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....

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Halloween "Ghoulash"

We have a delicious recipe for Chicken Goulash, "Gypsy Style" from our days as young culinarians at Schoolcraft College. Earlier this week, my best friend, who is a chef at another specialty market, made me laugh when she told me she made goulash at work and kept saying "GHOULash..." in her cheesiest, spooky voice on Friday afternoon.

Hense, I'm sharing the recipe with you, inspired by Reva Bell Constantine, the offical lover of all-things-Halloween. As we speak, Reva is hosting an excellent Halloween party, that I may or may not make it to later on tonight!

Tomorrow will be busy for those trying to get the little ones ready for trick-or-treating, putting things togther for parties, and other various preparations. The great thing about this recipe is that it's easy to make (you could do it in the crock pot if you wanted to), and, most importantly, it's delicious!

Served with mashed potatoes, it's the perfect fall meal, which everyone can enjoy!

Chicken "Ghoulash"
Goulash “Gypsy Style”

2 ½ pounds chicken dark meat, cut into bite size pieces
1 large yellow onion

2 ounces tomato paste
2 tablespoons sweet Hungarian paprika
3 tablespoons all purpose flour
1 tablespoon minced garlic
1 teaspoon dried marjoram
1 teaspoon dried thyme

2 tablespoons white vinegar
¾ cup dry white wine
2 cups brown stock (roasted chicken or veal stock, or turkey stock)
2 – 3 teaspoons seasoning mix
Oil for sautéing

pre-heat an empty, very large sauce pot over high heat
season chicken on all sides with salt & pepper.

pour about 3 tablespoons oil into the pan, then add chicken and brown well on all sides; remove from pan and set aside. add onions with a bit more oil and brown, about 3 – 5 minutes. add tomato paste, paprika, flour, garlic, thyme and marjoram and stir well to coat onions; sauté for about 2 minutes.

add vinegar, wine, and stock and deglaze the pan. return the chicken to the pan and stir well to combine. bring to a simmer and cover tightly. place pot in a 325 degree oven and braise for about 1 ½ hours until tender

serve with mashed potatoes.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Food Theory

We've started a new program at Mirepoix based on our experiences at Culinary School. The series is geared towards the student who longs to understand the foundational principles of good cooking, sound techniques and the "hows and whys". Tonight's class is the second installment of the Advanced series (there is an intro and an Advanced). Tonight, our students are learning about Food Theory.

What is “food theory”? –
After working as a professional chef, as well as teaching over 400 students in the last three years at Mirepoix, I’ve noticed that many people have a lot of the same questions and assumptions regarding food, food preparation, and basic cooking techniques.

From the novice to a more experienced cook, their questions and assumptions are actually sometimes surprisingly similar. One of the most common things I hear is, “well, baking is a science; you have to be so exact.” That statement is actually somewhat false.

The reason I tell people I am a “food theorist” is that you first have to understand certain “laws” or “principles” of a certain subject before you can become an expert. For example, a chemist needs to fully understand the periodic table, the differences between protons and neutrons, the composition of an atom, etc. before he or she can call himself a scientist or a chemist. Likewise, a medical student would need to understand the basic concepts of anatomy and physiology before he or she could learn about disease.

Food theory begins here -
 Understanding the importance and practicing of disciplined mise en place
 Understanding the three cooking methods
 Understanding and refining the basic cooking techniques
 Understanding and refining of foundational practices (water bath, blanching, shocking, barding, larding, confit, stocks, etc.)
 Sound knife skills
 Ingredient identification & functionality
 Flavor profiles & palate development

Grasping and practicing food theory is what distinguishes a cook from a chef. A cook might be able to make a recipe, but a chef can write the recipe!

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Soups & Stews on a Summery October Day

I woke this morning, made a pot of coffee, and then opened the door to let my dogs out. Considering that it's October 24, I was expecting a chilly blast once I sent Lucy & Mia on their way, but instead, I got a warm breeze! Not exactly the weather that makes people want to make Soups & Stews, but that's our class topic today! Who knew?

Even though it feels like late Spring, our students are still here in our beautiful kitchen, cooking up multiple batches of soup and a couple stews. Today's menu features New England Clam Chowder, Chicken Paprikash with handmade spaetzle, Moroccan lamb stew, chicken tikka masala, naan, and butternut bourbon soup!

Even if you find yourself grilling today, autumn will arrive sometime soon. Crisp fall afternoons and evenings are perfect for a piping hot bowl of soup. Good soup, like everything else, starts with good ingredients, including good stock. If you've never made stock, you might want to learn! Making stock isn't difficult, but it can be time-consuming. Still, nothing compares to stock that was made from scratch - you'll be forever spoiled and won't consider using canned or boxed broth again!

Our Culinary School Boot Camp class teaches students how to make stock, which the students later use to make a batch of soup or a foundational sauce.

