Friday, December 31, 2010

Grilled Turkey with Cranberry Gravy (Page 381)

RECIPE #1243

  • Date: Saturday, November 20, 2010 -- 5pm
  • Location: East Lansing, MI
  • Kitchen: Our House
  • Fellow Chef: Matty
  • Dining Companions: Helen, Charles, Clara, Corbett, Mary, Allison, Ben S., Kendra, Jubin, Watson, Linda, and Bob K.
  • Recipe Rating: A

Part of the reason we threw our pre-Thanksgiving dinner party last month was because I still have several turkey recipes left to make from The Book. We selected this one for our party. I started by prepping the turkey. I stuffed the cavities with some lemon halves and herb sprigs. Then I seasoned the bird with salt and pepper and rubbed it with butter. I put it on a rack in a roasting pan and put some water in the pan. My special gentleman was in charge of grilling the bird. He turned off the middle burner on our gas grill and balanced two disposable loaf pans on the burner tents of the middle burner, under the grill rack. One loaf pan had water in it. We punched holes in the bottom of the other loaf pan and filled it with some apple wood chips which had been soaked in water. My special gentleman put the rack back on the grill and put the roasting pan with the turkey over the turned-off burner. He grilled the turkey over indirect heat for about three and a half hours. Meanwhile, I cooked some cranberries and sugar in a saucepan, then pureed them in the blender. When the turkey was done we took it off the grill and let it rest while we made the gravy. We reserved some turkey fat and discarded the rest of the fat off the pan juices. Then we deglazed the roasting pan. We made a roux from the reserved turkey fat and some flour, then added the pan juices, some chicken stock, and the pureed cranberries. We cooked the gravy until it had reduced appropriately, then we strained it and served it with the turkey.

In a word: Yum! It was easily the best turkey I have ever eaten. The flavor from the grill was amazing, and the meat came out fantastically moist and delicious. On top of that, the cranberry gravy was incredible. I will be making cranberry gravy for years to come. It was so, so good. Everyone raved about this turkey. In fact my special gentleman raved about it so much to his parents on the phone after our party that they requested that we make it again for them -- which we did this week! It turned out great again! We did learn one thing from the repeat preparation though. The Book says to keep the grill between 350 and 375. At home we couldn't get it up to 375 with one burner off, so we cooked it right around 350. Here at Dave and Karen's their grill easily got up to 375, so we cooked it at that temperature. Both turkeys had the same great flavor, but the one at our house was moister, so I would aim for 350 degrees in the future. I don't know how well this method would work for a huge turkey, but if you are looking to cook a 12-14 pound bird I highly recommend this recipe. Yum!!!!

The recipe is here, although the recipe online only gives instructions for a charcoal grill, whereas the one in The Book gives instructions for a gas grill too.

Only 50 recipes left to go!

Well it is that time of year again -- time to reflect on the resolutions I made for 2010 and see how I did:
  • Be a good homeowner and neighbor -- This one has gone pretty well. The house hasn't fallen down and to our knowledge we haven't pissed off any neighbors. So I will call this one a success.
  • Eat more fruits and vegetables -- I did pretty well with this one too. I have been stocking the fridge with fresh produce and we have definitely been consuming more fruits and vegetables than in the past!
  • Eat less processed food -- I would call this one a definite success. I stopped buying ramen, boxed mac and cheese, microwave popcorn, crackers, cookies, cereal, etc... more than six months ago now, and it has been great! We never ate a ton of processed food, but now we eat even less and I feel good about it. We make all our own bread, cereal, etc... and it has been great!
  • Finish the Gourmet Project! -- Well, clearly that didn't happen. But I have only got 50 recipes left to go (actually less as I am a little behind in my blogging), and I definitely WILL finish in 2011.
  • Run five 8-minute miles -- Ugh, this also didn't happen. I have no excuse.
  • Do 20 consecutive real push-ups -- Again, didn't happen. I've got no excuse other than laziness.
  • Get a lot of research done in my semester of not teaching -- I feel like I used my time pretty well last spring. I didn't accomplish as much as I would have hoped, but I never do.
  • Bring a lot of energy to my new job in the fall -- I think I did pretty well at this one. I am more or less happy with how my first semester went.
  • Be a good wife and friend -- I hope I did well at this!
  • Put effort into meeting people and making friends in East Lansing -- This went better than expected. I definitely put in a lot of effort trying to meet people, throw dinner parties, etc... and it paid off in a big way. Six months ago I barely knew anyone in East Lansing and now I feel like I have some friends there!
Overall, I feel pretty good about the last year. Certainly I didn't achieve my fitness goals, and that is something I would like to improve upon in 2011. But overall, I accomplished many of the things that I wanted to in 2010. Today I need to do a little reflection and think about what my resolutions should be for 2011!

