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, December 18, 2010

Tricky Toffee

With Christmas just a few days away, our attention at Mirepoix turned to Holiday Cookies & Candy and all of the delicious possibilities. Like everything else, it seems that everyone has their old standby recipes that appear in the cookie exchanges & buffet tables; we wanted to feature our twists on some of the old favorites.

The usual suspects are fudge, toffee, brittle and bark. Our fudge recipe featured the irresistable flavors of Rocky Road - roasted peanuts, marshmallows and dark chocolate. Peppermint bark, made with tempered white and dark chocolates is simple, but requires a healthy helping of patience. My personal favorite was the spicy bacon & nut brittle that I've been tinkering with all week - it's even more interesting and fabulous than you can imagine!

Toffee was the trickiest project of the afternoon. Toffee is generally pretty straightforward to prepare, but, in some cases, you can be met with disaster. Here are the tips you need to follow to turn toffee from tricky to terrific:

1. Use the widest pot you have - cooking sugar solutions is much easier when you are using a pot with a nice, wide surface.

2. Resist the urge to stir compulsively - as a general rule of thumb, stirring a sugar solution is almost universally a really bad idea. Don't go crazy, stir with caution.

3. Use a reliable candy thermometer, if you are unfamiliar at cooking sugar solutions.

4. Dab the additional fat off of the top of the toffee before spreading on your tempered chocolate, otherwise, the chocolate will not stick to the toffee.

Following these tips will ensure that your toffee turns out perfectly every time. Here's our recipe for you to enjoy.

Terrific Toffee

1 cup granulated sugar
6 oz. Plugra butter
1 tsp. salt
1 oz. light corn syrup

toasted almonds, as needed (about 1/2 cup)
tempered chocolate (do not use chocolate chips)

In a large sauce pot, melt the sugar with the butter, salt and corn syrup.
Allow to boil until a candy thermometer reads 300 for the mixture.

Pour onto a parchment lined sheet pan and spread quickly with an offset spatula. Dab off any additional butter. Top with tempered chocolate and sprinkle with toasted almonds. Allow to harden. Break into pieces. Store airtight.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Winter Wonderland

Snowy days like today are perfect for relaxing at home and stirring up some comfort food to enjoy by the fire. Tonight, some very brave souls drove to Mirepoix for our third Date Night class of the weekend and they've prepared some irresistable recipes!

The key to planning a comfort food meal for these wintery days is to make things simple, but use interesting flavors to create the perfect dish. My favorite recipe from this evening's class is our cauliflower gratin.

Cauliflower is a versatile and delicious vegetable, and perfect for the winter months, but many people are unfamiliar with unique ways to prepare it. It's a far cry from steamed cauliflower & Velveeta, which might be a guilty pleasure for many, but not exactly what we like to cook at Mirepoix.

I hope you enjoy this recipe as much as we do. Paired with a pan-seared ribeye, it's a quick and easy winter meal.

Gratin of Cauliflower & Gruyere
1 medium head cauliflower, trimmed and cut into florets
butter, as needed
1/3 cup Panko
2 oz. shredded Gruyère cheese, divided
2 Tb. finely chopped fresh chives
1/2 cup finely chopped onion
1 garlic clove, minced
3 Tb. all-purpose flour
2 cups milk
3 Tb. chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley

Preheat oven to 400°.
Place cauliflower on a sheet tray, season and bake until brown and tender. Preheat broiler.

Melt butter in a saucepan over medium heat. Remove from heat. Stir in Panko. Stir in 1/4 cup cheese and chives. Set aside.

Heat a medium saucepan over medium-high heat. Add a tablespoon of butter. Add onion to pan; sauté until almost tender, stirring occasionally. Add garlic; sauté. Add flour; cook stirring constantly. Gradually add milk, stirring with a whisk; bring to a boil. Cook for twenty minutes to “cook out” the flour. Remove from heat; stir in remaining 1/4 cup cheese, parsley. Add the cauliflower to the milk mixture and season.

