Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Hurricane Survival Kit 101

These are the brownies I made on one of my last days in Florida. I wanted them to be regular at first, but turns out Justin didn't have any baking dishes so I had to spread it really thin on a cookie sheet and then ponder what to do with it afterwards.
What tastes better than chocolate and Nutella? And thus, Hurricane Brownies were made.
You could put anything in the middle though. Frosting, candy, cheesecake filling...

I have made them both, from scratch and from a box, and both turned out delicious.


I haven't been on for a while because of the hurricane, but fear not, the Internet is back.

Since being back in Maryland I have had a little bit of a food adventure. Loving to eat seems to run in the family so these past couple of days have been all about food, food, and more food.

Where to start but at the beginning:
  1. Nutella Filled Brownies. These are really easy and ridiculously good. I think I am going to call them "Hurricane Brownies" because the first time I made them was when Hurricane Irene was scheduled to Florida, and the second time was in Maryland, during Irene.
  2. I already managed to make it to An Potin Stil, with my grandparents and sister, since being here. I, of course, got the Bookmaker Sandwhich, with the Irish Spring Rolls.
  3. After enjoying lunch, we went to an Oriental Market in Timonium, MD. It is a little hard to find, but they have everything needed to make Asian cuisine, most of which is the same brands used by The Culinary Institute of America. They also make their own Kim-Chi, which is a rarity in Maryland.
  4. Next up on the list of edible delights was the ever famous, Andy Nelson's. I met Mr. Nelson on this visit. Turns out he is from Alabama, not too far from where I externed at this summer. That would explain why his barbecue is so delicious!
  5. I don't know what it is, but recently I have found so many bookstore closings, thus resulting in really cheap cookbooks. I got a couple of good ones so there will be more book reviews coming, as well as a product review (I am such a sucker for gadgets!).
And that's the recap of my week back in Maryland. I have quite a lot of food ideas floating around in my head right now, so I'm sure they're going to make for some interesting posts very soon!

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Scales, Gills, Pin Bones! Oh My!

After I posted why I love my little pliers for pining fish instead of tweezers, I realized that I should probably should have mentioned something about how to pin a fish. Duh!
So here it is, all of the tips and tricks on: How to Pin Bone a Fish.

Before we get to the tips, let us start at the beginning. What is a pin bone and why is it there? Well, pin bones are intramuscular bones that run length wise within the fish in the rib cage area. This means that, no matter how the fish cut (unless you are getting the portion past the rib cage), the bones will always be present since they are not connected to the main skeleton of the fish. They provide the fish's flesh with more stability and structure when it is swimming.

Not all fish have pin bones, but it can never hurt to double check. Here is a list of fish that are usually pin bone free:

Me and a Pair of Farm Raised Atlantic
Sea Bass
Dover Sole
Cod-and all relatives
Mahi Mahi

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Fire Breathing Fruit in Florida

One thing I love about traveling is being introduced to things I do not have the opportunity to work with at home.

While grocery shopping in Florida today, I stumbled upon a basket of dragon fruit. A sight never seen in New York, or Maryland even since they are native to South America. So, naturally I bought one. I plan on making a dragon fruit granita out of it to help combat the Florida heat.

Me Reminding You to Eat Local


A dragon fruit is a pink and green skinned fruit with a variety of flesh colors, ranging from pink to red to yellow or white. Pink and white are the most common variety and are most likely to end up in your grocery store.

Plethora of Dragon Fruit
A relative of the kiwi, a ripe dragon fruit should have very little spotting on the skin and a slight give when gently pressed with your thumb. The flesh will be tender yet firm and juicy with a mild sweetness.

Like a kiwi, the interior is speckled with edible seeds, and the flesh must be removed from the inedible skin.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

To Pin or Not to Pin

Pin boning fish seems to be one of those tasks that will follow you everywhere, so I recommend getting a pair of something to aid in the pin boning process. I use a pair of 6" Jewelry Pliers that I picked up at Walmart for $8.00 (it was a set of three). Why do I like these more than the pin boning pliers used in Fish Fabrication Class? Well,
  • They fit nicely in my hands and have grips on the handle.
  • They can be used for other tasks, like removing the beard from mussels.
  • They come in a variety of  sizes from tiny three inch pliers to larger, full sized versions.
  • They are inexpensive and readily available.
  • They come in different colors so it is very easy to make sure you get them back after loaning them out.
  • And they are spring loaded, unlike most pliers purchased at the hardware store.