Happy New Year's Eve!!

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Fresh Corn Madeleines with Sour Cream and Caviar (Page 40)

RECIPE #1242

  • Date: Saturday, November 20, 2010 -- 5pm
  • Location: East Lansing, MI
  • Kitchen: Our House
  • Fellow Chef: Matty
  • Dining Companions: Helen, Charles, Clara, Corbett, Mary, Allison, Ben S., Marcie, Kendra, Jubin, Watson, Linda, and Bob K.
  • Recipe Rating: B

I made these tiny madeleines as an hors d'oeuvre for our pre-Thanksgiving dinner party last month. I started by making the madeleine batter. I whisked together cornmeal, flour, sugar, baking soda, salt, and pepper. I added egg, buttermilk, melted butter and chopped corn kernels. I brushed mini-madeleine molds with butter, then spooned some batter into the molds and baked them off. Once the madeleines had cooled I piped sour cream on top of them, and topped some of them with caviar. I left a few of them without caviar, as not everyone loves to eat fish eggs. These madeleines were pretty tasty. I liked the texture of the madeleines themselves -- the corn kernels in them added nice contrast. The caviar gave each bite-sized treat a burst of flavor, but even without the caviar they were good. While I liked this dish and had no serious objections to it, I didn't find myself wanting to eat a lot of these little madeleines. I apparently wasn't alone in this sentiment -- with many other tasty food options, this was one dish that didn't get completely eaten at our party.

The recipe is here.

Only 51 recipes left to go!

A few weeks ago we were driving down the highway and we saw a horrible accident happen. It was snowing and the road was slippery. One car spun 360 degrees and another car slammed into it at highway speed. We were so focused on not hitting anyone or getting hit ourselves by the spinning cars that it didn't occur to us that we should stop until we were well past the accident and couldn't get back to it. So I called 911. They asked for the location of the accident and I described which interstate we were on and the mile marker at which the accident had happened. The dispatcher asked me, "Near (insert some city name I can't remember here)?" I answered, "I don't know. I'm not from around here." He took my name, thanked me for calling, and that was the end of the call. As soon as I hung up I realized I hadn't said which state I was in. Presumably cell phone 911 calls are routed to a dispatcher somewhere close to your current location, but the accident was near the Indiana/Michigan border and the interstate in question goes through both states. I hadn't mentioned that the accident was in Indiana. I felt terrible. I am sure a half a dozen people called 911 and reported that accident, so no doubt the rescue personnel arrived quickly. My concern was that because of my call rescue personnel were also dispatched to that mile marker on the interstate in Michigan, to find nothing there. Who knows what happened, and even if my call had gotten dispatched to Michigan rather than Indiana it would have been an honest mistake on my part. I certainly wasn't trying to send anyone on a wild goose chase. Yet I felt terrible. I spent the remaining hours of the car trip obsessing about how badly I felt. I have been wondering lately if I beat myself up too much about that kind of thing: situations where I have good intentions but end up making a mistake.

More than a decade ago now I dated a really sweet guy. At the time I tried to treat him well, but in retrospect I don't think I was always the best girlfriend. I feel badly about the way things ended between us, and about my half of the relationship in general. And although he has never complained to me about anything that I did, I have long felt like it wasn't my best showing. He and I exchange emails on occasion, maybe once every year or two, but we aren't close any more. A few days ago, though, I got a very nice email from him. The message was a thank-you for the love and support I gave him back then, which he said made his life better. He mentioned some general things he appreciated, but also some specific little things (e.g. I made oyster soup for his grandfather after his grandmother died years ago) which of course I had forgotten. When I read his email my first thought was, "This is really sweet of him. If I were a better person I would send more emails to the people from my past who made my life better." My second thought was, "Maybe I am too hard on myself." And maybe I am. The reality is, I did try hard to be good to him in that relationship, and although I made a lot of mistakes, what he remembers is that I tried hard. Perhaps that is what I should remember too. One of my goals for the new year is to try to cut myself a little slack.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Twenty-First-Century Beef Wellington (Page 418)

RECIPE #1241

  • Date: Saturday, November 20, 2010 -- 5pm
  • Location: East Lansing, MI
  • Kitchen: Our House
  • Dining Companions: Matty, Helen, Charles, Clara, Corbett, Mary, Allison, Ben S., Kendra, Jubin, Watson, Linda, and Bob K.
  • Recipe Rating: B+

