flouring fish will prevent it from sticking
* use clarified butter because it has a higher smoking point
* if you are cooking a fish with skin on, make a few shallow slits in the skin to prevent it from curling up during the cooking process

And now food! First of all, we were seated in one of the beautiful rooms at 1789. I must admit the decor is not really my cup of tea--I like modern, clean lines, but for once in a while special dining experience, the room was really pretty.

And we had wine!!! You never get wine with your food at Sur La Table. Alas, after doing more drinking during my 5 days in Spain than I do in two months, I only had one glass of wine.


And then the food started coming in: each course was served to us: what a nice way to eat :)
First up, tuna ceviche with microgreens and asparagus with a side of potatoes.



Then halibut with morels. This was the first time I've ever tried morels: I loved them! Despite the slightly scary and unappetizing way the morels look, they tasted awesome: not very mushroom-y. They were delicate, but at the same time held their shape.



Here's the bronzino: very mild flavored fish, that went great with the olive oil and herbs.


Swordfish with grain and greens. Sorry for the photo: you can hardly tell which is which.



I must have forgotten to take photos of red snapper. I'll blame the wine.

And then there was time for dessert.
What was your favorite cooking class and why?

4/27/10

Cooking Class at 1789, Part 1

Remember my lunch at Potenza? Well, Lindley who does PR for them, asked me if I'd like to take a cooking class at 1789 (another restaurant she works with). I've heard many impressive things about this established Georgetown restaurant, but have never had a pleasure of dining there. Of course I was more than happy to accept an invitation to attend a cooking class. Even better, Anna was staying with me after our trip to Madrid, and agreed to be my +1.

Just so that you know, I've assisted at Sur La Table's culinary program for almost 5 years. In fact, that's how I met Robyn Webb and eventually became one of her recipe testers, and am now her sole freelance blogger and photographer.

The cooking class at 1789, however, was leaps and bounds above and beyond anything I've ever experienced at Sur La Table. We were greeted with coffee, orange juice and freshly baked coffee cake. Each student also received an apron (for keeps) and a folder with recipes and extra pages of paper for notes.



Check out one of the gorgeous dining rooms: it's like you stepped into something from 1789 :)





This was not your typical class, as it was taught at the restaurant's professional kitchen! Of course, being a graduate of the CIA, Anna felt right at home. I was just glad that I did not wear heels.



The theme of the class was seafood, but we also learned how to make dessert. This post will cover dessert, and Cooking Class at 1789, Part 2 will cover seafood.

Travis Olson, the pastry chef at 1789, demonstrated how to make a tart with frangipane, blood oranges and pistachios. This was a demo class, which was absolutely fine by me. Travis was a great instructor: low key, knowledgeable, adorable (ok, maybe this isn't a necessary qualification, but it doesn't hurt), and friendly.

Below are the ingredients for the Frangipane (butter, sugar, eggs, almond flour, all purpose flour, salt, dark rum, vanilla extract and oranges).





The dough for the tart was made in the food processor, and I was amazed at how smooth it came out. One of the tricks I learned was to add a bit of baking powder to keep the tart dough from shrinking as it bakes.



Travis used bottomless tart rings and fit the dough inside of them, after which it was chilled and the edges were trimmed.




The blood oranges were absolutely gorgeous! Did you know that blood oranges can be any color from yellow to deep red on the outside and that it's not in any way an indicator of the color of the flesh? See, you learn something new every day.




The picture above is of the Frangipane, which went into the tart and was then topped with cross sections of blood oranges and sprinkled with pistachios. The photo below is of Travis holding two tarts  before putting them in the oven.



After baking, the tarts get a brushing of apricot jam thinned out with a bit of water. The dessert was served to us at a sit down lunch with a side of cardamom ice cream. I'm not usually a huge fan of cardamom, other than in Indian dishes, but I absolutely loved it!





Stay tuned for Cooking Class at 1789, Part 2 which will be all about seafood and head chef Daniel Giusti.

