Tag Archives: CIA Boot camp

Rack of lamb on French Lentils

CIA Boot Camp – Day 5

This is the last of a 5 part series on my adventures at the CIA Boot Camp. You can see other posts here:

There was no lecture on Day 5. Instead, we played Culinary Jeopardy where we demonstrated what we had learned during the week. That was only the beginning of the test. There were also no prepared recipes for us to follow. Instead, each team received a market basket of food. We had to prepare a first course (appetizer, etc) and an entree. We were required to use some of each item in our basket. We could also draw from anything in the kitchen pantry to complete our dishes. Challenging? You bet. But it was also a time to show off what we had learned and to stretch our imaginations, creativity, and our newly-discovered culinary muscles.

My team’s market basket included: Shrimp, Frenched Chicken Breasts (aka Airline Chicken Breast), Dry White Beans, Sweet Potatoes, Wild Mushrooms, Green Beans, Red Onions, Cauliflower, Sage, Cheddar Cheese, Dried Apricots, and Puff pastry. Here’s what we prepared:

Sauteed Shrimp & Puff Pastry on a White Bean Puree
Sauteed Shrimp & Puff Pastry on a White Bean Puree
Broiled Frenched Chicken Breasts on a Sweet Potato Puree with a Brandy Apricot Glaze
Broiled Frenched Chicken Breasts on a Sweet Potato Puree with a Brandy Apricot Glaze
Stir Fry Vegetables
Stir Fry Vegetables

Team 2’s market basket included: Rack of Lamb, Anchovies, White Turnip, French Lentils, Plum Tomatoes, Eggplant, Zucchini, Yellow Squash, Mesclun Mix, Thyme, Nicoise Olives, Dijon Mustard. Here’s what they prepared:

  • Salad
  • Rack of lamb on French Lentils
  • Turnips & Squash
Salad
Salad
Rack of lamb on French Lentils
Rack of lamb on French Lentils
Turnips & Squash
Turnips & Squash

Team 3’s market basket included: Beef Strip Loin, Prosciutto, Durum Flour, Potatoes, Eggplant, Fennel, Cipollini Onions, Plum Tomatoes, Artichokes, Basil, Pecorino Romano Cheese, Capers. Here’s what they prepared:

  • Amuse Bouche – Chef’s Surprise
  • Balsamic-Glazed Cippolini Onions with Fresh Tomatoes
  • Fennel & Orange Salad with Honey-Vinaigrette Dressing
  • Steak Diane
  • Garlic Roasted Potatoes
Amuse Bouche - Chef's Surprise
Amuse Bouche – Chef’s Surprise
Balsamic-Glazed Cippolini Onions with Fresh Tomatoes
Balsamic-Glazed Cippolini Onions with Fresh Tomatoes
Fennel & Orange Salad with Honey-Vinaigrette Dressing
Fennel & Orange Salad with Honey-Vinaigrette Dressing
Steak Diane
Steak Diane
Garlic Roasted Potatoes
Garlic Roasted Potatoes

This was definitely our biggest day. The best part was that Chef Michael was impressed with the caliber of the food we produced. Definitely a proud moment for all of us. Quite a sense of accomplishment.

Overall, I had a great experience with Culinary Boot Camp. It was definitely a lot of work. BUT, we ate really, really well. And it has changed forever how I cook everything.

Got questions about my CIA Boot Camp experience? Leave a comment below or use my contact page.

This is the last in a series of 5 blog posts on my adventures at the CIA. Look for the series to continue for the next few Fridays. To view other posts:

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CIA Boot Camp – Day 4

This is part 4 of a 5 part series on my adventures at the CIA Boot Camp. You can see other posts here:

Topics covered in the Day 4 lecture, and reinforced in the kitchen included:

  • Moist-Heat and Combination Cooking

Day 4 we learned about and practiced poaching, shallow poaching, deep poaching, simmering, boiling, braising, stewing, and steaming

Fun Facts we learned today:

  • To be truly called ice cream, it has to be made with 80% heavy cream.
  • When you double a recipe, you don’t always want to double the aromatics and spices.
  • Searing is done for flavor, color, texture, and appearance. It does NOT seal in juices, it actually dries food out a bit.