I made this Beef Wellington to serve at our Pre-Thanksgiving dinner last month. Calling this Beef Wellington (even with the Twenty-First-Century added on the front) feels like a bit of a misnomer. Traditional Beef Wellington involves coating beef tenderloin with pate de fois gras and mushroom duxelles, and then wrapping the whole thing in puff pastry and baking it. This recipe called for beef tenderloin to be coated with a cilantro walnut filling, and then wrapped in a sour cream dough that was closer to a pate brisee than a puff. Indeed while The Book calls this Twenty-First-Century Beef Wellington, online the recipe is called Beef en Croute with Coriander Walnut Filling, which seems like a much more appropriate name. The above might seem like a silly discussion, having little to do with the actual success of the recipe, but in this case it did influence my perspective on the dish. If you are expecting Beef Wellington, it's hard to eat this and not think, "This isn't Beef Wellington," and feel a little disappointed. If you were expecting Beef en Croute with Coriander Walnut Filling, this dish wouldn't have been at all disappointing.

To make the dish I started by preparing the filling and dough (see posts below). I seasoned and seared the beef tenderloin. I put some of the filling on the dough, then set the beef on top of the filling and spread the remaining filling on the beef. I carefully wrapped the dough around the beef and decorated with some dough cut-outs. I brushed everything with egg wash, then chilled it for an hour. I baked the beef wrapped in dough until the beef reached 115 degrees. After it rested it was ready to serve! The dish was pretty tasty. It's hard to go too wrong with beef tenderloin, and wrapping meat in pastry is almost always a good idea. I wasn't super-crazy about the cilantro walnut filling though. It was neither great nor terrible. It certainly wasn't mushroom duxelles and pate de fois gras -- Yum!! If I were going to make this type of beef en croute again, I would definitely replace the cilantro filling with duxelles. But even as it was, it was quite tasty. It made for an elegant addition to our Pre-Thanksgiving dinner.

The recipe is here.

Only 52 recipes left to go!

Merry Christmas! My special gentleman and I have had a lovely holiday, full of celebrations! On the 22nd my immediate family went out for a very nice dinner then the six of us opened presents at my parents' place in Madison. The next day we headed to Oshkosh, Wisconsin where my extended family lives. The whole family gathered at a local bar for hours of card playing and catching up. On Christmas Eve we went to my aunt's house, where the 24 people on my mom's side of the family gathered to eat turkey, open gifts, play cards, and take the annual family Christmas photo:


It is always fun celebrating with my mom's family, and this year was no exception. The highlight: my cousin Alex doing the Double Dream Hands dance along with the instructional video. Apparently he memorized it during finals week. Ah, to be an undergraduate!

Early in the evening on Christmas Eve we left Wisconsin and headed for my special gentleman's family in Ohio. The upside of driving through the night on Christmas was that there was no traffic. The downside was that the weather was really rotten for the first 4 or so hours of the drive, and nothing was open along the way, save for one McDonald's. In total it took about 9 hours, but we made it and got a few hours of sleep before it was time to open gifts on Christmas morning. After present-opening my mother-in-law's extended family came over for dinner. The 24 of us ate beef tenderloin and exchanged gifts. We ended the evening with a round of Kill Doctor Lucky, followed by a game of Risk that lasted until 2am. Today we are preparing for another celebration as my father-in-law's family is coming over to celebrate Christmas. We are expecting 26 people for dinner. Speaking of, I should go help with the preparations.

Merry Christmas! I hoping everyone is having a fantastic holiday season filled with loved ones!

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Sour Cream Pastry Dough (Page 419)

RECIPE #1240

  • Date: Saturday, November 20, 2010 -- 5pm
  • Location: East Lansing, MI
  • Kitchen: Our House
  • Dining Companions: Matty, Helen, Charles, Clara, Corbett, Mary, Allison, Ben S., Kendra, Jubin, Watson, Linda, and Bob K.
  • Recipe Rating: A-

This dough was a component of a beef wellington recipe that I made for our pre-Thanksgiving dinner last month. This was a standard pastry dough recipe, made with flour, butter, salt, sour cream, and water. The dough was lovely -- it rolled out beautifully and was generally easy to work with. And once baked it came out very flaky and delicious. It was the perfect dough for encasing a big piece of beef.

The recipe is here.

Only 53 recipes left to go!

