Wookiee Hut Cuisine presents:
Becoming a Jedi Kitchen Apprentice
by SuSu, Mace Vindaloo, Rosie

Menu: Roasted Turkey: Boned, Brined, and Rolled Around Dried Mushroom Stuffing | Sesame Chicken | Artichokes Stuffed with Tomato Concasse and Panko | Stuffed Criminis | Dilled Cabbage and Noodles | Two-Heat Fish | Elegant Sliced Fruit with Lemon Vanilla Syrup

There was no real course of study for a Padawan to be considered a Jedi. The only official line was that a Padawan needed to be selected for Apprenticeship by the time he or she was 13; after that, the candidate would be assigned other work, either inside or outside the Jedi Temple. Once selected, the Padawan studied for as long -- or as short -- with his of her Master until the Council deemed them ready to become Jedi Knights. One they became Knights, the Jedi would fall under the jurisdiction of the Jedi Council. Some would be sent immediately on assignments, either alone or as part of a group, some might undergo further training in specific fields as dictated by the Force. There was no calendar for when these new assignments would start.

However, for the ones not chosen, what to do with them? The Jedi Council would decide, of course. In the set piece Fateful Deliberations at Dex's Diner, four Council members discussed the fates of those not slated to become Jedi Knights. Sadly, they were determining the futures of those who had failed not only to become Apprentices, but also failed to place in an invisible competition engineered by Tenzo Tendo, the Jedi Master who headed the kitchens at the Temple (and who once had to relearn how to feed younglings). Those not likely to be chosen would be observed closely during KP duty; those who satisfied Tenzo would be offered positions as kitchen apprentices; an added benefit -- none knew they had been passed over for "normal" training, and it was considered an honor to be considered.

This was not a mercy offering; graduates of this Jedi Temple cooking program were in high demand as chefs in "real world" restaurants after their years under Tenzo Tendo's guidance. Of course, only those with Jedi talent could attend; the regular population had to make due with normal cooking schools. Though the Temple inmates often complained about some of the "mystery foods" offerings, the "cooking school" was considered one of the best in the galaxy.

So how did they pass muster? Over the years, Tenzo showed all of them how to make certain foods -- technique and following instructions were more important than creativity here -- and secretly graded the best of them. True, life in Tenzo's kitchem might not be what the Padawans craved, but it was their destiny!

Roasted Turkey: Boned, Brined, and Rolled Around Dried Mushroom Stuffing
This recipe is not complex -- assuming you've see it done, and that you'd paid close attention to the details. Tenzo Tendo showed Padawans how to bone out a whole turkey, cut out the tendons, as well as how to prepare the stock and the brine. He then gave them instructions on how to prepare the stuffing -- again, simple, but many steps, none of which could be out of step. If you forgot something, or added things in the wrong sequence, you had to start over again. The Padawans who forgot to take notes had to concentrate rather hard to remember it all!
    Dried Mushroom Stuffing
  • ½ cup dried sliced mushrooms (porcini or shiitake are good, use a mixture if you wish)
  • 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, coarsely chopped
  • 3 medium cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 3 tablespoons chopped rosemary leaves
  • 1 cup bread crumbs, toasted till brown and very dry
  • salt
  • pepper
Reconstitute mushrooms by covered with hot water and setting aside for an hour. Strain, but keep the juices. Chop up the mushrooms coarsely. Place a large skillet over medium heat, when it is hot, add 1 tablespoon olive oil. Add onion, garlic, rosemary. Cook, stirring occasionally, until soft and translucent, but not brown, about 10 minutes. Add the mushrooms and cook another 2 minutes. Set aside to cool. Spread teh bread out on an oven tray, then bake till browned and very dry. Crush into crumbs. Just before you need it, adde the crumbs, salt and pepper to the mushroom mixture and mix well. Moisten with strained mushroom juices if the mixture is too stiff.

