Tuesday, December 8, 2009


School is almost over for the fall semester.  There are still some finals going on and grades to be turned in but most of the hoopla is over with.
This seemes like a good time to introduce one of our adjunct instructors.  Chef David Romano, pictured above, has taught with us for 2 1/2 years.  He teaches the following classes:  Fundamentals of Baking, Intermediate Food Preparation, American Regional Cuisine and Garde Manger.  In his spare time he is the full time chef instructor for the Alvin High School culinary arts program; a certified dive master (often to be found on a boat over the flower Gardens) during the summer, a certified peace officer and can occasionally be found driving a bus for the high school.  A man of many talents!
We are quite pleased to have him with us!

We will be closed for Christmas vacation until early January, 2010.  As always I will be trying a few new dishes to include in future classes.  I will try to post a few photos and recipes as the holidays permit.
Happy Eating!

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Food Safety Alerts


I normally am not a fan of widgets and those type of things. But, I just saw this one and could not resist.
At the bottom of the page is a widget that displays real time food alerts and recalls from both the FDA and the USDA in one setting!
This application is really neat. Unlike some widgets, that you can put on your "desktop", you do have to have this one posted on a website or blog for it to work. If you have a website or blog that you would like to post this gadget on you can get it for free at the following URL: http://www.foodsafety.gov/widgets/index.html
Happy eating!

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Holiday Tips for a juicy and safe turkey

Turkey Tips to Keep Your Thanksgiving Holiday Safe and Happy

The following tips will help keep your turkey safe to eat.

1.        If you are using a frozen turkey, allow ample time for it to thaw in your refrigerator. 
A twelve pound turkey can take up to four days to thaw in the refrigerator.  The time required for your turkey to thaw is dependent on how big it is and the temperature your refrigerator is operating at.
2.       Do not thaw your turkey at room temperature.  Doing so, allows the exterior of the turkey to get hot enough to support microbial growth while the interior is still frozen solid.
3.       If you discover your turkey has not thawed sufficiently in the refrigerator, you may use the following method to help it along:
Put your turkey into a clean sink or container and fill it with cold water (hopefully your sink/container is deep enough for the turkey to be fully covered; if not, turn the turkey over periodically).  Leave the turkey in the water for 20 minutes and then drain.  Repeat as needed.
4.       Be sure to cook your turkey to appropriate temperature; 165˚ F.  Use a calibrated stem thermometer to check the temperature in the thickest part of the thigh.  The juices should run clear.

If you suffer from dry turkey syndrome you may wish to brine your turkey

Combine 1 gallon of water, 1 cup sugar and ½ cup kosher salt in a large pan and bring to a boil. 
When the sugar and salt are dissolved turn off the heat allow the brine to cool to room temperature.  Place your thawed turkey in a container large enough to hold it and cover with cooled brine.  
Place in the refrigerator for up to 24 hours.
When you are ready to cook, remove the turkey from the brine and discard the brine.
Dry the turkey with paper towels.
Season and cook your turkey as normal.
A 12 pound turkey will take about 1 ½ - 1 ¾ gallons of brine. 
Remember it must be thawed and refrigerated at a temperature below 39˚ F.
Brining flushes out some blood and helps the bird retain water so you will hopefully wind up with a juicy turkey.

Need further assistance with your turkey or other holiday cooking projects?
You may wish to access the following sources of help:
 Reynolds Turkey Tips Line
(800) 745-4000 Open through December 31, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

Butterball Turkey Talk Line
(800) BUTTERBALL (800-288-8373) Available November 1 through December 28, weekdays 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. CST; Saturday and Sunday, 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. CST; Thanksgiving Day, 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. CST; Nov. 24 to Dec. 25, weekdays, 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. CST.

Honeysuckle White
(800) 810-6325 Recorded answers to frequently asked turkey preparation questions.

Crisco Pie Hotline
(877) 367-7438 toll-free.  Provides answers the most common questions about baking pies for novice bakers as well as offering tips that will benefit the most seasoned baker. The hotline also offers the option for callers to connect to a live pie expert for pie baking guidance. Hours: 9 - 7 EST except for: Nov. 16 - 25 (8am - 8pm EST) and Dec. 14 - 23 (8am - 8pm EST).

Foster Farms
(800) 255-7227. Live operators answer your questions 24 hours a day November 19 through December 1.  The rest of the year, hours are 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. PST, Monday through Friday.

Perdue Chicken
(800) 473-7383 Available weekdays year-round (except the day after Thanksgiving and Christmas Day) 9:30 a.m. to 6 p.m Eastern Time. Thanksgiving week: Monday and Tuesday, 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. EST, Nov. 27, 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. EST, Thanksgiving Day, 7 a.m. to 4 p.m EST.

Shady Brook Farms Turkey Line
(888) 723-4468. Available 24-hours, 7 days-a-week, automated messages by famous chefs and winemakers, through Jan. 1.

Empire Kosher
(800) 367-4734. Year-round Monday through Thursday, 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. EST; Fridays, 8 a.m. to 3 p.m EST. Closed on Jewish and secular holidays.

Land O' Lakes Holiday Bakeline
(800) 782-9606 Available through Dec. 24 from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m, CST, 7 days a week.

Betty Crocker
(888) ASK-BETTY (888-275-2388) Open 7:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. CST weekdays; staffed year-round.

Campbell's Soups Holiday Leftovers Hotline
(888) 453-3868 Open the day after Thanksgiving through December 31 for questions on leftovers; otherwise there are recorded recipes which can be faxed to you.

Fleischmann's Yeast Baker's Help Line
(800) 777-4959 Weekdays, 9am to 4pm CST, year round advice for bread bakers.

Nestle Toll House Baking Information Line
(800) 637-8537 Year-round baking help, plus recipes, from 10am to 6pm.

Ocean Spray
(800) 662-3263. Staffed year-round, weekdays (open Thanksgiving Day; but not Christmas Day, New Year's Day and other major holidays) 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., EST. 

Happy eating ya’ll

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Tuesday November 17, 2009

It always seems like the pace of life on campus picks up as the semester starts to come to an end and the holidays approach.  I guess this is evidenced in yesterdays activities.  Tuesday, November 17,  I had the opportunity to visit with students enrolled in the Alvin Independent School District, Adapt program.  I visited with them during their lunch hour about being a chef; different dishes I've prepared and like; and the importance of getting an education.  Thanks for all the questions guys.  It really makes a visit go by fast.
I returned to school at 1:50 PM and started working on my lecture notes for my 3:00 PM class.  When that class was over at 4:00 PM, I immediately went to the student center and participated in the Alvin Community College Open House - Career Choices.  The turn out was good and time passed quickly.  I got to visit with some nice people.  Before I knew it, it was 7:00 PM and time to go home. 
I wish to thank all involved in the organization of the event.  The room was laid out well and it was a real treat to have snacks and beverages available.

Friday, November 6, 2009

As a part of our saucier class we make classical sauces as well as salsas and dessert sauces.  This year we made a recipe that we had not previously done.  The recipe is for a lemon cream napoleon with raspberry coulis.  It uses fried wonton skins for the layers.  I was really happy with how it came out.  It has great visual interest and texture.  I think, when you look at the photograph, that you will agree.
Happy Eating!

Monday, October 26, 2009

Dawn Prather

As our students go out into the world sometimes their actions and what they have accomplished gets noticed.  Dawn Prather is one of those individuals.  The following article was published in the local newspapers.

Cutline:  Alvin Community College Culinary Arts student Dawn Prather, of Pearland, works as a preparation cook at the new Cracker Barrel location near Shadow Creek Ranch. She is shown on opening day of the restaurant on Sept. 7.

Prather pursues passion for pleasing palates
The opening day of the new Cracker Barrel location near Shadow Creek Ranch was just as exciting for at least one of its employees as it was for the approximately 1,600 guests who flocked in to appease their palates.
As the constant stream of customers kept the crew hustling throughout the day on Sept. 7, Dawn Prather, of Pearland, was doing her part in the kitchen to keep the food flowing and reveling in her first official day serving the public as a culinary arts professional.
“I just thought I would never be good enough to do it, but in the last 10 years I realized I was good enough to do it,” Prather said of finally pursuing her passion for cooking at the age of 42.
The position at Cracker Barrel will serve as an internship to help her finish a Culinary Arts certificate at Alvin Community College. It will also serve as an invaluable learning opportunity. 
“The time at Cracker Barrel will definitely be worth it to move on toward my goal,” Prather expressed. “I ask a lot of questions; it’s difficult, but I’m learning.”
“Cracker Barrel believes in old country cooking and country style and giving everybody a chance…that’s how they are,” she continued.
For Prather, it serves as an excellent example of what she plans to accomplish someday.
“Eventually I want to open my own restaurant…food for the family, food that sticks to your ribs, like old world cooking,” she stated.
Prather stepped on the path toward her goal by enrolling at ACC in 2007.
“I had worked everywhere…Dillard’s, Michael’s…but food was my passion. Coming to Alvin (Community College) was like a second chance,” she said. “I devoted all my time to going back to school, getting an education and getting some kind of career.”
“It had been 25 year since I was in school and it took time to relearn study habits and test habits,” Prather added.
In addition to her husband, Prather credits her success to ACC Culinary Arts Director Leslie Bartosh, CEC, FMP, for helping her to get through.
“If you have any problems, he will help you in the best ways he can,” she mentioned. “I had test anxieties and he pulled me to the side and said, ‘why don’t we work on it.’”
“He sees each student as an individual and helps them as an individual any way he can,” Prather continued.
“Dawn is a determined individual who has demonstrated strong self-motivation in her studies,” Bartosh stated. “She approaches her studies with tenacity, dedication and a desire to learn all that she can; she is constantly performing research to broaden her horizons and understanding of food.”
Despite the time it took to get her first culinary arts job and the time it will take to learn what she needs to know to open a restaurant, Prather said she encourages anyone, regardless of age, to pursue their passion.
“It takes time, but if you work hard you can get there,” she said. “In the end, it’s well worth it.”

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Recipe for Ciabatta Bread

I promised to post this recipe last week and never got there so here it is.  You really do need a mixer for this one.  It can be done by hand but it is tough to do (this can be translated into much work and be ready for blisters).  Be aware that the temperature used and the baking time is approximate.  With the oven I am currently using at home I leave it at the prescribed temperature for approximately 12 minutes or so.  Then I have to open the door and cool the oven down some and allow the bread to finish cooking.  Use the color of the loaf and how fast it got that color to determine whether and when to turn your oven down and the heaviness/lightness of the loaf to determine when it is done.

I usually cut the loaves into three portions and freeze them, it freezes quite well.  Reheat, thawed, at 350 degrees for 4 - 5 minutes.  This bread is great by itself, with butter or cheese and makes a great sandwich.  It has great mouth feel and does not dissolve into nothingness. 

Yield: 2 (19.6 oz) loaves

2.3 oz              Water, room temp
0.1 oz              Instant yeast
3.5 oz              Bread flour

5.9 oz              Biga
15 oz               water, room temperature
0.4 oz              instant yeast
17.6 oz                        bread flour
0.4 oz              kosher salt

For the Biga:

9 – 17 hours before you want to bake, prepare the biga.
Add the dry ingredients to the water in a small bowl and stir to combine into a rough dough.
Scrape out the dough and knead on a lightly dusted surface for 1 – 2 minutes to get it somewhat smooth.
Oil mixing bowl lightly and put dough back in, turning to coat.
Cover with plastic wrap and set at room temp for 1 hour.
Refrigerate until ready to make dough.

For the dough:
Use an electric mixer with paddle or hook.
Take the biga and mix with water to soften and break into clumps.
Add the yeast, and salt.
Mix to dissolve.
Change to dough hook.
Add the bread flour and mix on medium speed for 13 – 15 minutes.  (Medium high with a kitchen aid, speed # 8, do not let it walk off the counter)
Dough will climb up hook and not clear sides.  Periodically stop the machine and scrape the dough down.
Turn machine to high (kitchen aid to 10) and knead until the dough starts to clean the side of the bowl and collect around the hook.  It will be glistening, creamy and extremely elastic.

Ferment in oiled container for 3 – 4 hours until triple in size.
Prepare ½  sheet pans by covering with parchment and making a pleat down the middle of the paper.  Dust the paper well with flour.
Turn out dough and divide in to two equal pieces.
Pick up one piece of dough holding one end in each hand and in one fluid motion transfer to the parchment lined pan.
Repeat with the second piece with the pleat dividing the two loaves.
Dimple the tops of the loaves with your fingers.
Dust with flour and cover with plastic wrap.
Proof for 30 – 40 minutes until you see bubbles under the surface of the bread.

Preheat oven to 475° one hour before baking, placing a pan for ice on the bottom of the oven.
When ready to bake, pull parchment so it lays flat.
Bake bread on the middle rack.
Add ½ cup – 1 cup of ice cubes to the hot pan on the bottom of the oven.
Bake 25 – 35 minutes.
Cool on a wire rack at room temperature before cutting.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Fundamentals of Baking

Last night marked two different occasions.
1.  It was the first night, this semester, that the program has operated from the kitchen in E building where our lab classes are normally held.  The E building has been undergoing a major renovation that kept it from being occupied.  The kitchen renovations are not yet complete but things are in a sufficient state that we were given permission to hold class in it.  Yeeha! 
The culinary arts program offers a heartfelt thank you to all that helped us during this time period by allowing us to hold class in their kitchens.   Most particularly, we would like to thank Jeanine Wilburn, Department Chair of Child Development and all of her staff, for allowing us the opportunity to hold class in their kitchen.  Without your help I do not know what we would have done.

2.  Last night was also the last night of our fundamentals of baking class.  Being in our "normal" kitchen allowed the class to end the class with a plated dessert night.  As you can see from the photo below, there are many interpretations of how a plated dessert should look.  The one thing I can say for certain is that chocolate mousse is chocolate mousse.  Yummm!
Happy eating!

Friday, October 9, 2009

Clear Springs High School

Yesterday, October 8, 2009 I had the opportunity to attend an advisory committee meeting for the Clear Springs High School culinary arts program.  This was the first meeting I have been able to attend in almost two years due to my class schedule.  I am very pleased to say that the program under Chef Lann is doing quite well.  Enrollment is good and the quality of student is high.  Well done Chef!

Monday, October 5, 2009

Over the weekend, at home, I discovered we had used our last piece of ciabatta bread.  So this meant of course that I had to bake some more.  The photo below is the bread that I baked on Sunday.  We do this bread as a part of our International cuisine class when we are "in" Italy. 
It really is good.  It makes a tremendous sandwich bread.  Fill it full of BBQ brisket or pulled pork or even sausage and peppers with caramelized onion.  There are worse things in life I promise.
I will try to post the recipe later this week.  I must warn you a mixer is really required for this one.  It can be done by hand, I have, but it is a lot of work. 

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Gulf Coast Education That Works

This morning I had the opportunity to participate in a training session with the statewide articulation program (Tech Prep).  I was supposed to arrive at the University of Houston Conrad Hilton Hotel at 8:15 AM but due to a wreck on the Gulf Freeway I was late; arriving almost two hours after leaving my home.  It reminded me of the "three hour tour".  The drive seemed to take forever.  But all was good when I arrived. I actually had a few minutes before my session started.  The training went well.  There were seven high school teachers that needed training in the culinary arts area. And as always it was nice to see some familiar faces. 
Happy Eating!

Monday, September 28, 2009

Visit to Angleton High School

On Friday September 25, I had the honor of visiting the culinary arts class at Angleton High School in Angleton, Texas. I had the opportunity to visit with the class and their instructor, Ann Riedel, about being a chef, the importance of an getting an education, my program at Alvin Community College and the chef certification process among other things. And of course we made truffles as a part of the visit. The two photos below show me with the students both at the beginning and the end of the truffle making process. It seemed like a good and tasty time was had by all.  Happy eating!

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Coconut Chicken Curry

Coconut Chicken Curry
Yield: 4 servings

1 lb boneless, skinless chicken breast or thigh meat cut into 1 inch pieces
Curry powder as needed
Salt and pepper as needed
14 oz coconut milk
Red curry paste
Veg oil as needed.

Season chicken meat with curry powder and salt and pepper to taste.
Heat a skillet over high heat. When hot add vegetable oil.
Add chicken and sauté until seared.
Add the coconut milk (shake it well before adding).
Bring to a simmer and season to taste with red curry paste and salt and pepper.
Simmer until chicken is done and serve over rice.

Curry powder in India is often made at home and everyone has their own blend of spices they use. I use commercially made madras curry powder. It is not hot. The heat in this dish comes from the curry paste. You can control it by how much you add.
When I can find it, I add thinly sliced Japanese eggplant when the chicken is seared most of the way. I often substitute sliced zucchini for the eggplant.
The portions for this recipe are approximate.
Appropriate rice choices include: short grain white rice aka sticky rice; jasmine rice, or any of the varieties of basmati rice.

Happy eating!

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Recipe for Naan

Here is the Naan Recipe. Hope you enjoy. It really is a simple, easy and good recipe.

Prep: 25 minutes Rise: 1 hour Cook: 4 minutes Makes: 6 large breads

Adapted from Madhur Jaffrey's "Indian Cooking."

2/3 cups hot milk (100 degrees F. Body temp if you will. Warm to the touch not hot.)
2 teaspoons granulated sugar
2 teaspoons active dry yeast
3 cups all purpose flour
3/4 cup flour (I use a blend of whole wheat flour and bread flour for this portion: by weight: 4 parts bread flour and 1 part whole wheat flour measure as needed for the recipe. It gives a hint of whole grain in appearance and mouth feel)
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking powder
2 tablespoons vegetable oil plus more for bowl
2/3 cup plain yogurt, lightly beaten
1 large egg
Melted butter, optional

Put milk in a bowl. Add the sugar and the yeast. Stir to mix. Set aside until the yeast has dissolved and the mixture is frothy, 15-20 minutes.

Sift the flour, salt and baking powder into a large bowl. Add the yeast mixture, 2 tablespoons of the vegetable oil, the yogurt and the egg. Mix; form into a ball of dough.

Knead dough on a clean work surface until smooth and satiny, about 10 minutes. Form into a ball. Pour about ¼ teaspoon of oil into a large bowl; roll the dough in it. Cover the bowl with a piece of plastic wrap; set aside in a warm, draft-free place until the dough has doubled in bulk, 1 hour.

When the bread is put up to rise turn, on the oven to preheat to 500 degrees and at the same time, place a heavy baking tray (I use the flat side of a cast iron griddle pan; an upside down cast iron skillet can also work if big enough) in the oven. Punch down the dough; knead it again. Divide into six balls. Keep five covered while you work with the sixth. Roll ball into a tear-shaped naan about 10 inches long and 5 inches wide.

Remove the hot baking tray from the oven; slap naan onto it. Put it immediately into the oven for 4 minutes. (Rather than remove the pan leave it on the oven shelf and pull the shelf out as needed). It should puff up. Keep the naan warm by wrapping it in a clean kitchen towel; repeat with remaining dough. Serve hot after brushing with melted butter, if you like.

If you would like a darker bread, place 3 to 4 inches from a heated broiler for 30 seconds after the bread is baked.

Chicken Curry

Since I mentioned the Coconut Chicken Curry that went with the Naan (pronounced like John)I thought I would put up a picture of the curry. This is a recipe that I introduced to the international cuisine class last year. It is really easy and ultra rich thanks to the coconut milk. The ingredients are few but each flavor is well defined and combined are much greater than their individual flavors. I also have included another Naan photo.

Next on the agenda for the culinary department is a visit to Angleton High School on Friday September 25 to visit with their culinary arts students and their instructor.

Happy eating!

Monday, September 21, 2009


In preparation for international cuisine in the spring semester I tried a recipe for Naan this last weekend. Naan is an Indian flatbread. I was really happy with the recipe. It tasted great and went really well with the coconut curry chicken I made for dinner that night.
I plan on using this recipe in the international cuisine class.