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Archive | November 30th, 2012

A Restaurant Is a Team, Gwendolyn’s Chef Tells CIA Graduates

A Restaurant Is a Team, Gwendolyn’s Chef Tells CIA Graduates

Chef Michael Sohocki addresses the CIA graduating class.

Friday was a homecoming for Michael Sohocki, chef/owner of Restaurant Gwendolyn, 152 E. Pecan St. He returned to his alma mater, the Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, N.Y., to deliver the keynote speech during commencement exercises.

Sohocki advised 49 recipients of associate degrees in culinary arts and baking and pastry arts at the college’s main campus that running a restaurant is a team effort.

“A chef can’t carry a restaurant any more than a captain can carry a ship,” Sohocki told the newest class of fellow CIA alumni. He urged graduates to be nice, to not be afraid to wash dishes, and to listen when they become bosses. “I’ve learned so much more by ‘listening up’ than by ‘talking down.’ Turn off your phone and when people talk to you, give them your undivided attention.”

Sohocki graduated with a bachelor’s degree from the CIA in 2002. The Robstown native opened his own restaurant in 2010 after working for fellow CIA alumnus Andrew Weissman at Le Rêve, Il Sogno and the Sandbar. Earlier this year, Sohocki was named a San Antonio Rising Star by Starchefs.com.

Restaurant Gwendolyn is at the location of the former Le Rêve on the River Walk, not far from the CIA’s San Antonio campus. The menu features local, handmade, and seasonal ingredients, and changes daily. There are no blenders, mixers, deep fryers, or any other kitchen appliances with a motor. The concept at Gwendolyn is to prepare food the way it was done before the Industrial Revolution.

 

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Give Your Mushroom Soup a Kick

Give Your Mushroom Soup a Kick

Mushroom Soup

Recipes are guidelines, not written in stone. It’s a mantra we repeat whenever we enter the kitchen, especially when we may be shy of an ingredient called for.

I repeated that to myself when trying this recipe freely adapted from “Joy of Cooking” (Scribner, $35). I had plenty of wanted a little extra mushroom oomph, but I didn’t have the wild mushrooms called for, so I added porcini powder to my mix of button caps and cremini mushrooms.I was fresh out of shallots, so I used little less than 1/2 cup of red onion and minced it finely.

I also like a little extra spice, so I stirred in some Indian garlic pickle. Sriracha or even a dash of hot sauce would work well.

Finally, take a tip from Irma S. Rombauer and her fellow authors of “Joy of Cooking: “Slice rather than chop the mushrooms for a meaty texture and a handsome look.”

So, here’s your outline. Make it as you like it.

Mushroom Soup

3 1/2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon butter or additional olive oil
1 1/2 pounds mushrooms, preferably 12 ounces wild, wiped clean and tough stems removed, sliced
1/2 cup chopped shallots
3 tablespoons dry sherry or Madeira
5 tablespoons flour
1 teaspoon dried thyme, or less to taste, or 1 tablespoon chopped fresh thyme
4 1/2 cups vegetable stock, mushroom stock or chicken stock
2 generous teaspoons porcini powder (see note)
1/2 to 1 teaspoon salt
3/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
Hot sauce, to taste (optional)
Chopped fresh parsley or fresh thyme, for garnish

Heat in a stock pot over high heat the olive oil and butter. Add the mushrooms and shallots. Cook, stirring often until the mushrooms are wilted, about 5 minutes. Add sherry or Madeira, flour and thyme, stirring constantly and scraping the bottom of the pan, for 5 minutes. Stir in stock, salt and pepper. Bring to a boil. reduce the heat the medium and simmer until slightly thickened, about 20 minutes. Ladle into warmed bowls. Garnish with fresh parsley or fresh thyme.

Note: You can get porcini powder in the spice area at Central Market.

Makes about 6 cups.

Adapted from “Joy of Cooking” by Irma S. Rombauer, Marion Rombauer Becker and Ethan Becker

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