Memorial Day Grilling Tips and Recipe

Happy Memorial Day Weekend!
To help kick-off the start of summer, we wanted to share some tips for grilling from the experts at ICC! Share your holiday recipes and photos with us on Facebook and Twitter with #ICCGrills.

Adapted from “The Fundamental Techniques of Classic Cuisine”

When grilling, the grill must be absolutely clean, very hot and lightly oiled. The item to be grilled should also be oiled to prevent sticking. To achieve crisscross grill marks (quadrillage), place the item on the hot grill at a 30 degree angle, toward the right. The item is grilled without moving for a few minutes, or just until the grill marks are seared into the meat (or other item). The item is then turned at a 30 degree angle to the left and grilled without moving, just until the grill marks are seared into it. The process is then repeated on the opposite side of the item. Meat to be grilled should be brought to room temperature before being placed on the grill to ensure that it does not remain cold in the center when cooked to rare and that the intense heat does not cook the exterior before the interior reaches the desired degree of doneness.

Meat usually has to be checked for the desired degree of doneness with an instant-read thermometer or by the touch test. The touch test is best practiced on the fleshy part of the palm of your hand. When the hand is relaxed, the softness of the fleshy part is equal to the elasticity of rare meat; as you open your hand and the fleshy part gets firmer, it will gradually equal medium and then well done meat. However, touch-test accuracy is also a function of the type of meat, cut, age, thickness, and so on; each type has to be learned. For instance, a filet does not feel like a strip steak. Again, time and practice are necessary to gain confidence at this age-old cook’s skill. Until you master it, check yourself with a thermometer.

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Roasted Red Pepper-Ancho Chile Vinaigrette
Recipe by Alumnus Bobby Flay
“The Fundamental Techniques of Classic Cuisine”
Tip: Serve over grilled filet mignon topped with goat cheese.
Serves: 4

2 ancho chiles
2 red bell peppers, roasted, peeled, stems, seeds and membranes removed
3 cloves garlic, crushed
45 milliliters (3 tablespoons) red wine vinegar
14 grams (1 tablespoon) honey
Coarse salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
60 mililiters (1/4 cup) canola oil
15 grams (3 tablespoons) chopped fresh cilantro

Place the ancho chiles in a heatproof bowl. Cover with boiling water and set aside to soften for 1 hour.

Remove the softened chiles from the water but reserve the water. Remove and discard the stems. Coarsely chop the chiles and place them in a blender. Coarsely chop the bell peppers and place them in the blender. Add the garlic along with the 60 milliliters (1/4 cup) of the chile soaking liquid. Process until smooth. Add the vinegar, honey and salt and pepper to taste and blend for 2 seconds. With the motor running, slowly add the oil, blending to emulsify. Pour into a nonreactive container and stir in the cilantro. Drizzle over steaks and serve immediately.

My Final Months at ICC

Amanda Neal
ICC Student, Professional Culinary Arts plus Farm-to-Table

It’s hard to believe that I’m halfway through level six at the International Culinary Center, and that I’m less than a month away from graduating from culinary school! It’s been a crazy, busy and exciting five months, and I’m excited to be at the tail end of my education and ready to enter the food industry as a professional chef.

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Level five at ICC is the first level where we actually cook at the school’s restaurant: L’Ecole. It’s a fully functioning, professional kitchen and restaurant where all the school’s students cook dishes for patrons. It’s just like any other working kitchen; you prep food for lunch or dinner, run service, then break down and clean up. Because I am a day student, my classmates and I work lunch service every day. The restaurant maintains a steady amount of covers, and it’s a great atmosphere to learn kitchen etiquette and technique if you’ve never experienced working in a kitchen before. You also get to experience working at every station: starting with entremetier, then garde manger, poissonnier, saucier and finally patissier.

