Shrimp…Squid…Lobsters…Oh My!

If there’s one thing that I have learned in culinary school so far, it’s that I am not cut out for killing animals.  I couldn’t do it, I couldn’t kill the lobster. We had to stab it and cut the limbs off while it was still moving.  The chef even said he doesn’t look forward to it and gave us an option not to do it.  There is nothing wrong with doing this halachically because “Ever Min Hachai (look at the bottom of the page)” doesn’t apply to shellfish and fish. I can work with dead ones, no problem, but alive to start…not my cup of tea.  As ugly as it was, I had no reason to kill that little bugger.  I did have a deep debate in my head about this though.
Why did I go to a non-kosher culinary school? Easy answer: To learn EVERYTHING! Crabs, lobsters, pig, shellfish, shrimp, and anything else you can name. I want to touch it, cook it and learn about it! Even if we cook something that is technically “kosher”, it was made in treif/non-kosher pots and pans and therefor is forbidden for me to eat.   Even if I wanted to try and taste it, I wouldn’t be able to get the full flavor unless it hits every taste bud on my tongue (Check out my Halacha section in the blog for more information).  By doing that, it risks actually consuming the item.  It is just really difficult, so I pretty much avoid it.  Guess I gotta practice on a lot of kosher food at home!
So why in the world am I putting myself through this?  Why can’t I just go to CKCA or the Jerusalem Culinary Institute?  Both, kosher culinary institutions.
Ever since I could remember I wanted to go to culinary school, and I promised myself that when I went, I was going to do it the whole way through.  I was going to prove that I can do this within halacha and get the full culinary experience and learn everything there was to know; kosher and non-kosher.  I got the kosher part down and there are Rabbis in easy access to ask questions to along the way.  So if I really want to increase my knowledge I was going to a place that had it all.
I can’t eat anything, and that’s not fun a lot of the time (especially when I’m in class from 6pm – 10pm without break), but that’s life and the end goal is worth it.   Before any orthodox Jew goes into an establishment or even more relevant to a lot of you, a secular work place, you have to be strong in what you believe and have a good grasp on the halachot pertaining to that area.  The techniques and variety of things I have learned and cooked with thus far are unimaginable.  Items which I never thought i would touch or let alone see without being behind a television screen or glass in a grocery store, I am now getting up close and personal with.

Goal: Use these techniques I learn in school to make kosher food as expansive as possible, in appearance and in flavor/taste!

1)Clam and Muscle Tomato Cream Stew
2)Lobsters before the kill


3) Squid (and its insides), shrimp, scallops (all prepared)
4) Clams, Oysters and Muscles    
Note: I wasn’t supposed to open the muscles before they were cooked. Oops! I was on a roll πŸ™‚

Come Here Fishy, Fishy, Fishy…

Words cannot even describe how much I am looking forward to and dreading these next two weeks. I am looking forward to conquering a fear!  That is one of the most terrifying yet best feelings in the world! “Fabrication” seems like a harmless word, and it is…but I have this ingrained fear in me of taking apart animals. Odd, right? For some yes and for some no. But either way, I am sure you can relate to one of those options πŸ™‚
Yesterday, we began our journey.  We started with fish.  I love fish, I really do!  They taste incredible, especially fresh.  Sushi, fried, baked, grilled, fish is good every way! I never realized though, how gross they really were to prepare fresh.  Just like when i dissected a cat and pig in biology class in college, I had to disconnect myself from the reality.  I will spare the details and pictures of the actual filleting process, but it was successful!  I filleted very nicely.  This skill will hopefully make it’s first appearance in about a week and a half when I go to Cancun.  There isn’t much kosher food there, but I will, nonetheless, eat in style!
Let me just give you an overview on how terrified I was.  For the past month, every time I passed the fish section in my grocery store or the meat department, I would literally stare at the meat and fish in order to desensitize myself.  The men at the counter probably thought I had a huge affinity to dead fish. The only thing I still have an issue with is lobster, I still can’t stop getting chills and looking away.  Also included in my “mission to desensitize”, I pre-gamed the class and bought myself a whole fish, gutted and “filleted” that little guy, and ate it.  A pretty gosh darn good experimental dish came out of it too.

Fish of the Sea: 
2 Bass, filleted and chopped
1 Onion, diced
1 Shallot, diced
1 Lemon, Juiced 
Salt and Pepper
Paprika
Thyme
Cherry Tomatoes
Parsley, chopped (garnish)
Wild Rice
Bake all ingredients together, covered, at 325 degrees for about 30 minutes.  Spoon the fish on a pile of wild rice.  Garnish with parsley.   

I filleted and gutted four fish yesterday, of which include: 2 Flounder, 1 Mackerel, and 1 Bass. (Refer to the garlic article) Same reaction on the subway home.  You would be surprised how many people gravitated towards me on the subway.  I thought I smelled, others loved it.  A day later and my hands still smell like fish.  I have rubbed a numerous amount of floral lotion on them to try and mask the smell.  The result? I now smell like a  flowery fish. Mmmmmm…..I should bottle that one up! “Eu Deu Perfume Fishe’ Flowere'”   
People call dibs on the food I prepare before class even begins (even the chef is in the “game” of who gets my food/leftovers).  But not yesterday! I walked away with some leftover fresh salmon and trout.  It’s the first and only thing I have been able to take home since we began! Very exciting time! Just gotta rinse them off and cook em’ for dinner.
The truth is, what really kept me going through this whole process was my mom.  She grew up with Lake Erie literally being her backyard.  She would, along with a boat full of boys, go fishing almost everyday in the summer.  What was her job (besides the fishing)?  The gutter and filleter!  If my mom can do it, so can I!  After all, it’s in the genes…and yesterday that was proven! Mom, you gave me the “guts” to do it!

Pickled Cabbage

If you’re ever stuck on a desert island and are only allowed to bring one thing with you, bring anything pickled.  It will last virtually forever! Cucumbers, meat, fish. You name it…it can be pickled.
Pickling is done by mixing salt with water to produce lactic acid, or through vinegar.  The sour and salty taste sounds gross but as we all know (or don’t, for those people who have strangely never tried a pickle) it is actually Delicious!  The world has quite a variety of pickled flavors.  I love the Korean kimchi.  It’s pickled cabbage with a dash of spicy (or really spicy if you like).  By making it yourself, you can choose how long you want to ferment it and how spicy you would like it to be.
Their are always exceptions.  I personally do not like pickled lemons.  It’s basically eating a salty and even sourer form of a lemon…yes it’s possible!  Yet, I know someone who can eat them like candy.
So right after you read this start experimenting and get pickling! If all else fails, it’s a good conversation starter…
Picture this: You are on a date, awkward silence.  She reaches for her tea and eyes wander.  You start to sweat.  Then you remember and say….
You: “I once pickled cabbage”
You just reeled her back in…just like that…Bam! Date saved and convo restored.
You can thank me later. πŸ˜‰

This was our mass quantity of pickled cabbage we made in class yesterday.  It’s ready to start fermenting.

Pickled Cabbage

1 Head of Cabbage (red, green, Chinese), cut in chunks or Julienned
3 Cups Water
2 Cups Apple Cider Vinegar
1 Cup Sugar
1 TBS. Salt
1 TBS. Pickling Spice, wrapped in cheese cloth (refer to Sachet d’epice)
Bring all the ingredients to a boil except the cabbage.  Put cabbage in a plastic or glass container and pour boiled liquid (after it cools) over the top.  Make sure all cabbage is completely immersed in the liquid.  Seal and wait a few days.  Store in fridge.  It will last forever (but you will probably eat it first).

Oscar Mayer Weinermobile Spotting!

I know, I know, I know….You all are thinking it….why is this article all about something that isn’t kosher when this is a kosher blog??!!
It’s okay, don’t start panicking.  I actually just updated my Halacha section so you can see all my questions that I had answered by my local orthodox rabbi.
Nonetheless, I saw the Oscar Mayer Weinermobile!!! There are only 7 in the United States and I saw one! Very post worthy.
And…this does have to do with culinary school because I saw it on the way to school!

 Wouldn’t it be cool if that was kosher? 

Marinated Portobello Mushrooms

I am a huge mushroom lover (specifically portobellos)!  They are extremely flavorful and have a meaty texture.  I made this for Shabbat and it was gobbled up in less then the amount of time it took me to prepare it.  The marinade gives these meaty mushrooms a sweet and tangy flavor. 

1) Wash, dry and slice 2 lbs of large or baby portobello mushrooms and spread on baking sheet.
2) Combine: 
Β½ C. Olive Oil
ΒΌ C. Red Wine Vinegar
2 t. Soy Sauce
2 T. Honey or Agave
2 t. Garlic, minced
2 t. Lemon Juice


Whisk marinade together and pour on top of mushrooms.  Bake in the oven at 350 degrees for 20 minutes.

Made with this marinade, they are a great side dish alone, or give that extra flair to an omelet, pizza or salad. 

Italian Men Are Like Jewish Mothers

The title pretty much says it all.  Fact: I just recieved the shidduch talk from my chef.  I assumed it wasn’t so strange to have an Orthodox Jew in a non kosher class at a culinary school, but apparently it’s not as common as I thought.  The chef had a very keen interest in my personal life yesterday.  I was explaining that botKosherfest and Kosher Food and Wine Experience are heaven on earth to me.  3 days of pure bliss, going through aisles and aisles of kosher food, new products and alcohol…it’s kinda awesome. He then went on to say that “you must enjoy it because…you know…”
Yes, I knew exactly what he meant.
So instead of stating the obvious, I just went for a broader word “networking.”  He smiled, winked and said “you could really work your way around there and meet some nice Jewish foodie guys, if ya know what I mean.”
I felt my face turn redder then the tomato puree we had made earlier. I was just waiting for him to mention that “one other Jewish guy, in the culinary program, during the morning classes, who comes in the days I don’t” to be the perfect match for me.  I saw it coming, so I quickly cut him off and asked him about the sachets’ we were preparing.  School is one of my only little distractions away from “the scene.”  But, on the plus side, culinary school is definitely a bonus and will rank me up there in being one heck of an Aishes Chayil. πŸ˜‰
 

Bouquet Garnei and Sachet D’epice

That’s right I make my chicken matzah ball soup with a sachet’! Booyakasha!

Next Contestant on “Chopped”

and chopped I did…
We are right now in the process of perfecting every type of basic chop, dice and mince.  I realized yesterday that I ROCK at mincing, but if you ask me to chop up large cubes of a potato, expect it to not be ready for at least 20 minutes. It is freakin hard. You have to eye the whole process and be very exact!
I’m a perfectionist, but for flavor and look.  It’s very rare that I’m 100 % satisfied with something I made. 
I happen to like the rustic look of the jagged edge, slightly uneven vegetables.  But French, they love perfection!  For example my large cubed potatoes would probably be tossed.   I just have to keep working on it. One cannot practice enough.
My Chef, an Italian man, likes to cook with everything.  He grew up in a home that used the ends and scraps.  He made it clear that those dished would not even be given the time of day in a French kitchen, even if it tasted heavenly.
After 1 hour of instruction and 2 hours of practice in the kitchen, I went home and began my homework…doing it all over again!   I came out with one injury, which i think is very impressive.
Minced Shallot, Minced Garlic, Large Cubed Potatoes, and Small Diced Pepper
My Battle Wound. Don’t worry mommy, I still have hopes of becoming a hand model πŸ™‚
“When you get cut…”  Those were the first words out of the chefs mouth when we began class.  This cut is nothing.  It’s like a paper cut!  As with every chef, there always need to be battle wounds.  Thankfully, I have only had 2 major (but proud) ones in my life which required stitches.  My “misses” always happen on my left hand because my right one slips.  I mistakened  my hand for both a cantaloupe and turnip. Don’t we all? Just like steak tastes better with a few seasonings, so too chefs are better with a few scars/seasonings.  It hurt, not gonna lie, but looking back I remember looking at the stitches and saying to myself  “I am one step closer to becoming a chef.” 

Garlic…The Everlasting Scent

I had to do two things yesterday for homework:
1) Peel garlic for today
2) Engrave my knives.  I will get into more detail about my knives later on, but for now, just know that they are AWESOME!
My hands smell like garlic. Overpowering garlic. 
There were many reactions on the subway this morning.  Some people ran to the other end of the car, some snuggled in close to me, and I even got a few sniffs pointed in my direction.  I promise, I took a shower and scrubbed my hands like mad. I heard if you put lemon juice on your hands it makes the smell go away, but I did not because I  actually love the smell and figured it would go away by tomorrow anyways! 
It’s “bring your garlic to work day.”
Russian woman have a reputation for smelling like garlic.  If you eat enough of it, you actually sweat the smell.  So if you have your eye on a Russian cutie, take my advice, eat a lot of garlic, go to the gym, then immediately find a way to see him.  He won’t be able to resist your aroma.  I once ate all the garlic from a 40 clove garlic chicken and guess who snagged that Russian cutie the next day? True story. 

Herbs!

My first day of culinary school at the Institute of Culinary Education (ICE) started last Tuesday.  I have been dreaming of this since I could remember.  My family boasts about my flaws and experiments in the past that did or did not go over so well.  If I had pictures of these beauties I would definitely post them!  Whole wheat gelatinous bread pudding, chocolate cake with scrambled eggs inside, cholent pockets….just to name a few. Yes, I have had faults and still do, but that’s what makes cooking so exciting! If you don’t try and come up with new things, you never know what tasty dish you have the ability to create!
I love food!  I know that’s a broad statement that many people agree with, but my love of food is encompassed in making good food, not necessarily eating it.  I take pleasure in watching people enjoy my food and get chills when I see someone taste something so foreign and new to them…and like it!  Don’t get me wrong, I love eating too, but cooking is about sharing good food and creating experiences for people they never would have had without your creation.
With this mentality I embark on my new journey in the culinary world.  Our first day we identified herbs and had a basic orientation.  The smell of each herb was enticing and I just wanted to chop it up then and there and start cooking! 
Culinary school….Bring. It. On.
My “art project”: Herb Identification.  It was so bright, pretty and green, I wanted to frame it!