Sunday, January 27, 2008

Millennium - Winter Mushrooms Cooking Class

COOKING CLASS AT MILLENNIUM: After two mushroom foraging trips, I finally made it to my first cooking class at Millennium. I was worried about being late but I was the first person to arrive! The private dining room was set up with a table, recipe packets and name tags. Everyone had a cook's jacket over her chair. There were 10 people plus Thomas and Allison (from Monday mushroom hunting), Aylene (from Friday mushroom hunting). We got a packet of recipes -- and the the group was split into two to work in 2s and 3s... in my case, my group was comprised of a married couple and a pair of friends so they worked together and Eric has me work on the main parts of the recipes myself. I ended up making the candycap brownie myself, as well as the entire "Soup X" and the Chanterelle Stroganoff. Here's a list of what was on the menu:

  • Chanterelle Butter
  • Black Chanterelle Pecan (or Walnut) Pate
  • Button Mushrooms done right
  • Pickled Clamshell and trumpet mushrooms
  • Soup X
  • Grilled Oyster Mushroom and Kale or Radicchio (or Endive Salad), Truffle Vinaigrette
  • Chanterelle Stroganoff
  • Candy Cap Blondies (or brownies if you mix the chocolate chips before the stuff cools and melt them)
  • Truffled sorbet

The things I really would have wanted to do - I got to do! The soup was really fantastic -- we had a "team meeting" to discuss the direction suggested by Eric and then he tasked them with their button mushrooms and pickled mushrooms and took me to the pantry to collect ingredients for the soup.

Soup X
  • 2-3 T olive oil
  • 4 stalks of the Devil's Weed (aka celery - ok, it wasn't bad)
  • 3-4 smallish (smaller than fist size) yukon gold potatoes, peeled & cubed
  • 6-9 parsnips of many colors, peeled and sliced at an angle
  • 1 red onion chopped
  • 1# black trumpets, cleaned, triple rinsed and chopped
  • 1 qt (give or take) of dark mushroom broth
  • cumin, allspice, oregano
  • 3 dried chiles, toasted, seeded and pulverized -- add half to the soup, reserve half
  • pebble beans
  • chestnuts
  • garlic
  • salt
  • pepper

Toasted Pumpkin Seed pesto garnish:
  • 2 c toasted pumpkin seeds
  • 1 bunch flat leaf parsley
  • 1 bunch cilantro
  • 3 T minced garlic
  • pumpkin seed oil
  • salt
  • pepper

At first, it was peculiar being in the kitchen with so many people. That really threw me at first and made a mistake. When I mixed the ingredients from the double boiler with the dry ingredients for the Candycap blondies and threw in the chocolate chips before the liquids cooled, turning them into brownies (they were still edible). I was pretty disappointed and thought I ruined them and wanted to redo (I really do like blondies!). I think I would use less grapeseed/cocoa butter -- that would lighten them up a bit. I will start using parchment paper more often for those sorts of things -- it works miracles in getting stuff out of a pan.

We made the first several dishes for lunch -- the pate, chanterelle butter, mushrooms, soup and pickled mushrooms. Then we went back to make the stroganoff and the salad. Folks on my team prepped the salad and a biscuit-like crust to go on the stroganoff which I prepared. My stroganoff came out a lot better than the other group -- I actually got my onions carmelized and know how to cook with chanterelles. The other team used too many chanterelles and didn't get enough liquid out, and also did not start early enough or use a big enough pan to carmelize their onions properly. They made cracked black pepper papardelle which came out really amazing and yummy.

And I just have to say - the truffled sorbet and the blondies/brownies were to die for. I just thought I was going to explode from eating so much delicious food. It was utterly unfair that we should have so much yummy food and my friends should not have it.

Friday, January 25, 2008

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Water, Water Everywhere. Ever stop to think? About what you drink?

Perhaps this is just a typically Northern California thing to ponder but... for all the folks who insist that bottled water is really tap water and there's no difference, uh, yeah, right. People who drink lots of water can taste the difference between tap water, purified water and spring or mineral water.

Growing up in rural Napa county in the mid-late 70s, we didn't have a lot of water options. OK, we had options but they mostly didn't involve water coming from the ground. The drought had made the whole proposition of a viable well impossible and we couldn't even get PG&E to put up power lines, who would pipe water?

Instead, we had an antique fire truck which we would fill with water from a hose at a nearby lake. The water would go from the fire truck into a tank at the top of the hill and that water would be used for toilet flushing (at night) and showers.

Yes, we had a port-a-john.

For drinking water, we would take a big green 5 gallon container with a black lid and various smaller containers over to natural rock springs with big PVC pipes sticking out to fill with clear spring water so cold it hurt your hand to leave it under too long.

After the divorce, I lived with city water and remember making a LOT of Kool Aid to cover up the taste of the tap water. After moving to live with my maternal grandparents -- where they had a well with very high sulphur content water. My grandparents would make regular trips out to the "country" where there was a natural mineral spring and we drank nothing but mineral water at their house.

I spent 6 years in the suburbs of Cleveland - and I remember my stepdad struggling to get us to drink more water. Again, we doctored it with Kool Aid and I just always thought "I don't like water, it makes my stomach upset." I drank Gatorade all the way through undergrad in Northwest Ohio.

My next move was to New Orleans where EVERYONE has spring water (Kenwood or Abita) delivered - you just don't drink the tap water in New Orleans. I started drinking a lot of water.

In 2003, friends questioned my consumption of bottled water and preference for mineral water. Bottles are definitely wasteful and I have cut out bottled water from my life -- but I'm still in search of a good filter to get out the chlorine and other stuff.

So, any water snobs out there? Dish - I'm dying to hear about your favorite filter or source for H2O