The World's Premiere Culinary School

In a little over three weeks I will be back in the Hudson Valley at The Culinary Institute of America and seeing as I have yet to write a single post about the school, I figured now would be a good time to channel my inner excitement and write about "The World's Premiere Culinary School."

The CIA in January

The CIA has probably the most beautiful campus I have ever seen. In every direction there is a breath taking view. The school is on the Hudson River. And when I say on, I mean on the river; so close you can walk to it. The flower pots are overflowing with eggplants, chard and herbs, behind the dorms are strawberry and raspberry bushes-- at this school, food is definitely life. The inside of the school is just as stunning as the outside, with its cathedral-esque dining room and state of the art kitchens.
The part they do not show you on the tour, however, is the basement. And what they do not tell you is that half of the students will end up down there for class instead of in the new show kitchens on the first floor. Is this necessarily a bad thing? No. I took all of my first year classes in the basement level classrooms. The only difference, really, is the decorative aspects, like the tiles on the walls and the huge windows that passers by use to gawk at you and wave their cameras around in. You are always on display at this school, and you will learn quickly how to always be doing your best, and of course, to always be a professional. Dodging the tour groups in the hallways will soon become second nature, much like the tri fold of the green checkered side towels.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Strawberries and Cream Pancakes

I have a secret love affair with all things breakfast; pancakes, coffee, bacon, bagels...mmmmmm. Not only do I love eating breakfast but I love making it, too. There is just something about working the breakfast shift at a busy restaurant that makes me happy. In honor of completing the breakfast portion of my externship, I'm making a crowd favorite for lunch,or dare I say, brunch.

Strawberries and Cream Pancakes

For these pancakes I use Very Vanilla Silk Soy Milk instead of regular milk for two reasons: first, I'm lactose intolerant and second it adds to the "cream" aspect of these strawberries and cream pancakes.

Yields: 9 Silver Dollar Sized Pancakes

1 c. Bisquick
1 egg
1/2 c. Vanilla Soy Milk
6 oz White Chocolate, shaved
6 oz Strawberries, hulled and chopped small

Mix the pancake batter with the milk and the egg. Do not try to beat all of the lumps out of the batter!!!!!! A little lumpy is good.
Add in the strawberries and the white chocolate. Cook just like any other pancake, golden on the outside, light and fluffy on the inside.
I like mine with powdered sugar and a cup of coffee.

I was thinking about trying these with blueberries or peaches next time and with honey instead of powdered sugar. Good news is, there are plenty of lazy mornings to enjoy pancakes.


Saturday, August 13, 2011

Amanda Runs On...

After a long three months without it, Dunkin' Donuts Iced Coffee and I have been reunited!

Is it sad to say that one of the first questions I ask myself when traveling is "How close is the nearest D&D?"? I think not. There is not one Dunkin' Donuts anywhere near Point Clear, Alabama, the nearest being in Pensacola, Florida. How do these people live without it?
In honor of being reunited with the beloved beverage here is a quick history of how the franchise took over America, one cup at a time.

How I Spend Summer Days

In 1946, William Rosenberg invested $5,000 in a quick service organization that delivered snacks to worker on the outskirts of Boston. In 1950 the first Dunkin' Donuts was opened in Quincy, MA. Within 15 years there were over a hundred stores open. Add another 15 years and there were over a thousand locations.
Today, Dunkin' Donuts is one of the leaders in successful franchises being number one in several aspects of coffee and baked goods sales. D&D has even gone global with stores through out Europe and China. By 2012 they expect to open locations in India as well.
Should it now be said that "The World Runs on Dunkin'"?

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Happy Birthday To Me

In just a few days my birthday will be here, and we all know what that means: new gadgets. But there is one gift, that I have already received, that has caught me completely off guard, something I never would have seen coming my way.
Upon arriving in Florida, to spend the remainder of my externship break, there was a knock on the door. Delivered was a small Amazon box. After patiently waiting for months, it was here. Whatever "it" was.
Sitting on the coffee table was a beautiful new Shun Ken Onion 8" Chef Knife with display stand and a Kai Magnetic Blade Guard.

