Vermont Inspired Dinner for Twenty

Just as my ‘team’ in class had the fun of serving friends and family our rustic Italian inspired meal a couple weeks ago, the other half of class decided on an all-American dinner… with a little extra Vermont maple and white cheddar tossed in the mix.

We prepared most of the menu as a class, but when dining time rolled around, my team was able to sit and be served… quite a treat, actually! And the fuel for a leisurely natural light photo shoot. So enjoy a little home cookin’…culinary student style.

Amuse bouche to awake the palate: fried goat cheese round with balsamic reduction and citrus tossed micro greens…

Spinach salad with maple bacon balsamic dressing served in an asiago cheese bowl, and chilled vichyssoise with parsley puree and roasted red pepper oil…

A pork loin was given the royal rolled-up treatment: spinach, caramelized onions, tart green apples, and andouille sausage. Grilled spring asparagus, crispy onions and smashed red-skin potatoes… and cheddar jalapeño focaccia in the background…

Classic homestyle strawberry shortcake underwent an adult makeover: savory buttermilk biscuit topped with a compote of strawberry, maple, and orange liqueur… and whipped almond chantilly cream.

Two of my neighbors were sweet enough to keep me company and be my dinner guests. And if miles would permit… I’d set each of you a spot. Perhaps next time around~

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Kitchen: All in a day’s fun

Today was a typical day in Culinary School. It’s become completely normal- with class from roughly noon to seven- to spend the majority of each day in the kitchen. Not sure of any place I’d rather be, actually. Perhaps a garden would give it a run for its money, but that’s about it.

But I realized while having coffee with a new friend this morning that this myriad of kitchen hours seems excessive to most people. So I decided to share what a normal day in the kitchen looks like for us. Regional American Cuisine with a focus on Coastal areas was the game plan…

Knife practical skills assessment: 10 minutes, small dice, red pepper. Graded on technique, use of product/waste, accuracy, precision, cleanliness, knife sharpness and handling.

Roma tomatoes, tossed with olive oil, salt, garlic, thyme, rosemary and roasted in a low oven all afternoon. Flavors concentrate making even an out of season tomato delicious.

Breakdown a large, fresh salmon into fillets, saving trim for fish stock, and create an indoor wood chip smoker and spice rub blend.

Make a vinaigrette to marinade red and yellow peppers as a sweet complement for the smokey salmon.

Produce an incredible herb-forward flavored tartare from this beautiful tuna fillet… knife precision paramount.

Firm polenta is cut into rounds and fried into a crisp base for seared scallops, served with roasted red pepper remoulade… yes, the knife practical peppers being put to good use.

Baked oysters two ways for comparison…

The largest pieces of focaccia I’ve ever eaten, and a kalamata fougasse.

Lovely plated dessert of peanut butter bars, salted caramel, dark chocolate sauce and crisp chocolate cake crumbs… so lovely in fact that a photo escaped me. Apologies to my fellow sweet lovers.

Plate, serve, eat, critique, clean up… and lecture on wine. All in a day’s work fun!