Sunday, August 31, 2008

Sunday Dinner in Paris

This past weekend I started seriously working on my menu project that is due in a few weeks. I’ve picked a theme – Sunday Dinner in Paris – and the food will have a South of France flavor. My inspiration came from my affinity for my Mom’s Sunday afternoon dinners that we had while growing up. While the food I am presenting in this menu is far off from what Mom would have served – the love and intent is the same.

I’m finding that photographing the food has become the most difficult thing to do. Capturing the right angle and positioning the dishes is tricky. I’ve included some of my attempts at being a food photographer. The menu begins with an Amuse Bouche of Gougère (a simple pâte à choux pastry dough with Gruyère cheese) a white bean puree with parsley and a French Martini to start the celebration of the meal (thank god for cocktail culture!).

My second dish is a Soupe au Potiron (Butternut and Acorn Squash soup) with crème fraiche with herbs de Provence essence and chive oil. The nasturtium flower came from my sister’s garden and is an edible garnish. Next a fish course that is still under consideration then Lamb Persillade with Parsnip puree, sautéed Swiss Chard with crispy garlic and a Niçoise olive tapenade.

After the lamb a digestif salad (still being composed) and then dessert – most likely a Tarte Tartin with a Lavender scented Crème Chantilly. After photographing all the food, I need to pair wine with one of the courses, figure out some costing, write up a summary and bind it in an attractive way. Not a simple task but it’s been fun to eat through my mistakes.

Saturday, August 30, 2008

Waste Not, Want Not

A valuable lesson in the professional kitchen is to never waste anything. Food is so expensive and most new restaurants never make it past the first year usually failing from financial mismanagement. Scraps and bones can go into making stocks, reinforcing sauces and even making garnishes.

Our vegetarian entrées utilized everything extra that we had from the past few nights. Chef marched out the walk-in refrigerator with a large hotel pan filled with extra vegetables, dressings, sauces, and left over risotto. We brainstormed quickly about what we could use and Chef decided that we would make risotto croquets that we would plate with red and yellow pepper sauces sautéed spinach and a garnish of fried basil and tomato skins.

Our other dish would be an Arugula salad with shaved baby carrots, fennel, red onion tossed with a lemon vinaigrette and decorated with orange segments, pea shoots and a beet dressing. I went ahead and used the beets we had from the other night which were still vibrant, fresh and delicious. Some peeled ginger, diced beets, red wine vinegar, Dijon mustard, salt and pepper went into the Vita-Prep blender and I pureed the ingredients while I slowly added some blended olive oil until an emulsion bound the dressing together. The dressing was an opulent magenta color with a fantastic and balanced flavor.

We played with the sauces and dressed white plates with some designs – this part of plating is always fun and a lot more difficult that it appears. At 8:oo pm service begins at the restaurant and the roll of orders come in starting with canapés. My team eagerly awaits to respond to a vegetarian order in lieu of the fish or beef course.

Orders slowly came in and dishes were fired – our petite salad presented itself quite beautifully. I carefully dressed the Arugula, fennel, onion and carrots with the vinaigrette in a separate bowl, Ashley perfected a swirl design on the plate with the beet dressing. I perched the salad on top of the design and arranged orange segments around it. The trickiest part was adjusting the pea shoots to stand in the middle of the dish to give it dramatic height.

Our risotto croquets were deep-fried to order and perched on a bed of sautéed spinach that was surrounded by the red and yellow pepper sauces. A few crisp leaves of translucent fried basil and tomato skin finished the look.

At the end of the night, we cleaned up and packed up our knife packs looking forward to the long weekend. Chef wished us a happy holiday weekend and reminded us about our big project coming up.

After changing into regular clothes, a few of us wanted an end of the week cocktail and decided to go to our current watering hole on Crosby Street in SoHo. “ñ” bar serves tapas and Spanish wines and is just steps away from school. I had a lip for a good Rioja and choose a full-bodied wine which was very satisfying. Marcela, her husband Pablo, Rodrigo, Tim, Stephanie, Michele, Luis and I unwound from the day and decompressed from the past week. It was great to catch up on news, gossip and stories from the kitchen. We laughed and chatted until most of us ran out of steam. My bed was beckoning me and I was ready to answer the call.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Made to Order

My nerves are easing off as I enter the restaurant’s kitchen for the second day. The Entremetier station is not the busiest station but allows for student creativity since there’s no set menu. We are working with a new Chef for this Level, a very likeable, straight-forward kind of guy who wears his passion for food on his sleeve. In the kitchen brigade, Chef Phil will oversee the Entremetier, Saucier, and Poissonnier stations to ensure orders and dishes are complete and executed properly.

