Blogs > Cooking from Scratch

Chef Stacy believes that cooking from scratch and using the best ingredients are the secrets to preparing delicious and memorable meals. She has created dozens of classes for the home chef and teaches students how to master culinary techniques and recipes in just one session. Read on to see what she's dishing up for The Oakland Press today....

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Celebrate Summer with a Blue Ribbon Pie

With the 4th just around the corner, you may be considering the perfect dessert for your holiday picnic. Everyone loves a homemade cherry, apple or banana cream pie. If you think that perfect pastry is out of your reach, it's not! Follow the tips below and you'll be wondering why you haven't tried making your own pie crust before!

Pie Crust – A Crash Course
There are several things to keep in mind when you set out to create a flakey, delicious, and simple pie. One of the most intimidating undertakings for even a very accomplished baker, pies do not need to be so complicated. Learn a few simple tricks, develop your technique, and you will turn out perfect pies every time.

The Ingredients
Flour – Choose pastry flour when making pie dough. It has the appropriate amount of gluten to ensure the proper texture.

Fat – Lard, shortening, and butter are the best choices when making pie dough. Most bakers like to use a combination of butter and shortening/lard because butter lends a delicious flavor and texture, but shortening/lard shrinks less. If all butter is to be used, then you should add 25% more butter. For instance, if a recipe calls for 1# of shortening, use 1.25# butter.

Liquid- water is necessary to develop some of the gluten in the flour, and to give structure and flakiness to the dough. If too much water is added, the dough will become tough. If too little water is added, the dough will fall apart.

Salt – Salt has some tenderizing and conditioning properties. Dissolve salt in the water to ensure even distribution.

All ingredients should be ice cold, it is even beneficial to put the mixing bowl in the freezer until you are ready to start working.

Tools Commonly Used in Pie & Tart Production–
Inexpensive bench brush (buy at a hardware store, use only in kitchen)
Pastry brush
Bench Scraper, metal
Aluminum pie pans
Kitchen Shears, for pastry use only
Rolling pin
Saran wrap
Tart pans
Half sheet pans

Combination Pastry
1lb. 9 oz pastry flour
2 tsp. Kosher salt
1 lb. chilled unsalted butter
5 oz. shortening
2/3 c. ice water

The Pastry Method:
Scale all ingredients accurately
Sift dry ingredients into a mixing bowl
Cut in the shortening until fat is visible but in small chunks – DO NOT OVER-MIX THE FAT!
Combine liquid ingredients
Add liquid to dry, do not over-mix
Bring the dough to the bench and knead lightly and roll into a log. Wrap with saran. Chill.

To learn more about the Mirepoix Cooking School or to register for one of our classes, go to

Labels: , , , , , , ,

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Slice of Summer - Chef Stacy's Mojito Pie

There's nothing better than the refreshing taste of lime on a summer day. Our Pies & Tarts class at Mirepoix this evening featured delicious scratch-made pies and tarts perfect for the season. On a whim, I decided to try a take on traditional key lime. I love the flavors found in a tall icy Mojito and decided to put them into a pie.


Pretzle Crust
2 1/4 c. pretzels
4 tbsp. brown sugar or white sugar
1 1/2 sticks melted butter
Combine all in food processor until it will hold together. Press into the bottom of a tart or pie pan. Bake at 350 until golden brown.

Mojito Filling
¼ c. lime zest
Finely chopped mint, to taste
1 Tb. rum, or to taste
1(14oz.) can sweetened condensed milk
½ c. Key Lime juice
5 Egg yolks

Mix all ingredients together and adjust flavorings.
Pour into pre-baked pretzel crust
Bake at 325 until set.
Top with sweetened whipped cream

Labels: , , , , , ,

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Father's Day Feast

Yesterday, our Big Chef/Little Chef class brought kids and dads together for some fun in the kitchen. Together, they made an impressive spread to enjoy while celebrating their love of family and food. From flank steak to rich chocolate pudding, everything was excellent.

Try our recipe for grilled flank steak with roasted potato salad. This simple meal can be put together quickly, so it's perfect for a gorgeous summer day like today. Make the marinade first and then submerge the flank steak. While the steak is marinating, start working on the potato salad.