Whew -- the last few days have been a mad rush to finish up the semester and get ready for Christmas! On Wednesday I administered my final exam, so the latter half of the week included a lot of grading! It also included some more enjoyable activities: lunches and dinners with friends, a Christmas cookie party, Happy Hour with colleagues, an MSU basketball game, and of course: Christmas shopping! It was a hectic few days. Now I am happy to say that most of the Christmas cards are written, the presents have been purchased and wrapped, and my course grades have been submitted. So I am ready for the holiday! This morning I drove from our house to my parents' place in Madison, WI. The six hour drive was very easy -- nice weather and no traffic (even in Chicago!). My special gentleman is dropping off the kittens at his parents' house and spending a couple days there before meeting me in Madison. We will stay in Wisconsin through Christmas Eve, then drive through the night to be in Ohio with my special gentleman's family on Christmas Day. All of our siblings are coming home for Christmas this year, and we are very excited to see everyone! This is one of my favorite times of year!

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Cilantro Walnut Filling (Page 420)

RECIPE #1239

  • Date: Saturday, November 20, 2010 -- 5pm
  • Location: East Lansing, MI
  • Kitchen: Our House
  • Dining Companions: Matty, Helen, Charles, Clara, Corbett, Mary, Allison, Ben S., Kendra, Jubin, Watson, Linda, and Bob K.
  • Recipe Rating: B

This was a component of a beef dish that I made for our pre-Thanksgiving dinner a few weeks ago. I started by blanching some spinach, cilantro, and parsley. Then I drained the greens and squeezed out as much liquid as possible. I toasted some walnuts and ground them in a food processor. I added the greens, garlic, fresh bread crumbs, honey, egg whites, salt, cumin, coriander, and pepper and pulsed until smooth. I thought this filling was pretty good. It begged to be compared with pesto -- nuts, herbs, and garlic ground up together. But I think the basil-pine nut combination in pesto works better than the spinach-cilantro-parsley-walnut combination did here. That's not to say that it was bad. It wasn't. It just wasn't as good as an excellent pesto. And although I liked it pretty well in the beef dish, I couldn't shake the feeling that it wasn't the best filling for the job. This recipe was perfectly satisfactory, but I wouldn't make it again.

Only 54 recipes left to go!

The recipe is here.

And just like that, the semester is ending. Tomorrow morning at 7:45am I give my final exam. Once the exams are graded and the course grades are computed and submitted, I will be done for the term! I am ready for the semester to be over, but nonetheless I feel like the end snuck up on me. On the one hand I feel as though the semester flew by. On the other hand, if I think about how much more comfortable I feel in my new job now than I did at the beginning of the semester, it makes September seem like ages ago. New situations make me nervous. And in starting this new job there were a lot of new situations, and hence a lot of anxiety. As the semester went on I could feel my stress level dropping each week though, as fewer and fewer things were new. I got into a routine. I learned the basics about how things work in both units in which I am appointed. I made friends. And slowly I became more and more comfortable. Indeed I think next semester will go much more smoothly than this one, if for no other reason than that I will be so much less anxious. In the meantime, I am in the midst of finals week. Hopefully my students do well tomorrow morning!

Wednesday, December 08, 2010

Foolproof Grilled Chicken (Page 363)

RECIPE #1238

  • Date: Saturday, November 6, 2010 -- 7pm
  • Location: East Lansing, MI
  • Kitchen: Our House
  • Fellow Chef: Matty
  • Dining Companion: Brad and Deniz
  • Recipe Rating: A-

My special gentleman and I made this recipe when his brother and sister-in-law came to visit last month. I started by brining the chicken overnight in a mixture of water, salt, and sugar. Then we made a vinaigrette of lime juice, fish sauce, minced garlic, cilantro, mint, red pepper flakes, salt, and vegetable oil. My special gentleman seared the chicken pieces on the grill, then moved them to a part of the grill where they got only indirect heat and continued to cook them. When the chicken pieces were cooked through he tossed them with the vinaigrette and served them with grilled limes. This grilled chicken was quite tasty. I am always a fan of brining and this recipe didn't disappoint. The meat came out moist and flavorful. The vinaigrette added nicely to the dish. The bold flavors in it stood up well against the char on the chicken from the grill. Everyone seemed to enjoy this dish quite a bit -- Deniz noted how much she liked it at least five times during the meal! It was definitely one of the better grilled chicken dishes I have had.

The recipe is here.

Only 55 recipes left to go!