Team 1 (my team) prepared:

  • Tarragon Chicken
  • Whipped Sweet Potatoes
  • Roasted Herbed Root Vegetables

Tarragon Chicken
Tarragon Chicken
Whipped Sweet Potatoes
Whipped Sweet Potatoes
Roasted Herbed Root Vegetables
Roasted Herbed Root Vegetables

Team 2 prepared:

  • Ossobuco Milanaise
  • Saffron Risotto
  • Braised Swiss Chard

Ossobuco Milanaise
Ossobuco Milanaise
Saffron Risotto
Saffron Risotto
Braised Swiss Chard
Braised Swiss Chard

Team 3 prepared:

  • Poached Red Snapper Veracruz
  • Aromatic Rice
  • Drunken Beans

Poached Red Snapper Veracruz
Poached Red Snapper Veracruz
Aromatic Rice
Aromatic Rice
Drunken Beans
Drunken Beans

Yet another day of amazing food. It’s difficult to convey how much fun, and work, all of this was. And I don’t think the pictures do it justice either. By the end of Day 4 we had learned so much. And Day 5 was to be our most interesting day. Each team receives a market basket of food. We have to prepare a first course (appetizer, etc) and an entree. We must use some of each item in our basket. So, of course, we had a lot of homework on Thursday night!

Got questions about my CIA Boot Camp experience? Leave a comment below or use my contact page.

This is the fourth in a series of 5 blog posts on my adventures at the CIA. Look for the series to continue for the next few Fridays. To view other posts:

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CIA Boot Camp – Day 3

This is part 3 of a 5 part series on my adventures at the CIA Boot Camp. You can see other posts here:

Topics covered in the Day 3 lecture, and reinforced in the kitchen included:

  • Dry-Heat Cooking without Fats & Oils
  • Soups

Day 3 was devoted to dry-heat cooking without fats & oils and included: grilling, broiling, and roasting. Grilling was interesting as we spent a good bit of time talking about how they get the grill marks just right! It’s quite an art apparently.

Fun Facts we learned today:

  • Wild rice isn’t really rice – it’s actually a grain.
  • If you heat buttermilk on the stove, it will separate.
  • Farm-raised Tilapia is fattier than wild and worse for you than a cheeseburger.

Team 1 (my team) prepared:

  • Grilled Salmon with Caraway-Orange Glaze
  • Wild Rice Pilaf with Dried Cranberries
  • Roasted Corn Succotash

Grilled Salmon with Caraway-Orange Glaze
Grilled Salmon with Caraway-Orange Glaze
Wild Rice Pilaf with Dried Cranberries
Wild Rice Pilaf with Dried Cranberries
Roasted Corn Succotash
Roasted Corn Succotash

Team 2 prepared:

  • Roasted Chicken with Pan Gravy
  • Buttermilk Mashed Potatoes
  • Grilled Zucchini

Roasted Chicken with Pan Gravy
Roasted Chicken with Pan Gravy
Buttermilk Mashed Potatoes
Buttermilk Mashed Potatoes
Grilled Zucchini
Grilled Zucchini

Team 3 prepared:

  • Roasted Port Loin with Apricot-Armagnac Sauce
  • Creamy Polenta
  • Grilled Ratatouille

Roasted Port Loin with Apricot-Armagnac Sauce
Roasted Port Loin with Apricot-Armagnac Sauce
Creamy Polenta
Creamy Polenta
Grilled Ratatouille
Grilled Ratatouille

Again, we ate family style. Each day, the food was amazing. We patted ourselves on the back for all of our hard work. I recall thinking, before Boot Camp, that I would be able to get a lot of other work done in the afternoons, since we finished up so early. But it didn’t happen that way. We were on our feet for several hours at a stretch. And, we were constantly thinking. Each team had only 2 people and we had a lot of food to prepare. But, it definitely was worth it.

Got questions about my CIA Boot Camp experience? Leave a comment below or use my contact page.

This is the third in a series of 5 blog posts on my adventures at the CIA. Look for the series to continue for the next few Fridays. To view other posts:

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CIA Boot Camp – Day 2

This is part 2 of a 5 part series on my adventures at the CIA Boot Camp. You can see other posts here:

Our Boot Camp instructor was Chef Michael, our student worker was Dale, and our dishwasher was Elvia. Dale helped us with finding things and he did a lot of fetching during the week. We took all of our dishes, except the knives, to the back room where Elvia washed them and put them away. The knives were kept separate, for safety reasons. So, we didn’t have to do dishes, but we were responsible for cleaning up our work area at the end of the day.

Topics covered in the Day 2 lecture, and reinforced in the kitchen included:

  • Dry-Heat Cooking with Fats & Oils
  • Thickening Agents
  • Classic and Contemporary Sauces

We learned that the word saute actually means “to jump.” It requires small amounts of fat, high heat and a rapid technique. We also learned about stir fry, pan fry and deep fry methods. And of course, sauces to go with our meat dishes.

