Cuisine Across Cultures: 1st stop –> Morocco

My culinary experiment is entering the home stretch.  Cuisine Across Cultures, my last class before my externship, began this week.  This means a new instructor (I dub him Chef Oh Really because he’s a bit of a kvetch and when somebody asks a dumb question he responds with “really?”), a new set of classmates (mixed bag there), and a brand new syllabus with eclectic dishes from mochi to matzoh (I’m Jewish and still I ask why?).

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On Day 1 we Pepsi Challenged salt by cooking various chicken pieces each with a different type of salt and no other seasoning.  We sampled Fleur de Sel, Hawaiian red salt, Hawaiian black lava salt, Himalayan pink salt, and plain old kosher.  For my money I preferred the fleur de sel, a grayish looking sea salt made by scraping just the very top layer off the salt pans.  Next we started to discuss various herbs and spices used in international cuisines.

Then we got cooking, and boy did we pick up the pace.  After 6 weeks of baking it was a pleasure to bust out my knives again but I was a little rusty from all that leisure time in the bake shop.  For the first time I had trouble finishing my dishes on time.  That, and Chef Oh Really is a hard nosed stickler for hitting our times.

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We begin our Around The World In 6 Weeks with the flavors of North Africa (Morocco) and the Middle East.  Lamb Tagine with Lamb Biryani (spiced rice) started us off.  Of course, we don’t have real tagines at LCB, so it was more like a spiced lamb braise.  But I brought a baby tagine to decorate my plate and give you some idea of what it should look like.  My lamb pseudo-tagine came out better than expected after a somewhat rocky start while I tried to get used to the pace again.  The lamb was tender with just the right amount of heartiness, and the Moroccan spices of sumac, preserved lemon, and olives were really unique.  My biryani came out so-so.  Making perfect rice is super tough, especially when you’re busy trying to manage other things, and mine came out a bit on the mushy side.  But it was just day one.  At least that’s what I keep telling myself.

Next up: SUSHI!  Hell-to-the-yes!

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