Pour into a baking dish or ramekin (whichever you are using). Top evenly with cheese mixture. Broil until golden brown and thoroughly heated.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Yule Tide Cheer

When I graduated from college, and made my departure from the Golden Mushroom, I took a pastry chef position near my home - so close, I could run there. In many ways, this was a perfect place for me to work - and at that time, the best job I had ever gotten for several reasons: I was compensated nicely, my commute had been reduced from a 45 minute hellish treck via 696 east to The Mushroom, I had my own pastry shop, complete with operational equipment,all in the basement of a beautiful old building in downtown Milford. I enjoyed complete autonomy, and, as I said, I could run there when weather permitted.

I was hired by a gentleman who had gone to the CIA in New York, and had become a pretty successful restauranteur. He owned several restaurants, as well as a catering company. He was full of life and had lots of personality. What I liked about him was that he was straightforward and pretty hands-off. He treated me well, always with respect, and made a sincere effort to make me feel a part of the family. Not just the family of restaurant employees, but his family as well.

Around the holidays, he stopped by my bakeshop and talked to me while I made scones and creme brulee, and listened to Spartan basketball. He was really excited about the holidays and he wanted us to build a gingerbread house and make a Yule Log for his annual holiday party. We drew up the templates and he enthusiastically showed me the best way to get everything "just right" so that my gingerbread house would be sturdy enough to withstand the jostling of 100 people crammed in his house, laughing, drinking and reminicing about the highlights of the year gone by.

He also invited me over so that we could decorate additional gingerbread houses with his wife (who was a tremendously classy and kind woman; I admired her greatly), and kids. Though I was a culinary school graduate, I had never learned to make a gingerbread house, and I was grateful for the lesson, and more grateful to be treated so nicely.

To this day, Yule Logs & Gingerbread Houses are a part of the holiday season that I enjoy, and actually believe are worth the effort, and sometimes, aggrivation. For that reason, I offered a class at Mirepoix called, "Show Stopping Holiday Desserts". To my absolute delight, two of my students had traveled all the way from Bay City to take our class! Talk about effort! We had a wonderful time and their Yule Logs were beautiful.

Making a Yule Log is not difficult, however, it is time-consuming. Today, we made our sponge cake, then our chocolate & praline buttercream. No Yule Log would be complete without the whimsical meringue mushrooms, dusted lightly with cocoa powder! Our students did a fabulous job, using a pastry bag to make the mushroom caps and stems. To really add definition, texture and interest to our logs, we rolled out chocolate fondant, cut it into circles, and used tempered chocolate to make rings for the "exposed" trunk and branches.

If you would like to make your own Yule Log for this holiday season, take advantage of our Make & Take Yule Log class on December 22 from 11 am - 3:30 pm. You'll receive instruction from our chefs, all of the recipes, and, your own Yule Log to take home to share with your family and friends.

To view photos of the Yule Logs prepared in today's class, "Like" us on Facebook.

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Sunday, December 5, 2010

Ingredient of the Month - Oranges

Recently, I started doing a free demo, twice a month, as a way for me to spend some more time talking with my students, without the hectic pace of a hands-on class. It's been a really nice experience for me to slow down, and reconnect with what I love - teaching people about food, and the loyal people who have made Mirepoix my favorite place to be.

Yesterday, our class was about oranges. There are two very common types of oranges - Navel & Valencia. Each type has a nice, long, growing season, with peak months in what we consider the "dead of winter". Citrus fruits, particularly oranges, add an unique dimension to recipes. Zesting, juicing, or segments are an enjoyable way to add flavor and interest to some of your favorite dishes.

My favorite chocolate biscotti recipe originally called for dried cherries, but changed it to use candied orange zest instead. Spiced with cinnamon, salt, and cayenne pepper, it is my new favorite cookie. The recipe includes almonds, which you could leave out (add extra chocolate chips).

Look for our recipe on Facebook tomorrow. If you don't already "Like" Mirepoix on FB, simply search us out tomorrow for class updates, recipes, cooking tips, and other news about our events.