Chef Phil mentioned his desire to make a risotto with artichokes, parmesan, fresh herbs and a garnish of thinly sliced fried garlic and artichokes. I love a good risotto so I was happy to oblige and started working on the preparation. I’ve made risotto in the past and love its creamy consistency and ability to complement a vast array of flavors. However, I’ve never made risotto that wasn’t served as soon as it was ready so learning how to make this dish in advance was something I was eager to learn.

Chef Phil asked me to make a basic risotto and I started with diced onions, shallots, garlic and lots of butter to sauté the ingredients. I had white wine and vegetable stock on hand to ladle into the Arborio rice once I was ready to incorporate liquids to the starchy grain. My instructions were to cook the risotto 80 percent of the way and then stop the cooking process and allow the risotto to cool on a sheet pan fitted with parchment paper. Once orders came in I finalized the cooking process by adding vegetable stock, cooked artichokes, fresh herbs, cheese, salt and pepper and then topped with the garnish. With each dish being cooked to order, I enjoyed standing at the stove and knocking them out as needed.

Our other dish for the evening was an heirloom tomato salad with gorgeous yellow tomatoes with sweet cherry tomatoes and a lemon vinaigrette, fresh figs stuffed with goat cheese, frisée greens and a drizzle of balsamic reduction to bring it all together. The salad was visually beautiful with bright and contrasting colors. I’m a perfectionist at heart and want every dish to look its absolute best and taste even more extraordinary than expected. I know I’m a bit of a control freak when it comes to food…I just can’t help it and I’m not going to change.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

At Last,...L'Ecole!

At last, working in FCI's restaurant - nervous trepidation sets in...I start in Entremetier (French name for vegetable station) with my group of two other students - both solid team players. Our role in the kitchen is to provide vegetarian selections in place of the fish and meat course. That night we made a roasted vegetable plate with frisee salad dressed with a lemon vinaigrette to replace the fish course and a roasted red and yellow beet phyllo napoleon with a goat cheese filling and balsamic reduction for the meat course. Both very simple and pretty dishes that were composed to order. Our first night was slow with only about 50 covers and about 8 vegetarian dishes were plated.

In L'Ecole, Level V and VI students run the show and do all the cooking while the Chef-Instructors guide us. The Chef expediting the orders is Chef Marc from our Level I and II days - we've come full circle it seems - he's introduced us to the kitchen and now he is watching us execute some complicated dishes for the restaurant.

When orders come in, Chef Marc belts out whatever he needs like 4 canapes, 2 scallop, 1 rabbit and 1 lamb medium. The order is written on a dry-erase board and the teams start to get things together at their stations. Once the canapes go out, then appetizer, fish, meat and dessert follow. Careful timing is necessary to ensure all main entrees are produced and plated at the same time. When Chef calls the order a second time, he shouts, "Firing, 1 rabbit, 1 lamb, etc." which means you have about 5 - 8 minutes to get the finished plate out the dispatch table for the server.

Each night the Entremetier station produces two new dishes to keep the students on their toes and engaged. We are encouraged to bring ideas and recipes to the kitchen to try them out in the restaurant. In a way I'm feeling a sense of accomplishment as I begin my new level and in the same vein there's a sense that I'm starting all over but we a tougher audience - one that pays for the food I am preparing.

Seared into Memory

Our last Family Meal buffet, tonight’s specialty of the house is to create a pasta bar. Chef Wanda gave me boneless chicken breasts to trim and marinate however I wished – I worked on the marinade using white wine, fresh thyme, crushed garlic, dried herbs and slices of fresh lemon. The chicken marinated for about 45 minutes while we decided how we are going to combine our available ingredients to make something delicious.

We decided to roast some red peppers, blanch lots of broccoli and make a garlic-infused oil as our base sauce. To give the chicken a head start I fired up the grill and seared a quadrillage (crisscrossed grill marks) on both sides of the chicken breasts. The grill was so hot that my hand was burning as I flipped over the chicken. I wrapped my hand in a kitchen towel as I clung to a pair of tongs to protect myself from the blazing heat of the grill. Ultimately, the quadrillage looked beautiful and the two sheet trays of chicken went into the convection oven with some of the crushed garlic and slices of lemon to finish cooking.