  • 1 gallon warm water
  • 1 cup salt
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 10 peppercorns
  • 2 tablespoons dried thyme
  • 1 large dried bayleaf
  • any other herbs and spices (try to limit to 1 tablespoon of ground spice, and/or 1 tablespoon of herbs)
Make a brine by mixing together the water, salt, sugar, peppercorns and thyme in a bucket or bowl big enough to hold the boned turkey. Mix till the sugar and salt are dissolved, then allow to cool to room temperature.

You will need a very sharp knife, preferably a boning knife or fillet knife or thin utility knife. You can use any sharp knife, really, even a paring knife. A pair of poultry shears will make your life a bit easier, but it's not strictly necessary if you have a good heavy knife, like a cleaver or a chef's knife.

To make things simpler, have a clean, dry kitchen towel on the work surface, to help the turkey stay put. Put the turkey breast-down on the work surface. Using the shears or the sharp, heavy knife, cut through the ribs -- right through the skin and meat -- adjacent to the thick spine. (Be sure to save all trimmings and bones, skin, etc. for stock! Stock is essential for great soups and sauces.)

Starting on one side of the opened ribcage and using the boning knife, separate the meat from the bones by scraping the meat off the bones till it is "peeled" off the ribs of the carcass in one "sheet." When you get to the wings, sever the ball joint so it is separated from the ribs. Keep them connected to the ever-increasing sheet of flesh. Keep scraping and cutting (you cut into along the bones, don't cut into the meat itself); you'll eventually cut the breast meat off the ribs, down to the keel bone, which is the big, platy bone that separates the two breast lobes. Do not cut it all the way off! Repeat the meat peeling off the other side of the turkey. Gently scrape against the bone to separate the thin piece of flesh over the ridge of the keel bone. Don't puncture the skin there. Cut out the wishbone.

Now the meat is off the upper half of the carcass, but still connected to the legs. Open out the legs skin-side down, and feel for the thigh bone through the flesh. There is actually a separation between muscle groups that will guide you; cut through and scrape along the bone to expose it, then cut through ball joints to free the bone. Continue cutting down the leg to free the drumstick meat from the bone -- you'll need to manipulate around the "knee" joint. Don't worry about the tendons at this point. On the other end of the thigh, continue scraping against the bone to free the meat off the hip bones. Repeat on the other thigh.

Now the whole turkey should be free. Cut the wing tip and second joint off the "drum" part of the wing. Then take your sharp, thin knife blade and fillet out the bone. Trim out cartilage bits off the meat. On the legs, trim and scrape off the tough tendons -- remember the knife should scrape againt bone or tendon, not against the flesh. Save this all for stock.

Place the meat into the brine, making sure it's completely submerged. Cover and leave in a cool place for 4 to 6 hours.

  • Brined turkey, drained and pat dry
  • Dijon mustard -- grainy or not, your choice
  • Dried Mushroom Stuffing
  • wooden skewers or toothpicks, soaked in water
  • butcher string (cotton only), cut into 10-inch / 25 cm lengths
  • olive oil or other vegetable oil
Heat oven to 325°F / 165°C.

Lay down a kitchen towel, then place the meat skin side down, dark meat toward you over that. Butterfly the breastmeat so you can fold it out to completely cover the available skin. You want to make the meat as even and as rectangularly shaped as possible. You can pound the meat down lightly with a meat mallet, but be careful not to tear the meat or the skin.

Slather the meat's surface with a thin layer of mustard. Place the stuffing in a line about 2-inches from the edge. Using the kitchen towel to help you, roll the meat over the stuffing. Keep rolling like a big sushi roll. Use the skewers or picks to secure the skin so the roll holds shut. Tie butcher string around the roll every two inches or so, to hold its shape, but not too tight. The stuffing will expand -- you don't want it to burst. If desired, take a longer length of string to tie the roast the long way as well, weaving over and under the cross-wise lengths of string already tying the roast.

