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Chefs Tasting Notes: Episode 1

Last week I introduced you to Chef’s tasting notes. Each week I will make a point to taste and review new products from here in Quebec. (Maybe Canada as well.)

Well, here we go!

Éphémère Apple Beer

FMRpomme1

I know, this picture is bad. I just wanted to protect the… innocent. Yes, that’s what we will go with.

I had this beer on our usual Friday Poker night.

This brew comes from a microbrewer Unibroue in Chambly (Quebec).

The fairy on the label represents the fruit picked at the peak of their ripeness of the season. There are several different flavors showcasing the seasonal produce of Quebec, and this brew is by far the most popular.

There is a legend with this beer that is worth the time to check out here. I can get behind a beer with a story like that!

Now onto the beer.

  • Appearance – Slight yellow, cloudy.
  • Smell – tart apple and wheat, but a touch of skunk after opening for the first couple of minutes.
  • Taste – Tart apple and wheat with a hint of hops.
  • Mouth feel – A little thin with nice carbonation.
  • Overall6.5/10 The beer was different. For those that don’t like fruit, it would be a turn off. For me it is just okay. A quick look on the site for the beer shows that I didn’t taste it in it’s proper setting. I had the beer straight out of a cold fridge, and drank it out of the bottle. I will need to try this one again, and perhaps the rating will improve.
  • Serve with: Pair this with something light. Perhaps an apple pie would be a good or a pork dish. I wonder if a basting sauce for ham would do the trick?

Château Pesquié Quintessence 2011

QuintessenceChateauPesquie

Delicious, perfect for grilled foods

I received this bottle as a gift for my Renewal of Vows. I opened it up with an old-school cork remover because we forgot our corkscrew at home. Oops! I must have done something wrong because there were bits of cork floating in the first glass I had. I didn’t let that stop me of course!

  • Appearance – Dark red, great big leg.
  • Smell – Musty, fruity, dark
  • Taste – It was as if someone mixed grapes, plums, and blackberries with a heavy dash of freshly ground black peppercorns.
  • Mouthfeel – Full of body, with a meaty punch in the craw.
  • Overall9/10 The first glass was okay, but after I let it air out for an hour the taste improved. I am unskilled in wine it would seem.
  • Serve with: A selection of strong cheeses, or grilled meats – especially duck or lamb. A dish with rosemary would complement this wine.

Iberico Adarga de Oro

A Spanish cheese made with three milks (cow, sheep and goat). Its soft and particular flavor is the result of this mix. “Adarga de Oro”, the Golden Shield in Spanish, refers to the region where the cheese is made and to the famous Don Quichotte.

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Maybe I should have taken a picture before I opened it. Right. Like that would happen.

I picked this cheese up in the store with two others. (I’ll review them in weeks to come.) I was looking for something firm, that would go well with the wine that I had. (See above.)

  • Appearance – Hard, opaque creamy white. There is a dark rind around the cheese. The cheese is humid.
  • Smell – Sharp, olive oil, not unlike a Parmesan
  • Taste – Sharp flavor, much like a Parmesan, but with a mellowing. A hint of olive oil.
  • Mouthfeel –  Rich, and leaves bits of graininess on your tongue after. The flavor lingers.
  • Overall Score 8/10. It’s an easy choice. It goes well with anything, and is good all by itself.
  • Serve with: I would pair this with potatoes, strong, tart grapes, and with a bold red wine. I think it would go well in a soup recipe, or perhaps as a sharp note in a canapé.

Your Turn:

What new and exciting things have you tried out this week? Let me know in the comments.

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Good morning all, it’s Monday, and that means it’s time for more questions.

Grilling corn

That corn looks fantastic!

Melissa asks:

I’ve heard of chefs grilling corn with butter and spices. How do I do that?

Adding a compound butter to your corn is a great way to heighten the flavor. Adding butter to the corn before cooking it will baste and infuse the kernels with the flavor.

  • If using the husks, soak the whole cob in water for thirty minutes.
  • Pull the husks back one by one, remove the silk. (Discard the husks if you are not using them.)
  • Prepare your compound butter and spices, then spread it evenly over the corn.
  • Carefully place the husks back over the corn so they resemble an ear. (Skip this step if you’ve discarded the husks.)
  • Wrap corn in foil.
  • Grill over direct heat, on the medium-high spot.
  • Turn every two minutes, for 10 minutes, or until the kernels are golden yellow color.
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Alas, not in my destiny…

Velvet asks:

Whatcha think? You going to audition? I saw they were holding auditions and you were the first person I thought of.

