Cookin’ All Day!

Something pretty great happened in my kitchen last Saturday when I came to the realization that I had absolutely nothing to do. Take a look!

Steamed Mussels with Onion, Garlic, Hot Soppressata,Tomato, Parsley, White Wine, Parsley, and a bit of Anisette (an Anise Liqueur)  

7-Hour Braised Bolognese Sauce with Fresh Egg Pasta

Needless to say, I had an amazing Saturday cooking, jamming to music, and drinking wine.

I graduate from the Culinary Institute of America in May! CAN YOU BELIEVE IT?

Rachel

Bolognese! Caprese! Molto Bene!

First things first, I need to say SORRY that I have been away from my blog for so long! With school and recent traveling, I haven’t been cooking much (just eating a TON). I am currently visiting my family in Minnesota, and last night my mother was craving pasta. Fortunately, pasta is my soul food, and honestly, my soul needs a little mending right now. So I decided to see if I could get some of my powers back. 

I started with a bolognese recipe from bonappetit.com, but honestly it was missing a lot, so I adapted the recipe in my own way. Bolognese is a hearty meat sauce with a full and rich flavor, enriched with red wine and plenty of aromatics such as onion, celery, and carrot. I also added mushrooms, and next time I think I will add some fennel root as well. Once the ground meats are browned (bolo typically has ground pork. beef, and veal, but I couldn’t find veal), tomato paste and beef stock (or broth) is added. I simmered that for an hour. It reduced really nicely. After that I added a cup of whole milk and let that simmer another 45 minutes. I also added some butter. Finally I seasoned it to my liking and added more tomato paste. 

As an appetizer I made a caprese salad. It was by far the best caprese salad I have ever made. I found the most gorgeous heirloom tomatoes. After you slice them, make sure to season them with salt! The mozzarella I found had the most perfect texture. I also made an aged balsamic reduction (just reduce 1/2c balsamic with 1T sugar and salt to taste). My mom had some big basil leaves growing in her garden that completed the dish. Just a sprinkle of freshly cracked pepper and not five minutes later the plate was demolished. 

Graduation!!!

Today on December 21st, 2011, I graduated from the GREATEST culinary school in the world! It’s hard to believe that only two years ago I came to school nervous, intimidated, and extremely unexperienced. I pushed and pushed and pushed myself to the greatest limit so I can be where I am now. I feel like I have grown into a person with confidence, intuition, and knowledge that I never even knew I could achieve. If it weren’t for pure passion, I would have never made it in this school. I feel lucky that I found it as young as I did, and will cherish every skill and technique that I have learned. Times were hard every once and awhile, but I owe my education to The Culinary Institute of America and the incredible chefs that I met along the way. I should also thank you, my readers, for all of the e-mails telling me to keep pushing for my goals and reaching my dreams. Now that I have graduated I have so many new goals to achieve. I can finally live my dream. I’m totally ready to start. 

Thank you, every one of you (by the way ‘you’ are now over 20,000 dedicated followers) for standing by the side of a stranger, listening to my rants (or advice!), and commenting the way you do. All I want is to cook amazing food for others, teach other people how to cook, and stay at the level of happiness that I am right now. 

If you think that this journey is over, it’s not! I am ready to cook my soul into oblivion. Stick around! Also, please send your food questions to me! I still answer as many as I can!

Love,

Shesalty a.k.a. Rachel

Thanksgiving!!

Hey everyone! I know I’ve been a little MIA, so I hope this post leaves you drooling. Take a look at my family’s Thanksgiving! Such an amazing meal!!!

I brined the turkey with broth, tons of herbs, black peppercorn, salt, and celery seed. To me, celery seed is a MUST for turkey brining. Such aroma!

This is my family’s secret stuffing recipe. My Grandfather made the best, but it’s still very good.

Before I put the turkey in the oven I put sage leaves under the skin, then rubbed it with olive oil (I tried using butter one year, but butter has a low smoking point, so you might burn the skin way before the turkey is done), and sprinkled salt and pepper.

Tying the bird was a bit of a challenge because the neck piece was missing, but I made my own way and it kind of worked out for the better!

Beets—so underrated. I decided to make a simple beet salad for the family. They loved it!

Orange zest give the beets a little tang. For the dressing I used dry white wine, white wine vinegar, bay leaf, sugar, and salt. I reduced it down and added some sliced shallot (which are dyed red from the beets). 

