Thoughts For Food

Insights into the Mind of a Culinary School Student

Recipe: Risotto

Taken from Google Image Search

Now I know what you’re thinking already. Risotto? Really? Isn’t that the fussiest dish of all time? I only have one thing to say in response: RELAX. Ratatouille was fussy as well and look how easy that turned out! Trust me, the things you see on TV or in movies that show Risotto to be fussy and time consuming are only half-truths. Yes, it does require some time to make, but at the same time, it’s not rocket science! So allow me to assuage your fears and show you that Risotto is indeed easy to make and absolutely delicious when it’s all said and done.



  • 1 Cup of any Short Grain Rice
  • 2 Ounces and 1 Tablespoon of Olive Oil
  • 2 Tablespoons of Minced Garlic
  • 1/2 Cup of Finely Chopped Onions
  • 1 Cup of Peeled, Seeded and Chopped Tomatoes
  • 1/2 Cup of White Wine
  • 2 Cups of Hot Chicken Stock
  • 4 Ounces of Sliced Mushrooms
  • 1 Tablespoon of Chopped Parsley
  • 1 Teaspoon of Butter
  • 2 Ounces of Grated Parmesan Cheese
  • Salt and Pepper to taste


  • Medium Sauce Pot
  • Saute Pan
  • Wooden Spoon
  • A Medium-sized Ladle (nothing too big. you’ll see why soon)
  • Another small pot
  1. In the small pot, bring the chicken stock to a simmer and then kill the heat. Then, add the wine. Hold this mixture hot at all times until the cooking process is done.
  2. Add the 1 Tablespoon of Olive Oil and saute the mushrooms on high heat until they’re golden brown. Season with salt and pepper. Set them aside for now.
  3. Heat the 2 Ounces of Olive Oil in the sauce pot.
  4. Add the onions and the garlic and sweat on medium just until the garlic begins to turn golden. Remember, if it burns, it’s going to be bitter.
  5. Add all the rice and stir to coat all the kernels with oil. Toast the rice until the individual kernels are slightly translucent.
  6. Using your ladle, add in your first bit of stock/wine mixture and then stir occasionally until the bottom of the pan looks “dry.” This means the rice has absorbed all the stock and it’s ready for the next addition of liquid. Now, here’s the only tricky part about making Risotto; the amount of liquid needed. Depending on the type of rice you got, the conditions in your kitchen and other factors, the Risotto may need all the liquid or it may not. Just keep adding the liquid and tasting as you go along. The texture of the Risotto should be creamy and smooth. The rice kernels shouldn’t be hard, but they shouldn’t be like mashed potatoes either. Once you’ve got the right consistency…
  7. Kill the heat and add in the tomatoes, mushrooms, cheese and butter. Stir to melt the butter and the cheese. Check for seasonings and season with salt and pepper if needed. Finish the dish with the chopped parsley.

See? That wasn’t so hard was it? A lot of the dishes that people make out to be hard and/or time-consuming really aren’t. Sure, Risotto is a little hands-on, but as I said in my Ratatouille entry: the best dishes are always hands-on and a little fussy. Enjoy!


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Recipe: Panna Cotta

This is a fantastic recipe for a classic Italian dessert that I recently learned in my Pastry Techniques class here at the CIA. It’s real fun to make and it’s delicious to boot! Now, like my chef said, this deviates from the “normal” Panna Cotta recipe in a few places, but in all honesty, I like this version a whole lot better. So enjoy!

Panna Cotta


  • 3 Ounces of Cold Water (it has to be cold water)
  • 0.6 Ounces of Powdered Gelatin
  • 1 Quart of Heavy Cream (that’s 32 Ounces, by the way)
  • 1 Teaspoon of Vanilla Extract
  • 12 Ounces of Sugar
  • 15 Ounces of Orange Juice
  • 15 Ounces of Buttermilk


  • Wooden Spoon
  • Scale for weighing out all the ingredients (electronic scale would be best)
  • A Sauce Pot large enough to hold all the liquids
  • A Small Bowl to bloom the gelatin
  • Measuring Spoons
  • Instant Read Thermometer
  • 18 – 19 Small containers
  1. Bloom the gelatin in the cold water (let it sit in the cold water) for 10 – 12 minutes.
  2. Combine the sugar, cream and vanilla extract in your sauce pot and make it hot, BUT DO NOT BRING TO A BOIL. use your thermometer and bring it to 185 – 195 degrees Fahrenheit.
  3. When the gelatin is ready, add it to the hot liquid mixture and stir, off the heat, until the gelatin is fully dissolved. Keep stirring until the whole mixture has cooled down a bit (lukewarm will do the trick).
  4. Once the mixture is lukewarm, add the OJ and the buttermilk. Stir to combine.
  5. Distribute the mix into the small containers (about 1 – 2 ounces in size) and refrigerate overnight.

That’s it! You’re done! To serve, just release them from their molds and top with your favorite jam or preserves. An easy way to get them loose is to dip the bottom of the molds in hot water for 3 seconds and then turn them out onto a small plate. These desserts are great for dinner parties, Thanksgiving, etc. Enjoy!

Food Bites: Au Natural?

Taken from Google Image Search

There seems to be a never-ending debate going on these days. Everything is “Green” nowadays. Green movements, green cars, green programs, all in order to protect ourselves and our planet. In the food industry, this has caused a shift towards local, seasonal ingredients, as well as all organic ingredients. No preservatives, no artificial flavors, no harmful chemicals, etc. Just food the way it was meant to be enjoyed. That’s good, believe me. The seasonality movement in food is a really good thing, because it encourages healthy cooking and healthy eating. But, be forewarned, be careful what you wish for.

What do I mean? Well, I’m saying that, while there are harmful food additives out in the market these days, there are good ones as well. As my chef said last block, “It’s absolutely impossible to do EVERYTHING from scratch.” In an ever-changing industry like the food industry, you’re going to need help, no matter who you are. So, don’t shun all additives or chemicals. Just keep your eyes open!

For example, do you know what Bromated Flour is? It refers to flour that has been enriched with Potassium Bromate. It “bleaches” the flour, making it easier to work with and extremely durable once it is baked. The major problem? It’s a KNOWN Carcinogen. And here’s the kicker folks: the United States is the only remaining country who HAS NOT outlawed Bromated Flour. Sure, it’s harmful effects are neutralized once it’s cooked, but what about the people who have to work with it in its raw state? Cases of lung cancer in bakeries and/or production plants have skyrocketed in recent years. So, if you’re going to do any baking at home or work with flour in any way, keep a sharp eye on the labeling. If it says “Bromated Flour,” STAY AWAY.

In regards to the so-labeled “evil” preservatives and other food chemicals, yes, many of them are indeed harmful, but at the same time, needed to keep food longer. If we outlaw preservatives altogether, then foods can’t last as long. Again, to avoid illness within your home, keep a sharp eye out and read the labels of food items you purchase. If the ingredient list contains words that you need a dictionary and/or science textbook to decipher, then stay away. Furthermore, if the Sodium content of the package exceeds the daily allowance, then you may want to avoid it. Make sure you always drink an amount of water greater than the amount of sodium that you ingested. That way, your body will retain a good, healthy balance.

There are good manufactured food products out there, believe you me. My Baking Techniques chef actually praised Pillsbury for their Croissants and Biscuits. I’m being dead serious. As far as food and produce purveyors are concerned, it always pays to find a good, reputable source that sells high quality product. Whole Foods is a big thing on campus among chefs and students alike. It does exactly what their name implies: sell, good, wholesome and healthy food products. If there’s no Whole Foods near you, take some time to talk to the people who work at your local food purveyor. It pays to pick their minds about the food you’re buying.

Remember: know where your food comes from and above all: READ. Knowledge is a great weapon to have. Know what you put in your bodies and you’ll be better off for it.

Life In The CIA: Externship

Anton Plaza just in front of Roth Hall, the main hall of the CIA.“Externship” is a term that confuses a lot of people, both at the CIA and those who don’t go to the CIA. The one phrase I hear the most when I mention the CIA externship program is: “Is that like an internship?” Yes. Yes it is. In fact, it’s exactly like an internship, but at the same time, it is much more important than an internship.Allow me to explain.

The externship program lasts 6 months and is essentially counted as a class block, even though you’re not at school. In fact, in the extern manual the school give you, there are assignments for you to do. Yeah it’s a little annoying, but it is for your own benefit; your personal education is in your own hands, which I personally really like. Oh, and if you don’t complete the manual, you can’t graduate. Incentive! So, it’s plain to see that the assignments in the manual are indeed worth your time and effort on many levels. I personally cannot wait for my externship period to arrive (Feb. – Aug.). It’s going to be such a great experience and if you do come to the CIA, I hope your externship is exciting and productive! Now, some tips passed onto me from chefs regarding externship:

  • “Don’t go home.” Externship is supposed to prepare you for living and working on your own out in the industry, after graduation. You may think that getting an externship close to your home to save on money, gas and other travel costs. DON’T DO IT. You’ll end up spending more money at home and lose out, especially if it’s an unpaid externship.
  • “Go somewhere you’ve never been to before.” As I’ve said earlier, externship is a growing experience. No sense in staying in your comfort zone for 6 months. Honestly, it’s going to get boring for you if you do. Get out there and explore!
  • “Make plenty of connections before, during and after.” 90% of the time, your extern site will become a future employer. If that’s the case, make plenty of connections within the establishment. Get to know people. And even if you don’t end up working for your extern after graduation, it’ll still be a great contact within the industry, as well as a fantastic resume builder. Above all, it pays to make good contacts and befriend everyone you work with and work for. Which brings me to my next point…..
  • “Loose the attitude.” CIA students have an unsettling attitude when they go out on externship, and I’ve heard this from so many chefs and faculty that I’ve taken it upon myself to avoid doing this when I go out on extern. The attitude everyone’s speaking of is the cocky, know-it-all, snobby, “I’m better than you are” kind of attitude that many CIA students bring with them to extern. This kind of attitude is such a bad thing to have on extern. You’ll burn so many bridges and quickly. You’ll practically ruin any and all chances you may have to get a job with that establishment in the future. Here’s the deal: everyone does everything a little different than you’ll be taught at the CIA or any culinary college for that matter. That’s the reality of the industry. Respect those who have a successful and established business because no matter how much they differ from what you’ve been taught, DON’T SAY ANYTHING. If anything, just ask why it’s so different. Take it as a learning opportunity. DO NOT say “That’s wrong” or “That’s not what I was taught.” It’s a great way to get you fired.

I hope this advice has been helpful to you. Best of luck on your extern/job searches! And as always, post a comment or email me if you have any more questions! I’ll be doing a MWF update schedule, so I’ll see you Wednesday!