From brittle to cookie

This weekend was very long. I spent the last three days baking in the kitchen. It was exhausting!

This week’s assignment was baking chocolate chip cookies- from scratch. Sounds easy, right? Hah! Think again! I had to make them a few times before they were to my satisfaction and acceptable to submit to my chef instructor. So glad they turned out in the end. Baking is not my forte, but my hope is that I’ll improve my baking skills throughout this course. I want to be well-rounded in all areas of culinary arts.

There were a lot of emotions I encountered during this experience. Frustration, confusion, annoyance… Despite those feelings, there were also some positives that came out of this event. Gotta look for the silver linings in every event.

So, I’m two weeks into my pâtisserie course and I’m finally using my food scale. I’m familiarizing myself with the different measurements. Last week, we measured in ounces. This week, it’s all in grams. Measuring everything in grams was simple, thanks to the food scale. However, when the recipe stated 90g of eggs, I was very puzzled on how I would accurately measure that. 90g of eggs is basically like 1 tsp, LOL! That doesn’t sound accurate at all! Baking recipes always requires at least a couple of eggs. I took matters into my own hands and guesstimated. I tried adding just one egg to the dough mixture. I had to test the waters somehow…

Let me share the recipe and instructions before I talk about the end result of my first attempt at baking these cookies. This recipe yielded 20 (2 oz. size) cookies.

  • 150g unsalted butter
  • 120g granulated sugar
  • 120g dark brown sugar
  • 4g Kosher salt
  • 90g eggs
  • 5g vanilla extract
  • 300g pastry flour
  • 4g baking soda
  • 300g chocolate chips
  • 120g chopped walnuts and macadamia nuts (or pecans)

1. Preheat the oven to 375ºF.

2. Prepare a cutting board and chef knife to chop macadamia nuts.

3. Mise en place ingredients (basically, portion and measure ingredients so they are ready to go).

4. Prepare a stand mixer.

5. Cream butter and sugar until it is a sandpaper-like texture.

6. Add one egg at a time, as well as vanilla extract. Slowly incorporate into the mixture.

7. Prepare a second mixing bowl and sift dry ingredients.

8. Combine dry ingredients and combine the creamed mixture.

9. Fold in chocolate chips and nuts.

10. Line baking sheets with parchment paper.

11. Use cookie dough scooper to scoop dough onto baking sheets.

12. Bake between 8-12 minutes.

13. Let cookies cool before serving.

This is what transpired from adding in one egg.

It’s a brittle!!! 😱 But it was darn good!

The first thought that came to mind was “they’re burnt!” No, they’re actually not. My cookies turned into a brittle, which was really crispy and delicious. The color is really dark because of the dark brown sugar. I really enjoyed it, but that’s not what we were going for this week, so I remade the assignment.

I spent a good amount of time reflecting on what I did incorrectly and pondered what I could do differently to change the outcome of my baked cookies. I had a deep feeling it was the eggs, that I didn’t add enough. I followed my gut and added another egg (two total) to the dough mixture during my second attempt. Thank goodness, it worked!

Now this is what I’m talking about!
Doesn’t this cookie look delicious? My mouth is watering!

Overall, baking is not as simple as cooking. Everything is precise and cannot be altered like cooking can. Further, you can’t always bake by taste, like with cooking. Once the baked dish is ruined, the entire process needs to be redone.

To conclude, here’s how cookies are made more crunchy and/or chewy.

Until next time… Thanks so much for reading, liking, commenting, and sharing. I appreciate all your support!

Take care,

FS x

Happy Hispanic Heritage Month!

Hola! Hispanic Heritage Month is from September 15th-October 15th. In honor of this celebration, we’re featuring salsa verde and empanadas this week. Ironically, these are the dishes I made for my first week of my new course on culinary and pâtisserie. Whoo hoo!

Let’s start with salsa verde- ‘coz it was simple and pretty quick- hehe!

Ingredients (yields two cups):

  • 1 oz Canola oil
  • Bunch of cilantro (or parsley)
  • 1 Garlic
  • 1 Lime (juiced)
  • 1/2 oz Onion
  • Salt- to taste
  • 1/2 of Jalapeño or serrano peppers
  • Tomatillos (canned or fresh)
    • 1 canned 13oz
    • 5 fresh (I guestimated since I couldn’t find canned tomatillos at my grocery stores)

When using fresh tomatillos, be sure to remove the husk. Also, before blending, fresh tomatillos, they should be blanched or broiled. I did both.

  • Blend all of the ingredients in a blender or food processor to desired consistency.
  • Heat canola oil over medium high heat.
  • Season with salt.
  • Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator. Salsa will keep fresh up to five-to-seven days.

I’ve never made my own salsa before. I couldn’t believe how simple and quick it was. I would love to experiment in making other salsas like pico de gallo and salsa roja (red salsa). Ooh, I can’t wait! I’m on a salsa kick! (I’m doing my quick salsa dance right now 🤪💃🏻). My university had a ballroom dancing course that I took. It was pretty cool, but definitely had its challenges. Salsa was a bit difficult to learn. My favorite dance was the foxtrot. It was the first dance we learned and was the easiest.

Onto empanadas… Empanadas are basically Spanish turnovers. They can be filled with either a savory or sweet filling. We’re filling them with savory ingredients.

Ingredients (yields eight servings)

  • 2 oz bread flour
  • 1 oz cake flour
    • *NOTE: can substitute both flours for all-purpose flour (3 oz total)
  • Canola oil (optional for deep-frying)
  • 1/2 oz lard or vegetable shortening
  • 2 oz monterrey jack cheese or mild cheddar, shredded
  • 1 poblano pepper (roasted, seeded and diced)
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1.5 oz warm water
  • Sift flours into a mixing bowl.
  • Add lard or vegetable shortening and blend into flour (I used vegetable shortening).
  • Dissolve salt in warm water before pouring into the flour mixture.
  • Knead dough until smooth.
  • Wrap the dough in a plastic wrap and let it rest for 30 minutes.

Meanwhile…

  • Scrape the filmed skin off the poblano pepper, using the back of the knife.
  • Remove seeds and cut into dices. (The seeds will make the flavor more acidic)
  • Combine cheese and pepper into bowl.

30 minutes later…

  • Weigh the dough on a food scale and divide into eight equal pieces.
  • Sprinkle flour on surface and rolling pin.
  • Roll dough into a ball and flatten with a rolling pin, creating a circle.
  • Place cheese/pepper mixture on one side of the circle.
  • Fold the other side to create a turnover.
  • Press dough around the filling and crimp edges with a fork.
  • Line baking sheet with parchment paper and bake in a 375ºF oven until golden brown.

Happy October! Wishing you a great week ahead. Until next week…

Peace and wellness,

FS x

Please check out my social media platforms for more posts throughout the week!

GBD Goodness!

Week 12 is here! I completed my final culinary assignment in my Culinary Foundations course. It was bittersweet. I can’t believe how quickly 12 weeks went. I’m grateful to my chef instructors for their valuable and constructive feedback. I’ve gained so much knowledge over the last three-and-a-half months. Next week, I begin a new culinary course on Culinary and Patisserie. I’m excited to keep learning! Thank you for joining me on this escapade.

I made deep-fried chicken legs and onion rings. I had a deep fryer that I used once many years ago. I was excited to utilize it again. However, that plan failed. Turns out, the deep fryer no longer worked. Bummer! Onto plan B- deep-frying in a pot. I monitored the temperature of the (canola) oil with a candy thermometer. The temperature needed to be between 325º and 350ºF.

350 on the nose!

I made the chicken first. Set up the breading station with seasoned flour, egg wash and milk, and coating flour- in this order.

After the chicken is coated, they’re ready to be submerged into the hot oil. After about 10-15 minutes, remove the chicken from the pot, drain excess oil on a paper towel, and check the temperature of the chicken to make sure it is mininum 165ºF (temperature doneness for poultry).

Look at this golden brown deliciousness [GBD (minus the “-ness”)]! Wow! Glorious! When I took a bite of this, it brought me back to when my late grand-aunt made her famous fried chicken. It tasted very similar to hers. Wonderful memories…

Ingredients for fried chicken:

  • Chicken legs (bone-in thighs are ok, too)
  • All-purpose flour
  • Salt
  • Pepper
  • Eggs
  • Milk (1 c. per egg)
  • Canola oil

Moving onto the onion rings. This involves making a batter before we dip them into the hot oil.