I wanted so badly to make my cheddar chive biscuits for the family but they didn’t turn out. However we did find out why, the baking powder was expired. I was a little heartbroken. : ( 

I made my famous creamed mushrooms. I could literally eat these every day of my life. I used cremini, portobello, and shiitake. I added a lot of fresh parsley, chives, and some thyme as well.

My sister Kendall made her favorite dish—sweet potato casserole. I never was much of a sweet potato fan up until the last 2 years, but this casserole is ridiculously good. It’s buttery and sweet and there’s a salty crust on top. Mmm.

My mom’s oven had a handy thermometer that stays in the oven and reads the temperature constantly. I think I’m in love with it. 

Buttered soft rolls are a must for me. I’m too obsessed with bread and butter. I could easily eat it every day. Good thing we had these since the biscuits were trash!

My mom is always in charge of the pies. She always makes pecan and pumpkin. I forgot to get a picture of the pumpkin but it was beautiful! And delicious.

My turkey turned out exactly how I wanted. It was so juicy flavorful. The skin was completely crisp and the sage of course was perfect. I paired the meal with a white wine which I loved (a little too much)!

The final plate—really wish I could have a plate right now. So hungry! All in all I can say that I had a perfect Thanksgiving, which made up for last year when I spent it alone. Being able to go home and see my family is what I’m most thankful for. I am happy to be where I am in my life and am so grateful to have those around me.

Happy Belated Thanksgiving Everyone!! 

Rachel

Butternut Squash Soup

Hey everyone! I know it’s been a bit since I’ve posted (sorry!), but I have been SO SO busy at school. Graduation is coming up and now I’m in the restaurants on campus. Besides class I am mainly doing homework and sleeping. I did however make some pretty delicious butternut squash soup with bacon, thyme, and sour cream. I also enjoyed some local white wine with it—a wine I’ve fallen head over heels for. Take a look! 

Rachel

St. Andrew’s Cafe - The Culinary Institute of America

Graduation is nearing! I am currently working at St. Andrew’s Cafe at the CIA. This is a ‘class’ we are required to take, and we get to explore more what it’s like to work in a real kitchen as well as what it’s like to work front of house. 

Above is a Duo of Chicken - A Pan Seared Chicken Breast and Braised Thigh with a Savory Bread Pudding, Wilted Spinach, and served with a Red Wine Sauce.

It is impeccable. 

Class is going well so far, and my chef (Chef LiPuma) has a LOT of great advice and his lectures are so valuable. No school tomorrow, woo-hoo!!

Rachel

Pan-Fried Pizza

Brian made us both a midnight snack the other night. He transformed an ordinary slice of delivery pizza (hey, we do that sometimes!) into something other-worldy! He pan-fried it in a cast-iron skillet, which made it the crispiest pizza I have ever had. Also he sprinkled it with some red pepper flakes for spice, and topped it with a fried egg and grated parmesan. Ugh…

Too good.

If you don’t follow his blog you should probably do that because he is a wonder-chef! www.brianthony.tumblr.com

Oh! I passed the wines final! Now I move into the restaurants. I’ll be graduating in December! Can you believe it? But don’t worry, I’m not going anywhere. Shesalty is here to stay!

Rachel

Fettucini with Zucchini Cream Sauce, Garlic, Pancetta, Basil, and Black Pepper

Last night I was in the mood for something kind of simple. Pasta always comes to mind, and with the chill last night, something creamy sounded even better. This pasta dish has pancetta in it, and I will show you how I made this exactly. But, I don’t think that I would add the pancetta next time. The warm bacon-y flavor cooked out and left me disappointed. What would be even better with this is some sliced chicken. Also, you could throw in some frozen peas for a hint of sweetness, too. Other than that, here’s what you do!

  • 1# fettucini (I only cooked 1/2#)
  • 3-4 sm zucchini or 2 lg, sliced very thin
  • 4 oz pancetta, sliced
  • 4 garlic cloves, sliced thin
  • 1/2 c heavy cream
  • about 1/2 c grated parmesan cheese 
  • 5 basil leaves, chiffonade
  • a pinch of red pepper flakes
  • salt, LOT’S OF BLACK PEPPER, and olive oil

First, get your mise en place ready. Mise en place means ‘put in place’. It’s when you do your ‘veg prep’ and any steps that need to be done ahead of time. The first thing you should do is slice your pancetta. I couldn’t find thick cut pancetta, so I had to use these wimpy slices (That is why the flavor cooked out so quickly). If you can find thick cut pancetta, cut them into small chucks. Either cubes or ‘batonnet’ is fine. Heat up some olive oil (about 2T) on medium-low heat. Add the bacon and ‘render’ it slowly. When you render, the fat melt and the bacon slowly crisps up. Yum. 

