Saturday, November 6, 2010

Posting Under The Influence..... Valid, right?

After a full day at Le Cordon Bleu I am wiped out. First, we had Health Card day in which everyone got a Health Card which is required for anyone handling any food or drink. Mine was expired, as was Rene's, so we went through the whole drill, the class, the tacky movie (alright, it was worth watching as a refresher...) and finally the Hepatitis A vaccine (Ouch!) but also worthwhile I guess.

After that came Orientation Day, a grueling day full of speeches from Executive and Master Chefs extolling the rigors of the Culinary Field, yet trying to fill you with enthusiasm and pride about your new chosen profession (yeah, right.... little do they know what they're in store, but then you need to pick up your uniforms (heavy bag, 5 full sets which I still need to hem), books (OMG, 24 hardcover books that weight a ton and which I need to drag to the car!), then industry approved shoes (complete with steel toes, gel insoles and look as attractive as prison headmistress's attire), then USB drive, computer access and ending with an ice cream social (yes, really! Talk about contrasts....), but I was winded after all that and ready to go home.

I must admit to no longer being used to long days (this was a half day..... but), especially to being on my feet for 16 hours days full of stress and deadlines (my, how easy it is to let it all go.....), this new endeavor will really put me to the test beginning with the first Exec. Chef's questions to name the 5 Mother Sauces (Bechamel, Espagnol, Veloute, Tomato and Hollandaise) and all it's derivatives (too many to name folks!), but you get the idea, this is the French Version of the world so I am very pleased, YAY! for me!

After having a good talk with one of my future teachers (a German Exec Chef who everyone stays clear of), I learn one of the class sections will be devoted exclusively to "sauces" (which are my reason for living and being a "Saucier" would be heaven!!!!....), so I am happy looking forward to everything. There is also an on-site restaurant which is run by students and faculty (we get 50% discount!) to practice at and since this is an accelerated course, it will be intense and all consuming..... what a challenge and a whole lot of work!

Anyway, here I sit (while Ricardo watches boxing matches on TV that I can't stand) while I sip on some 100% Agave Reposado Tequila (Woohoo! I'd forgotten all about it.... sitting there all alone on the shelf atop the stove), with some limes and salt. The warmth and comfort is infusing my body and I am forgetting all about today's schedule and Monday's schedule and the "I don't give a fig" attitude is definitely here..... I have to admit that my drinking days are long over but there 's something to say about this..... although if I lived in California a different tune would be sung, but that's another

Dinner time invariably came around so I had to get to it and put something together. What did I come up with? Had some ground meat on hand, seasoned it a lot, found some Phyllo in the freezer and produced a Moroccan Pastilla (a pie filled with fowl or meat and spices enclosed in a phyllo shell) and served with some White Rice I also had in the fridge.

Moroccan Pastilla is is an elaborate meat traditionally made of squab. As squabs are often hard to get, shredded chicken is more often used today; pastilla can also use fish as a filling. It is typical of Morocco and highly regarded as a national dish. It is a pie which combines sweet and salty flavors; a combination of crisp layers of the dough, savory meat slow-cooked in broth and spices and shredded, and a crunchy layer of toasted and ground almonds, cinnamon, and sugar. The filling is made a day ahead, and is made by browning the meat pieces in oil. The pieces are then transferred to a bowl, and with the remaining oil, onions, water, parsley, and various spices are cooked. The liquid is then chilled, and after, thickened to form a custard-like sauce with beaten eggs. The flesh and skin from the bones is shredded and added to the sauce, and it is chilled overnight. In a round pizza pan, the first dough layer is added, and butter brushed onto it. The cook adds the sauce over the dough, and places two more sheets on top. It is then dried, sprinkled with confectioner's sugar and perhaps more cinnamon, and served.

Moroccan Pastilla- A wonderful dish!

3 1/2lbs whole chickens, cut up into 4 pieces skin removed
1 onion, minced
salt and pepper
3 3/4 teaspoons cinnamon
1 1/2 teaspoons ginger
1 1/4 teaspoons cumin
1/4 teaspoon cayenne
1/2 teaspoon saffron thread
1/2 teaspoon turmeric
1/2 cup raisins
1/3 cup green olives, sliced
1/2 cup sweet red pepper, chopped in small squares
1 small onion, chopped
1/4 cup chicken stock
4 eggs, lightly beaten
1/4 cup fresh cilantro
1/4 cup fresh parsley
1 cup blanched almonds,(whole)
4 tablespoons powdered sugar
3/4 lb phyllo dough

In a large skillet put 2 tablespoons butter, the chicken pieces, onions, 1 teaspoon salt, 1 teaspoon pepper,2 teaspoons cinnamon, the ginger, cumin, cayenne, saffron, turmeric and chicken stock. Add raisins, olives, red pepper.... Simmer gently, covered, until the chicken is cooked, 45 minutes. Remove the chicken from the sauce and let it cool. Remove all the bones and tear the chicken into 1 inch pieces, bring the liquid to a simmer and add the eggs stirring gently until the eggs are cooked and most of the liquid is evaporated, 4 to 5 minutes.

Add the chicken, cilantro, parsley, salt and pepper and mix well. Preheat oven to 375°F. Toast the almonds in the oven until they are very lightly golden and hot to the touch, about 5 to 7 minutes. Coarsely chop them in a blender or food processor and mix with 3 tablespoons sugar and 3/4 teaspoons cinnamon, set aside and reserve the rest of the cinnamon sugar for a garnish.

Melt the remaining 12 tablespoons butter. brush a 12 inch pie pan with the butter. place one sheet of phyllo dough on the bottom of the pie plate so that it completely covers the bottom of the plate and extends over one side by several inches, brush the whole sheet of phyllo lightly and continue with 7 more sheets moving in a pinwheel effect, brushing butter on each sheet. Spread the chicken mixture on the phyllo and sprinkle with the almond mixture. Fold the overhanging phyllo up over the chicken and almonds and brush with butter, then continue adding 7 more sheets of phyllo to the pie as your did before. Tuck all the overhanging edges under the pie and brush remaining butter over top of the pie. Place in 375F oven and bake until golden brown and flaky, about 20 minutes, sprinkle the garnishing cinnamon and sugar over top.

NOTE: This is a basic recipe but I frequently exchange the chicken for ground beef, pork or whatever I have on hand. Above all, TASTE and season accordingly, BE FEARLESS, it can only improve on this!!!!!

Please don't be put off by the number of ingredients (I was "feeling no pain" and it came out wonderfully- I don't need funny comments about this either, trust me, it was amazing!!!!) and it's easier than you think. You can get Phyllo in the frozen food section at the market (I keep it on hand and use for Spanakopita, Strudel, Feta Turnovers, Napoleons and a whole list of other incredible edibles that will delight and amaze you!). It's also easier to handle once you get used to it, you just need to give it a go!

Anyway, I will go back to my activities which promise a sound and heavy sleep but we've got a couple of pieces of Pastilla left over calling my name that I can have another slice before falling Have a happy weekend and we'll talk soon....

We have a saying: "Giving oneself over to the arms of Morpheaus (the God of Sleep)".... I think I'll go look him

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