Chef Monica Pope writes about eating & cooking where your food lives

The S – E – X – Y Food Class… April 6, 2010

We Call It Food Porn....Not Much That's Sexier Than That.

Green Plum Cooking School – March 27th

This morning, I have a group of fifteen women who have come early for Breakfast with the Pope (one woman in the group bought an auction item that includes breakfast with me, a tour of the market and seats in the cooking class).  Most of the women had not been to the market before.  I try to give them a little history — mine, the restaurant and the market.  One woman keeps asking questions, so I just turn the whole hour with them into a little Q & A.

In class today, I am doing Buttermilk Panna Cotta, something that usually takes two hours to set and I am going to do it in an hour or less. I’ve got to get going!  I love panna cottas, of all kinds:  goat’s milk, toasted almond, mascarpone, crème fraiche, you name it.

I place the cream in the pot (the buttermilk doesn’t go in yet to get cooked; it goes in after I pull the pot off the stove).  As the cream heats up, I measure fourteen tablespoons of sugar in my hand.  I use my cupped palm to measure tablespoons, that’s how we roll upstairs.  I grab a half-pint to go container to measure cups when I need to.  I split the vanilla bean down the middle and scrape the seeds out and place both the sugar and vanilla beans in the hot cream to infuse and for the sugar to dissolve.  I then remove the pot, add the gelatin leaves (I add an extra leaf because I’m worried about this setting up in the shorter time period, but we definitely don’t want to end up with a rubbery product like we get in most restaurants).  I use a whisk to bring it together and then add the buttermilk. I strain the whole mixture and have Nicole pour it into our clear cups.  I like using a see-through cup to see the white mixture as I don’t usually turn the panna cotta out, I just top it with a simple compote or syrup — today we’re using local strawberries.

Buttermilk Panna Cotta



The Sum of the Parts… January 2, 2010

Green Plum Cooking School, January 2nd Class

NOTE: The recipes used in my Green Plum Cooking School classes can be found in my online cookbook, “Eat Where Your Food Lives,” available for purchase at

Two days into the new year and I am depressed already.  I’m doing my own recipes for Green Plum and I have to admit that it is not as much fun as making fun of Alice like I did last year (and I also know how my own recipes turn out, sort of).  And, on top of it all, even though it’s the start of a new year, I am worried about the economy.  In 2009, we weathered a 13% drop in business, but any more and we’re talking ouch.

If you’ve ever seen my kitchen, you’ll see that my desk is a dumping ground.  Anything that doesn’t have a home, it gets put on my desk.  On Friday night, it’s the mail and who-knows-what-else.  While I’m planning for today’s class, I find a newsletter from an organization that I belonged to called Chefs Collaborative.  The title of the newsletter is “Five Tips for Managing Food Costs When Running a Sustainable Kitchen.”  Only I would find this interesting, but I bring it to class to read anyway.  It’s timely and interesting to me in many ways but even more so since t’afia will be closed for a few extra days after New Year’s so I am challenged by the great undoing of prep work and products; I am getting creative with the menu so I don’t lose anything and so I also don’t have to order anything until after we come back.

The article makes these points: 1) Strive for 100% utilization (check) 2) Look at the menu as a whole rather than at any individual item (check) 3) Start with what’s easiest (check) 4) Start with what’s local and in season and move out (duh, check) 5) Using the whole animal can make money, as well as using underutilized cuts of meat (check, check).  It may all seem very obvious but you’d be surprised at how many chefs and restaurateurs never give these concepts a second thought.  My main goal has been to run a sustainable kitchen and sustainable business for the last 20 years; we may not always thrive but we’ve always been viable.  To define sustainable, viable, thriving – I think a lot of chefs and restaurateurs will be working on these (and cleaning out our walk-ins) in 2010.

In this context, it made perfect sense to me to do something for the class that would utilize the leftover mushroom stems from the shiitakes we smoked for the New Year’s Eve menu (we don’t throw anything away!) and the crimini stems that we always have around from making the endive salad and Real Ale battered crimini appetizer from the menu.   (more…)


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