The class was designed for 4 teams of 4 each, or a total of 16 students. There were 6 students in our class, so we divided into 3 groups. Each team of 2 had a lot of food to prepare for that day. In fact, we had 4 dishes: a salad, a meat, and 2 vegetable dishes. As well as a sauce or gravy for one of the dishes. Only one team succeeded in creating all 4 dishes. Two teams, mine included, did not prepare their salads.

The first day of cooking was the roughest. We had to learn where all the food was stored, where all the dishes and utensils were stored, and plan everything with out team mate. Even with eliminating the salads (although we had started them), we still didn’t finish on time.

On the other hand, all of the food was quite good – pictures follow. We ate family style, of course, and got to taste everything that was made. I was hungry that day at lunch. And I may or may not have eaten more than I should. In fact, I never ate again that Tuesday. AND, it would be Saturday before I even really felt hungry again. We were definitely well-fed.

Fun Facts we learned today:

  • You should chop fresh herbs just before you use them, otherwise they will begin to taste grassy.
  • When you add milk to a warm sauce mixture, you need to warm the milk first. You’ll only do it the other way once, because it will curdle and you’ll have a big, unforgettable mess!
  • Mushrooms are wusses – they sweat very easily. If you pile them up in the pan, they will simmer rather than sear.

Team 1 (my team) prepared:

  • Pork Cutlet with Mustard Beurre Blanc
  • Spatzle
  • Braised Red Cabbage

Pork Cutlet with Mustard Beurre Blanc
Pork Cutlet with Mustard Beurre Blanc
Spatzle
Spatzle
Braised Red Cabbage
Braised Red Cabbage

Team 2 prepared:

  • Sauteed Chicken Breast with Wild Mushroom Ragout
  • Potato Gnocchi
  • Sauteed Spinach

Sauteed Chicken Breast with Wild Mushroom Ragout
Sauteed Chicken Breast with Wild Mushroom Ragout
Potato Gnocchi
Potato Gnocchi
Sauteed Spinach
Sauteed Spinach

Team 3 prepared:

  • B.L.T. Salad with Buttermilk-Chive Dressing
  • Buttermilk Fried Chicken with Country Gravy
  • Macaroni and Cheese with Bacon
  • Glazed Carrots

B.L.T. Salad with Buttermilk-Chive Dressing
B.L.T. Salad with Buttermilk-Chive Dressing
Buttermilk Fried Chicken with Country Gravy
Buttermilk Fried Chicken with Country Gravy
Macaroni and Cheese with Bacon
Macaroni and Cheese with Bacon
Glazed Carrots
Glazed Carrots

Got questions about my CIA Boot Camp experience? Leave a comment below or use my contact page.

This is the second in a series of 5 blog posts on my adventures at the CIA. Look for the series to continue for the next few Fridays. To view other posts:

Picture of CIA Duffle Bag

CIA Boot Camp – Day 1

Picture of CIA Duffel Bag
This is part 1 of a 5 part series on my adventures at the CIA Boot Camp. You can see other posts here:

In March, I attended a 5 day Culinary Boot Camp offered at the Culinary Institute of America in San Antonio.Class started promptly at 7:00 AM each day and ended around 1:30 PM. We started with lecture and usually by 9:30 or 10:00 we were in the kitchen. These awesome duffel bags were waiting for us on our first day. They contained:

  • Two uniforms – White jackets and black and white herringbone pants.
  • Two toques – the funny paper hats that chefs wear.
  • One travel coffee mug.
  • Our name tag.
  • A binder with all the notes in it.

Class met from 7:00 AM until 1:30 PM. Or until we were finished. This was our schedule:

  • 7:00 AM – 8:15 AM – Lecture
  • 8:15 AM – 9:00 AM – Review the recipes for the day
  • 9:15 AM – 12:00 PM – Kitchen work – food preparation & demonstrations
  • 12:00 PM – 12:30 PM – Lunch – usually what we cooked
  • 12:30 PM – 1:30 PM – Clean up & Review/Critique

Pictures of the veggies we cut up

On day 1, we did no cooking. We spent our kitchen time practicing various cuts. We learned a lot on day one. Starting with how to hold a knife properly. I have been doing it wrong all my life! We worked on slicing, dicing, batonnet cuts, oblique-cuts, mincing, and more. Our food didn’t go to waste. We packaged it up for use by other classes at the school.

Since we did no food prep, we dined on food prepared by one of the other classes. (Presumably the students who are in the degree program.) They were working on breakfast that day. We finished right on time on day one. The rest of the week we ran over a bit.

Got questions about my CIA Boot Camp experience? Leave a comment below or use my contact page.

This is the first in a series of 5 blog posts on my adventures at the CIA. Look for the series to continue for the next few Fridays.

This is part 1 of a 5 part series on my adventures at the CIA Boot Camp. You can see other posts here: