Well people, apparently it is almost the middle of October. How does that keep happening? I look away for one second, and all of a sudden it’s time to get another haircut and I can’t leave my apartment without a coat. A coat! Yesterday I was clamoring about the oppressive summer heat radiating from the city’s sidewalks, and today I need a coat. I bet tomorrow I’ll be asking for a warm hat and mittens.
You know what else? I’m already in level 5 at school. Level 5! Level 5 means that, when I go to class everyday, I’m not actually in “class” – I’m one of the students working the lunch shift in the school’s restaurant, L’Ecole. Kind of crazy, no? I cook lunch for people! REAL people, who will eat the REAL food that I cook for them. Almost like a real chef! …Almost.
We rotate stations in the kitchen, from garde manger (appetizers and cold salads) to entremetier (specials) to poissonier (fish) to saucier (meats and sauce) to patissier (pastry). I haven’t hit all of the stations yet, but here are a few highlights from my rotations in saucier and patissier:
In addition to our everyday work in the kitchen, we level 5 students were assigned a menu project which was, incidentally, due today. The project consisted of designing a menu, including at least 4 courses, and writing a report on it, complete with pictures of your plated dishes, a wine pairing, and a food cost analysis. In short, a glorified blog post (minus the cost analysis business). Needless to say, I kind of enjoyed doing it (again, minus the cost analysis nonsense. Me and math are not the closest of friends.)
I chose to create a seasonal menu, complete with my favorite, toasty warm fall flavors (note the ample use of apples and butternut squash). Here is the menu I chose:
Course 1: amuse-bouche – ham and cheddar toast with pickled apple
Course 2: curried squash soup with apples, crème fraiche, and a popover
Course 4: chicken cassoulet with white beans, roasted Brussels sprouts and butternut squash (apologies – no photo).
Course 5: apple meringue “cupcake” with cinnamon-sugared doughnut holes
Curried Squash Soup with Apples, Crème Fraiche and a Popover
To me, squash soup is the epitome of fall – warm and smooth, with a hint of sweetness and spice. Eating it makes me want to own lots of cozy sweaters and watch football and drink hot cider. My recipes for the soup and popovers are adapted from Ina Garten and Gourmet magazine (rest in peace, old friend), respectively.
- 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 3 large yellow onions, chopped
- 2 tablespoons curry powder
- 5 pounds butternut squash (2 large), peeled, seeded, and cut into chunks
- 1 1/2 pounds McIntosh apples, peeled, cored, and cut into chunks
- 1 sprig fresh thyme
- kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
- 4 cups chicken stock
- crème fraiche, for garnish
- pumpkin seed oil, for garnish
- 1 cup sifted all-purpose flour
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 2 large eggs
- 1 cup milk
- melted, unsalted butter for brushing the pan
Warm the butter, olive oil, onions, and curry powder in a large stockpot, uncovered, over low heat for 15 to 20 minutes, until the onions are soft and translucent. Stir occasionally, scraping the bottom of the pot.
Add the squash, apples, salt, pepper, thyme and chicken stock to the pot. Bring to a boil, cover, and cook over low heat for 30 to 40 minutes, until the squash and apples are very soft.Remove the sprig of thyme.Puree the soup coarsely with an immersion blender, or in the bowl of a food processor fitted with a steel blade.
Adjust seasoning and serve hot, garnished with a dollop of crème fraiche and a drizzle of pumpkin seed oil.
To make the popovers, first preheat the oven to 450 degrees F.
Next, sift together the flour and the salt in a medium bowl.
In a small bowl whisk together the eggs and the milk. Add the milk mixture to the flour mixture, stirring, and stir the batter until it is smooth.
In a preheated 450°F. oven heat one or two 6-cup muffin pan for 5 minutes, or until hot, and then brush the cups with the melted butter, and fill them half full with the batter (you should be able to fill about 8 muffin cups).
Bake the popovers in the middle of the 450°F oven for 20 minutes, then reduce the heat to 375°F, and bake the popovers for 20 minutes more, or until they are golden brown and crisp.
Makes roughly 3 quarts of soup and 8 popovers.