Culinary School, Finale #1: Designing a Restaurant Menu

Duck Breast w/ Chimichurri & Confitted Potatoes (right); Me pulling Hainan Chicken Legs from the oven (Right)

The school portion of our Culinary School is over. For our grand finale we’re designing our own menu and hosting four seatings over two days for friends & family at SF Cooking School. After that we’re all heading to externship at bay area restaurants. Here’s what our chef-instructors and us came up with for our menu:

Watermelon w/ Smoked Feta

For our amuse-bouche each guest will receive Watermelon w/ Smoked Feta.

This amuse-bouche is inspired by our Smoked Feta, Watermelon, Mint and Arugula salad from a few months back. We took a whole salad and made a bite-size portion of it. I think it beautifully sets the tone for what our class likes: interesting flavours and fresh ingredients.

Braised Mushroom Toast

For our first appetizer choice we’ll serve Braised Mushrooms Toast with peppery greens. Takes me back to the week we spent braising beef. For this dish we’ve braised 5 kinds of mushrooms (cremini, maitake, shiitake, trumpet and button-cap) in demi-glace and chicken stock with aromatics and thyme.

How to braise Mushrooms? Interestingly we first sautéed mushrooms until lightly brown, only then added salt, then added aromatics (shallots, garlic), and immediately after added demi-glace and chicken stock.

Corn-Poblano Soup

As our second appetizer choice is this amazing Corn-Poblano Soup. The liquid used for this soup is a parm-corn stock (made from parmesan rinds and corn cobbs) with vitamixed grilled corn and roasted poblano peppers. In the center we’ve got that same corn-poblano mixture. On top we’ve sprinkled paprika pepitas and decorated with parsley oil and sour cream.

This volute soup is inspired by our first week in culinary school where we each made delicious velvety vegetable soups.

Hamachi Crudo

As our third appetizer choice we’ve got Kombu-Cured Hamachi Crudo thats inspired by our Kampachi Crudo and this beautiful salad. On the plate we’ve got kombu-cured Hamachi fillet, rolled cucumbers, sliced radishes, quartered mouse melons and topped off with a phenomenal Japanese marinade.

This dish is really a blend of our Chef-instructor Kirsten’s Crudo, Chef Tiffany’s beautiful plating and Chef Katherine’s Japanese marinade. I love that three dishes from different times inspired us to make this one dish.

Pork Belly

And as our final appetizer choice we’ve got these delicious Pork Belly on Scallion Pancakes. The plate has two fluffy scallion pancakes each topped with roasted pineapple, a slice of crispy roasted pork belly and honeyed coleslaw. Each bite from this dish has everything I love: carbs, meat, sweetness and intense savory flavour.

The dish is inspired by Chef Alex Ong’s asian cooking class and we’re using his crispy pork belly and scallion pancake esrecipes.

Duck Breast w/ Shiso Chimichurri Sauce and Confitted Halved Potatoes

As our first entree we’ve got Duck Breast w/ Shiso Chimichurri Sauce and Confitted Halved Potatoes. The shiso in the chimichurri sauce makes this dish pop.

We’ve cooked duck often in Culinary School so it’s fitting that it’s on our final menu. This plate is specifically inspired by our Duck Breast w/ Chimichurri sauce and Duck-Fat Potatoes from a few months back.

Squash Blossom Ravioli w/ Tomatoes & Thai Basil

As our vegetarian entree we’ve got Squash Blossom Ravioli w/ Tomatoes & Thai Basil. The filling is an intensely delicious ricotta-zucchini mixture we used for our Chicken Olney. The pasta has squash blossoms pressed into the dough in a technique researched by our very own Cori.

How do you press Squash Blossoms in Pasta? We first pan-seared squash blossoms with a bit of oil to dehydrate them. We then rolled out pasta to #4 thickeness, put the squash blossoms on the pasta, folded and pressed it back from #1 thickness to #7.

Saffron Seafood Stew

Our seafood-centric entree is a Saffron Seafood Stew. This dish is inspired by our Marseille-style soup. It’s fundamentally a saffron fish stock with a decadent saffron mayo toast in it. In the stew we’ve also got squid, diced fish, clams and scallops inspired by the work we’ve done with Mussels, Clams, Scallops and Fish over this past year.

Hainan Rice Chicken Leg

And for our final entree we’ve chosen Hainan-rice Chicken Leg. The dish is a single chicken leg stuffed with sticky rice and served alongside with blanched snap-peas in a orange-lime vinaigrette. This dish is inspired by Chef Alex Ong’s Hainan Chicken recipe.

How do you stuff a chicken leg with rice? First debone the chicken leg, fill it with cooked rice, wrap in caul fat (like we did terrines) and roast until done. Cut in 1cm strips to serve.

Mango Panna Cotta

As our first dessert option we’ve got this outstanding Mango Panna Cotta. The base is a mango panna cotta, covered in passion fruit cream, topped with diced mango, mango bubbles, freeze-dried mango bits and coconut snow. Every bite of this dessert screams “MANGO”. This dish is inspired by our Thai Panna Cotta.

How do you make Mango Bubbles? combine fruit puree with calcium chloride, freeze tbsp portions and put in sodium-alginate bath for 30s.

How to make coconut snow? combine 80g taopica maltodextrin, 120g coconut oil and 30g powdered sugar in a a food processor. Done.

Peach Almond Cake w/ Goat Froyo

Another great dessert dish is this Almond Cake w/ Peach and Goat Froyo. This dish is a Heather Ho’s Almond Cake recipe topped with goat froyo, peaches poached in honey & yuzu and finally peach jus. It’s summer and we really wanted to have a stone-fruit dessert.

How to make Peach juis? Dice peaches and simmer in enough simple syrup to cover until they’re falling apart. Put in strainer. The liquid that drips down is our peach jus.

Melon-Lime Float

Mango-Lime Float is another fun dessert. This photo unfortunately doesn’t do it justice.

The base is a lime ice-cream, with two kinds of diced melons, covered in a melon granita and ginger-ale in the cup.

We’ve made so many ice-creams, sorbets and granitas over this past year and it’s fitting to have a dessert that combines two of those on our menu.

Chocolate Tart w/ Hazelnut Whipped Cream

And as our last dessert we have this decadent Chocolate Tart w/ Hazelnut Whipped Cream. The plate has delicious chocolate sauce and beautiful cocoa-puff Dragees (literally cocoa puffs dredged in caramel, chocolate and cocoa powder).

We’ve made so many tarts, pies, quiches, and other baked goods this year and this dish is the perfect homage to that.