by Sean Keeley, culinary specialist, LLCC
I know it doesn’t feel like or look like spring, but here at Lincoln Land Community College it is the 2019 spring semester. What does that mean for culinary students? That means first-year students dive deeper into the advanced skills needed for their chosen path in the hospitality industry and second-year students participate in the Bistro Verde program. What is the Bistro Verde program? Well it’s not really a program, but a class that looks, feels and operates like a real café from 11 a.m.-1 p.m. every Tuesday and Thursday starting in February.
Just inside of the northeast corner of LLCC’s Workforce Careers Center is the little café classroom called Bistro Verde. Upon entering, one will be greeted by a culinary or hospitality student and directed to a table with menus. Another hospitality student will arrive to take drink orders and then later, a lunch order. That order will be cooked by one or more of the Food Production IV culinary students that may have actually created that dish for the menu. Advanced Baking and Restaurant Desserts students even participate with all the café’s creations. Everything is made fresh from scratch, from the appetizers to desserts, even the buns for the burgers. Last year’s burger rivaled my favorite burger in town – if not just plain better!
This year’s students are a very talented and creative group. They spent a great deal of time during the first class of the semester designing two phenomenal menus, one for each quarter. Soon they will take turns working as either the Chef de Cuisine, Sous Chef, on the sauté station, grill, pantry or even in the “dish pit” – not only are all menu items created by students, but all positions are covered by students.
The instructors offer some advice and set the menu structure to include several appetizers, two soups, two salads, a sandwich, a signature burger and several entrées which must have some vegetarian or vegan options throughout. After that, it is all up to the students to create the menu, research recipes and also food costs as well as product ordering. One may wonder what is on the new menu. Well, this one is happy to share.
For starters calamari, steamed buns, taco tarts, sushi sculptures and arancini. Arancini is an Italian dish of creamy risotto balls in a golden panko crust. They resemble an orange – hence the name. Chicken dumpling soup, hearty veggie chili, winter vegetable and Brazilian salads. There will also be a spin on a Philly cheesesteak, teriyaki chicken stir-fry, ratatouille risotto, and the first burger of the semester is a Cajun burger with fried jalapeños and caramelized onions. Yum!
For more information and menus: www.llcc.edu/bistro-verde, call 217-786-2821, email email@example.com or www.facebook.com/LlccCulinaryArtsAndHospitalityProgram.
The café will be closed for Spring Break, March 9-17 and also March 26. The last day Bistro Verde will be open will be April 25.
Arancini (Fried Risotto Balls)
2 cups Carnaroli or Arborio rice
1 small yellow onion, finely diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
8 cups lightly salted water
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, cubed
Zest of 1 lemon
¾ cup freshly-grated Parmigiano Reggiano
4 ounces fresh mozzarella, cut into 18 ½-inch dice
1 ½ cups flour
2 eggs, beaten
2 cups panko breadcrumbs
1 cup extra virgin olive oil, plus more as needed
Salt, to taste
Bring a large pot with the 8 cups of lightly salted water to a boil. Set a baking sheet to the side.
Place a saucepan over medium heat, and add a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil. Add the diced onions and garlic to the pan and cook until they become tender. When the onions are translucent, add the rice and toast the grains, making sure to coat them with the oil and mixing for 5 minutes. Using a large ladle, add 1 cup of hot water until the rice is just covered, stirring continuously until the water is just absorbed by the rice. Repeat this process until you have added all the water and the risotto is cooked through.
When the risotto is al dente, stir in the cubed butter, lemon zest, and grated Parmigiano Reggiano until all ingredients are thoroughly incorporated. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Remove the pan from the heat and spread the risotto on the baking sheet and allow it to cool. Once it has cooled, roll portions of the risotto in your hands to form balls of about 4 ounces, and stuff each one with a piece of mozzarella and a pea, sealing any holes.
Place the flour, beaten eggs, and breadcrumbs in separate bowls. Coat one risotto ball first with the flour, then with the egg, and finally with the breadcrumbs, then place it back on the baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Repeat this process until all the risotto balls have been coated thoroughly.
In a large, heavy-bottomed skillet, heat 1 cup of extra virgin olive oil until it is almost smoking. Cook the arancini in the oil (in batches if needed) until they become golden brown all over. Remove each rice ball to a plate lined with paper towels to drain. Serve warm, topped with a sprinkling of grated Parmigiano Reggiano.
Buns, as needed
Softened butter or olive oil as needed
Sliced cheese, as needed
ground beef 70-80% fat content
crisp bacon, shredded lettuce, sliced tomato, sliced onion, pickles if desirered
salt and pepper to taste
12” heavy bottom skillet (cast iron recommended) or outdoor grill on high heat
Thin metal spatula (for grill or iron skillet, not for non-stick skillet)
Squirt gun or spray bottle of water for grilling
Higher fat ensures a juicy burger, a lot of the fat cooks off. Form the meat into 2 to 3 ounce balls. Place the balls between wax paper and smash flat with the bottom of a plate, they should be about 1/4” inch thick. Heat skillet on medium to toast the buns that have been lightly brushed with butter or oil. Toast until golden and set aside. This is a good time to dress the buns, I like the veggies on the bottom bun – helps to absorb the juices, and the bacon and condiments on the top bun.
Turn heat under skillet to high, or have grill pre-heated on high. Sprinkle a little salt and pepper on each patty and sear in a hot skillet. If grilling I season the patties a little heavier as some of the spice will fall off or stick to the grill. If flames engulf the patties while grilling be sure to extinguish them with the sprayer. With either cooking method (a dry hot skillet is best) watch for blood to start to bubble slightly on the top of the patty, when this happens it is time to flip. If using a cast iron skillet you may have to scrape the burger from the pan to flip, try to keep all the brown bits that want to stick to the pan on the burger. Top immediately with cheese. I usually use two patties per burger, but only one slice of cheese in between two patties. After flipping and adding cheese they only need to cook another 30 seconds. Place on waiting buns and dig in!
Want to know more?
Lincoln Land Community College offers associate degree programs in Culinary Arts and Hospitality Management and academic credit certificates in Culinary Arts and Baking/Pastry. For more information call 217-786-4613 or visit www.llcc.edu/hospitality-culinary-arts.