Saturday, February 28, 2009

SCCC cooks compete at regional event (Schenectady County, Niskayuna)

SCCC cooks compete at regional event (Schenectady County, Niskayuna)

Posted on: 02/10/09
Jackie Sher

This weekend students from Schenectady County Community College’s Culinary Arts program will compete head-to-head in a competition not of culinary skill, but of the mind.

Four SCCC students will head to the American Culinary Federation’s Northeast Region H. Galand Culinary Knowledge Bowl Competition, held Feb.7 to 9 in Boston.

“They need to understand all of the definitions ranging anywhere from nutrition, sanitation, culinary basics, baking basics, as well as classical French cooking,” said Christopher Allen Tanner, chef instructor at SCCC and head coach of the team.

Participants had to memorize facts from five culinary textbooks including Escoffier’s “Le Guide Culinaire,” “Culinary Fundamentals,” “Baking Fundamentals,” and a book on management, which is produced by the National Restaurant Association.

The road to the competition has been taxing on the participants.

“They practice three days a week, three to five hours a day,” said Tanner. “They go through a grueling process of getting quizzed by me on the different topics.”

And that’s only when they’re all together. Participants are also expected to practice on their own. The four team members, who were selected from about a dozen applicants, all work full time and also attend school full time.

Many have little time to eat the food they’re studying so much about.

“I work about 55 hours a week at Creo, and I’m the head pastry chef here so I’m in charge of two other students who go to Schenectady County Community College as well,” said Jose Arteche III, team captain. “Then on top of that I go to school full time, but generally I stick to four classes but that’s still four days a week that I physically drive to school.”

Arteche said that one of the challenges of preparing for the competition has been learning French terms.

“Trying to remember French words when you haven’t really taken a French class is tough,” said Arteche. “We’re trying to guess in our minds what the actual words sound like. All of the questions will be read verbally so we have to really listen carefully to all of the questions.”

He said that he and his teammates are used to reading the phrases and words — not hearing them.

This is the first time Schenectady County Community College has participated in the competition in more than 10 years.

Team members include Arteche of Colonie, Valerie Inman of Watervliet, Daniel Sala of Watervliet, Lisa Valentine of Clifton Park, and Evan Weissman of Saratoga Springs. They will compete against students from Maryland, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania and West Virginia to take home the Northeast Regional title. The winners will go on to compete in the national competition held at the American Culinary Federation’s national convention in Orlando in July.

The questions asked during the competition will be very specific.

“They need to know all the primal cuts that are found in a beef cattle and what can be done with them. They need to know the proper techniques or the amount of time to wash your hands underneath sinks before you work in a kitchen. They need to know different laws on sanitation, as well as management laws,” said Tanner.

Students might have to name the two species of fish that Escoffier recommends using for fish stock (sole and whiting), and they might have to specify the type of gas that is employed in the flour bleaching process (chlorine gas).

However, despite the endless number of facts participants must commit to memory, they and their coach are excited and have enjoyed the process.

“If anything, this has expanded my knowledge in culinary arts. I can now point things out in recipes and menus that I wouldn’t have known otherwise,” said Arteche.
You can contact with any questions. Also, feel free to post comments below.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

From the SCCC Kitchen: Chicken jambalaya dish easy, healthful Cooks can control level of spiciness in recipe that’s well-suited for Mardi Gras

From the SCCC Kitchen: Chicken jambalaya dish easy, healthful
Cooks can control level of spiciness in recipe that’s well-suited for Mardi Gras
Wednesday, February 18, 2009
By Jeff Wilkin (Contact)
Gazette Reporter

Carnival law is now in effect for New Orleans, as tourists and natives prepare for Mardi Gras.

The Cajun version of easy living includes masks, costumes and plenty of spicy food. Christopher Tanner’s version of easy living gives home chefs a fast way to celebrate the day, without all the carousing and purple and green party favors.

“It’s really easy to make,” Tanner said of his chicken jambalaya, a healthful and spicy version of a rice stew. “They call it the creole trinity; the three main vegetables are in there — celery, bell pepper and onions. They’re just sautéed with a little bit of olive oil, put the Cajun seasoning in with that along with one cup of the andouille sausage and you kind of brown that a little bit on the bottom.”

This browning puts a bit of crust in the dish, and some extra flavor.

“Then you put the rest of your ingredients in there, the tomatoes, the stock, the rest of the sausage and the chicken, add your rice, stir it up put a cover on it and let it go until it’s fully cooked.”

It’s as simple as throwing beads off a balcony. Using chicken as the main protein also makes this healthier than a shrimp-based jambalaya, as Tanner said the latter dish can be high in cholesterol. A chicken jambalaya, the chef said, means people with allergies to shellfish can fill up their bowls.

New Orleans cooking means spicy, and Tanner’s salute to Mardi Gras is a spicy one.

“What you do to make it less spicy is take some of the Cajun seasoning out,” he said. “There are 5 tablespoons in this recipe. If you want it less spicy, just put 2 tablespoons of that in there or take the Tabasco sauce out as well.”

But people should not remove too much of the seasoning and sauce — this is a Mardi Gras diversion, after all.

“You want to have some of that in there,” Tanner said. “That’s the flavor of the actual dish.”
Chicken Jambalaya

2 tablespoons olive oil

3 cups Spanish onions, diced medium

3 cups green bell peppers, diced medium

1 cup celery, diced medium

5 tablespoons Cajun seasoning

3 cups chicken andouille sausage (found in supermarket poultry sections), sliced in quarter-inch rounds

6 cups chicken broth

2 cups peeled, chopped tomatoes

8 ounces chicken breast, sliced julienne

3 cups Uncle Ben’s rice

2 teaspoons Tabasco

Coat the bottom of a heavy, 5-quart pot with the olive oil, place over high heat and preheat. Add onion, peppers and the celery, 3 tablespoons of the Cajun seasoning, 1 cup of the andouille sausage and cook, stirring constantly until a crust begins to develop, about 12 minutes. Add 1 cup of stock to de-glaze, cook for an additional 10 minutes.

Add tomatoes and julienne chicken slices, cook for an additional 5 minutes. Add the rest of the sausage and chicken broth. Stir in the rice and return to a boil. Reduce heat to a simmer, cover and cook until the rice is tender.

Stir in Tabasco sauce and serve.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Have an Offal Valentine's Day at Irving Mill

Irving Mill is a restaurant down in Manhattan on 116th East 16th st with a menu driven by American ingredients with a classical rustic French and Italian twist. They describe their menu as "Old World clean." Ryan Skeen, their chef has a decidingly Italian background with a Sicilian grandmother along with his early years at Riccardo's in Portland, Oregon. At Elisabeth Daniel in San Francisco he picked up his French style of cookery, along with stints at Daniel, DB Bistro Moderne, Cafe Boloud, and even an Executive sous chef spot at Jeanes Georges in New York City. In 2008 he was rated on of the top ten fifteen young new chefs by the James Beard Association.

So why does all of that matter. Well, I took a look at Irving Mill's website recently and found a picture of Chef Skeen lugging a small pig on his back, a man with a similar passion for the swine I must say. Upon further look, from a suggestion of a friend, I checked out his Valentine's Day menu. The main menu was the usual high end great food that one would expect from a restaurant like this, however, I scrolled down to the bottom of the page to find this wonderful addition to the menu.

7 Course Heart Tasting Menu $85

Chicken Heart Tempura with Sweet Garlic and Parsley Sauce
Duck Heart Confit & Crispy Duck Neck with Smoked Duck Bacon, Chicory and Poached Quail Egg
Grilled Pork Heart BLT with Tomato Confit, Horseradish Aioli, Parsley and Romaine
Squab Heart Sugo with Gnocchi and Burrata Cheese
Cured Shaved Lamb Heart with Pickled Beets, Rapini Leaves and Goat Cheese
Sweetbread Stuffed Calves Heart Grand Mere with Grilled Porcini, Thumbelina Carrots, Pearl Onions and Veal Bacon
Hearts of Palm Tres Leche

Holy cow, it's too bad the wonderful woman I am currently dating will be away for Valentine's Day, well maybe too bad for me and lucky for her in her mind. I might have to make a trip down to NYC for the day at any rate to just see for myself how good this chef might be. With the "guts" (pun inteneded) to put together a menu like this, along with his impressive resume, I'm guessing this menu will be an exciting venture.

Restaurant info:

Irving Mill
116th East 16th Street
New York, NY 10003


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