We cooked copious amounts of bow tie pasta, combined that with roasted peppers, broccoli, soft roasted garlic, red pepper flakes, salt, pepper, fresh chopped herbs and the garlic infused blended olive oil. The pasta had a wonderful fresh flavor with a subtle garlic flavor. Our other team members made a creamy red sauce with penne and grilled Italian sausage – a spicy, flavorful combination.

The last half of the evening we had one more opportunity to work with David Arnold, FCI’s technology food guru. We played with meat glue also known as transglutaminase – a substance used in cooking to bond proteins together like imitation crab meat and those familiarly shaped Chicken McNuggets.. Transglutaminase in molecular gastronomy gives chefs an opportunity to experiment and push the culinary envelope. The meat glue we used was in a powdered form and looked like a beige-colored confectioner’s sugar.

Dave took thin flank steak and glued on chicken skin to make his take on chicken-fried steak. The steak was deep fried until the skin was crispy and flavorful and then served to us to sample. The chicken skin stayed secured to the meat and the crispy texture gave way to the juiciness of the meat. Next experiment in flavor, we glued boneless chicken breast to dark meat and a stuffing and rolled the meat into a perfect roll. While we waited for the glue to work its enzymatic magic we tried a low-temperature steak that “cooked” in a vacuum package immersed in 135 degree water for 48 hours. The beauty of steak cooked in this manner is that it can never over cook and when you are ready to serve it all you need to do is give it a quick sear on the grill. Dave took the steak out of the package and he decided to deep fry it for about 30 seconds. The result was a juicy, tender, perfectly pink cut of steak with a buttery texture.

These past few days with Dave Arnold have been fascinating and as I reflect on our time spent with Chef Wanda in Family Meal, Chef Janet in Production and Chef Nic – our dedicated lead chef for Level III and Level IV – I will miss the camaraderie of working with three fantastic and charismatic chefs and the opportunity to learn more from their culinary expertise. Hats off to my student team as well, we excelled at the many challenges we faced and we worked together synergistically – the close bond we formed will always be a part of my culinary journey.

Friday, August 22, 2008

Move Over Hoover!

Our days in the Family Kitchen are winding down and part of our learning last night was a lesson about food technology, vacuum sealing, texture modification, sous-vide and low temperature cooking. All fascinating stuff, our Instructor was Dave Arnold, Director of Food Technology at the FCI. To learn more about Chef Dave click here for an in-depth Food & Wine article about him.

Dave introduced us to one of his favorite toys – a vacuum sealer the size of a large microwave. He played with some food experiments in the vacuum sealer just to illustrate how the monstrosity works. Some fluffy marshmallows were placed into the machine and through its clear acrylic hood we could see what was happening inside. Dave explained that the marshmallows are loaded with air so we would see them inflate to 5 x their size as the machine was extracting all the air out of the chamber. We were like kids with our noses pressed up against the toy shop window – the marshmallows expanded more and more and then when you thought they were about to explode the machine completed the vacuum stage and allowed air to funnel back in – as soon as that happened the over sized marshmallows almost disintegrated instantaneously into shriveled sugar-cube sized morsels. The explanation – with all the air removed from the product when the internal environment returned to normal the marshmallow collapsed upon itself as all its fluffiness was extracted.

Next experiment: vacuum-sealing cucumbers – Dave sealed a package with just a few slices of cucumber and some water. The hood closed down on the vacuum bag and he flipped the switch like a mad scientist would in a vintage movie. The bag with water and cucumbers started to shrink around the slices and air and water were being forced out of the food – once the vacuum was complete the machine began to stabilize the internal environment and in an instant the cucumber changed and resembled a jewel-like tone. All the cucumber water that was forced out mixed with the regular water and then was forcibly pushed back in the slices – you’re asking, why do this? Well, imagine the water was gin, vodka, curry oil, champagne vinegar or even simple syrup – the result would be a crisp slice of cucumber flavored with the very essence of the liquid you infused. Now imagine instead of a cucumber, try slices of pear, apple, steak, chicken, pasta, you name it – the achievement of a totally new flavor experience and the possibilities are endless!