Rub oil over the whole surface of the roast, and place on a baking dish. Place in the oven and roast for about 2 hours, or till a meat thermometer reads 160°F / 70°C. Leave to rest outside the over, tented over with foil to keep warm for 15 minutes before cutting into slices to serve. Serves 10 to 12, depending on how many side dishes you have and how much gravy or sauce.

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Sesame Chicken
Though the Jedi generally try to eschew meat, the reality is that beings throughout the galaxy do eat meat, in all its various and sundry forms. In addition, if Jedi on missions were offered meat, they did not refuse it. To do so might have been insulting to their hosts, and who knew when and where their next meal might come? So they learned how to prepare meat and enjoy it, rather than be creeped out by it. Most importantly, they learned to respect it and not ever waste any part of it -- killing a creature for food demanded the ultimate respect for that creature. That included using "undesirable" cuts, or tough pieces of meat, and preparing them so they could be presented to the snobbiest of customers and guests. This dish uses "dark" meat, often maligned as less refined and "too strong" for delicate palates. It's marinated, then breaded and pan fried to a crisp finish with a coating of sesame seeds. Served on a bed of tender baby salad greens, it's an elegant lunch; served between slices of bread, it's a fantastic sandwich. Make too many, these are great as leftovers.
  • 1 piece of fresh ginger, about 1" long, chopped fine or grated (or about a tablespoon of powdered ginger)
  • 3 tablespoons toasted sesame oil
  • 3 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1 teaspoon chili sauce or chili powder or cayenne pepper
  • ¼ cup soy sauce
  • ¼ cup vinegar, or ½ cup white wine
  • 6-8 boned chicken thighs, or 4 chicken breasts, cut into 1" wide strips
  • ½ cup flour
  • ¼l cup sesame seeds
  • vegetable oil, for panfrying
In a large bowl, mix together ginger, sesame oil, garlic, chili, soy sauce, and vinegar/white wine. Place the chicken strips in the marinade for at least an hour, preferably overnight. (If you go for the overnight option, cover with plastic wrap and place in the refrigerator.)

In a pie plate or shallow bowl, mix together sesame seeds and the flour. Roll each chicken strip in this mixture. Melt a stick of butter in a skillet with ¼ cup vegetable oil. Sauté the chicken in the fat until golden, about 2 minutes per side, each piece.

Serves 4.

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Artichokes Stuffed with Tomato Concasse and Panko
Even in the GFFA, the artichoke -- a member of the thistle family -- is considered an odd and exotic vegetable. For one, you eat the flower, which has thorns on the tips of its many petals, as well as in the heart of the bud. If you cut it, it goes black on exposure to air, like a potato or an apple. So how to prepare it and treat it along the way is very important. Padawans who don't pay attention fail at most often at preparation of the artichoke. Worse, it's not always apparent that you'd forgotten a step until the guest sits down to eat it -- and chokes on the ill-prepared dish! It's a brutal lesson.
    Tomato Concasse
  • 2 medium tomatoes
  • 1 large shallot, minced
  • 1 large clove garlic, minced
  • 2 tablespoons fresh herbs, chopped (or 2 teaspoons dried herbs)
  • salt, to taste
  • pepper, to taste
Cut the stem scar end out of the tomatoes and plunge into boiling water for 15 seconds. Chill in cold water, then peel off the skins. Chop the tomato flesh fine.

In a skillet, heat the olive oil, and gently cook the shallots and garlic till tender, but without color. Add the tomatoes and herbs, and cook till quite dry. Season to taste with salt and pepper and set aside.
  • 1 lemon
  • 2 large artichokes
  • 1 tablespoon salt
  • Tomato Concasse
  • Panko breadcrumbs (or other fine, dry breadcrumb)
Cut the lemon in half and have it at the ready to rub the cut surfaces of the artichokes, to prevent browning. Pull/snap off the bottom leaves and any wilted or blackened ones. Place the artichoke on its side, and with a sharp, heavy knife (some people like to use a serrated knife to cut through the tough skins) cut off the stem (save it!). Cut the top of the artichoke as well, cutting off most of the thorny tips. Rub each cut with the lemon half. If there are any thorny tips left on the outside of the vegetable, you can snip them off with scissors, and rub those cuts with lemon also. Trim the stems, then cut them into quarters/wedges. Rub the cut ends with lemon, of course! (Leave the thistly choke in the vegetable for the time being -- it's easier to remove once it's been cooked.)

