Thursday, January 12, 2012

Spinach Artichoke Dip

Looking for a fun dish to serve up at your next party try this:

3 cups  Baby Spinach
8 oz     Cream Cheese
8 oz     Artichokes (Canned unless your are brave to Prepared Fresh)
1 oz     Garlic Cloves
1 oz     Shallots
2-3oz   Heavy Cream
TT       Salt
TT       Fresh Ground Pepper (Melange Blend is the best)
4 oz     Italian Cheese Blend

1.  Chop Garlic and Shallots in to small dices.  Place shallots in the a non-stick sauté pan with a little olive oil.  Cook for 2-3 min before adding in garlic.  Be careful to not burn the garlic.  (For deeper richer flavor you can roast garlic and shallots in oven with oil, salt and pepper before cutting)

2. Add drained artichokes to the shallot and garlic mixture, continue cooking for 5-10 minutes. Add in cream cheese and heavy cream as needed to give some moisture to the dish.  The trick here is to get the dish as hot as possible with out totally melting the cream cheese.  Add additional heavy cream if too thick. Remember Slow is better.  Season with salt and pepper as needed

3. Add in 1 cup fresh baby spinach, and reserved the rest.  Transfer entire dish to a food processor and blend.  Be careful to not over blend.  You want to leave some body to the artichokes.  Add additional spinach and italian cheese and season to taste.

4.Transfer spinach dip to oven proof dish and bake, cover with additional italian cheese blend and bake in oven @ 375 degrees until cheese starts to brown.  Serve with your favorite chips.


Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Culinary Competition Blues

Just finished first real practice for our upcoming culinary competition in two weeks.  I'm not worried, but I have my concerns as always.  It is very hard to convince young students to have the focus required for  competing at the highest level.  My challenge this year, is that I have a team of all Seniors.  I thought this would be an advantage, but they have so many other things they are worried about like, prom, graduation and applying to college. 

It has been very difficult getting them motivated to complete all the work necessary to compete at this level.  That is why all professional chefs stress "Mise En Place", french translation to have all things in place, or in other words be organized.

ACF standards says that if you want to have any chance at success in a competition or cooking exam you must practice at least 10 times before the day of the event.  Let's hope we can improve in the coming days because we have some serious holes to fill before competition.