We’ve got ourselves a Mexican fiesta!

Happy last weekend of July and start to the 2020 Olympics! I watched the opening ceremony on Friday night. The Japanese do not disappoint! My peeps; my motherland. So proud! Go Teams USA and Japan! Wishing all the athletes the best of luck!

On Saturday night I witnessed the men’s street skateboarding athletes from the US, Japan, Peru, Brazil, and France showcasing good sportsmanship to one another. Hugging, encouraging, and supporting each other. It brought a warmness to my heart. The world coming together.

I recalled my very first trip to Japan in 2015. Tokyo was already underway in preparing for the Olympics. A lot of construction building those extraordinary infrastructures. Amazing! They were already selling Olympics merch, too. I bought some hand towels as souvenirs. I remember thinking about wanting to be in Tokyo when the Olympics occurred. Who knew that we’d experience a global pandemic in 2020. So glad I didn’t buy tickets. I hope all who did were able to get a refund. Sending good energy that cases don’t soar out-of-control during these next couple weeks in Tokyo and amongst the athletes and all who are involved in making the Olympics happen. I’m looking forward to watching my favorite sports: gymnastics, swimming, and diving.

We’re highlighting on two dishes I made: rice pilaf and Mexican pinto beans, aka frijoles de olla. I was extremely nervous to make the rice pilaf on the stove. Every time I used to make pilaf on the stove, my rice would turn out mushy. Thank goodness for rice cookers! It’s a staple in almost every home in Hawai’i and especially amongst Asians. I learned over the years that a rice cooker can be very handy in cooking all sorts of foods, besides rice. There’s a Buzz Feed article I came across years ago. I’m glad the link is still active: https://www.buzzfeed.com/melissaharrison/rice-cooker-recipes

As suspected, my first attempt at making the rice pilaf turned out mushy. Ugh! While my taste testers enjoyed the texture, I certainly didn’t. I had another go at making it. This was unacceptable to submit to my instructor. The second time, I didn’t follow the recipe to “the T.” I added in less liquid than the recipe called for and hoped it would be enough to create a “just right” texture and consistency. Phew! Thank God it worked! My second attempt turned out perfect! And boy, was it delicious! Or should I say, addicting! It was buttery, light, fluffy, and somewhat chewy (in a good way). The dish included butter, chicken broth, and onions (brunoise style cut 1/8″ x 1/8″ x 1/8″). I didn’t know rice pilaf required baking for 18-20 minutes after boiling on the stove top. Whaaaat? Yep! It helps the rice absorb the liquid and creates that fluffy texture. Ooh whee!

Onto the frijoles de olla. That was pretty simple and self-explanatory. I soaked the pinto beans overnight. Any dried beans needs to be soaked overnight before cooking. Also, they’re to be seasoned last, after the beans are fully cooked. If they’re seasoned before they’re tender, the beans won’t cook properly. I learned something new! The Mexican pinto beans included the following ingredients: sliced onions, and chopped garlic and jalapeños. All ingredients are thrown into a pot, covered in water. They’re to be brought to a boil and then to a simmer until the beans become tender. Once the beans are tender, lard, or white fat from pig, is added. Lard can be substituted for butter, which is what I used. Bam!

Have a marvelous new week ahead!

Stay safe,

FS x

Hot Potato!

Hello! I hope everyone had a lovely weekend. I spent it in one of my favorite places- the kitchen. Yesss!

This week in school was all about potatoes. Here are some interesting takeaways I learned from my reading.

  • Did you know potatoes are both a vegetable and starch (Gisslen, 2018)?
  • To prevent oxidation, the potatoes from turning brown or gray, soak them in cold water immediately after cutting them (Gisslen, 2018).
  • Did you know there are many different colors of potatoes? Blue, purple, pink, red, brown, and yellow (Gisslen, 2018)?
  • If there are any green areas on the potatoes, it should be cut off. It contains a substance called solanine, which has a bitter taste and is considered poisonous (Gisslen, 2018).

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” slices. Then cut again into 1/4” sticks. Next, I took the bâtonette sticks and cut them into 1/4” cubes, aka the small dice cut. I cut another potato into a rectangular block to prepare for my next cut, julienne. The measurements of that cut are 1/8” x 1/8” x 2”. After cutting the block into 1/8″ slices, the final cut I performed was the brunoise cut, which is cutting the julienne sticks into 1/8” cubes.

It was an exciting experience to learn and master these new knife cuts. The culinary ruler was a huge help in measuring the potatoes precisely. That tool will come in handy going forward.

The featured dish is a pommes purée, which is similar to mashed potatoes. It’s a bit more fluid and translucent. It’s not fluffy as mashed potatoes, but still has that whipped, smooth, and creamy consistency. The purée had minimal ingredients and steps, but was a difficult dish to make. The first attempt at making the dish resembled a mashed potato texture. That wasn’t what I wanted. Fortunately, I had extra potatoes to try again.

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 from the boiled/simmered water, they are to dry for a bit before they are put into a food mill or mesh strainer. I let the potatoes dry for about five minutes, compared to 10-15 minutes in my prior attempt. The initial endeavor led to difficulty mashing the potatoes through the mesh strainer (I don’t have a food mill [yet]). They were probably too dry and had hardened. During the second try, the potatoes weren’t entirely dry yet, and therefore, it was a bit easier to mash through the strainer. Yay! I know that using a food mill, which was optional, would have made the mashing process a lot easier. Unsalted room temperature butter and warm heavy cream were added to the mashed potatoes. I mixed it as lightly and quickly as possible to avoid over-mixing that would create a “gummy” texture. The dish is seasoned with salt and pepper.

Phew! I’m glad the dish was better the second time around. You might have wondered what I did what all that extra potatoes? I made mashed potatoes and used it to make shepherd’s pie. Yum! It was a busy and tiring weekend in the kitchen, but worth every second. I enjoy cooking very much and am so glad to have this opportunity to learn more about culinary arts in an educational setting.

Happy new week,

FS x

References

Gisslen, W. (2018). Professional cooking, 9th ed. Wiley.