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, November 24, 2010

Thanksgiving Countdown

Holiday Market has been hoppin' since the doors opened this morning, and we're sure to keep the same pace until we close tomorrow afternoon at 2 pm (yes, we're open for those last-minute shoppers and any chefs-in-training who've not been practicing their mise en place!).

I'm still working on the class schedule for January, February & March, but when I leave, I'm heading downstairs to get some groceries so I can start creating my Thanksgiving dishes to share with my family. Happily, there isn't too much to do. The turkey has been thawed so it will go into my quick brine tonight. Pie crust was made on Monday night, so making an apple & pumpkin pie will be a manageable project for this evening, and my Madjool dates have been pitted so all that remains is a quick stuffing and then swaddling them with Niman Ranch bacon.

As I reflect on Thanksgiving and the things I'm thankful for, I am struck by the overwhelming feeling of gratitude to you, our loyal customers who have come to our classes and helped us grow each and every year. Moreover, I am profoundly grateful to the Violante and Mangold families who have made Mirepoix a possibility because of their love of food, family and friends. Mirepoix is the kind of opportunity every chef dreams about, and without their vision and commitment,for me, it would still be just a dream.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Effortless Entertaining

Last night, I had the privilage to speak to the most wonderful group of people at the First United Methodist Church in Birmingham. The Merry Mates graciously invited me to give a presentation about cooking and entertaining, and to share a little bit of information about Mirepoix.

Thanksgiving is just around the corner, with Hanukkah and Christmas hot on its heals. While for children, it seems like the holiday season drags on until the big celebration with family, friends, and gifts, adults often wonder where the time goes. With such hectic schedules, entertaining can sometimes be a chore, not a time for holiday cheer.

Don't stress over the idea of opening your home at the holidays. There are several things you can do to reduce the anxiety and effort. Here are some of the tips I shared with my friends at Merry Mates last night.

1.Only invite people you really like! What fun is a party when you don’t enjoy the company? Be honest with yourself, who do you really want to share your home with?

2. Set up a self-serve bar area. Make it serviceable and friendly.

3. To make things extra easy plan to make food that can be eaten at room temperature. If you want to serve hot food, invest in some attractive chaffing dishes. These can be purchased at places like Home Goods.

4. Use only dishes and flatware that can be put into the dishwasher! OR, use high-quality plastic ware. Beautiful plastic and paper goods are now readily available.

5. Hire a student to act as a bus-person. Students are always in need of extra money. Pay them a fair wage for what you are asking them to do. The little bit of money you will pay out will ensure that you really enjoy your evening during and after the event.

6. If you have access to good-quality food, made already in advance, BUY IT! You may spend a little extra for the convenience, but consider how much your time is worth. Master one or two dishes that will become your “signature” items.

7. Once you learn your signature recipes, remember that this is not the time to try something new. I've run 2 marathons and learned quickly that you don't run a marathon in new shoes! Go with what you know - this is not the time to be adventurous!

The holidays are busy for everyone, but particularly for those of us in the hospitality industry. I love to have family and friends in my home and use these tips regularly. Every once in a while, I overestimate how much time I have and underestimate how much time everything takes, and every time I do that, I remember why these tips are so important!

Even if you only incorporate a few of them into your holiday season this year, you're one step closer to having a happy and less stressful celebration.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Flavor Friends & Perfect Pairs

On Wednesday night, our Advanced Culinary School students learned the secrets to planning the perfect meal by knowing how to pair different ingredients to achieve the most delicious results.

We all know that certain things go well together, but many people don't know why. The biggest reason people have difficulty pairing ingredients together is that they don't really know where to start. The easiest place to start is by tasting individual ingredients, like olive oil, from different companies, and developing the palate.

