5 Cooks Who Inspire, by Nicole Plue

Nicole Plue, SF Cooking School

Two of the most inspiring women we know are Nicole Plue, our Director of Pastry Arts and Catherine Pantsios, our Director of Culinary Arts. Inspired by Food & Wine’s #foodwinewomen series, we asked them who they take their inspiration from, and it’s no surprise many of them are women as well. It prompts us to ask, in turn, “Who inspires you?” Let us know by tweeting your response with #cookswhoinspire.

Here are 5 Cooks Who Inspire Nicole Plue, Director of Pastry Arts at SFCS:

1. MFK FISHER, Food Writer
I majored in English Lit in college and have always loved words and writing. On the very first day of culinary school, in the first moments of class, the Chef passed out a reading list full of food writers. (I found out later she was an English major as well and we even graduated from the same college.) That reading list gave me a little moment of confidence that I was on a good path. MFK Fisher’s The Gastronomical Me was on the list. I bought an old copy at a used book store and fell in love. The chapter titled “A Thing Shared” is about her, as a child, eating a peach pie on the side of a road with her sister and father and what an impression the experience made on all three of them. First, it’s beautiful writing, but it’s also an inspiration to me as a chef that sometimes the simplest things have the most impact and that sharing food can be a powerful experience. When people tell me how my desserts have made a lasting impression on them or created a happy memory, I think of that story and know what an honor it is to be part of that experience. I now hand out a reading list on the first day of class with MFK Fisher (and George Orwell) on it and I’m still looking for a peach pie that tastes that good.
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5 Cooks Who Inspire, by Catherine Pantsios

Catherine Pantsios, SF Cooking School

Two of the most inspiring women we know are Catherine Pantsios, our Director of Culinary Arts and Nicole Plue, our Director of Pastry Arts. Inspired by Food & Wine’s #foodwinewomen series, we asked them who they take their inspiration from, and it’s no surprise many of them are women as well. It prompts us to ask, in turn, “Who inspires you?” Let us know by tweeting your response with #cookswhoinspire.

Here are 5 Cooks Who Inspire Catherine Pantsios, Director of Culinary Arts at SFCS:

1. MADELEINE KAMMAN, Chef/Cookbook Author/Teacher
I was very fortunate to study with Madeleine Kamman for two months in Annecy, France. Madeleine was the person who told me I could, and should open a restaurant—she believed in me when I didn’t believe in myself. Her scientific approach to cooking was eye opening, her dedication was amazing—she was always hard at work before any of the students arrived in the morning, and worked for hours after we left. She was a feminist with no reluctance about saying what she thought of chefs (especially French chefs) who refused to make room for women in their kitchens.
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Kabocha and Ginger Tart

Kabocha and Ginger Tart | blog.sfcooking.com

Every year we have a few staple dishes that have to make it onto the Thanksgiving table. It’s the cranberry sauce that your aunt always makes, or that cornbread that’s so good slathered in butter, or those Brussels sprouts your mom loves. That said, there are usually a few renegade rookies that make their debut with the hopes of becoming first string material.

Dessert is usually the place with the most wiggle room. If you’re looking for something just a little bit non-traditional, this Kabocha and Ginger Tart may be it!

An unexpected twist on your average pumpkin pie, tender kabocha slices take the place of pumpkin puree, and we go heavy on the ginger instead of those warm pumpkin pie spices that run rampant this time of year. The result is at once rustic and sophisticated, with pretty wedges of kabocha floating on a golden bed of crème fraiche and ginger custard. You’ll be sure to get some oohs and aahs out of this dessert!
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Brining 101

Brining 101 | blog.sfcooking.com

This time of year, you hear a lot about brining. What exactly is brining, and how is it different from marinating?

When you marinate something the ultimate goal is to infuse it with big flavor. A brine is somewhat like a marinade in that it does season and can impart some flavors but, the basic brine ingredients are salt and water. The purpose of the brine is really two-fold: to season the meat inside and out and to help it retain moisture. That’s why brining is such a good solution for lean cuts or meat that dries out easily (like a Thanksgiving turkey).

Bruce Aidells, the king of brining, said (in Cooking Light), “The concentration of water and salt is greater in the brine than it is in the meat; the meat absorbs the brine until the concentration of water and salt is equal in the brine and in the meat. Once inside the meat, the salt causes the proteins to unwind, become tangled, and trap moisture. This creates a barrier to prevent moisture loss during cooking; the result is a succulent, juicy piece of meat.”
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Today’s Special: Lemon Meringue Tart from Outer Space

Today’s Special: Lemon Meringue Tart from Outer Space | blog.sfcooking.com

Today’s special is this otherworldly Lemon Meringue Tart from our pastry students. Down below is a sunny, bright lemon curd. Up top, egg whites get whipped to stiff peaks, then piled high, and given enough spikes to make a porcupine jealous. A finishing kiss from the blowtorch gives the meringue its golden tan.

Learn More About Our Pastry Arts Program

How to Make Gougeres: the Perfect Party Snack

Petite Gougeres with Gruyere | blog.sfcooking.com

There are certain things that are bound to please any crowd. On the top of that list? Warm gougeres (French for divine cheesy poofs).

To make gougere, you start by making a basic pastry dough called pâte à choux. If you know how to make pâte à choux, you are in for a whole host of tasty delights. Go sweet, and you have yourself profiteroles, eclairs, even beignets or churros. Go savory by adding some mustard and cheese and you have gougeres.

The ingredients for pâte à choux are remarkably simple – butter, water, flour, eggs – but the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. All it takes is a little elbow grease when it comes time to mix in those eggs. It’s important to beat in the eggs, one at a time, until each one is totally incorporated. You’ll mix and mix and mix, and just when you think it’s impossible, voila, it will magically smooth out and come together.
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Take 5: Sommelier Eugenio Jardim

Q&A with Sommelier Eugenio Jardim | blog.sfcooking.com

Today we’re sitting down with Sommelier Eugenio Jardim. Eugenio teaches our wine tasting classes, and is the first person we go to when we’re wondering what to pour with Thanksgiving dinner, or looking to dive deep and get nerdy over regional nuances of wines.

Eugenio is a wealth of knowledge for wine lovers, both beginners and aficionados. We threw our top 5 questions his way — here’s what he had to say:

1. What bottle of wine is open right now in your home?

  • NV David Coutelas Brut Champagne
  • 2013 Domaine Vacheron Sancerre
  • 2013 Ernest Vineyard Chardonnay “The Farmer” Sonoma Coast

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Roasted Acorn Squash with Chipotle and Lime

Roasted Acorn Squash with Chipotle and Lime | blog.sfcooking,com

We are full-fledged into winter squash season and we couldn’t be happier! Butternut squash, spaghetti squash, delicata, kabocha, we love them all…but we just may love acorn squash the most (and it looks like we’re not alone).

Versatile, beautiful, delicious, and functional, acorn squash wins MVP every single time. Its thin, edible skin makes prep a cinch. Pretty ridges and bright orange flesh make it a festive addition to any table. And the sweet flavor and smooth texture is everything you want in a comforting fall dish.

This Roasted Acorn Squash with Chipotle and Lime is one of our favorite ways to eat this all-star squash, and it’s a nice departure from all the traditional pumpkin spice and sage treatments we’re seeing this time of year.
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