Answer: I wish I could but I violate the eligibility requirements:

    1. 10. All MasterChef Canada participants must be amateurs, if you have previous kitchen experience that the Producer deems could create an unfair advantage you are not eligible. For example:
      1. a) You cannot have ever worked full-time in a kitchen as a cook, chef or in food preparation; and/or
      2. b) You cannot have earned money from preparing food and/or cooking fresh food in a professional kitchen environment (i.e. restaurant, café, take-away, etc.) for more than six (6) weeks at a time in the last fifteen (15) years;
Chef

This is a nice, cozy kitchen. Notice it’s dark. What time do you think it is?

wwebb37 asks:

I just graduated culinary school, and had a job at a country club. I worked there for 2 days and then quit because the hour and a half commute 5 days a week was tough especially getting home at midnight. I’m wanting to find a culinary job from 9 am to 5 pm. I hear that the (M)arriot hotels are similar to that. Any ideas?

To everyone thinking of becoming a cook:

A cook position is NOT a 9 to 5 job. You’ll work with students, misfits, drug addicts, habitual thieves, alcoholics, and lifers. They are not people that respond well to a degree, or give a rats ass which school you went to. What they want to know is if you can HANG with them while they are in the shit. Are you in it together?

That is the reality in the cooking world: There are no holidays, sick days, weekends, or 9-5. Ask yourself this question – when you go out to eat, who do you think prepares your food?

Do you want to be a successful cook? The passion to cook should consume your thoughts, and you could care less about having to work on the nights, weekends, Christmas. Otherwise, you will not last in this business.

professionalBaking

My personal book

sophiakp asks:

Greetings! I will be joining the culinary arts academy in Switzerland for the pastry and chocolate art. I would love to practise for the next 6 months before I join in Jan 2014. Can someone please recommend a good pastry book where I can acquire some skills.

Great question Sophia, congratulations on studying in Switzerland.

First, I would contact the school you are going to and see what is on their reading list. Buy the books there and get your head start.

You could also look to getting one of these books: (links go to my Amazon Store)

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Forget Timmy! A Kicked Up Breakfast Sandwich

A beautiful breakfast sandwich

The alarm clock rings, time to get up and go. If you are like my other half, you have slept until the last second. You don’t have time to waste piddling around the kitchen making a breakfast sandwich. No, it’s simpler to get it to go.

That’s how I found myself at the local Tim Horton’s getting a combo-deluxe-six-dollar-bomb. For me a medium coffee and a gut-busting breakfast sandwich on a Tim’s breakfast biscuit. I dutifully give my kid the chocolate chip muffin.

Before I learned to speak French, I made sure that I would be able to order my favorite sandwich and coffee. Knowing how to communicate your desires is important.

Can we produce something better in less time than it takes to hit the drive-through? (I’m including getting in the car, and driving that way.)

Let’s see if it’s easy to do.

BreakfastSandwich_02

Here you have Bread, Spread, Filling – all the things you need to create a delicious breakfast sandwich.

 

What do we need to make a breakfast sandwich?

A breakfast sandwich is a simple hot sandwich.  Tim Horton’s contains these components:

  1. Bread – baked biscuit
  2. Spread – margarine
  3. Filling – sausage, scrambled egg, American cheese

I don’t have the ingredients that the Timmy’s would have, but I have:

Egg Sandwich with Double Cream Brie and Artisanal Salami

Ingredients:

Method:

  1. Heat nonstick pan over medium heat; place half the butter to melt. When butter begins to bubble (not brown), it is ready.
  2. Toast English muffin; spread the rest of the butter on one hot side then place two hot bun pieces together to distribute butter evenly.
  3. Meanwhile, fry egg to your liking.
  4. Place egg on bottom of the bun.
  5. Slice sausage, place on top of egg.
  6. Slice Brie cheese, place on top of Salami
  7. Place bun on top, serve.

BreakfastSandwich_03

The Verdict:

It takes five minutes of time to prepare the sandwich. The key is to multitask. One idea is to prepare the eggs and heat them in the morning as your bread is toasting. For the WDC reader, it’s just as easy to make this in the morning as it is to drive to the coffee shop.

My friend Nick over at Macheesmo has a couple of posts for ideas of breakfast sandwiches:

Breakfast Sandwiches and Breakfast Sandwiches Revisited

Your turn:

What’s your kicked-up breakfast sandwich? Let me know in the comments below.

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Culinary Toolbox: Eat Smart Precision Pro Digital Scale

There is nothing that I hate more than a recipe that fails. As soon as the execution is over, I’m left with something that doesn’t even resemble the picture!

Worse, the ingredient list used volumetric measurements. How much flour is in a cup? Did the author sift the flour first? Was it humid or dry when they tested the recipe?

I believe that everyone would benefit from using a scale. Today I’m reviewing the scale that I use, and tell you why it’s an essential item for your toolbox.