Once you've mastered stocks, you're certain to make the best tasting soup you've ever had! One of our favorite recipes is our Bourbon Butternut Squash soup with Challah Crouton & Apple Cider Reduction. Served with a dollop of creme fraiche, this soup makes for a satisfying and simple meal. You might be tempted to skip the croutons, reduction and creme fraiche, but don't! The extra effort is definitely worth it! Enjoy!

Butternut Squash Soup

Butter or pure olive oil for sauteing
4 medium shallots , minced
4 cloves garlic, minced

4 honey crisp apples, peeled and shredded
1 oz. fresh ginger, minced

Bourbon (enough for deglazing the pan)

3 pounds butternut squash (frozen, that have been thawed)
2 qts. chicken stock (reduced by 1/3)
3 cup Apple Cider, Reduced to ½ cup
Maple syrup, to taste

1/2 cup heavy cream

Reduce the chicken stock by 1/3 to intensify the flavor. In a separate pot, do the same thing with the apple cider.

Heat butter in large Dutch oven over medium-low heat until foaming; add shallots and garlic and cook, stirring frequently, until softened and translucent, about 3 minutes. Add the shredded apple and the ginger. Caramelize this mixture.

Deglaze the pan with the bourbon and allow the alcohol to evaporate and reduce. Add the squash and chicken stock. Adjust the flavor with apple cider reduction and maple syrup as needed.

In blender (or food processor), puree squash and reserved liquid, pulsing on low until smooth. Transfer puree to Dutch oven; stir in cream and heat over medium-low heat until hot. Add salt and cayenne pepper to taste; serve immediately.

1 loaf challah bread, crust removed and cubed
8 oz melted butter
salt and pepper

For the croutons:
Toss the cubes of challah with the butter. Spread onto a lightly sprayed sheet pan and sprinkle with seasoning. Bake at 350 until golden brown.

Apple Cider Reduction
4 cups apple cider
1.5 cups apple cider vinegar
½ cup chopped shallots

For cider reduction:
Place cider, vinegar, and shallots in heavy medium saucepan. Boil until reduced to 3/4 cup. Strain; discard solids in strainer. Return cider mixture to pan.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Vegetables & Sides

My parsley plants are still hanging on, but before long, I won’t be able to keep them outside anymore. So far, this fall has proven to be absolutely gorgeous, so it’s hard to imagine that soon, the dishes I whip up in the kitchen will be more suited for warm spices like paprika, ancho, curry, saffron, cardamom and others.

In our Spices class tonight, our students made a delicious chicken goulash recipe, just like the one we used to make in culinary school. The goulash was served with crispy, pan fried, handmade spaetzle.

Making spaetzle is actually very easy, though many people think it is difficult. The key to making good spaetzle is having all of the ingredients and tools on hand, and being organized.

If you’d like to learn how to make spaetzle in your own kitchen, sign up for our class, “What I Learned in Culinary School – Vegetables & Sides”. In this fun hands-on class, you’ll learn how to make several impressive vegetable and side dishes that your guests are certain to love.

Register online at today!

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Tailgate 101

This morning, I had the opportunity to go to a fantastic tailgate party! As I soaked up the sun and looked out at a sea of maize and blue, even though I'm a Spartan fan, I couldn't believe what a perfect morning I was having! Gorgeous weather, great food, and good friends are the perfect ingredients for hosting a great pre-game event, but there are a few other things to keep in mind when you're planning your next tailgate.

Remember that refrigeration is essential, so if you don't have access to a refrigerator or freezer, it is a good idea to stock up on coolers of various sizes (at least 6 or 8 for a party of 30), insulated grocery bags (the ones that keep hot food hot, and cold food cold, if used with ice), lots of ice, and don't forget to take advantage of the shade.

Since refrigeration is not typically an option, remember to be careful about how long you allow food to sit out, especially things like mayo, potato salad or coleslaw(mayonnaise-based), cheese, sour cream, etc. It is best to take out only small amounts of the food you are serving and keep the rest chilled until you need it, to avoid any risk of foodborne illness.

Don't forget little thought-of tools like chip clips, scissors, a large garbage can, a medium sized garbage can (for bottles and cans), an ample supply of garbage bags in the appropriate sizes, a box or two of food-handling gloves, food storage containers (ziplock, tupperware, etc.), bottle openers, corkscrews, extra corks, and pourers.

No tailgate is complete without the right set-up for the grill. Whether you're using charcoal or gas, be sure to have ample propane or coals, a multi-purpose lighter (one of the long ones, not a cigarrette lighter), a sturdy grill brush, and an oil-soaked towel that has been rolled into a cylinder and tied on each end (for oiling the grill), several sets of tongs, platters for raw food, cooked food, and presentation, and a small container or your favorite seasoning at hand so you can season your food as you cook it.

Beverages are essential, especially if you're a Spartan! With your beverages, take into consideration who will be tailgating with you and whether or not there will be any children (at today's event, there were a few). Use some of your coolers for beverages, and designate them clearly as "adults only beverages",and another one for "soda, water, etc.". This makes things easier for everyone to identify what they should or should not be drinking, especially when bottles of "hard cider", "cranberry", or "lemonade" are available for adults.

As the weather turns colder, it's also a good idea to buy a few inexpensive fleece blankets, and gloves to keep in your car, just in case. Whether you're a wolverine or a spartan, if you plan your next tailgate carefully, everyone can have a great time, even if they find themselves in "enemy territory".

Friday, October 8, 2010

The Formative Years

When I met Tom about 4 years ago, I had no idea that the person I was talking with was going to give me the opportunity of a lifetime, and, worse, that I was too dense to realize it. As we sat in his office, we discussed the “opportunity” and the conversation came to a close. Tom addressed me from across the desk and said, “So, what do you think?” I said, “About what?” “The job,” he said. “What job? I don’t know what you’re asking me to do. I don’t know what the job is.”

Without hesitation, Tom said, “Well, what do you want to do?” I was stunned. “what does that mean?” I thought. I gave some kind of rambling answer. I was completely uncomfortable with this very general and open-ended kind of negotiating, and then silently vowed to stay away from Tom and his mystery project.

See, I am a very specific person. I like lots of rules and boundaries and routine and expectations. I hate surprises and hate mistakes even more. My communication style is clear (should read, “sometimes abrupt”), and I like to know everything. EVERYTHING. Every detail, every nuance, everything newsworthy, every movement of every person essential to maintaining order in my universe (and even those not so critical), every potential liability and every potential loophole.

Tom, on the other hand, is very open. Tom is open to ideas in ways that I am not. Tom is open to business in ways I am not. Moreover, though, Tom is open to relationships and people in ways that I am not.

Tom likes to say, “yes”. I like to say, “convince me.”

His mind is open to everything. Because Tom is open to everything, Tom views situations in a light that is very, very different than mine. Mirepoix is an example of Tom’s openness, but more importantly, Tom’s intelligence. Mirepoix is past its infancy, and moving past “toddlerhood”. We’ve had the proverbial “growing pains”, and all of the ups and downs that come with operating a new business.

When Mirepoix opened its doors, there was nothing like it. There is still nothing like it. Mirepoix is like a beautiful, classic, timeless dish that pushes boundaries but still appeals to those looking for warmth and comfort. In that way, Mirepoix is a portrait of its owner. I wish I could say that I instinctively knew all of these things about Tom before I accepted the job, but as I stated earlier, I was way too dense to realize what Tom was actually proposing.

I came to Mirepoix almost 4 years ago after working in professional kitchens as a garde manger, pastry chef, and apprentice at Schoolcraft for Joe Decker, CMPC, Kevin Gawronski, CMC, (International Cuisine) and Dan Hugelier (a la carte, restaurant operations).

In culinary school, I was yelled at by one of my chefs a total of 4times: Twice by Chef Decker (once for using the wrong tool to stir something, and once on an unrelated matter), once by Polcyn (for interrupting him during a butchery announcement about some lobsters that we needed for restaurant ops), and once by Gabriel for over-cooking some green beans.

As a 17 year old culinary student, needing order in my life, I was drawn to what Anthony Bourdain refers to as “the absolutes” of the business. Culinary school and the restaurant industry, though rife with its own type of chaos, debachery and outrageous antics brought a sense of order, pride and direction into my young life. I made it my priority to learn everything anyone had to teach me, ask as many questions as possible, and WATCH EVERYTHING AND EVERYONE. The detail obsessed over-achiever in me was determined to be one step ahead of absolutely everyone.

Early influences include each chef who taught my classes, the lore of Milos (who we,even those of us who were too young to have worked for him, to this day, revere as a god among men), Bourdain (and the fabled Bigfoot who remains my hero to this day – I read that chapter at least once a week) and the brilliant and under-appreciated James Beard.

In business, I’m known as a perfectionist, an obsessive, over-the-top detail freak, control fanatic, colorful, descriptive, direct and outspoken communicator, an ambitious director of projects and people. I can be demanding, with standards that have been considered to be “too high” (even by some of my employers) , picky and intolerant of laziness, apathy, self-indulgence, poor-performance, and disrespect pointed towards me and my business.

Demanding as I can be, though, I will do some things that many people will not do. I will set you up for success from the beginning and let you know right off the bat, where we stand. I’m specific about my expectations, likes, dislikes, and rules. I am patient with the eager & willing to learn. I am loyal and protective of those who earn my respect.

I am constantly multi-tasking, 3 months ahead in my mind of wherever we may currently be on the calendar, and making plans for the next three months after that. I’m specific and want to know all of the information upfront. I don’t like surprises so I’m always going to try to be ready and expect you to be ready too.

I love food, I love reading about food, talking about food, and more than that, I love food theory. I love writing about food and I LOVE the food business. I love the organized chaos, mayhem, and banter. I love the angst, adrenaline and pace. I love cooks and chefs and I love dishwashers more.

I love Mirepoix as if it were my own. I hope you love it too.