Monthly Archives: February 2012

Culinary 101 – Mastering the Brown- Sauce Espagnole

Culinary 101 – Mastering the Brown- Sauce Espagnole

Okay, so we have covered some of the more simple sauces, stocks and roux.  That covers 3 of the 5 mother sauces, Veloute, Bechamel and Tomate.  On the complicated scale, this is next in line.  Sauce Espagnole or Brown Sauce.

Your Brown Sauce is the basis for the rich and hearty sauces that are common place with the red meats and rich foods.  We all LOVE rich foods right?

Okay.  Now for the different stuff.  Your last two roux based sauces used Blonde and White roux.  Now we roll with the brown roux.  We are looking for color and flavor.  Not only that, this roux will add a twist.  You are going to make your roux with the veggies still in the pan!  Don’t fear.  It is not as complex as it sounds.  We are going to make a gallon of the good stuff today.

Let’s start with Mise en Place. Yes, I am going to continue to hammer that word.  It’s really that important.

For this recipe you need the following:

  • 1 lb. onion, medium dice (remember how to dice an onion?  No?  Check out the meat loaf article for a refresher)
  • 8 oz. carrot, medium dice
  • 8 oz. of celery, medium dice
  • 8 oz. butter
  • 8 oz. bread flour
  • 6 qt of your brown stock (warm)
  • 8 oz. tomato puree
  • Sachet of the following
    • 1 bay leaf
    • 1 sprig fresh thyme
    • 6-8 parsley stems
    • Tie it into a bag of cheese cloth bag

Okay.  Time for some culinary talk.  What is a medium dice?  We are not talking about what you toss on the craps tables, and that word is tossed around in the kitchen world like animal crackers in a day care.  Let’s get down to the technical side of it.  There are 2 different categories of square cut items.  Brunoise and Diced.  It’s all a matter of size.

  • Fine Brunoise is 1/16” x 1/16” square
  • Brunoise is 1/8” x 1/8” square
  • Small Dice is ¼” x ¼”  square
  • Medium Dice is ½” x ½” square
  • Large Dice is ¾” x ¾” square

Why do you want to cut things so accurately?  Simple answer.  When you are cooking vegetables you want them to all cook to the same doneness at the same time. If you have 25 different sizes of vegetable, you will have 25 different times that the vegetables will be done.  Now that we have addressed the size of the cuts, let’s make our sauce!

Sauté your Mirepoix….  Culinary term again huh?  Mirepoix is the base for the majority of all French food.  It consists of Onion, Celery and Carrot.  The ratio of this is 2 parts onion to 1 part each of celery or carrot.  A classic mirepoix variation includes using leeks instead of onions.  Okay, now sauté it until brown in your butter.  One more time with the culinary terms, cause I just don’t have enough to tell ya right?  Sauté.
Sounds simple enough right?  Sauté is defined as cooking quickly in a small amount of fat.  The key word there is small.  You want medium high heat and small amount of fat; otherwise you are just frying your food.

Now back to your regularly scheduled food program.  Now that you have your well browned vegetables, add your flour.  Cook your flour to a brown roux.  You want the roux to be the color of milk chocolate.  Watch your roux carefully.  The darker it gets, the quicker it will cook.  It is real easy to go from brown to burned.

Now that the roux is brown, it’s time to start with the stock.  Gradually stir in your WARM brown stock; putting it in cold to your hot roux can cause clumping; and your tomato puree, stirring constantly until the pot comes to a boil.  Now reduce your heat to a simmer, and add your sachet.  Skim of whatever foam, fat or other things from the top, and cook slowly uncovered, for about 2 hours, or until it reduces down to about 1 gallon.

Now that it’s all done, you need to strain out the “stuff” that’s left over.  I use a china cap, lined with cheese cloth or a chinoise strainer.  If you do not have one of these tools, don’t worry.  Grab the biggest colander you have, and line it in several layers of cheese cloth.  Put the colander over your container of choice and slowly pour your sauce into the container.  When you are down to the cooked veggies, you can press them gently with a ladle to get the good juice out, but don’t press them through the strainer.

Cool your sauce and cover it.  Now you can use this wonderful mother sauce to make a TON of things.  The most classic first thing?  Demi-Glace.  That yummy, rich brown stuff that is common on French meat.  Easy stuff.  Mix equal parts Brown Sauce and Brown stock.  Cook it until it reduces by half.  Strain it just like you did your Brown Sauce, and you have Demi.

What other wonderful classic sauces can you make?  Here are a few:

  • Sauce Bordelaise:  1 cup red wine, reduced ¾, 2 oz. shallots, ¼ tsp. crushed peppercorns, pinch of dried thyme, 1 bay leaf, add 1 qt demi-glaze, simmer 20 minutes, and strain, finish with 2 oz. of whole butter.
  • Sauce Robert:  Cook 4 oz. onions without browning in butter.  Add 1 cup white wine and reduce 2/3.  Add 1 qt demi-glaze simmer 10 minutes.  Strain and add 2 tsp. dry mustard and a pinch of sugar dissolved in a little lemon juice.
  • Sauce Diable:  Reduce by 2/3 1 cup white wine, 4 oz. shallots, ½ tsp. crushed peppercorns, add 1 qt demi-glaze simmer 20 minutes.  Strain and season with cayenne pepper.
  • Sauce Madeira:  Reduce 1 qt demi-glaze by ½ cup.  Add 3 to 4 ounces of Madeira wine.
  • Port Wine:  See Madeira.  Substitute Port Wine.
  • Mushroom:  Sauté 8 oz. mushrooms and 1 oz. shallots in 2 ounces of butter until browned.  Add 1 qt of demi-glaze and simmer 10 minutes.  Add 2 oz. sherry and a few drops of lemon juice.