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Level six is exactly the same as level five, except we have a few written tests to review information we learned in levels one and level two. We are also challenged with a whole new menu – brand new dishes to learn. These dishes will become what we’ll have to prepare for our final exam. In this level, it is important not to miss even one class, because every day is an opportunity to practice creating each dish. The more you get to practice, the more prepared you will be for your final. The final exam seems really stressful, but after a month of practicing and studying, cooking the dishes should come naturally. With only a few weeks left, our final is quickly approaching, and I’m more excited then ever to graduate from ICC!

Creating Plated Desserts

By Kaitlin Wayne
ICC Student, Professional Pastry Arts

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Now that I am nearing the end of my Professional Pastry Arts program here at ICC, class is getting more and more intense. We are beginning to combine all of the skills that we have learned throughout the program and coming up with composed dishes that we make, plate and taste. Plating the contemporary desserts that we are doing is truly an art. Every class we are responsible for making all of the components of our desserts (example: sorbet, fluid gel, tuiles, cake) and we setting up our stations for plating. This takes a great deal of organization and cleanliness, everything needs to be in its place and easily accessible.

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For example, one day my team and I had to make the components for a baba au rhum dessert. These components were the baba au rhum itself (which had to be soaked in a syrup of citrus and rum and then covered in apricot glaze), rum fluid gel, pastry cream tuile, crème chantilly, orange supremes and zest. The tasks were split up and then were all brought together to compose the dish. What surprised us most about this was that there were certain aspects of the dessert that seemed perhaps too strong on their own, but when combined with each element on the plate they were delicious. For example, when we first tried the rum fluid gel, we felt that the rum flavor was extremely strong and we were worried it would overpower the other parts of the plate. However, once we got a spoonful with the cake, cream, orange, and fluid gel, it all came together harmoniously.

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Although I don’t always realize it at the time, going out to eat and ordering desserts is truly research! When given freedom to plate as we wish, I find myself thinking back to desserts I have ordered before and borrowing certain aspects of them in plating my own desserts. This portion of the program has been great in that we have to draw upon all of the techniques that we have been learning throughout the course and combine them to create a beautifully composed plate.

Farm-to-Table Field Trip: North Fork, Long Island

By Amanda Neal
ICC Student, Professional Culinary Arts plus Farm-to-Table

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As we crossed the Williamsburg Bridge and left Manhattan, my classmates and I anxiously anticipated our trip to North Fork, Long Island, where we would be visiting both Macari Vineyard and Peconic Oyster Farm. Like our previous field trips, this visit to the vineyard and oyster farm was a part of the Professional Culinary Arts plus Farm-to-Table program at the International Culinary Center. We were especially excited for this field trip because we knew we would get some fresh farm air, delicious wine and freshly shucked oysters right on the water – and that’s exactly what we got.

Our first stop was Macari Vineyard in Mattituck, New York. Alexandra Macari, wife of Joseph Macari, quickly met us and talked us through a wine tasting of some of their most popular wines. We tasted two whites, a rose, three reds and a dessert wine. They were all equally enjoyable. After the tasting we had lunch outside. It was a beautiful sunny and 70 degree day, and we overlooked the acres of grape vines, about to bud break at any time. After lunch we took a tour of the grounds and made some last minute purchases so we could take some wine home. Overall, it was a lovely morning at the vineyard, and we were ready to check out the oyster farm next.

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After leaving Macari Vineyard, and a quick 15-minute drive later, we arrived at Peconic Oyster Farm in Peconic Bay, New York. I didn’t know what to expect because I’ve never been to an oyster farm or really even knew much about harvesting oysters. However, it was a really interesting and remarkable farm. The best part of our visit was at the end when we sat on a picnic table right on the water, shucking and eating some of the freshest oysters I’ve ever come in contact with. All in all, learning about beautiful wine and fresh oysters is my idea of a perfect Saturday, and I couldn’t have experienced it without the Farm to Table program at ICC.