While the bacon is rendering, slice your garlic cloves. Then slice your zucchini. I used a mandolin (I love my mandolin <3), but you can use your knife, too. Just try to get the slices the same thickness, an 1/8th of an inch, no thicker! 

When the pancetta is ready, add the garlic and saute for about 2 minutes. Smell that? Ridiculous. Add the zucchini coins with about a teaspoon of salt and LOT’S OF BLACK PEPPER! I can’t stress this enough. The pepper is somewhat a star in this dish. The pepper stands out in the cream, and trust me it’s delicious. 

Stir the zucchini occasionally, but let this cook for 30-45 minutes. Honestly, I cooked mine for about 45 minutes. But we have a stove from the 50’s. It has buttons, not knobs that turn. Our options are ‘boil’, ‘simmer’, and ‘barely warm’. It’s hard to control heat, but we have learned how to do it. You want the zucchini to cook completely, and start to break down even. You WANT it to be part of the sauce. Zucchini is nutty and warm…mmm now I’m thinking some toasted pine nuts would have been good with this, too. 

Anyways, let the zucchini cook! Let it cook and cook and cook. Meanwhile, bring a large pot of heavily salted water to a boil. Cook pasta to al dente, drain, and reserve. A little drizzle of olive oil will help keep the pasta from getting sticky, just don’t put it back on the heat! Oh! And save about a cup of the cooked pasta water. It will help bring your sauce together at the end.

When it’s ready, add 1/2c of heavy cream and a pinch of red pepper flakes. Turn the heat to medium and let the cream thicken. If there is too much olive oil and the cream looks funky, add a tablespoon of butter. Keep stirring slowly! Then, add about 1/2c of grated parmesan cheese. I didn’t measure at this point. I just added some, stirred, tasted, added some, stirred, tasted until it was to my liking looooving. 

Add the pasta to the sauce and toss with tongs to coat. Add some of the pasta water to thin it out and make it more creamy. Taste it again! Think of what it needs…more salt?…probably more pepper…more pasta water…grated parm? Add whatever you think it needs.

And then, eat it the proper way…by devouring. 

Rachel

In Banquets class one day we made Vol Au Vent with Creamy Mushrooms, Haricot Vert and a Carrot Puree Sauce.

To me, this dish was perfect harmony. The puff pastry shell was flaky and buttery…the mushrooms perfect with the cream. The carrot sauce was made with chicken stock, so it was full and rich, yet light! And the carrot was still the star of the sauce. 

I wish this was more of a Vol Au Vent ‘pie’ so I could ((EAT THE WHOLE THING)).

Oh, by the way, wines requires SO much studying, but I will try to get an epic post up here this week. 

Still love me?

Shrimp Fra Diavolo

After the hurricane came through last week, a TON of the highways and roads were closed. I had to drive back to school from New Jersey using all back roads. The benefit? I got to drive through a bunch of farmland, and skidded to a stop when I passed a farmer’s market. I picked up a couple of Jersey tomatoes and had a great night cooking!

After I peeled and deveined the shrimp (one of my favorite kitchen chores—weird, I know), I tossed them in some olive oil, salt, pepper, and red pepper flakes. 

I wanted the dish to be both spicy, but filled with other warm flavors as well. So, I used fresh oregano, basil, rosemary, and flat leaf parsley. 

Here are the tomatoes! Make sure to wash them well. Remove the core and ‘X’ the bottom of them. Bring water to a boil and toss them in. After about a minute or so pull them out and shock them in ice water. This is called a tomato ‘concasse’. The hot water releases the skin from the flesh. This is a skill that is handy! Here’s how you will know they are ready to come out of the water. Wait for the skin to begin to peel a bit near the ‘X’ mark. Then I usually pull one out and poke the skin. It should feel kind of loose or wrinkly. In the picture below there is a shiny poke mark. Hopefully that helps!

Don’t shock the tomatoes too long or they will become mealy! This also will happen if you boil them too long. The skin should easily peel away. 

Quarter the tomatoes and remove the seeds. They are bitter! Then cut the tomatoes into 1-inch pieces.

I didn’t have yellow onions on hand, but I did have a red one left! I sweated the onion down until translucent and then added 5 minced garlic cloves.