The experiments were fun but contemplating the results was even more staggering. Finally, we talked about low-temperature cooking using a circulator (which is basically a lab instrument used by scientists to keep liquid at a stable and optimal temperature). Say you want to cook a perfectly medium rare steak with an internal temperature of 135 to 140 degrees. Vacuum sealing the steaks and then placing them in a basin of water at that very same temperature will allow the steak to reach the ideal temperature and could be held for an entire day without ever over cooking. In the restaurant setting at time of service, the steak would be removed from the bag, seasoned and placed on a very hot grill to caramelize the meat. In less than two minutes the steak is done and headed out to the diner to enjoy – cooked to perfection.

I know all of this is sort of space age and futuristic, but consider that years ago we thought the Cuisinart was a modern marvel and then the microwave came along and changed things – I think – for the worse. But nonetheless technology has played an intriguing part in raising the culinary bar. My take on all of this – bells and whistles aside – I think I am more of a modern traditionalist if there could be such a thing. I favor the slow-food movement but I can envision a balance between achieving quality food with the aid and advancement of culinary science.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

A Pea in the Pod

Guess how many pea pods are in a 5 lb. box – A LOT! Especially when you have to pick through them to remove the not so fresh ones, then remove the stringy filament from each and every pod. I was zoning out as I tackled the box of pea pods that sat in front of me – it seemed like hours were passing by as I trimmed the ends and cleaned the hundreds and hundreds of pea pods – at one point I thought they were magically multiplying since the pile never seemed to go down. The pea pods were one ingredient for a spicy coleslaw. Somehow I made it through, but boy was I cranky! Every little thing in the kitchen last night was annoying me, from people blocking the way when I had heavy trays of dirty bowls or the constant drone of idle nonsensical chatter. I was not having any of it – and I was barking at fellow students left and right. On my dinner break I went outside to get some fresh air and get it together.

Next week we move into the L’École kitchen and begin our Level V training. Time is rushing by and I’m amazed at how fast this current section went from Buffet to Production to Family Meal. Very soon I need to gear up to start an at home project consisting of menu design, food preparation, costing, research and plating techniques – the project is due the third week of Level V – more on this soon.

Last week, Chef Janet took some time after class to show me how to preserve lemons. Preserved lemons are a wonderful addition to a dish such as a roast lamb or chicken with Moroccan spices. I wanted to learn how to make these lemons for my upcoming project and it was very easy to do.

Preserved Lemons – we took two clean quart containers and about a dozen lemons. I washed the lemons in warm water to remove any waxy coating. We sliced almost all the way through the lemon lengthwise keeping one end in tact and then fit as many as we could in the quart containers. The addition of fresh thyme, basil and peppercorns will add a subtle aromatic flavor. A large quantity of Kosher salt filled the containers of lemons to help cure and draw out juices. Lastly, we added lemon juice using Chef Janet’s ratio. With 5 whole lemons in the container we added the juice of 5 additional lemons and some more salt to top it off. The containers were sealed and double wrapped in heavy duty plastic wrap and I was sent home with these instructions. Place the containers in the refrigerator and once a week turn them around and place them upside down to distribute the curing liquid. In about four weeks my lemons will be ready to use and will keep in the refrigerator indefinitely. The lemons will be ready in time for my big culinary project and time is ticking away for me to compose a theme, decide on courses and execute the plan. My mind is simmering with ideas!

Monday, August 18, 2008

Using My Noodle

Working with 15 lbs. of rice noodles, I prepared an Asian-inspired side dish for our Family Meal buffet that included stir-fried vegetables and baked tilapia fillets. Cooking the noodles and then cooling them down was just part of the battle – with three stock pots of boiling water at the ready I cooked the delicate fine strands of noodles for 3 to 4 minutes until they were done. With a large wire strainer I scooped out the noodles to drain and transport them to a stainless bowl perched over ice.

We prepared about 8 quarts of a fresh ginger/soy dressing and mixed the noodles by hand for even coating. As I worked the dressing into the rice noodles, Chef added quarts of hoisin sauce, more soy, red pepper flakes, blanched broccoli florets, baby corn, shredded carrots, scallions, cilantro and basil.

I had an incredible amount of noodles to work with and I had to split the mixture into two giant bowls to properly mix in the added ingredients. With food service gloves on I worked those noodles into a frenzy and I got an upper-body workout at the same time. By service time I had tasted and sampled them so many times that I couldn't even attempt to eat them for dinner. Luckily, we always have salad as a back-up selection but the noodles were a hit and I think enjoyed by everyone overall.

The experience of cooking in large quantities has been a great re-introduction into the world of catering. My experience catering (many moons ago) has definitely helped me in this kitchen rotation and I’ve enjoyed working with the team to help feed the masses at the FCI.