Place the artichokes and stems in a non-reactive pot (stainless steel or ceramic finish), squeeze the lemons over them and put the skins in the pot, too. Add salt, then cover with water and bring to a simmer. Put a plate over the artichokes to keep them submerged, and simmer for 30 minutes. When tender, drain upside down till cooled.

Heat the oven to 375°C / 175°C. Cut the artichokes in half. You will see the downy looking "choke" -- use a teaspoon or grapefruit spoon to remove all of it, but be sure to leave the tender leaves and base as intact as possible. In this cavity, stuff with the Tomato Concasse, the top with the panko breadcrumbs. Place on a baking tray and put into the oven and cook about 15 minutes, or till the crumbs are browned and the filling is hot. Don't overcook, or the artichokes could dry out.

You can also eat the stems -- trim off the thick skin and serve alongside the artichoke flowers. Or use them in artichoke soup.

When serving, be sure to offer a separate plate for the leaves. To eat, pull off the leaves and scraped the meaty base of the leaves between your teeth. The heart and stems can be eaten as they are.

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Stuffed Criminis
This recipe uses the same stuffing as for the artichoke recipe, and is much simpler to prepare. However, since the "baby portabellas" used here are so small, you need to prepare a lot of them. The repetition gets to many of the Padawans, who find themselves easily distracted and bored by the chores. Others enjoy the work, and find it almost meditative. Those are the ones Tenzo Tendo is looking for to work in his kitchens!
  • 4 to 6 crimini or white mushroom caps per diner
  • Tomato Concasse
  • Panko breadcrumbs (optional)
  • salt, to taste
  • pepper, to taste
Heat oven to 375°F / 175°C. If you are working with whole mushrooms, snap off the stems. (Save the stems for the fish dish, below.) Wipe the caps with a damp paper towel to clean off any grit or dirt. Do not immerse in water. Grease or oil a baking dish and place the caps open side down, then bake till hot and starting to soften. Considering juice should have been exuded, about 10 minutes. Turn the caps over and fill with Tomato Concasse stuffing, top with breadcrumbs, if desired. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Bake again till the crumbs are browned or till the concasse is dry to the touch and heated through. Serve as a side dish.

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Dilled Cabbage with Noodles
Like the Sesame Chicken, this dish is born from humble ingredients which are normally overlooked by snobs. For one, it's cheap, filling, earthy -- more like comfort food than haute cuisine. The recipe is the same, whether it's peasant or gourmet fare, but how the ingredients are cut is the big difference here. A sloppy Padawan with poor knife skills could never aspire to work in a kitchen where even the side dishes must be beautiful. In any case, a careless Padawan would not be desirable in any Jedi calling; those who failed to make this dish were often deemed hopeless -- the harshest evaluation.
  • 1 head cabbage (medium sized, about 3 lbs/ 1.3 kg)
  • 4 tablespoons butter or margarine
  • 2 tablespoons dill seeds
  • 2 carrots, grated
  • 1 tablespoon brown sugar
  • salt, to taste
  • pepper, to taste
  • 1 lb / 450 g noodles or tube-shaped pasta, cooked according to package directions
You have a choice in cutting the cabbage -- either match the shape and size of the noodles (if using flattened, broad egg noodles), or make them very thin. To cut, quarter the head, then cut out the core bits. Cut each wedge crosswise to the width to suit your noodles. Set aside.