Then I added the tomatoes, a little white wine, salt, pepper, and more red pepper flakes. ‘Fra Diavolo’ means ‘brother devil’ this is a spicy tomato sauce! Let the pepper flakes cook into the sauce and taste at the end. Also, I added half of the minced herbs during the last 5 minutes of cooking, and threw the rest in at the end. Then, I added the shrimp right to the sauce, covered the pan, and let them cook! 

Ta-da! It was SO good.

You’re probably thinking, “Gee, would you like some pasta with your garlic bread?” 

YES, YES I WOULD.

Rachel

Duck…The Most Beautiful Thing!

I have completed my Meds class, and have now moved on to Banquets and Catering. For the first 7 days my class worked ‘front of house’, serving tables. Now, we are back in the kitchen making a 3-course meal daily for 70-100 people!

Today’s menu:

Heirloom Tomato Salad with Gorgonzola and Balsamic

Duck with Brussels and Shallot Mashed Potatoes 

-or-

Oyster Mushroom, Caramelized Onion, and Ricotta Stuffed Tortellini with Braised Artichokes and Cream Sauce

Peach Cobbler

I am on the protein team! Today we made the most DELICIOUS duck. We marinated it overnight in red wine, garlic, tarragon, and thyme. Then we oven seared it, braised it, and then used the braising liquid to lacquer the skin once again. 

The tortellini was handmade! Our chef asked us all to help, which was fun and some of us got to learn something new.

Heirloom tomatoes are beautiful this time of year. See the skin on the wedge closest? Bright red with flecks of gold…these tomatoes don’t need much, they are like candy on their own. But the team who made the dish added a little gorgonzola for tangy-ness, and some bitter greens on top. The balsamic added contrast and made it brighter, pulling all the flavors together. 

The duck was served with brussels sprouts that were cooked with bacon and topped with crispy breadcrumbs. Also, there are shallot and garlic roasted mashed potatoes. 

The tortellini filling was delicious! The oyster mushrooms are both inside the pasta and tossed with the sauce and braised artichokes. The pasta itself was cooked perfectly. The garnish is a bit of fried parsley leaves.

Dessert was good as well. The pastry team used fresh donut peaches (we’ve talked about these before, remember?). It was buttery…cinnamony…sweet with a brown sugar crumb topping.

I know it has been awhile. All these photos are really piling up on me! I’ve been cooking a lot lately! So much more to come. See you around!

Rachel

Goodbye Baking!

Friday was the last day of baking class. The class itself flew by, and for once I was actually able to enjoy myself in the kitchen. Our little French chef, who is absolutely adorable, was a very chill guy compared to most of the other chefs. Starting Monday, we begin Cuisines of the Mediterranean. I’m scared. Not only do I not have a partner the first day, but we have been told that our chef throws pots. Wish me luck. :-p

<3, Salty.

Pastries!

Take a look at the delicious pastries we have been making in baking class. I’m having such a great time in this class. I feel completely in my element. I’ve realized that I know a lot more about baking than I thought I did. So much of what I did on my externship is what I’m doing in class now. It’s nice to refresh my memory! Alright, here they are! 


It is GORGEOUS out today so Dan is going to go out rollerblading today with all of his buddies. 

I will be on the sideline hula-hooping. : ) 

<3, Salty. 

I had this pulled pork sandwich for lunch the other day from the Americas kitchen. The pork was SO juicy and delicious. I was pretty happy with this plate. The beans were surprisingly good, too. Didn&#8217;t really go near the fritters, I find corn fritters boring (unless they are smothered in honey butter&#8212;yum). Also, cole slaw on a sandwich is great. 
All in all I&#8217;d give it 7.5/10
Nice. 
&lt;3, Salty.

I had this pulled pork sandwich for lunch the other day from the Americas kitchen. The pork was SO juicy and delicious. I was pretty happy with this plate. The beans were surprisingly good, too. Didn’t really go near the fritters, I find corn fritters boring (unless they are smothered in honey butter—yum). Also, cole slaw on a sandwich is great. 

All in all I’d give it 7.5/10

Nice. 

<3, Salty.

Breads

Here are some of the many breads and pastries we have made in baking class. By the way, I am have an excellent time in that class. It’s a bit slow and I wish I could do a little more, possibly an additional recipe a day, but I’m still having fun and taking mad notes and pictures. I’ve learned to not care about how obnoxious I must look with my camera. But it’s all for you guys (only kidding, it’s a lot for me too :-p)! 

Enjoy!


I love waking up to the smell of freshly baked bread. Early mornings be damned. 

<3, Salty.