Friday, August 15, 2008

Lemon Zesty!

What’s on the menu tonight? – my usual question when walking into the Family Meal kitchen. Everything vegetarian…baked falafel, Israeli couscous and roasted plum tomatoes with a lemon Ricotta filling.

While we are on the subject of vegetarians, it amazes me how some FCI students and even a fellow classmate are vegetarians. I was perplexed when I first learned this, with the usual questions of why French Culinary School?, how do you taste or judge dishes that are not vegetarian, and for God’s sake why don’t you eat meat? The answers never seem to quite make sense to me.

My job for the family meal buffet was to prepare the stuffed tomatoes, the team sliced plum tomatoes lengthwise, removed the seeds and the woody stem. Next, out comes the giant bowl once again and I start making the filling with 4 qts. Ricotta, handfuls of coarsely grated Parmesan, minced garlic, salt, ground black pepper, chopped scallions, copious amounts of finely chopped herbs (parsley, basil, cilantro, chives) some extra virgin olive oil and lastly 1 cup of lemon zest.

When I was reviewing the recipe and came upon that last ingredient and my eyes glazed over (I had a mayonnaise moment). How many lemons and how long is it going to take me to get a cup full of lemon zest, I pondered. I washed about three dozen lemons, got my micro plane and went to work. One lemon yields maybe about a teaspoon of zest – if you’re lucky – as I’ve come to know quite assuredly.

With my hands tinged yellow and scented like a lemon chiffon pie, I worked though lemon after lemon and saved the naked fruit for lemonade. The final mixture was creamy, cheesy and rich – and to give it a more South of France flavor I added some dried Herbs de Provence.

Stephen and I worked to fill the 80 – 100 tomato halves and get them on sheet pans into the convection oven. After roasting for about 20 – 25 minutes I dusted the tomatoes with Panko (Japanese breadcrumbs) to add some crunch. As the Panko went from pale to golden the Lemon-Ricotta Tomatoes were done.

A drizzle of Arugula pesto finished the attractive side dish and we were ready for buffet service to begin. That same night the other Buffet Meal students were presenting their ideas for their special Wednesday night buffet meal. Our family meal was overshadowed by their Asian/Indian-inspired dishes – I even turned my back on our vegetarian offerings and crossed the line to sample the Pork Vindaloo, Beef Rendang, Lamb Rogan and Chicken Tikka – all spicy, flavorful and delicious! Vegetarian – Smegetarian, I say!

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Mayo Clinic

The recipes we prepare for the Family Meal buffet have been outlined for us in our binders. The object is to prepare large quantities of food that is consistent, delicious and appealing. Before I started culinary school I wondered if I would get a dinner break during our five-hour class and how that would work. Happily, FCI does feed us, and now I have the chance to be a part of making that happen. It’s funny, when we were served Family Meal in our first level classes we would criticize it and wonder who was making this food?! Sometimes it was good and sometimes it was so-so. Only once I opted not to eat the main entrée and had salad instead.

Now I know the secrets behind Family Meal, it is entirely made by Level IV students and some of those students are good and some are so-so hence the quality of food. Luckily, my team is fantastic and overall our class is very good. It’s our turn to make a better and more appetizing dinner for the 150 students and staff each night. Better yet, we are working under an energetic, fireball of a Chef – Chef Wanda!

Chef Wanda has jet fuel coursing through her veins, she is fast, organized, speaks quickly also sometimes in Spanish and moves at the speed of light. She is wonderful to work with and gives us freedom and power to make the given recipes better and more creative.

Our first class, the main dish for the night was BBQ roasted chicken, with an old-fashioned potato salad and grilled vegetables. The six of us were split into three groups, protein, starch and veggie. I worked on the potato salad with Spencer at my side.

Looking at the recipe I realized the dressing required a gallon of mayonnaise – and thought I could probably get some commercial grade mayo from the storeroom. Chef quickly informed me I would be making my own hand-made mayonnaise unless the Garde Manger Kitchen had some leftover from service. Well, that wasn’t the case and I fetched the largest stainless steel bowl I could find which was probably at least four feet wide. I was perplexed trying to figure out how many egg yolks, vinegar, oil and Dijon mustard to use to make a whole gallon of mayonnaise. Chef told me to eyeball it and go for it – so I did.