Eat Smart sent me a scale in 2010 to review. He wrote in his email

…this is a scale that is really targeted at the non-professional. It does all of the things your commercial scale does in a more compact, cost efficient little package.

Today’s review is an update on the scale, three years after use.

Why do you need this scale?

If you are going to get serious about cooking – whether in a cooking school or at home, you must have a scale.

What does the scale look like?

The scale arrives in an understated box. I like is the no-nonsense packaging.

a photo of the box the scale came in

Nice packaging, understated, but nice

The scale is packaged in a nice box with a booklet giving calorie counts for weights of food items, two AAA batteries.

The scale I received is brushed gray, plastic. It feels light, almost flimsy.

a photo of the contents of the box

The scale was remarkably light.

Let’s put it through the kitchen torture test. How does the scale function?

Kitchen equipment has a mysterious power to break itself, with no fault of any cook that was using it. How will it fare?

The most important feature about a scale is it needs to be easy to tare. This scale has a button that tares in one click.

a photo of me taring the scale

Even with a heavy bowl it tares like a champ.

The scale is tared

The scale is tared

The scale comes complete with a calorie counter based on weights. For most purposes here on WDC, it won’t be important. If you are counting calories, it’s a bonus for you.

I took the scale and used it for my inventory. Inventory is a measure of your current money value for your stock. Accurate weights are important for a proper inventory.

a photo of me using the scale for inventory

It works for inventory, so that means this scale is good!

The scale performed well for inventory. It only goes up to 11 pounds, but for home use, it will be fine.

Let’s kick the torture test up a notch…

I sent the scale off with my kitchen staff.

I am happy to report it returned in mint condition. Perhaps it is because the thought of breaking the Chef’s personal scale might not sit well with a cook. I am inclined to believe it was dropped, abused and tossed around. These things happen in the kitchen. (Not that a cook would admit it, mind you!)

Finally, even my pastry chef weighed out the ingredients for her creations on it. I am happy to report I did not get any cake pans in the head, which means the scale did its job.

I mentioned above the scale felt flimsy. I am chef enough to admit it. I was wrong. It’s a tough scale, lightweight because of it’s no-nonsense design.

Taring is easy. Compared with my “professional” scale it’s a snap. I didn’t have to fight the button to shut it off, or to tare.

The batteries are easy to replace. With some scales, you have to have special batteries which require sacrifices to dark gods to find the right ones. Worse, they usually exact a cost that is little in return for what you get.

Now, I have to disclose Eat Smart sent the scale to me for review. I wasn’t paid to give the scale a good review. Any of you who know me can rest assured that I will tell you exactly how it is when it comes to a product. If you want to get serious with the WDC, then this product belongs on your shelf.

Summary:

The Good:

For the price, you just can’t go wrong. You can spend upwards of 250$ for a scale that will do the same thing.

The Bad:

It is hard to see the readout when you have a bigger bowl on the pad. I wish the scale was longer so you can read the display while taring ingredients in a bowl.

The Ugly:

It’s a bit on the plain side. You won’t win any design awards for having it in your kitchen.

The Verdict:

I think this is a good addition to your culinary toolbox. For the price you are paying, it’s a steal compared with other scales out there.

Buy your Eat Smart Precision Pro Today

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Who Are You?

the WHO ARE YOU key

Today I plan to update the About Page, the Kitchen Glossary Page, and work on the template.

I thought it would be interesting to do something a bit different; it’s time to answer the question: Who are you?

Who are you anyway?

I see you as me, before I graduated from culinary school and completed my apprenticeship. That was a time where I could’ve used a guide, so here I am.

You are either a culinary student, an apprentice, or a serious cook looking to sort through the information out there. You have the basic tools to cook, but are unsure about how the theory applies to the practice.

Like me, you have an insatiable hunger for food knowledge.

 

You don’t need to have millions of step-by-step pictures, but a clear explanation about why you perform the steps that way so you will never forget what you are learning.

You tell me

What do you think? Is that a fair representation of you? Let me know in the comments.

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Introducing: Chefs Tasting Notes

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Have you stood at the wall of wine and looked, gobsmacked over which you would choose? Perhaps you’ve looked at the wine list in a restaurant and drew a blank? Read further, we will fix that.

I am currently on my honeymoon in a beautiful region of Quebec called the Laurentians. I tasted a few wines from this region when an inspiration struck me.

Wines (and alcohol in general) are an avenue students of cooking rarely explore.

We have a rough time pairing wine with our food, or what beer to drink with those fish tacos.

I’m going to start a weekly column called “Chef’s Tasting Notes.”

Our goal is to get out there and taste a new wine, beer, or spirit. I hope we open discussion on what we serve with it, and our thoughts on it.

Having wine and liquor knowledge is another tool in your set of skills that will carry you far in your culinary career.

What are your thoughts? Have you tried a new wine lately? Let me know in the comments.

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Good morning all! It’s Monday, time for more questions.

Sourdough Bread

I heard that you were getting into sourdough. I’ve always wanted to try it out. How is yours turning out? Where can I find some information on that?

I have indeed stepped foot into the murky underworld that is sourdough bread baking. I wish that I could shower you with stories of my success, but the truth is, I am currently learning myself.

Bella and I are still getting to know each other, and I’m sure over time we’ll develop a bond. Or else she goes in the garbage. My friend Kelly says she smells nice, so perhaps she can stay.

I use the Bread Bible, The Bread Bakers Apprentice, and here is my favorite site I visit called The Fresh Loaf.

Tesco Value vs Tesco Finest: the battle of the Victoria Sponge cakes

Candy123 asks:

How do you get that sponge cake [genoise] so flat? Mine always comes out rounded on the top

There are many causes for failure when baking sponge type cakes. Unless I saw what you were doing, it’s impossible for me to diagnose what is going wrong, so all I can offer is a few guidelines. (Based off Professional Baking page 339)

  • Improper mixing. Make sure that you are mixing your sponge on high to set the eggs, then reduce your speed to medium so you incorporate the air into the mixture evenly.
  • Batter spread unevenly. Make sure that you spread your batter evenly in your pan.
  • Uneven oven heat. Do not use convection setting. Use an oven thermometer if you feel that your oven has uneven heat.
  • Oven racks not level. This applies to a professional setting where the ovens are large stand up, and I have seen it happen. Okay, so it was me!
  • Cake pans warped. I used to work with pastry chefs, and until I spent time in the bakeshop, I never understood why they were so protective of the baking sheets. Trust me when I tell you, it is complete misery working in a shop with dented and warped baking sheets.

chicken shish kabob marinade recipe

Thanks4Food asks:

I was planning to make a spatchcocked grilled chicken recipe today, but it looks like it’s going to rain. It’s one of Steven Raichlen’s recipes, “Spatchcocked Chicken with Walnut-Dill Pesto.” He says to marinate the chickens in the pesto rub “for as little as 2 hours or as long as overnight (12 hours)”.

So if I prepare it for today but don’t get to grill till tomorrow afternoon–24 hours–will it still be okay?

Thanks!

Based from

The goals of marinating are to add flavor and tenderize the meat. According to the Professional Cooking 7th edition page 150-151:

The tenderizing effect of the acids in the marinade is relatively small. It is still essentialto match the proper cut of meat with the proper cooking techniques for greatest tenderness.

The marinade can also serve as the cooking medium and become part of the sauce. Vegetable marinades, called vinaigrettes, are served cold with the vegetables as salads or hors d’oeuvres without further cooking or processing.

Marinades have three categories of ingredients:

  1. Oil.
  2. Acid from vinegar, lemon juice, wine.
  3. Flavorings—spices, herbs, vegetables.

The acid helps tenderize protein. It won’t cook it, but it will (from source above)

(p)artially coagulate the protein of the meat, making it

seem partially cooked. When the meat is then cooked, its texture will not be as desirable.

The marinade you are using (the pesto marinade) will have little amounts of acid, so you are safe to leave it on the chicken for as long as your chicken stays fresh. In fact, this is exactly what major grocery chains do to their marinated products.

That’s it for today, As always, if you have a question for me, drop me a line on my Ask the Chef! Page, or you can follow the links on the sidebar to get to my Social Media contacts. I love hearing from you.

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You too can be smiling after winning a scholarship to the cooking school of your dreams.

Are you looking for information on how to get a scholarship to culinary school? Shaheen over at Purple Foodie is currently on scholarship in Paris at Le Cordon Bleu , and she has an interesting post on how to win a scholarship to culinary school.

You can check out her weekly progress here.

 

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Getting Hitched Again Rocks!

wedding ring

I love my wife so much I’m willing to marry her all over again!

Today’s post is short, sweet.

I will be renewing my vows with my wife on Saturday after 10 years of marriage. I can’t wait.

See you all on Monday!

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Fancy kitchen gadgets of sheffield

Ah, Kitchen Gadgets!

I have all sorts of kitchen gadgets. Some I use, some that collect dust. I wish that someone had warned me about purchasing the one-use gadgets. Like the popcorn maker, or the hot chocolate maker.

Some of my flop purchases were:

  • The Perfect Pancake
  • Movie Style Popcorn Popper
  • French Fry Cutter

Your Turn

I would love to know what you have in your kitchen. What’s lurking in your kitchen cupboards? Let me know in your comments below:

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