Culinary School: Week 5 Recap

The weeks are flying by and I'm just about a third through this semester. This week, I'm sharing a whole lot of pictures of my culinary principles course. There was no lecture this week for that class so he had fun applying what we've learned in the previous week.  Read on to see what how we applied our learning from my  culinary principles course...

Culinary Principles 1 - This week we continued with individual presentations on a spice or flavoring of our choice. There were some great presentations on horseradish, rosemary, thyme, cinnamon, jalapeno peppers and peppers in general. There was no lecture this week but we did have a lot of time in our kitchen lab to review things we previously learned. I took quite a few pictures of all the various things our class did... so enjoy all the visuals!

Chef S. started our kitchen lab by going over how to hone our knives prior to use each class. The idea of using a steel may seem intimidating, especially if you have thoughts of skilled chefs holding the steel upright in the air. However, by using it in the way Chef S has the steel positioned below, it's much more approachable and easy to do. The key is holding the knife at a 20 degree angle up against the steel while pulling the back and downward. This should be done on each side an equal amount of times before and during use (if you have a big cutting/chopping job to do).

Below are the ingredients we worked with. It was an assortment of squash (delicata and hubbard), carrots, celery, red bell pepper, savoy cabbage, sweet potatoes and russet potatoes. It may seem like a hodge podge of things but we certainly made quite a meal from them all. The class broke up in to teams to prep the ingredients for a stir fry, roasted squash, battered squash rings, red pepper coulis and waffle potato chips.

For the stir fry, we prepped the celery, carrot, red pepper and savoy cabbage. Everything was sliced thin for quick cooking. To start, garlic and onion was sauteed in olive oil until softened. While that was cooking, we looked at our ingredients and added them to the wok based on the length of time the ingredient needed to cook. With this in mind, we started with the celery, followed by matchstick carrots, red bell pepper strips and finally the savoy cabbage, I suggested to make the stir fry using a simple sauce I make at home using oyster sauce and soy sauce, which we seasoned with pepper. There was no need to add any salt since the saltiness was brought on by the soy sauce. The oyster sauce added a bit of sweetness. Once finished, it was served on a bed of rice. Here's a visual of our stir fry skills...

A week or so ago, we covered tools & equipment. One of the tools we talked about was the mandoline. All of us had a chance to work with the mandoline and made gaufrette potatoes (also known as waffle potato chips.) The key to making the waffle pattern is to slide the potato through the slicer in a 45 degree angle alternately. Without doing so, you'd end up with a potato chip with a ridged texture. All the potatoes we sliced were placed in a water bath to prevent browning. We drained the potatoes and then placed them in a fryer to brown. A little salt to season after coming out of the fryer was all it needed before we enjoyed them.

How often do you roast peppers? After this class, I'm thinking about roasting peppers more often! We roasted a few red peppers over an open flame with no oil and no seasoning. Once charred and blackened, the peppers were placed in a bowl and covered to steam. After it had a chance to cool enough to handle, the blackened skin was rubbed off. The peppers were then de-seeded and de-veined before they were processed in a blender. By adding a few ingredients such as salt, pepper, rice wine vinegar and a shot of hot sauce, the result is a smooth roasted red pepper coulis (or thinned puree.)

Squash is pretty abundant this time of year and we had two specific kinds to work with in class. Delicata and hubbard squash was used in a couple ways. One way was by dicing the squash and roasting them. We added carrots, sweet potatoes and russet potatoes with the squash. They were first steamed to help cook them faster in the oven. Next, we added honey, cinnamon and salt for flavor before we placed the mixture on a sheet pan to roast in the oven. This made for a great autumn side dish and a good way to try various kinds of squash. We didn't forget the seeds of the squash either. (In a professional kitchen, nothing goes to waste!) Similar to roasted pumpkin seeds, the seeds were washed, dried and then tossed with oil and spices before roasting.

We had a couple of delicata squash to use up so we peeled, sliced the squash into rings and steamed them briefly to cook until slightly tender. While the squash rings cooled, we prepared a mise en place for the classic battering technique. Similar to breading, battering involves creating a batter with a starch, leavener and liquid. When our batter was ready, we took everything by the fryer and started. It went by pretty quickly by dredging the squash rings in a little flour, then dipping them in the batter , and finally carefully placing them in the fryer until they cooked up to a golden brown.

For only working in the kitchen for about 2 1/2 hours, we had ourselves a lovely vegetarian feast! Everything was delicious as usual and

At our next class, we'll be starting off with a quiz on chapter 6 (flavors and flavorings). We will also be starting a new chapter on 'Principles of Cooking,' which is much more in depth than the basics we've been covering the last few weeks. Something I'm looking forward to is working with a whole chicken. I can only assume we will be deboning and/or cutting it up in pieces for prep work. So that's it for this week's recap. Stay tuned for what I learned in the coming week with my week 6 recap. Until then, happy cooking and baking!


  1. I pretty much envy you!!! Loved the recap :)

  2. We learned to hone both ways. I prefer having the honing steel up, but that's just b/c of my own awkwardness holding it down.
    Did you guys sharpen the blades too? Do they give you a stone in the knife kit? Sharpening our knives and honing them were the first thing we learned. We all got to bring in old knives from home to learn since ours were still pretty sharp.

  3. BTW, what school is this? I went to Robert Morris. But I'm thinking of taking some more advanced classes now. I'm looking into all of them, but I can't place the intials on your chef's jacket

  4. Niki - I go to the College of Lake County, located in Grayslake IL. We didn't sharpen our knives and we didn't have a stone included in our kit. I get my knives sharpened at Northwestern Cutlery in the loop.

  5. wow this must be an awesome experience, i just love it! must be fum cooking in such a huge kitchen!

  6. I love Northwestern Cutlery! They do a great job! I usually sharpen mine regularly, but for that really good sharpening, I go there. Now that I work in the city, it's easier!