4/26/10

First Meal in Madrid: Churros con Chocolat

I'm back from Madrid!!! I had a great time visiting Spain for the first time in my life. Great architecture, beautiful botanical gardens, interesting museums, a lot of walking, and of course food! And, obviously, it was great vacationing with my twin, Anna, and our friend Radha.

Here is the first of several posts about food.
Anna said that the first meal in Spain should be churros and chocolate. Radha and I were happy to oblige. After an overnight flight, checking into our apartment and resting for a few minutes, we went out in search of churros. Luckily, the place was less than 10 minutes from our apartment.


Here are Anna and Radha waiting for our food! Both Anna and I ordered chocolate, while Radha went for coffee. The three of us decided to share an order of churros.


The chocolate was incredibly dark, rich, creamy and smooth. It was the consistency of thin sour cream. We could have easily shared one cup amongst the three of us.


The churros were golden, crisp, slightly greasy and oh so delicious.


The best way to eat churros was by dipping them in the hot chocolate! Decadence beyond words.


Here's Anna enjoying her food.
Ok, not the most flattering photo of me, but you can see my new favorite pretty nail polish by Esse :) (Neo Whimsical).

4/22/10

Pork & Snow peas (Freelancing for Robyn Webb)

While I'm out on my vacation in Madrid, Spain, I thought I'd share with you some of the freelance photography I do for Robyn Webb's blog. Here's what happens: Robyn comes up with a recipe featuring a fabulous food find, and then I do the grocery shopping, prepare the recipes, take and edit photographs and post the final write-up. In return, I get to keep the products, eat the food, and get $$ :) Not a bad setup.

Here are a few photographs Stir Fried Pork with Snow Peas & Ginger. For the full recipe, click here.


This dish was incredibly easy to prepare, but gave an incredible amount of flavor. The natural sweetness of pork tenderloin was off set with the bite of ginger and garlic. Snow peas added the taste of Spring. Aren't the colors gorgeous?

4/20/10

Green Beans & Red Onions (Freelancing for Robyn Webb)

While I'm out on my vacation in Madrid, Spain, I thought I'd share with you some of the freelance photography I do for Robyn Webb's blog. Here's what happens: Robyn comes up with a recipe featuring a fabulous food find, and then I do the grocery shopping, prepare the recipes, take and edit photographs and post the final write-up. In return, I get to keep the products, eat the food, and get $$ :) Not a bad setup.

Here are a few photographs of Garden Fresh Beans with Truffled Balsamic Red Onions. For the full recipe, click here.


Ooh la la! Have you ever tried roasted red onions? Roasting brings out the onions' natural sweetness. If that wasn't enough, Robyn added truffled balsamic to this recipe. Who can say no to truffles? This dish is great hot, at room temperature, or even eaten straight out of the refrigerator (I used my fingers!).

4/18/10

Salad Time (Freelancing for Robyn Webb)

While I'm out on my vacation in Madrid, Spain, I thought I'd share with you some of the freelance photography I do for Robyn Webb's blog. Here's what happens: Robyn comes up with a recipe featuring a fabulous food find, and then I do the grocery shopping, prepare the recipes, take and edit photographs and post the final write-up. In return, I get to keep the products, eat the food, and get $$ :) Not a bad setup.

Here is a photograph of Double Cheese Spinach Salad. For the full recipe, click here.


I loved the combination of spinach, beets, oranges, red onions, blue cheese and pistachios. The dressing was made with special blue cheese mustard!

4/16/10

Mac & Cheese (Freelancing for Robyn Webb)

While I'm out on my vacation in Madrid, Spain, I thought I'd share with you some of the freelance photography I do for Robyn Webb's blog. Here's what happens: Robyn comes up with a recipe featuring a fabulous food find, and then I do the grocery shopping, prepare the recipes, take and edit photographs and post the final write-up. In return, I get to keep the products, eat the food, and get $$ :) Not a bad setup.

Here are a few photographs of Individual Size Mac N Cheese. For the full recipe, click here.


First of all, how adorable is this turquoise-colored individual mini Le Creuset with a lid?? I was so excited when Robyn sent me this assignment.