Ingredients for the batter:

  • Egg yolk (beaten)
  • Club soda or beer (I used beer)
  • All-purpose flour
  • Salt
  • Pepper
  • Egg whites (whipped and folded into the batter)

After the batter is made, the onions are ready to be dredged in plain flour before they’re dipped in the batter. The temperature of the oil should be 350ºF. Slowly dip a few battered onions into the pot at a time to avoid overcrowding the pot.

Once they’re golden brown, remove them from the pot and drain excess oil on a paper towel. Note, the onion rings won’t be as golden brown as the chicken because of the whipped egg whites.

I loved that the batter on these onion rings were light, airy, and fluffy. You could taste equal parts of the beer batter and the onions.

Ingredients for onion rings:

  • Large white or yellow onions (cut into 1/4 or 1/2″ slices) (one large onion makes A LOT of rings!)
  • All-purpose flour
  • Egg yolk
  • Egg whites (whipped and folded into the batter)
  • Club soda or beer (4 fl. oz.)
  • Baking powder (1/2 tsp.)
  • Salt
  • Pepper
  • Canola oil

Stay tuned next week as we continue this extraordinary culinary journey. Thanks for reading!

FS x

You’re Grillin’ Me!

I’m nearing the end of my first culinary foundations course. This is our final week. It’s bittersweet. It’s been a wonderful experience thus far. Twelve weeks surely flew by quickly. I can’t wait to learn more.

The technique we learned this week was grilling. I grilled chicken breasts and asparagus. I also made hollandaise sauce. Hollandaise sauce is the second of five mother sauces we learned to make in this course. The first was tomato sauce which I made seven weeks ago with fresh pasta.

I had many options to grill my dishes: a grill pan (made on the stove-top), charcoal grill, propane gas grill, or the broil feature in my oven. I decided to utilize an unused griddler that has been sitting in a box for years. It took a little longer than expected to cook/grill, but they turned out well in the end. Phew! I can’t wait to use the griddler again to make paninis.

I was so nervous to make the hollandaise sauce. This sauce is similar to the beurre blanc and pan sauce I made a few weeks ago. It’s another glorious sauce made with butter. Like the other two sauces, hollandaise needs to be tended to at all times, or else the sauce will break. Thank goodness, that didn’t happen. Hollandaise sauce is made with eggs, along with water, lemon juice, unsalted butter, cayenne pepper, black pepper, and salt. It’s important that the eggs are not scrambled during the “ribbon-making” process (whisking vigorously), which is done over a double boiler. If this happens, the procedure needs to be restarted. The butter needs to be clarified, which will be added/whisked a little at a time after the eggs are whisked to a ribbon-like texture. Clarified butter means that butter is melted and the milk solids and water are removed, leaving only the butterfat, aka, “liquid gold.” Hollandaise sauce is famously paired with eggs benedict and asparagus. It can also be drizzled over meat. Yum!

Next week, we conclude with deep-drying. Eeeek! Frying anything with oil is not my favorite, but BRING IT ON!

Peace!

FS x

Braised chicken & risotto

Yesterday, marked the 20th anniversary of the September 11th terrorist attacks. I remember that day… I was in high school. I remember being woken up by my family. I was informed about a terrorist attack New York. I didn’t know about the other attacks in Pennsylvania and at the Pentagon yet. I got ready for school and joined my dad in the dining room, where he was finishing his breakfast and watching the news. Watching the clips of the attack felt surreal, as if I was watching a movie. I couldn’t believe what had happened. That morning, traffic was extra heavy going to school. What usually took 30 minutes with traffic, took almost three times as long that day. My first class was Japanese. Before class began, we had a moment of silence. That day changed our world. It changed the way we traveled. It changed a lot of things. Let’s take a moment to reflect…

This week, we learned to braise a protein. I braised chicken thighs. Braising is similar to slow-cooking, but without using the slow-cooker (i.e., Crock Pot). Speaking of Crock Pot really quickly… I love it! It’s so convenient and simple. My dad sometimes makes roast pork in my mom’s Crock Pot. It’s so delicious! The meat is tender and juicy. Ooh! Making my mouth water! Anyway, back to braising. Braising is done using wet and dry heat. First, the protein is seared in a pot on the stove-top. After it’s golden brown, it’s taken out. In that same pot, the sauce is made. Onions are sautéed with canola or vegetable oil. Next, a roux is created by adding all-purpose flour. This will thicken the sauce. Then, tomato purée or paste and chicken stock are added and mixed thoroughly. Finally, aromatics: bay leaves and thyme. Salt and pepper can be added at this point as well. Voilà! There’s the sauce! The chicken is put back into the pot with the sauce, covered with a lid, and put into a 325ºF oven until the meat is tender (approximately between 60-90 minutes).

While the chicken was baking in the oven, I made risotto. Ah! Another rice dish cooked on the stove. I mentioned in a previous blog post that I made rice pilaf in July. I made it on the stove-top and then finished it in the oven. I had to make that dish twice because the first attempt was very mushy. I’m so used to using the rice cooker to make rice. It’s so easy and convenient. But, before there were rice cookers, people made rice on the stove. My grandma and her children grew up cooking rice on the stove. While there are challenges making rice on the stove, I know there’s a purpose to why these particular dishes are made on the stove-top, compared to in a rice cooker.

I was nervous to make the risotto. Risotto may look like overcooked rice, but it isn’t. The short grains of the rice give it that starchy texture and look. Long grain rice is not recommended for risotto. One can overcook the dish if left on the stove for too long. I watched a recorded demo of the chef instructor while making my risotto at the same time. To my dismay, it came out mushy. Shucks! It tasted good, but it didn’t look entirely appetizing. In some ways, the first attempt’s risotto reminded me of grits. The second endeavor was a lot better. The grains were in-tact. Yay!

Making risotto is time-consuming. Each venture took between 45-60 minutes to make. Risotto is a dish that requires constant attention. A chef instructor called it “babysitting.” Once left unattended, even for a couple minutes, the rice will start sticking to the bottom of the pot and can burn. I don’t think it would be pleasant eating burnt risotto. Be prepared to constantly stir the pot of rice for a long amount of time. Also, the creaminess of the risotto comes from adding the hot chicken stock to cook the rice. NOT milk or cream! Another chef instructor called that “cheating!” Haha! Butter and fresh Parmesan cheese are added at the very end and make it more creamy.

Have a splendid week as we head into mid-September. Golly! Before we know it, Christmas will be here again. I’m starting to feel in that holiday mood again.

Take care,

FS x

Sauté safely & try not to get splattered with hot oil!

Happy Labor Day weekend! For those of you who have Monday off, I hope everyone is relaxing and enjoying the long weekend, while keeping safe from this nutty pandemic.

We learned about sautéing this week. First, heat the pan with a thin film of oil. Recommended oils to use to create that “smoke point” in the pan before sautéing your ingredient to the pan are vegetable, canola, grapeseed, and avocado. It is not recommended to use olive oil because it has a low smoke point. The goal of sautéing is to get the food you are cooking to become golden brown. Our chef instructors spoke about an acronym called “GBD,” which equates to “golden brown delicious.” I love that! Our assignment was to sauté chicken breast and zucchini.

I have to admit, sautéing is not my favorite style of cooking. I tried to avoid getting splattered with hot oil once I added my chicken and zucchini (cut bâtonette style) into the oiled pan. Nope! I still got hit- ouch! Splat splat! Perhaps I should’ve worn gloves, haha. Luckily, my arms were protected, as my chef’s coat uniform has long sleeves. Phew!

On the flip side, even though this wasn’t my preferred cooking method, the chicken and zucchini were fabulously ‘onolicious! Holy cow! It was so amazing! The best chicken and zucchini I’ve ever tasted! It’s remarkable how canola oil, salt, and pepper makes a dish so incredibly tasty. Those simple ingredients are so significant.

I made a pan sauce with the remnants of the chicken. It was a bit similar to the beurre blanc sauce I made last week. The three common ingredients for the pan sauce were shallots (cut brunoise style), white wine, and cold butter. This sauce needed chicken stock, instead of white wine vinegar (buerre blanc). This made the pan sauce a lot less acidic compared to the buerre blanc. It paired very well with the chicken.

Before sautéing the chicken, I tenderized it to about 1/2-inch. The purpose of tenderizing is so the protein cooks evenly, is easier to chew, and is more juicy when eaten. Check, check, check! I dredged the tenderized meat in all-purpose flour before putting it in the hot oiled pan. I love that sizzling sound as it enters the pan. It’s so satisfying! Sautéing the chicken took way less time to cook, compared to poaching it last week. It was GDB perfection!

Have a great holiday and new week ahead. Stay safe!

FS x

Poached chicken/salmon with a buttery goodness

Happy last Sunday of August! This week, we learned to poach a protein. Poaching involves simmering something in liquid. I poached not one, but two proteins. Whoop whoop! I loved this technique. It was so simple and clean. Before poaching, I made a court bouillon to poach the chicken and salmon in. It was a very acidic broth. Wowsers!

The court bouillon includes the following ingredients:

  • water
  • white wine (I used Sauvignon Blanc)
  • yellow onion (coarsely chopped)
  • celery (coarsely chopped)
  • leeks (coarsely chopped)
  • bay leaves
  • crushed peppercorn
  • dried thyme
  • parsley stems
  • whole cloves
  • salt

The liquid with all its ingredients are brought to a boil and then simmered for 20 minutes. The contents are then strained and discarded. The clean broth is ready for use.

Before submerging the protein in the bouillon, the temperature of the liquid needs to be brought to 160ºF (for the chicken) and 140ºF (for the salmon). The protein is then submerged in the low-heat liquid until it reaches its well-done temperatures (165ºF for chicken and 145ºF for salmon).

Both proteins were paired with a beurre blanc (aka white buttery) sauce. Here are the ingredients used to make this glorious sauce:

  • dry white wine (I used Sauvignon Blanc)
  • white wine vinegar
  • shallots (chopped brunoise style (1/8 x 1/8 x 1/8 cut)
  • cold unsalted butter (cut into cubes)
  • salt

This sauce requires a lot of attention and focus to maintain its consistency. My chef instructors spoke about this sauce “breaking” if left unattended or overheated. The sauce will lose its thick texture and become runny, similar to melted butter. That would be a mess.

First, the wine, vinegar, and shallots are reduced to about an ounce or two tablespoons in the saucepan. Next, add one or two cubes of butter at a time, while whisking vigorously. This creates an emulsion, which is a mixture of two or more liquids that are typically immiscible, like oil and water. Continue slowly adding the butter and whisk. Lift the pot on-and-off the heat (“pot dancing”) while adding the butter and whisking persistently to control the temperature. Once the emulsion takes hold, more amounts of butter can be added a time, while still continuing to whisk. Shallots can be taken out or left in the pan. Season before serving.

This sauce is kept in a warm place or thermos until it’s ready to be served. Once this sauce is made, it cannot be reheated, as the sauce will break. I was so nervous about breaking the sauce, but thankfully, I didn’t. I was intently focused on making sure I kept the consistency of the thickness of the sauce. I was so attentive that I forgot to take required pictures of the steps leading to the final production of this sauce for my class assignment. Therefore, I had to remake it. It was great practice to make it again. I’m glad I had the opportunity. Because I knew what to expect, I felt more confident making the sauce the second time around. I was so amazed that whisking butter in an ounce of liquid could create a rich, acidic, and thick buttery sauce. The color reminded me of cream of chicken. It was so delightful and paired so well with the chicken and salmon. Yum!

Have a lovely week as we head into September. There’s a lot happening in the world. The pandemic. The situation in Afghanistan…. People in Louisiana, you’re in my thoughts and prayers as y’all encounter Hurricane Ida. Let’s not let the negative events of the world consume our mind. Take time to reflect on the positive and always exercise gratitude. That’s what I was reminded of this past week. Being thankful for what I have and keeping that close to my heart.

Take care,

FS x

A Grand Turkish Meal

This post was mysteriously deleted. I restored and reposted it. This was dated 07/04/21.

Happy Fourth of July! Wishing you all a safe celebration.

I have a few days until I begin culinary school. I’m super excited to start this new journey. From next week, I’ll be highlighting my weekly posts on dishes I’ll be making in my classes. If time permits, I’ll post additional blogs about new restaurants I’ve dined at.

This week, I’d like to share about Turkish cuisine- one of my top five faves. I’m so happy to say that Istanbul Hawai’i has finally opened their restaurant! I remember ordering gyro from their food trucks at events like “Night Market” years ago. This is a long time coming and I’m so ecstatic to have finally dined at their restaurant.