I took out my trusty ballon whisk and laughed at how ridiculous it looked next to that giant bowl. I used about two pints of pasteurized egg yolks and about ½ cup of mustard, a heavy dash of salt and pepper and about a cup (or two) of white wine vinegar. Next the blended canola oil – I needed an extra pair of hands to help drizzle the oil in as I whisked it to begin the emulsion. Slowly but surely, the Dijon and egg yolks worked together to incorporate the oil with the aid of strong strokes of my whisk. I used almost a gallon of oil to get the quantity that I needed. Finally after about 30 minutes of work and breaking a sweat my mayonnaise came together beautifully, I tasted it and seasoned, tasted, seasoned, and tasted and seasoned some more until I felt it was just right. This (what I thought) monumental task was now something I would never fear and a sense of accomplishment washed over me. After that I completed the dressing with sour cream, fresh herbs and some more Dijon. As for potato salads go, I thought it was pretty damn good!

Friday, August 8, 2008

Goin' Hog Wild

Our last night in the Production kitchen, none of us wanted to leave Chef Janet. We learned a lot in a short amount of time and produced lots of tasty treats to bring home. Chef carted out the rest of the charcuterie items we had made including smoked bacon, Italian pancetta, foie gras, bratwurst and choriço.

I was laden down with more pork products then I knew what to do with – but everything freezes well so I took my share. The next morning, I cooked off some of that bacon with eggs and toast – my refrigerator is looking more and more chef-like with quart containers of stock, sauces and purées and meats wrapped in parchment and plastic wrap. All kinds of goodness created by our hands under the watchful eye of a truly wonderful Chef.

On to the Family Meal kitchen where we make dinner for the lower level students in culinary and pastry classes, kitchen staff and students that work in L’École. We roughly prepare enough for about 150 servings of a protein, starch and vegetable. Our last rotation in Level IV with our next stop into the kitchens of L’Ecole.

Sunday, August 3, 2008

A Bone to Pick with You!

Our time spent in the Production kitchen with Chef Janet has been a great education in and of itself. We had the opportunity to make a duck liver pate using the sous vide cooking method. Chef showed us how to clean the liver and remove the veins and with her instruction I prepared a cure of salt, a tiny bit of sugar and some Armagnac and carefully coated the liver with the mixture. Chef then shaped the duck liver into a log and rolled it in parchment paper and then plastic wrap.

Chef brought a circulator into the kitchen, the machinery looked like something you would attach to an aquarium to filter the water. We filled a deep hotel pan with hot water and placed the circulator into the water. Chef turned on the machine and it gave us an instant read on the water temperature. After explaining and showing us how the circulator worked Chef programmed the temperature she wanted and we waited for the water to come to 65 degrees Celsius. The pate was tied off at both ends to ensure no water could get in and then submerged into the circulating water. The circulator basically circulates the water around the food item and keeps a constant temperature so even cooking is achieved. The pate cooked in this manner (sous vide) for a little over an hour afterwards we quick chilled it and let the flavors meld in the refrigerator for a few days.

Next, we learned how to remove all the bones from a chicken while keeping the integrity of the body and meat. Using our boning knife we carefully scraped down the inner bones away from the outside flesh. The process begins by removing the wing tips, wishbone, and then starting with the bones at the neck you work your way through to remove the major bones in the wings and upper cavity. Turning your chicken around and going through the back end we remove the thighbones and the leg bones. Lastly, removing the rib cage, breastbone and backbone is the trickiest part since the meat is the thinnest on the backside. Once that is complete the chicken is ready to be stuffed with anything from your culinary imagination.

I wanted to use ground pork as my base stuffing and I complemented that with Thai chili sauce, water chestnuts, aromatics (carrots/onions/shallots/garlic), shiitake mushrooms, mint, Thai basil and a little cilantro. With time running out I decided to take the items home to serve for dinner and just sauté the stuffing at school so I could use it already cooked.

Last night, I stuffed the chicken right before I was ready to roast it – and by using toothpicks and kitchen twine I carefully closed both ends of the bird. I made sure that the stuffing registered at 145 degrees on my thermometer before I took it out of the oven and ensured the crispy skin was golden, layered with lots of seasonings. After a short rest, I sliced the chicken like a roast and each slice exposed the spicy pork stuffing inside. The novelty of a boneless stuffed chicken opened up my mind to lots of different ideas for stuffing like a pork tenderloin surrounded by mushroom duxelles. Dinner was delicious accompanied by garlicky string beans splashed with soy and a peppery Arugula salad with vine ripe tomatoes. A dish I will certainly make again and again.