In a large skillet melt the butter, then dump in dill seed, carrots, and brown sugar. Cook till the sugar is melted and the carrots are tender. Dump in the reserved cut cabbage all at once. Cover and let cook till tender, tossing once in a while to encourage even cooking. Season heavily with salt and pepper. When the cabbage is tender, toss with drained noodles or pasta. Taste and re-season if needed. Serves 8 to 10.

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Two-Heat Fish
Seafish with a higher fat content are a dream-come-true for many chefs -- the flesh of these creatures was often robust enough to treat like a steak, meaning they could take high heat for a crisp finish. They could also be baked without drying out. Tenzo taught the young chef candidates how to make this elegant dish -- one that looked like it was cooked "à la minute" or "to order," one at a time. In truth, it could be half-prepared in advance -- pan-sear the fish, skin-side only -- and finished in the oven while guests eat their appetizers. A baking pan is lined with herbs, and the half-pancooked fish placed on this bed. The still-hot pan could be used to cook the aromatics for the vegetables toppings. On order, the toppings were piled onto the fish, and the whole tray placed in a hot oven for 15 minutes. But, like anything else, if you didn't pay attention to the Master and his strict instructions for timings, you'd screw up ALL the servings. A lot of the Padawans did screw up, not realizing how short a time 15 minutes really is! (Use a kitchen timer, it's much safer than trusting your instincts ... and fish should never, ever be overcooked!)
  • salmon or chilean seabass fillets, cut into 4 oz / 110 g steaks, with skin intact -- one per person
  • olive oil
  • shallots, minced (ciselé)
  • vegetables, cut into julienne (matchsticks) -- per 6 diners:
    * 1 rib celery
    * 1 carrot
    * 8 to 10 mushroom stems
  • salt, to taste
  • pepper, to taste
Heat the oven to 400°F / 180°C. Heat a non-stick skillet till very hot, then place the fish fillets, skin-side down and sear well. Do not turn the fish, leave them till the skin is cooked and contracted. Lift carefully onto a baking dish. In the still-warm skillet, add olive oil, then quickly cook the shallots and garlic without browning, then add the remaining vegetables and cook till al dente. Place over the fish fillets in the baking pan. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Place in the oven for 15 minutes, or till the fish is done "medium" -- it should just start to flake. Lift off each fillet and the vegetable covering onto a warm plate to serve.

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Elegant Cut Fruit with Lemon Vanilla Syrup
Pastries can be beautiful and the gourmet set love them -- a big finish to an elegant dinner. But the rich and the powerful often have illnesses and syndromes thanks to their gluttony, and though their eyes may crave a rich dessert, Tenzo knew that their mouths and bodies appreciated a simple piece of fruit instead. But presenting fruit unadorned seemed so austere ... many begged him, at least put it in a tarte shell with a shiny glaze? Tenzo taught his Padawans that the most beautiful presentation of fruit was on it's own, and perceiving this beauty depends on the level of enlightment of the diner. Others required the simple ingredients be prepared to sate their desire for excess. When such was the case, fruit could be cut and presented artfully, and dressed in a light infused syrup, instead of being manipulated in a pastry. A tasty, fresh presentation could actually fool diners into believing these were exotic and expensive! But attention to detail and flavorings are tatamount here -- the less you do to an ingredient, the finer it has to be. The Padawans learned to recognize and respect perfection with this treatment of simple fruit.
    Lemon Vanilla Syrup
  • 1 lb / 450 g white sugar
  • 1 lb / 450 g water
  • rind peeled off of one lemon
  • 1 vanilla bean, intact
In a lidded saucepan, heat the sugar and water together till the sugar is completely dissolved. Add the lemon rind and vanilla bean, then cover the pot and turn off the heat. Set aside to coole, and leave to infuse for about an hour. Pour the syrup into a clean bottle and keep refrigerated until ready to use. This syrup can be used to dress fruit salad, moisten spongecake, mixed with plain soda water for a drink, etc.