The First of Many Wedding Cakes

By Kaitlin Wayne
ICC Student, Level 3 Professional Pastry Arts

Wedding cakes have always blown me away. The technique and skill required to create such astounding pieces of art was something that I was looking forward to mastering at ICC. We learned to work with sugar paste, fondant, marzipan, royal icing, molds and a few other methods. One of the things that I was most intrigued by was the amount of molds, presses and other tools available for making cakes; the variety seemed endless! The theme that was assigned for our three tiered cake was a Victorian wedding. We were given the theme, an invitation, color scheme and location of the wedding to draw from for inspiration. This was an interesting experience in that it was essential that we kept within these guidelines, rather than being able to do whatever we wanted as we have in past projects. As our chef explained, when you make a wedding cake, it is for one of the most important days in the life of the bride and groom. You need to make what they like; not what you necessarily would choose for your own wedding. We had four days for the project… and so the challenge began!

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For my cake, I chose to keep the colors as clean as I could. I focused on cream, white, blush and moss. I used methods such as sugar paste flowers, molds for lace, jewels, pearls and royal icing for piping. However, my absolute favorite part of my cake was the chandeliers that I made using gold “paint” on plaques. It really captured the Victorian theme and made the cake pop. Another aspect of the cake I loved was the sugar paste lace trim. I rolled out the sugar paste almost as thin as I could, to the point you could almost see through it. Then, I used a press and made the lace pattern. The pearl mold also turned out great, and painting it gold tied it in well with the chandeliers and the rest of the cake.

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The experience was stressful at times, but for the most part it was exciting to see our design ideas come to life in front of us. It was incredible to see how everyone’s cakes were so different, even though we were all given the same theme, colors and details of the wedding. For most of us, this was our first time making a wedding cake, and at first it seemed like a daunting task. However, once we had our design and schedule, all that was left was to execute. Of course, there are always things that you wish you could alter or add, but that is a good thing. I think that a good chef should always be striving to achieve more and continue learning. I am sure that this will be my first wedding cake of many, and I must say I am proud of what I was able to create!

Learn more about Professional Pastry Arts

ICC CA Teams Up With Local Catch

By Rachel Lintott
Assistant Director, International Culinary Center CA

In February of this year, I had the pleasure of tagging along with our students on their Professional Culinary Arts Immersion plus Farm-to-Table field trip for a couple of days. On day one, after an eye-opening trip to the Monterey Bay Aquarium to learn about the nationally acclaimed Seafood Watch program, we made our way out to the Monterey Bay Municipal Wharf. The significance of meeting on the water was not lost—we were there to learn about Local Catch, a Community Sustained Fishery (CSF). Amidst the bustle of the wharf, Founder Alan Lovewell and Chef Kevin Butler explained to us the concept of a CSF. Like the more colloquial Community Sustained Agriculture (CSA), CSFs seek to directly connect fishermen to consumers.

Here in the Bay Area, we are fortunate to live in close proximity to our food—while driving down The One to Monterey that day, we passed through artichoke and strawberry fields and the quaint Moss Landing Harbor. Even though our food is so close we can literally jump out and touch it, modern economics make it difficult to source local seafood.

CSFs like Local Catch are seeking to break this trend to benefit consumers and fishermen alike.

What are the benefits of buying from a CSF?

When it comes to sustainability, CSFs like Local Catch are stewards of our oceans—that means they care about keeping our waters healthy by not overfishing and through responsible fishing techniques.  Supporting responsible fishermen means we are better positioning ourselves to enjoy delicious seafood for years to come. And speaking of delicious seafood: fresh fish (that hasn’t traveled to and from a packaging facility) tastes better. CSFs bring local fish from the dock to you—guaranteeing freshness. CSFs also help fishermen get a fair price for their product (no middle men and no competing on the international market). Supporting your local food economy means supporting your community.

Since that eye-opening day on the pier, ICC has been working with Local Catch to bring fresh, Monterey Bay seafood to the Silicon Valley. By becoming a pick-up site for the CSF, we seek to support local fisherman and the local economy, to protect our oceans and to educate the public on sustainable seafood.

