Pavlova and a Pig Roast

After completing my most stressful practical yet at JWU on Friday, I spent this weekend enjoying good food with good friends.  I celebrated my birthday and spent my Saturday afternoon with one of my favorite people (and favorite Baking and Pastry students) KristenOur birthdays are only a few days apart so we decided to bake something together, and she recommended a three-layer berry and brown sugar pavlovaYou should definitely check out the recipe.   A couple of tips taken from Kristen:

1) When mixing the meringue add the sugars very slowly, starting out a teaspoon at a time making sure that the sugar is completely dissolved before adding more.

2) If you decide to make 9” rounds from the meringe, line 10” rounds with parchment and use the round shape as a circular guide, but do not spread the meringue all the way to the edge of the pan.  It’s a real pain to clean the meringue off of the pan, but it will peal right off of the parchment.  (See picture below.)

My birthday 000053) It needs to be eaten immediately after it is assembled or the meringue will collapse and get soggy.

The brown sugar gave the meringues a golden hue and the berry topping was a wonderful way to use up some locally grown berries I had in my fridge.  Although the recipe said to allow the meringues to cool completely, we found that they were more marshmallowy on the inside when we ate them only partially cooled….and we were impatient and wanted to taste it sooner which could very well be the same case for you!  The super sweet marshmallow inside paired with the slightly tangy but rich sour cream was a perfect balance.  

My birthday 00018

My birthday 00030

The next day, I had the chance to enjoy another culinary first for me, and I felt as though it was taken straight out of My Big Fat Greek Wedding, and you’re about to see why.  Another JWU student was celebrating his  birthday that Sunday, and he was doing it in style.  He and his roommates had invited 50+ of their closest friends over to enjoy this all afternoon and evening:

My birthday 00077

My birthday 00080

Yes, that is a dressed pig, head, tail, ears and all, roasting on a spit.  It was delicious.  And to top it off, it was a German student’s birthday so he and his friends made their grandmother’s recipes for several authentic German dishes.  The weekend was filled with great food and great people which is exactly what I wanted.


Ciao Italia!

“Class, what did we make today?”

“Lasagne verdi alla bolognese e tagliatelle,” we all replied in unison.

That response was much more difficult to pronounce than it looks, but that’s probably because we all had to smile our brightest and look into the camera while saying it.  That’s right.  Once again, Johnson & Wales provided me with an incredible opportunity and a big “first” for me.  Along with nine other Johnson & Wales Culinary Arts Students, I was filmed for an episode of Mary Ann Esposito’s PBS show “Ciao Italia”.  It is currently the longest-running food TV show and is currently in its 20th season!  She has long been a supporter of Johnson & Wales so it was natural for her to come to shoot an episode in our newly completed Center for Culinary Excellence. 

Ciao Italia  (48)

We arrived promptly at 1:00 pm (after most of us had been in lab since 7 am) in our best-pressed chef whites.  After meeting Mary Ann and her crew, we patiently waited for them to get acquainted with the classroom in which we would be filming as well as set up all of their lighting equipment.  The producer came outside to brief of us on the order of filming, and we were quickly given our assignments by the Director of Culinary Events here at school. 

To ensure that each of us had a chance to be on camera, we were each assigned a partner or small team with whom we would work to prepare one element of our lasagne.  I was assigned the fresh spinach lasagne noodles, while another group was assigned bechamel, another tagliatelle, and the last the bolognese. 

We began with a quick group shot in which we all crowded around Mary Ann and watched as she made the spinach pasta dough.  Because she was supposed to be teaching us how to make pasta (as if none of us had ever made it before), we were instructed to nod along and look very interested in what she was doing.  (Nodding and smiling was a recurring theme for the day.  After all, it is her show and we didn’t have microphones.) 

After a few initial group shots, we were sent to our “stations” as she says on film but they really weren’t stations at all.  The table at which our group shot was filmed became my group’s spinach pasta station as well as the tagliatelle group’s station.  My group was the first to be filmed (though I don’t know if it will be first on the air).  We began making the spinach lasagne noodles while Mary Ann watched, saying things like “Now this isn’t difficult is it?”  And we, looking surprised that it was in fact easy, reply back with, “No, it’s actually not.”  It was all a little fake but hopefully we were good actors and actresses. 

The rest of the afternoon was a waiting game for me.  I watched as the other groups prepared their elements of the lasagne and occasionally tried to walk through the background of the shot in a lame attempt to be on TV more. 

In between shots and the occasional lipstick reapplication, Mary Ann visited with us, asking us what we planned to do after graduation, how we like things at Johnson & Wales, where we were from, etc.  She was very friendly which we of course appreciated.

Ciao Italia  (32)

Once all of the elements were complete, we regrouped to assemble the lasagne and put it in the oven.  The last shot was filmed about 2 to 3 hours after our start time and consisted of Mary Ann’s signature finish line as well as a re-cap of what we had made.

The episode should be on the air within the year and will remain on the air for 3 years!  The start of stardom?  Probably not, but it was a wonderful experience.

Ciao Italia  (49)