May I say I am in love with this knife. Let's talk about it.
  • It is lightweight. Weighing in at 18.2 ounces, it is lighter than most traditional forged knives.
  • The handle. This handle is ergonomically designed to fit comfortably in your hand from the first use. At first, I was a little skeptical about the design seeing as I had, before, only used straight handled knives. This knife changed my mind entirely. Never again will I use a straight handled knife. There are also little divots to rest your fingers in. Did I mention I love this knife?
  • The blade is not straight either. The blade has a groove in it, perfect for placing your hand when chopping herbs, chocolate, nuts, anything that needs a rock and chop motion.

The Kai Blade Guard is also of superior quality, with a few quirks of its' own.
  • It comes in three sizes (small, medium and large) which will fit any knife.
  • It can be cut to custom fit any blade, regardless of blade width, curve, etc.
  • Its magnetic, to hold on really tight to the knife.
  • It wont crack, chip and split like the conventional plastic blade guards. I've had two of those break on me so far and one break ended with the blade in my finger, so I am a little weary of them now.
I am so happy with this gift. Justin could not have picked a more wonderful present.

Monday, August 8, 2011

Fahrenheit 270

When someone tells you to caramelize a chicken breast, thanks to television and novice home chefs, you think golden brown and delicious. Simultaneously, in the mind of an educated food service professional, that nails on a chalk board effect has kicked in and all other attempts at communication are frivolous.
Note: There is no way a chicken breast, or any other type of protein,can be caramelized. Period.
Have you started to scratch your head yet? Lets break it down.

Caramelization is the chemical reaction between sugars, such as those found in vegetables and starches, and heat, i.e. the pan, grill, etc.

Maillard reactions, named for the French scientist who discovered this reaction in the early 1900's, are reactions that take place between proteins, like those found in meats, poultry, and seafood, and heat.

So when anything containing a protein is heated above 270 degrees Fahrenheit and browns, it is a Maillard reaction. Anything else is deemed caramelization.
Simple, no?

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Mile High Club or Turkey Club?

Sitting in Pensacola Airport, I realized something: I just ate a restaurant that I don't even know the name of. I look around there isn't anything with hint as to what this place is called...I guess its just Restaurant a la Airport, but hey, your guess is as good as mine. Faced with a chalkboard of sandwiches and fried foods galore, I wondered how many people are actually hungry when they come here, or are they bored and lured in by the smell of golden brown, well, anything.
This is the only airport I had ever been in where there is a single restaurant paired with a single magazine, souvenir, candy store. Before I experienced the uni restaurant hub, I thought the volume of restaurants per airport were required to keep up with the demands of hungry fliers, I guess not. At 5:30 on a Friday, the nameless restaurant's ticket count was barely scraping seven hundred. Impressive? Not at all. For all of the departing flights one would think that the count would be higher than that of a swimming pool bar on a summer day.
So I ask again: is this restaurant business a necessity in the airport. You could argue that a vast liquor selection is a must, but that's another topic in its entirety. Is it necessary to have four full service and a dozen quick service restaurants at your disposal when flying? I would opt to say no. Is the price for airport food reasonable, absolutely not. After paying fourteen dollars for a sandwich and a canned drink, I realized I could have had a starter and a soup at a fine dining restaurant.
At a career fair, I interviewed with a man who owned the franchise responsible for eighty five percent of the full service, off chain, restaurants in airports. After an hour of chatting I learned that the majority of the restaurants had large freezers. Translation: Lots of frozen food.
Could McDonald's handle the burden of seven hundred hungry passengers? Is that a joke? With "one million served everyday" it would be a pleasure to them and your pocket.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

From Amaranth to Zucchini, You're Covered.

If mountaineers need field guides, then any chef, no matter how seasoned, needs this reference book.
Vegetables from Amaranth to Zucchini: The Essential Reference by Elizabeth Schneider is the go to resource for everyone owning a frying pan.
After stumbling upon it at a library in Alabama, it was love at first page. This book covers common, and not so common, vegetables from around the world; there are entries for Chinese market finds and Turkish delights. Each vegetable has pictures, history, common uses, cooking techniques, when to find it and even a selection of recipes. The book is organized alphabetically, making it a snap to locate what you have in your midst. It's a great find for those of us adventurous enough to buy a new item at a farmers market and take it home before asking yourself "What the hell am I going to do with it?".
Although this book doesn't contain every single vegetable, despite its six pounds of paper, it is one of my favorite go to books. And besides, so what if Lemon Cucumber isn't in the index, create your own entry. Discovery is half the adventure.