Interested in joining Local Catch? Email me your name and email address: rlintott@culinarycenter.com

The details:

– Cost: $22/week for the Full Bounty option or $26/week for the select California Classic option (think more standard fish like Salmon and Halibut).
– Quantity: 1-1.5 lbs, or enough to create 3-4 entrees.
– When: Pick up will be on Tuesdays.
– Where: The ICC in Campbell—a school that rivals Disneyland as the happiest place on Earth.
– In addition to the fish, Local Catch provides seafood demos (in the ICCs state-of-the-art demo theatre where the likes of Jacques Pepin and Cesare Casella have taught our students); recipes, fishermen interviews, information about the natural history of the fish, and much more.
– Allergies can be accommodated.

Tools of the Trade

By Renee Farrell
ICC Student/Professional Culinary Arts

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On the first day of our culinary education we were issued with a huge bag of tools and gadgets boldly emblazoned with the ICC logo. Brimming with excitement we tore through them and started to learn to tools of the trade, those trusted items we will use over and over again for years to come.

As culinary students, there’s a certain pride we gain from understanding the difference between a boning versus a fileting knife, or how to use a channel knife and trussing needle. We start to feel the departure from amateur towards professional and it’s exciting. The enthusiasm begins to swirl and it’s all about the tools. Or is it?

The most common school of thought falls under the category of: a fancy toolkit does not a chef make. This may have an association bias, as no one wants to surrender an ounce of their talent to a piece of metal. It also shows grit and substance to believe that a bad tradesman blames his tools. However, there will always be tools that make life easier, and others that you feel the urge to throw at the wall.

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Our head chef has a pretty mean looking toolbox full of items you can tell have been tried and tested, and the contents honed to his specific style. The surprising part is his most beloved tool is a small mesh strainer with a broken handle that is perfect to scoop things out of hot boiling water or fat. Seriously, a five dollar broken strainer! Another highly skilled Chef who is part of the Spanish Culinary Arts program at ICC told me he buys his knives and equipment from Ikea. Ikea! He may have told me this to prove his point: that it’s all about skill and your tools are merely instruments available to give you a hand. There is something very organic about this theory and the key tenet is demonstrated by rockstar chefs from the most revered eras of classic cuisine. After watching Jacques Pepin debone an entire chicken with his bare hands, stuff it with leaks, onions and thyme so that it resembled an intact, perfect chicken… well, I have to say I agree.

And this is all fine and dandy, but it may only be 99% true for us mere mortals. Tools do play an important part in the life of a professional. To prove my point, go to a Sur La Table on any given Saturday morning and you’ll see chefs perusing the cutlery section with the elevated enthusiasm of comic book enthusiasts at Comic Con. Cutlery obsessions are akin to technology obsessions, there is always something new and exciting available – ergonomic handles, Japanese vs European blades, peelers that will change your life and don’t even get me started on sharpening stones.

But they are just that. Tools. So at this early phase of our culinary ventures we put ourselves in the hands of our beloved German knives and taillage until our fingers hurt. Maybe those ergonomic handles are worth it after all.

Food Media Library at ICC

By Renee Farrell
International Culinary Center Student
Professional Culinary Arts

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I am a food media junkie. And I should qualify that social media just doesn’t cut it. If I can’t hold it, flick through it, chances are I’ll forget about it and get distracted by an app pop-up halfway through. As a pious consumer of cookbooks, food magazines and food TV, I consider the culinary library at ICC my Mecca.

The library is an incredible source of inspiration, and it’s the only place I know with more cookbooks than my house. Libraries are often criticized for their stale moth-ball environment, but the ICC library has a vibrancy to it and it’s extremely current. The latest and greatest are there. Just look at the range of magazines: Cherry Bombe, Kinfolk and So Good are anything but stuffy.

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This feeling of currency and relevance is pretty much expected as ICC has its finger to the pulse. But all of this has no depth unless the classics are present, and they are. The reference section is deeply technical and is relied upon by students and chef-instructors in equal measure. Classic cuisine is the soul of ICC, and it’s a regular occurrence for of the authors of these books to be gracing the hallways. Today, I’m reading a book with Jacques Pépin on the cover; tomorrow, I’m watching him give a live demonstration in the school’s amphitheater. It’s almost surreal.