My apologies for the blog silence. We had a bit of drama in our household this week. Over the weekend my special gentleman and I went down to Bloomington, Indiana. As we were only gone for two nights, we left the cats home alone and had our friends come and feed them on Saturday. We arrived home Sunday evening, excited to see our little kittens after a weekend without them! Little did we know the unpleasant surprise awaiting us. Apparently the kitties had gotten hungry between when they were fed on Saturday and when we got home on Sunday. So they went looking for something to eat. What did they find? Rat poison! We obviously had no idea it was there -- apparently it was left somewhere in the basement by the previous owners. We still don't know exactly where the cats found it. We had scoured the basement, removing hazards, before letting them down there. But the basement has crawlspaces, and vents, etc... and obviously we missed something. Somewhere they found a package of rat poison. They had chewed the package open and eaten the poison!

We went immediately to the veterinary hospital where the kitties were given activated charcoal. We were assured again and again that unlike dogs, cats don't actually eat rat poison. They may play around with it, but cats never eat it. The activated charcoal was a precaution, they said. An hour later the cats started pooping out pellets of poison. Apparently our cats aren't typical cats! They had indeed eaten it. Rat poison is scary stuff. It works by blocking production of Vitamin K, which causes the animal to internally bleed to death. There is a delay of 2-3 days before symptoms appear, so if you didn't know that your cat had eaten it, it would probably look fine for a few days and then just die. The treatment, after getting as much of the poison out of their system as possible, is Vitamin K therapy. After many terrifying hours at the veterinary hospital we were able to take the kittens back home. They were horribly sick all night on Sunday (from the charcoal and sorbitol that they got at the hospital) -- they cried and cried and we felt terrible for them. Each day since then they have gotten better though, and today they are acting like their usual selves. We need to give them Vitamin K twice a day for the next month, but it looks like they will be fine.

It was a horrible and scary few days. We love our little kitties so much and the idea of losing them was terrifying. And on top of the fear of course we both felt terrible that we had let them in the basement when there was rat poison down there. Now I feel hugely relieved and tremendously lucky that they are going to be OK. Poor little kitties.

Thursday, December 02, 2010

Apricot Souffles with Vanilla Rum Creme Anglaise (Page 843)

RECIPE #1237

  • Date: Friday, October 15, 2010 -- 7pm
  • Location: East Lansing, MI
  • Kitchen: Our House
  • Fellow Chefs: Clara and Helen
  • Dining Companions: Matty, Charles, Karen H, and Dave
  • Recipe Rating: A-

I would have made this dish earlier but it specified that it needed to be made with dried California apricots. Most dried apricots you find in stores are from Turkey, not California. Eventually I gave up finding California apricots in the store and ordered them online. To prepare this dish I started by boiling the apricots in water and sugar and then pureeing the mixture until it was smooth. I stirred in some lemon juice, rum, vanilla, and salt. I beat egg whites with salt and cream of tartar. Little Clara helped me add sugar to the whites and I continued to beat them until they reached stiff peaks. I folded the whites into the apricots then ladled the mixture into buttered and sugared ramekins. I baked them until they were puffed and golden. Helen helped me pour some of the Vanilla Rum Creme Anglaise into each souffle and then they were ready to be served! These souffles were quite good. I could actually taste the difference in flavor between California apricots and Turkish apricots in this dish, and I think it was worth it to go out of my way to find the apricots from California. The texture of the souffles came out absolutely perfect. They rose well and were cooked nicely. The creme anglaise gave the dish some richness and contrast, which was lovely. Would I have preferred to have a chocolate souffle? Probably. But if you are going to make an apricot souffle, this is about as good as it is going to get.

Only 56 recipes left to go!

