Day 36: To Italy and Beyond...
Bonjourno everyone! Today felt like I was preparing myself for a little trip to Italy with Mushroom Risotto, Meat sauce, making our very own mozzarella cheese, and our own cheese tasting session! I feel like if I were to go tanning outside right now, I’d actually turn into a grilled cheese. Never thought there’d come a day when I was cheese-d out! My-tree was my partner today and I have to say I was very pleasantly surprised working with her. Although I’ve witnessed her with other students being a complete catastrophic disaster, I think she knew that if she started to become bossy or ridiculously high strung, I would have smacked her down and really have welcomed her to America. Right off the bat, Chef made us quarter a chicken for practice because it is going to be on our final exam (on MONDAY!). I completely forgot the steps, but was again so surprised when My-tree instead of chastising me for not remembering (cough cough: Carlos), reminded me of the steps as she herself worked through them. I got the whole “scpeal” from her on how in India as a child her favorite job was quartering chickens and that’s why she is so good at it. Well, I did quarter the chicken and let’s just pray I do it within 15 minutes for the final or else… I’ll lose a lot of points and we wouldn’t want that to happen, now would we?
After the chicken, we started our meat sauce. If you really know me well enough, you’ll know that my favorite meal of all time (my daddy’s too) is spaghetti and meatballs! I think that my Kika and mom make it the very best (mix of sweet and savory). So, today I was really serious about my meat sauce and all the ratios. I couldn’t mess this up or else I wouldn’t be able to handle myself or My-tree for that matter. So, first we sautéed the veggies (we put them in the machine and chopped them up finely) then we added the meat (various kinds). After, we added crushed and squeezed tomatoes with red wine and some water. The recipe called for red pepper flakes- ONLY a pinch! Well, I did the pinch and My-tree said it was not enough, so I added a few more. MAMA MIA My-Tree!!!… we went a LITTLE overboard… I felt way too much heat and although I love me some heat, it was a overpowering the meat. Ahh- quick we need to fix this. I’m a huge believer in everything happens for a reason, so we added a little bit too much pepper flakes, but that made My-Tree think to add sugar which helped mask the spice and bring all the flavors together! It was a blessing in disguise because then I remembered Kika and Mom sometimes add sugar into their sauce or if we were really clever we could have added apple juice like my favorite pizza place Steve’s. All day I was scooping up spoons fun of meat sauce while it was cooling for tomorrow’s lasagna lesson!
After the sauce, we made mushroom risotto, which to me is like showing a fat kid a piece of cake (I’d go crazy over cake too- who am I kidding). Risotto takes time and attention to get it right. You have to constantly add liquid, so that the rice can absorb it. We also sautéed mushrooms with butter to add in. We added the juice from the sautéed mushrooms into the risotto to really kick it up a notch and then added the mushrooms once the risotto was cooked. We then slapped some butter in the pan and gave it all a good mix. Salt and pepper were added and then we plated that sexy bowl all up- dripping in diamonds! If only I had some truffle to grate over it or some truffle oil to have drizzled on top… I may have passed out though. Oh how could I forget the Parmesan cheese we cooked in with the risotto and then grated some on top! Who needs a cherry on top when you got cheese!
Speaking of cheese! We made our own ricotta cheese! We added salt, milk, and citric acid to separate the curds from the whey. We then hung the risotto up to dry in cheesecloth to use for tomorrow. We also made our own mozzarella balls! We got the milk curd and in a bowl of hot water formed it, stretched it, soaked it, formed it, stretched it, soaked it etc. until we had the perfect stringy cheese ball! Delicioso! After making our own mozzarella, we had a cheese tasting course for an hour. Chef gave us our own trays with a variety of different cheeses from cow, goat, and sheep. Some of them were funky with a capital F. The smell almost knocked my socks off and My-Tree even immediately spit one out because they smelled and tasted so nasty. Chef gave us a chart to fill out for every cheese to describe the aroma, taste, texture, appearance, etc and for some I just wrote “smells like bad breathe”, “taste like dirty armpits”, and so on. But, then there were some like Ossau Iraty that made me want to go dancing in the moonlight! It definitely was a fun and cheesy experience! Thanks Chef.
Tomorrow we are making fresh pastas! And lasagna! And other jewels!