  1. If you wish, you can add whole spices to the syrup to give it additional flavor.
  2. If the fruit deceived you and it's not as flavorful as it could be, you can macerate/marinate the cut fruit for an hour or so in this syrup.
Cutting Fruit
These are guidelines for cutting specific fruits. You will notice that the techniques can be applied to any similar fruit. Be sure to wash and dry/drain the fruit before cutting, and it should be cut as close to serving time as possible. Like other living beings, once the skin is peeled off or the fruit is cut -- exposing it's innards -- it will start to die.

To present:
* select a large platter and make mounds of fruit, without mixing them together (as with a conventional fruit salad). Put out bowls of toasted nuts or coconut or granola and let people take the fruit they want, and sprinkle over with crunchy condiments.

* on each individual plate, artfully arrange different fruits and drizzle with syrup.

  • Apples, Pears -- select firm fruit without bruises. Cut into wedges -- 16 per apple or pear. Remove the cores, then dip into water that has been acidulated -- the juice of one lemon in about a gallon of water. This will keep the fruit from browning till you are ready to plate. Do not leave the fruit in the water for too long, or its flavors will leach out.

  • Pineapple -- choose a fruit with no soft spots that smells sweet. Forget anything you've heard about pulling off leaves ... and if it's yellow, it's overripe. Pick a fruit called "gold" or "extra sweet" -- these have lower acidity levels and thus taste sweeter. Cut off the top and bottom, then cut off the skin. Cut in quarter wedges, remove the core, then slice each wedge into bite-sized pieces.

  • Melons -- muskmelon, cantaloupe, honeydew, papaya. Choose fruit that feels heavy for its size, and gives off characteristic smells for that fruit. (Cantaloupes smell strongest, honeydew/muskmelons have thicker rinds and won't smell as strong.) Cut in half, scoop out the seeds with a spoon and discard the pulp and seeds. Cut the fruit into wedges, then crosswise into bite-sized pieces, then cut the pieces away from the skins.

  • Mangos -- choose a firm one that gives slightly to gentle pressure. In general, red is riper (though this is not universally true). There is a flat, oblong pit running parallel to the shape of the fruit -- make two cuts, "filleting" the lobes off adjacent to the pit. Do not skin first -- score the flesh into cubes, not cutting through to the skin. Invert to splay the cubes, and cut off the skins.

  • Grapes -- instead of presenting individual grapes, snip the bunch and present clusters of about 5 grapes.

  • Berries -- in general, these can be presented as they are. Be careful to drain them carefully -- softer berries like raspberries will leach their color easily. Keep them separate from other fruits until they need to be plated. Soft berries are not good in fruit salads. Firmer berries or those with firm skins, such as strawberries and blueberries, are hardier. Large strawberries can be halved or quartered if they are too big to be considered bite-sized.

  • Citrus -- oranges, grapefruit (red or yellow or pink), tangerines, even lemons can be "filleted" and presented on a fruit plate. To fillet, top and tail the fruit, then following the curve of the fruit, cut off the skin and pith with a knife. The membranes should be entirely cut away. Using a sharp knife, cut alongside the membranes that separate one section of citrus from another, and free them from the fruit. You'll end up with wedges of membrane-less fruit, and the membranes with fruit bits adhering to it; squeeze the latter for the juice. You can use this juice in the Syrup dressing. (People love this particular presentation.)

  • Kiwifruit -- select firmer fruit with slight give -- the softer the fruit, the sweeter, but if it's too soft, it liquifies and oozes and can't be cut. (Instead, it should be scooped out of its skin.) Use a vegetable peeler to remove the skin, top and tail, then cut into slices or wedges. There are green and yellow varieties -- ripeness has nothing to do with color.

  • Bananas -- not recommended, since to be truly sweet, they need to be ripe and soft. Like raspberries, they tend to leach and go all mushy when stored with other fruit. Cut as required.

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