In our workshop, students tasted 5 extra virgin olive oils, one pure olive oil, 3 balasmic vinegars, 2 apple cider vinegars, 4 types of butter (salted and unsalted), 4 types of salt, fresh herbs, dried herbs, 8 types of chocolates (ranging from milk to unsweetened, and even "candy coating" - YUCK!), a vinaigrette made with freshly squeezed lemons, the same recipe prepared with ReaLemon juice from the bottle (again, YUCK), and several other things!

After tasting and discussion, we could then build from there. It was our first Mirepoix Cooking School class where NO ONE cooked! How exciting!

I've said several times that the Culinary School Series is my new favorite set of classes to teach. I love that we can spend hours just talking about food, discussing the nuances, and dishing on food theory.

If the "hows and whys" of cooking appeal to you, consider signing up for the next series in January. Until then, taste, taste taste!

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Ingredient of the Month - Apples

If you missed our cooking demonstration today (the free one, yes, I did say "FREE"), you really missed out on a great time! Today's demo was all about apples. Just in time for fall, have you ever wondered which apples are best for eating, cooking & baking? The type of apple you use when you're cooking or baking really does make a difference. Granny Smith's are great for eating, baking and cooking, while Gala and Fuji apples are best for enjoying sliced or in a salad.

Here is one of our favorite seasonal recipes - Apple & Potato Pancakes. When you've grown tired of apples, you can substitute parsnips in this recipe and the results will still be terrific. Enjoy!

1 lb. russet potatoes, peeled and shredded
1 lb. granny smith apples , peeled and cored, shredded
3/4 cup thinly sliced scallions (white and green parts)
2 large eggs, beaten
2 Tbs. all-purpose flour

Panko breadcrumbs, as needed

Grate or shred the potatoes. Put the potatoes in a clean kitchen towel and squeeze out as much liquid as possible. In a large bowl, combine the potatoes, apples, scallions, eggs, flour, 2 tsp. salt, and a few grinds of pepper and mix well. Gently pat on both sides with Panko breadcrumbs.

Generously oil a griddle and heat over medium heat. Working in batches, spoon about 1/3 cup of the mixture onto the griddle at a time to form pancakes. Flatten the pancakes with a spatula (they should be about 1/2 inch thick) and cook until the bottom is well browned and crisped, about 5 minutes. Flip and cook until the other side is well browned, about 5 minutes more. Sprinkle with salt. Serve immediately or keep warm in a low oven until ready to serve.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Taste of Spain

Our Date Night class this evening featured the flavors of Spain. From tapas and paella,to churros and coffee scented flan, (and everything in between) our students created a delicious menu that we can't wait to do again on November 27 for our "overflow" date.

One of the most unique appetizers were the dates stuffed with Manchego cheese, chorizo and then wrapped in bacon.

Try them for your Thanksgiving buffet as an unusual and irresistable departure from the traditional crudite or dips.

Chorizo Stuffed Dates
4 ounces fresh (not smoked) Spanish chorizo sausage links, casings removed, coarsely crumbled
1 tablespoon chopped Italian parsley
4 ounces Drunken Goat cheese, cubed
12 large Medjool dates
6 slices applewood-smoked bacon, cut crosswise in half
2 tablespoons olive oil

Cook chorizo in heavy small skillet over medium heat until browned and cooked through, stirring frequently and breaking up lumps with spoon, about 5 minutes. Drain off fat; transfer sausage to small bowl. Add parsley; stir to combine. Cool. Fold in the cubes of cheese.

Working with one date at a time, cut slit along top of date. Gently pry open date and remove pit, leaving pocket. Stuff pocket with 1 scant tablespoon chorizo mixture. Wrap 1 bacon piece around each date, overlapping ends slightly; fasten ends with toothpick.

Heat oil in medium skillet over medium heat. Add dates, toothpick-side down, and cook without moving until bacon browns, about 5 minutes. Continue to cook until bacon is brown on all sides, turning dates occasionally, about 6 minutes longer. Transfer to paper towels to drain. Remove toothpicks. Serve warm.