Second of all, believe it or not, but this was the first time I've ever made mac n cheese from scratch. The recipe take a bit more than 10 minutes, but is definitely worth it. Using three kinds of cheeses (cheddar, Parmesan and fontina), milk and half & half produces a rich and flavorful side dish that tastes equally decadent on the 2nd, 3rd or 4th day. Robyn also said you can freeze this dish after baking (and cooling) it.

4/14/10

Brunch at Urbana with Avon Girls

Last year I signed up to do a 2 Day Avon Breast Cancer Walk. It was a decision that took years to make. Once I signed up and started to fundraise and train for the walk, I met three awesome girls: Sarah, Christina and Chelsy. I call them my Avon Girls. Together we trained in the sun, in the rain, and then with Christina's mom, Jamie, we walked 26.2 miles the first day and 13.1 miles the second day (the second day was entirely in the rain!).

After the 2 day walk, we vowed to meet up and walk on the weekends....right! That never happened. But we do try to get together for brunch once in a while. This past Saturday we met at Urbana (my choice) because they have bttomless belinis for $11!

Here's what happens: if the entire table orders bottomless belinis, you get your flutes and a bottle of Zardetto Prosecco (sparkling wine) for the table. You then go to a bar that has the following choices of juices and fruit purees: orange, pineapple, cranberry, grapefruit, mango, passion (they were out!), strawberry and peach.

Of course, I started with a peach belini! I promised myself to have a limit of 3, but that turned into 4: two mango, 1 grapefruit and 1 cranberry. Mango was my favorite.


Here's the set up of the juices and purees: how cute!? The photograph below is of gorgeous parrot tulips in Urbana: gorgeous!


Let's talk food! Both Sarah and I ordered a Spanish Omelette: chorizo, goat cheese, basil and roasted peppers that came with roasted potatoes and a side of arugula salad.

Initially I wasn't sure how chorizo would taste combined with goat cheese, as both ingredients have rather rich and strong flavors. Not to worry: the combination was sublime: I guess goat cheese could go with many things! Potatoes were roasted to perfection: tender inside and crisp on the outside. Arugula, however, had no dressing on it! I asked the waiter about it, and he claimed that it did in fact had a light coat of dressing. I did not want to argue with him, and just asked for an additional drizzle of that tarragon dressing, which made the salad quite a bit better.


Christina ordered a mushroom omelette, and Chelsy ordered Urbana Benedict: avocado, tomatoes and lemony hollandaise. This was actually my 2nd choice on the menu, and I was glad that Chelsy let me try it. Not many things can be better that a combination of creamy avocado, ripe tomato and a runny egg yolk.


And then we "had to" order dessert: Warm Chocolate Cake with candied orange and vanilla gelato. Armed with four little spoons, we devoured it!



I love getting together with my Avon Girls, catching up on each others' lives and tasting great food. Stay tuned to see where we go in May.

4/12/10

Pulled Pork & Poached Egg Sandwich with Asparagus

One of my favorite things about weekends is that I can sleep in and make a real breakfast in the morning. This Sunday was just such a day. After an awesome night of dancing I woke up hungry and with a perfect idea of what to make.

I had leftover Italian bread from testing one of Robyn Webb's recipes, and a container of pulled pork that Kenny brought. Here's what I came up with:

Pulled Pork & Poached Egg Sandwich with Asparagus

Ingredients for 1 serving
2 slices of Italian bread, toasted
10 asparagus spears
2 eggs, poached
olive oil
salt & pepper
lemon juice


Directions
1. Heat olive oil in a shallow pan. Add asparagus, salt and pepper and a few drizzles of lemon juice. Saute until asparagus is tender and golden brown.
2. Top each slice of bread with pulled pork and a poached egg.
3. Add asparagus on the side.
4. Break the egg yolk and go to town!


Seriously, not only is this a pretty dish to serve for breakfast or brunch, but it takes minutes to put together, and yet is really satisfying and filling. No need to try and pick up the sandwich: eat it with a fork.



Did you make anything special for breakfast this weekend?