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As an additional nod to tradition and legends past, the ICC library stocks a collection of Gourmet Magazine dating back to 1969, paying homage to its relevance as a pioneering brand of food media. The female-centric ads in earlier editions are a lesson in cultural progression… but that’s another story entirely.

The culinary library truly is one of a kind. It’s an incredible resource for the students at ICC, who can be found there on any given day absorbing culture by researching recipes from Mexico, refining their food styling skills from masters like Donna Hay and Martha Stewart, or expanding their repertoire with a new Japanese technique. Whatever the culinary need, it’s bound to be filled within the glass walls of this fish tank full of food media.

Dinner Lab Chef Anthony Nichols ’09

Long before this collaboration came to be, Anthony Nichols (pictured on the right with culinary director Mario Rodriguez ’09), kindly sent us a thoughtful essay about the first time he created a Dinner Lab experience. It’s a perfect sentiment as we start our celebration.

“I was in an abandoned and gutted Wendy’s on Beekman Street – the location of my first five-course tasting menu for Dinner Lab NYC. I found our non-traditional place raw and romantic. As we were loading in, one of the staff found a 3-D iridescent portrait of Jesus Christ as a shepherd with a flock of sheep – it looked tacky, I found it charming – so I hung it on a ledge near the pass and got to work.

After three days of efficient and flawless prep, we finally began to plate my “When Land Meets Sea” themed dinner. First came the Fluke Tartare over Macoun Apple Chips.The plate looked delicate, precise and refined. The second course, Fried Brandade over Romesco and Root Vegetable Chips, looked as if it belonged on a coral reef in the Galapagos Islands. Suffice it to say, I was pleased, happy with my staff and delighted to do my food, my way.

Later that evening, as my staff plated the Pan-seared Duck Breast over Almond Mole and Watercress, a guest waved me over to her table and proclaimed, “You are the sauce KING!!” I smiled, thanked her and went back to plating the next course.

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Then, in the midst of everything, I had a fleeting thought about my time at FCI and the countless hours obsessing about court bouillon, brunoise and consommés. I recognized, I was part of something special, something larger than my Misono chef’s knife – I am a cook, part of a lasting and noble profession in the greatest city in the modern world. Then I quickly turned my attention to the waiting brandy cake over a bed of pistachios and cranberries.”

When not creating Dinner Lab experiences, Anthony is executive chef at Restaurant and Associates – Young and Rubicam. Follow him on twitter @ChefAnichols1.

The Importance of Tasting

By Kaitlin Wayne

ICC Student, Professional Pastry Arts

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In the individual desserts unit of Level 2 Professional Pastry Arts, we focused on making custards – such as crème brulee (my all time favorite), crème caramel, ice creams, sorbets, cheesecake, molten cake, and donuts.

Part of our class time is dedicated to “degustation,”or tasting. While this may sound like we all just sit around the kitchen and eat ice cream, there is far more to it than that. We are not learning how to eat; we are learning how to literally taste. This distinction is essential. When I taste something, I don’t just think to myself, “Mmm this is delicious!” I think more critically about what I am eating, the layers of flavor, the texture, and the overall balance.

Take vanilla ice cream, for example. Here are some things that you should be looking for in a successful plate with vanilla ice cream: Is the ice cream smooth on the palate? You should not feel any icy patches or grainy textures and there should be a strong vanilla flavor. These mistakes can often result when the temperature of the ice cream is abused by leaving it out, letting it melt slightly, and then returning it to the freezer. As for the overall plate and pairing with the ice cream, look for contrast in color and flavor. This is very important in terms of balance. For example, rather than plating my quenelle of white ice cream with a creamy-colored and similarly-flavored crème anglaise, I might pair it with a rich, dark chocolate sauce.

I can see how being able to taste a dessert and ask yourself questions like this will help you to grow as a chef. I am a strong believer in the fact that culinary and pastry arts are the only professions where you truly use all five of your senses at once. By learning to dissect every component of a plate and identify the elements that make up a truly successful dessert, I can already tell that going out to eat will  never be the same again!