My friend and I were so excited. The restaurant was packed! We had a late reservation. All the earlier slots were already reserved. Throughout the time we were there, it was busy the entire time, even near closing, the place was filled. I was so happy to see how busy it was. It shows that the food is awesome. And that it was!

The menu was pretty overwhelming. A lot of dishes seemed very foreign to both my friend and I. I’ve been to Turkey twice; had authentic Turkish food there, and in Japan, as well. But those were nothing like what I experienced at Istanbul Hawai’i.

Hot Potato!

This post was also deleted. It’s been restored and reposted. This was dated 7/18/21.

Hello! I hope everyone is enjoying their Sunday. I spent it in one of my favorite places- the kitchen. Yesss!

This week in school, it was all about potatoes. I learned four different knife cuts: bâtonette, brunoise, julienne, and small dice. The bâtonette is a 1/4” x 1/4” x 2” cut. I had to first cut the potato into a rectangular block. Then use a fancy culinary metric ruler to cut the block into 1/4” blocks. Then cut again into 1/4” sticks. Next, I took the bâtonette sticks and cut them into 1/4” cubes, aka small dice cut. I cut another potato into a rectangular block to prepare for my next cut. The julienne is blocks cut into 1/8” x 1/8” x 2”. Lastly, the brunoise cut which is cutting the julienne sticks into 1/8” cubes.

Our featured dish that I made was a pommes purée, which is similar to mashed potatoes, but a bit more fluid and translucent. It’s not fluffy like mashed potatoes. It had minimal ingredients and steps, but was a difficult dish to make. The first attempt at making the dish resembled a mashed potato texture. I analyzed what I could do differently as I remade the dish. I cooked the potatoes a little longer. They needed to be tender, but not to the point of disintegrating. After the potatoes are strained, they are to dry for a bit before they are

A break this week…

There was no cooking assignment for culinary school this week. We just had to fabricate a whole chicken and freeze all the parts. We’ll be using them for the next six weeks. Exciting! I can now say I’ve deconstructed a whole chicken. Yay!

I have to say, I didn’t enjoy the process. Working with raw meat, especially poultry grosses me out. I usually buy already cooked chicken or specific chicken parts (i.e., thighs and drumsticks). It’s much easier and cleaner to work with. As I was fabricating the raw chicken, all I could think about the entire time working was wanting to sanitize everything. Wash my entire kitchen with soap and hot water. I usually wear gloves when handling raw poultry, but I was advised not to wear gloves because it’s actually more dangerous. People are more prone to cutting themselves more easily when wearing gloves. Shucks! So, I had to use my bare hands. I washed them like I had OCD! Seriously! My fingers were pruned by the time I was done. I washed all my equipment and tools several times, as well as cleaned the counter and sink area multiple times. I had to make sure everything was sanitized. Salmonella, food poisoning, bacteria spread is NO JOKE! It’s important to practice safety and good hygiene, especially when working with raw poultry.

August is birthday month. I spent my birthday weekend in the kitchen and with family and friends. My loves! The perfect trio!

Last week, we celebrated my aunt’s birthday. We had the whole chicken with gravy, and carrots vichy and brussel sprouts for her bday dinner. My sister made Oreo-stuffed chocolate cupcakes for dessert. Yummmmm! In my featured image, I created a collage of all the yummy food I ate this weekend. My dad and sis made a feast for dinner. We had tossed salad, steak, chicken, Portuguese sausage, mashed potatoes with boiled eggs and olives, and shrimp and oyster tempura. Wow! We celebrated with strawberry, chocolate, lemon, and coconut cupcakes for dessert from Sam’s Club. Sam’s Club makes some pretty yummy cakes. My dear girlfriend took me out for brunch at the La Hiki at the Four Seasons at Ko ‘Olina. We went there two years ago and had a fulfilled delicious, out-of-this-world buffet brunch experience. However, since COVID, buffets have not reopened, and restaurants that once offered buffets, had to get creative. This restaurant created a pre-fixed brunch menu. The food was yummy, but you can’t beat that buffet. I can’t wait till the buffet reopens again. It was one of the best brunch buffets I’ve ever eaten at. I would love to take my family there to experience all that superlativeness.

Have a great week, All! Please stay safe. This pandemic is getting outrageous!

FS x