This was the last recipe in the Puddings, Custards, Mousses, and Souffles section of The Book! In no particular order, my five favorite recipes from this section:
  • Almond Flan with Summer Fruit -- I usually don't particularly like flan. It can be gelatinous and eggy. But this flan was awesome. It had a fabulous almond flavor and a wonderful smooth texture. We ate this in Charlottesville with Tom and Ashley after a lovely meal of fish tacos. Good memories!
  • Sticky Toffee Pudding with Toffee Sauce -- I made this one with Mike and we were deeply, deeply skeptical. The dish was largely baked pureed dates, which we weren't so sure we would like. And it looked... well... not so appealing. But one bite and we changed our minds! Oh my gosh -- Yum!! Mike and I still reminisce about this dish frequently.
  • Warm Tapioca Pudding with Rhubarb -- I love, Love, LOVE pudding, and particularly tapioca pudding, so I was super-excited about this recipe. It was great with the rhubarb, but the pudding would be delicious even without the rhubarb topping! I made this back in graduate school for a Wednesday dinner -- a tradition where a bunch of friends would get together on Wednesday nights and cook from The Book. That night I got so wrapped up in the dinner conversation that I neglected this pudding and it burnt to the bottom of the pot. It was still tasty though!
  • Sticky Rice with Mango -- Although I love sticky rice, I had never made it myself before making this dish. The coconut sauce was out-of-this-world, and the rice came out appropriately sticky and moist. I made this for dinner with my special gentleman's family. My brother-in-law Brad made an awesome Indian dinner and I made this dessert. Teamwork!
  • Classic Creme Brulee -- It's hard to go wrong with a classic like creme brulee. This wasn't the best creme brulee I have ever had, but it was still super tasty. I made this for dinner with Mike, Teresa, Cornelia, and Tricia in Bloomington and we were all scraping every last bit out of our creme brulee dishes.
These dishes bring back such great memories -- not just of the food but also of the good friends that I ate them with! now I have 10 sections completed and 11 left to complete! Almost done!!

Wednesday, December 01, 2010

Vanilla Rum Creme Anglaise (Page 844)

RECIPE #1236

  • Date: Friday, October 15, 2010 -- 7pm
  • Location: East Lansing, MI
  • Kitchen: Our House
  • Dining Companions: Matty, Helen, Charles, Clara, Dave, and Karen H
  • Recipe Rating: A-

This recipe was a component of a souffle dish I made when my in-laws came to visit last month. I forgot to take a picture of the creme anglaise alone, but you can see a bit of it dripping out of the souffle above. I started by boiling half-and-half with a vanilla bean. Then I scraped the seeds of the vanilla bean into the half-and-half and discarded the pod. I whisked egg yolks, salt, and sugar, and added the hot half-and-half. I cooked the mixture on the stovetop, stirring, until it reached 170 degrees. Then I strained it and cooled. I stirred some rum into the sauce and refrigerated it until it was very cold. As expected, this sauce was delicious! It's hard to go wrong with creme anglaise. It is rich and flavorful and wonderful. The balance of vanilla and rum was great in this sauce and it complemented the souffles very well!

The recipe is here.

Only 57 recipes left to go!

When I was in culinary school I was instructed by several excellent chefs. Chef Stephan was the one who made the largest impact. I was mildly terrified of him. He had a way of shouting my name across the kitchen that could stop me in my tracks. His standards were extremely high and he wasn't particularly flexible about them. I remember more than one occasion when it was 1am and everyone was exhausted and ready to go home but Chef Stephan would make someone re-plate their dish because he or she had violated some rule for proper plating. We all had to wait for this re-plating to occur before the food could be critiqued and the kitchen cleaned. Not infrequently we were still in the kitchen at 2am and everyone was cursing Chef Stephan under their breath. Secretly, everyone loved him. I think often of the lessons I learned from him. He taught me a lesson one night about seasoning that honestly changed my life. It involved a vat of pureed vegetable soup, a dozen small dishes, and a box of salt. It was simple enough, but an absolutely brilliant example of what my colleagues would call "active learning."

Chef Stephan wasn't a particularly warm and fuzzy kind of guy. He was more scary than cuddly. But he had a soft spot for at least one thing: creme anglaise. Every time we were in the kitchen he would instruct the person making the dessert to make some creme anglaise to go with it. Chef Stephan thought everything went well with creme anglaise. Cheesecake and creme anglaise? Sure. Ice cream with creme anglaise? Why not. He would drink the leftover creme anglaise out of a mug at the end of class. Creme anglaise is incredibly rich (being mostly egg yolks with heavy cream or half-and-half)-- every time I saw him drink it by the cupful my stomach would turn a little. Chef Stephan lived near the culinary school and rumor had it that late at night he would raid the school walk-ins for leftover creme anglaise from other classes and drink that too.

While I was in school, Chef Stephan's partner died of cancer. Everyone felt terrible, and helpless. I did the only thing I could think to do: I made creme anglaise for him. I carefully labeled my container of creme anglaise, "For Chef Stephan." When I opened the walk-in to leave it inside, I was greeted by container after container of creme anglaise, each labeled "For Chef Stephan" with a different handwriting. It was really moving.

I think of Chef Stephan every time I make creme anglaise. Remembering his class always brings a smile to his face. Now that I am a teacher myself I think often about the examples of excellent instruction that I have experienced in my own life. Chef Stephan's course certainly stands out as an amazing learning experience.