Basic Dijon Marinade
½ cup smooth Dijon mustard
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 teaspoons dried thyme leaves
¾ cup balsamic vinegar
¾ cup apple cider vinegar
2 cups vegetable oil

whisk first 5 ingredients together thoroughly, Slowly drizzle oil into mixture, whisk constantly, until emulsion thickens. Taste and adjust seasonings if needed.

Combine all of the above ingredients to make a marinade.
Marinate the steak for at least one hour.
Grill to medium rare. Rest before slicing into thin strips against the grain.

Roasted Potato Salad

1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
1 tablespoon Sherry wine vinegar
1/4 cup canola oil
1 teaspoon chopped fresh Italian parsley
1/2 teaspoon chopped fresh tarragon
2 pounds potatoes
2 1/4-inch-thick slices smoked bacon, cut crosswise into 1/4-inch-thick strips
2 small shallots, thinly sliced
2 green onions, thinly sliced
4 oz. Maytag Blue Cheese (optional)

For vinaigrette:
Combine mustard and vinegar in small bowl. Whisk in shallots and herbs. SLOWLY drizzle the oil in. DO NOT DUMP IT IN ALL AT ONCE OR TOO FAST!

For potatoes:
Preheat oven to 400°F. Peel potatoes; cut into similarly sized chunks or cubes. Toss with oil and roast until potatoes are tender, about 1 hour. Remove from oven, and cool to lukewarm.

Meanwhile, cook bacon in medium skillet over medium heat until brown and crisp. Transfer to paper towels to drain.

Place warm potatoes in medium bowl. Add bacon, green onions, blue cheese and vinaigrette. Toss well and serve.

Labels: , , , ,

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Grilling 101

Grilling is the perfect summertime meal solution because it’s relatively fast, simple, and a great way to enjoy the gorgeous weather we look forward to all year. Clean-up is a cinch because there are no pots or pans to scrub and somehow, a juicy burger or steak makes even Chinete feel like fine dining when you’re enjoying dinner on the patio.

When grilling there are a few things to keep in mind. First, as with all other culinary endeavors, you will need some basic tools:

*2 sets of tongs with long handles. One is for raw meat. Remove cooked food from grill with the clean tongs to avoid cross-contamination.

*a clean vessel on which to transport fully cooked food to the serving table. For food safety reasons, do not transport cooked food on the same platter you used to bring the raw foods to the grill.

* a stiff grill brush for cleaning grilling surface (I just bought a nice one at HomeGoods)

* an old kitchen towel or washcloth, rolled up and tied with butcher’s twine for oiling grill

* a rectangle dish for canola oil to dip the cloth in for oiling the grates

* an instant read thermometer (an essential tool for all of your cooking exploits)

Grill Preparation
1. pre-heat grill, preferably with 2 heat zones – one for searing items and one for longer, slower cooking or finishing . This ensures that the proteins you’re grilling are nicely browned on the outside and completely cooked on the inside. Many times, people char the outside and the interior of the meat is raw!

2. Wipe the grates several times with the towel roll that has been dipped in the canola oil (use the tongs to do this). You will find that you need to do this several times.

3. Use the grill brush to brush the grates as needed to prevent food from sticking.

Mirepoix offers several grilling classes to suit your tastes. Our July, August & September schedule will feature grilling classes for chicken, beef & seafood.

To learn more about grilling, sign up for one of our classes at

Monday, June 7, 2010

Summer Berry Whole Wheat Shortcakes

Strawberry Shortcake is the quintessential summer dessert. Last night in our Regional American Bbq class, we enjoyed a delicate mixed berry shortcake with vanilla bean ice cream. What made this dessert unique was not the blend of blueberries, blackberries, strawberries, raspberries and mint. It wasn’t even the orange zest and Cointreau we used to flavor the berries and the shortcakes. What made this summertime treat unique was that we used whole wheat pastry flour and raw sugar in the biscuit dough.

If you’ve been following this blog, you know that my latest project is to recreate some of our favorite recipes using whole grains and less refined sugar. This recipe was a delicious surprise to many who thought whole wheat and raw sugar couldn’t be combined to make a flakey, melt-in-your-mouth biscuit with a delicate crumb.

When making shortcakes or biscuits, it is important to keep a few things in mind. Keep all of your ingredients ICE COLD. If you allow the ingredients to get too warm, you will compromise the outcome of the recipe. Also, when making these types of delicate baked goods, be sure not to over-work the dough when cutting in the butter. This causes too the butter to soften too much, which will make the dough too wet. It will also make the final product too heavy.

When cutting butter into flour, be sure to work quickly and leave the butter in small chunks. You want some of the butter to be visible. After the butter has been cut into the flour, you can then add the liquid. In this case, we used heavy cream. When I make biscuits, I use buttermilk.

I hope you will enjoy this recipe throughout the summer and start experimenting with whole grains and natural sugars too in your own kitchen.

Berry Shortcakes
For the Biscuits:
1 3/4 cups whole wheat pastry flour
5 tablespoons raw sugar
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup (1/2 stick) chilled unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
1 cup heavy cream
1 tablespoon grated orange zest

For the Filling:
3 pints strawberries, washed, hulled and sliced
2 pint blueberries, washed
1 pint raspberries, washed
1 pint blackberries, washed
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons raw sugar
2 tablespoons thinly sliced fresh mint
1/2 teaspoon grated orange zest
1 oz. Grand Marnier

Heat oven to 375°. Line baking sheet with parchment paper, set aside.

Blend the flour, 4 tablespoons sugar, baking powder, and salt together in a medium sized bowl. Cut in the butter and rub mixture together until mixture is crumbly and small pieces of butter are visible. Add the heavy cream and zest. Mix with your hands just until mixture comes together.

On a clean, lightly floured work surface, gather dough into ball. Gently knead 5 times. Roll out dough to 1-inch-thickness. Using 3-inch round cutter, cut out six biscuits, re-rolling the dough as needed. Place the biscuits on the prepared baking sheet, brush with egg wash . sprinkle with remaining tablespoon of sugar. Bake biscuits until light golden brown, about 18-20 minutes. Remove to a rack to cool.

Place the strawberries, 1/2 cup sugar, mint, liqueur, and zest in medium bowl and stir to combine. Macerate at least 30 minutes and up to 2 hours, stirring occasionally.
To serve, cut biscuits in half horizontally with a serrated knife. Fill with berries and sweetened whipped cream or ice cream, drizzling with remaining juice.

To learn more about the Mirepoix Cooking School, visit us on our website at or become a fan of Mirepoix on Facebook.

Friday, June 4, 2010

That's Hot Soup, Stacy Sloan

I’m not a baseball fan. In fact, I hate baseball, unless there’s a fireworks display at the end of the game. Then I hate it less. That being said, one would have to be living under the proverbial rock to have missed out on this week’s controversy surrounding Jim Joyce and the Detroit Tigers.

If you have been under the rock this week, here’s the run down: a baseball player whose name I don’t care to google right now, was about to have a ‘perfect game’ when the umpire, Jim Joyce, made a call that “robbed” him of the opportunity. Once Joyce learned of his mistake after watching the replay, he quickly and emphatically admitted his mistake and apologized profusely for the error.

Apology notwithstanding, hundreds, if not thousands, of irate fans took to the internet and started Facebook groups like, “Fire Jim Joyce”, “We Hate Jim Joyce”, “Jim Joyce is a &*@#”. You get the idea. A website popped up, aptly and cleverly named, And, if that weren’t abusive enough, a minority of really fanatical sports enthusiasts sent death threats to the guy’s family.

What does this have to do with cooking, you ask? I’ll tell you: It has nothing to do with cooking except for the fact that in life, we all make mistakes. I’ve said it before, and I hate saying it, but I only say it because I think it’s true – “cooking is life”. You can draw all kinds of parallels to life from your experiences in the kitchen. Cooking has it all, sweet success, dumb luck, impressive accomplishments, disappointing misadventures, and sometimes, abject failure.

Mirepoix Cooking School classes run smoothly. Every once in a while, we have our issues, but, for the most part, things move along quite nicely. I get questions all of the time from people about cooking and I notice that at the root of some of their questions is this insidious thing called fear.

My favorite question is, “how long do I cook it?” My answer is, “until it’s done.”
“but what if I burn it?” is the follow-up inquiry. So what if you burn it? It’s just food. You won’t burn it if you PAY ATTENTION. You won’t burn it if you CARE. You won’t ruin it if you don’t abandon good sense. Does this make me sound like a snotty chef? Sure it does! But that’s not my intention.

Here’s the lowdown, almost all chefs feel that way, and here is our reasoning – take the Mirepoix kitchen, for instance. The Mirepoix kitchen has 6 identical Viking dual fuel ovens. They are absolutely gorgeous and I love using them. But guess what? They all perform differently. Does that mean Viking makes shoddy equipment? NO! It just means that maybe some of the ovens need to be calibrated sooner than others, or perhaps one oven gets more use than another.

So, if our 6 identical ovens cook things differently, what do you think the oven in your kitchen will do? Ovens aren’t perfect, “life” isn’t perfect, and neither are you! Cooking is about the experience. It’s about learning how to be flexible, how to trust your instincts, how to use good judgment, and how to learn from failure. Cooking is about accepting yourself where you are and practicing until you get to the next level. It’s about trusting yourself and being present. Sounds zen, huh?

Secretly, I love it when people screw up a recipe. When someone screws something up, they generally feel embarrassed or frustrated. But I think it’s the best teacher. I was a first year culinary student when I cut the tip of my thumb off in Breakfast Pantry class. I remember it vividly. I was working in the corner station of the garde manger area, slicing baguettes for sandwiches that would be served in the Professor’s Pantry at Schoolcraft College. I made several cuts and then got distracted. I allowed my left thumb to sneak out to the side and sawed the tip off with my Wusthof serrated knife.

Stupid mistake. I NEVER did that again.

I was a second year culinary student when I was charged with the task of making a batch of corn chowder. I moved quickly through the recipe and finished cooking it down. The next step called for a quarter of the soup to be pureed. I took out the portion I needed and put it in the blender (this too, I remember vividly). I was standing in front of the line, blending soup, going about my business, when all of the sudden, the lid blew off and hot, molten, sticky corn soup glued itself to my face.

My classmate, Kevin Penn, said something supportive like, “that’s hot soup, Stacy Sloan”. My chef, (James Hanyzeski, CMC) made me sit in the office with a towel full of ice pressed to my face, and had the receptionist call my mom. This was embarrassing.

So I learned something – when using a blender to puree a hot liquid, don’t fill the blender more than half full, and always use a towel and hold the lid down. I caution our students to keep their thumbs tucked back when using their knives and to stand back with an ample supply of towels when using the blender.

When I was in my early 20’s, older people liked to ask me, “so, what do you want?” Their line of questioning referred to the types of men I wanted to date or the types of jobs I wanted to have. I never knew the answer, but I knew something more important – I knew what I DIDN’T want!

I knew I didn’t want to date a jerk, I didn’t want to date cheap guys, I didn’t want to pay for my own popcorn at the movies, and I didn’t want to apologize for who I was. I didn’t want to be poor. I didn’t want to clean the fryer at 5 Lakes Grill. I didn’t want to work nights, and I didn’t want to do fine dining.

The only reason I knew these things was because I did all of that stuff and figured out that I HATED it. I like to work backwards – figure out what you don’t want – that will help you figure out what you do want.

The same applies to cooking. Most people, when making a recipe for the first time (this is especially true for novice cooks) might be successful on the first attempt. Most of the time, this success can be attributed to luck. You might be lucky again, but at a certain point, unless you have a pretty good grasp on the basics, you didn’t learn that skill; it was more like a fluke.

However, if you’re new to the art of sauté, and you allow your sauté pan to get too hot and you scorch the oil before you can even add your vegetables, you’ve learned a very valuable lesson – don’t do that. Is it a loss? No, it’s a lesson. Now you know what NOT to do, which is more valuable sometimes (in cooking and in life) than doing it right the first time.

The good news is this – at the end of the day, it really is just food. If you screw it up and burn some croutons, the chances of someone starting an ugly Facebook page with your name on it is pretty small. Forgive others and forgive yourself, and most importantly, keep trying.