The varieties of small sauces are as varied as the ingredients that you can imagine using.  Don’t be afraid of the sauce man!

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Posted by on February 24, 2012 in Uncategorized


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Mastering the Loaf Part I – Meat Loaf

Mastering the Loaf Part I – Meat Loaf

Mastering the Loaf Part I – Meat Loaf

Fear not my friends!  We are not talking greasy!  We are not talking dry!  We are talking about warm, tender, juicy and just right meat loaf.  That blue collar American Diner classic gets a lower calorie remake to be more than just your average meat loaf!


Mise en Place.  Wow, again with the mise en place stuff!  Why?  Mise en Place is a vital concept in the restaurant world.  It saves us time and energy.  Mise en place is translated as everything in its place.  What does that mean for those of you playing the home version of our fine game?  Get all of your ingredients out, ready and accessible.  What happens when everything is not in its place?  You spend half of your time not making the food, but going back and forth from the fridge, to the counter, to the pantry to the cupboard, etc.  You are running around like a chicken with your head cut off.  That is tiring.  That is a big reason that some people do not like to cook.  What can you do to further your mise en place at home?  Do what we do in the restaurant world.  We prep EVERYTHING!  When someone orders an item that has carrots or onions or for that matter, any cut vegetable, do you think we run to the cooler and grab an onion and start cutting?  Not on your life!  We will base our prep on the menu and projections for the next day, or two days and will cut all the vegetables, portion all of the meats, pre-mark some of them, and get everything to a point that we can quickly turn out your hot and still fresh food.  This can be applied to the home cook.  Those diced onions, celery and carrots that you see in 70 percent of your recipes (mirepoix); you can make a large batch.  If kept in a good fridge, you can keep it for a week or more.  When you get your burger meat, or your chickens, portion them according to how you will use them.  Mise en place can help you make your kitchen experience soother and easier, and frankly, more enjoyable.

Now, to the meatloaf.  What do you need?

  • Turn your oven on to 350.  Why put this in the ingredients?  A cold oven does not cook.  Why wait for your oven when your meat is ready to go in?  Have it hot first!
  • 2 lb. of very lean beef.  I used a higher fat content this time, as that is what I had in the house.
  • 1 lb. of mixed mushrooms, today was shitake and cremini. Sliced and cut the stems off.  (save them for later)
  • 1 large onion, diced
  • 2 cloves of garlic, crushed
  • 2 cups of beef stock
  • 1 tablespoon of flour
  • 1 cup of Panko Bread crumbs
  • 1 tablespoon of Dijon mustard
  • 1 teaspoon of fine chopped fresh thyme
  • 1 teaspoon of fine chopped fresh rosemary
  • 1 large egg
  • A tablespoon of Worcestershire sauce
  • Salt
  • Pepper
  • 1 teaspoon of canola oil.

Equipment that you will need?

  • Mixing bowl
  • Sheet Pan
  • Sauté pan

Hmmmm… We have not done this yet, shame on me!  How to dice and onion!!!!!  Don’t get your 20 year old ski goggles out, or your kids swim goggles. If you do it right, even you can cut an onion tear free!!!!  Start with the two basic cuts. Onions are the root end of flowering plant that is related to the daffodils and tulips that grow in your garden.  They are also cousins to your culinary friends, garlic, shallots and leeks.  Therefore there are two ends of the onion, the root end and the blossom end.  The root end, looks like it has a beard, and the blossom end comes to a little peak.  Cut the blossom end off to the point that there is no more onion skin showing.  Cut the root end JUST past the edge of the fuzzy root stuff.  Technical term huh?  You want to see the yellowish root base still intact in the onion.  Why?  That is where all of the tear producing “stuff” lives in your onions.  Put your onion on your cutting board, blossom end down.  Take your nice sharp knife and cut the onion in half, splitting the root end up the middle.  Peel the onion skin off of the root and the top and set them aside for your stock pot later.  Now you can take the skin off.  In the restaurant world, we are trying to preserve every scrap, so we tend to obsess on the amount of wastage.  If you don’t want to fight with your onion skin, and are not averse to having extra for your stock pot, grab the corner of the first layer of your onion, and peel that bad boy right off.  You will likely get all the onion skin, all at once.  You can set it aside for your stock pot now.  By the way, now you can twist that layer and pull the onion skin right off.

Let’s get to the nuts and bolts of WHY you cry when you cut onions.  Onions contain enzymes and amino acid sulfoxides.  When you cut into that onion, the enzymes react with the amino acids and for a compound called suflfenic acid.  This acid quickly vaporizes when exposed to air.  When it comes in contact with your eyes?  Tears.  So how do you stop this reaction?  The vast majority of these compounds are contained in the root end of the onion.  If you avoid cutting the root end of the onion, you will avoid releasing this compound, and you will therefore avoid the waterworks.

Now for the practical application of this bit-o-science.  There are two common methods for dicing your onions.  The old school way that is taught in culinary school is to lay the onion half down on your cutting board.  Lay your knife down parallel with the board and cut from the blossom end to the root end, stopping your cut before you get to the root, about a ¼ of an inch from the end. Cut to the desired size of your dice.  Now, working from the root end to the blossom end with the blade perpendicular to the cutting board, cut your onion again to the desired thickness, not going past that same ¼ inch from the end of the root.  Now you finish the dice.  Your next set of cuts will be perpendicular to the last cut.  Cut from the blossom end to the root end, again to your desired thickness.  You will have a stubby little end left that contains the root bundle, and no tears.  Set your root aside for your stock pot.

Version two is much less complex, but not quite as precise.  This is the perfect application for the home cook that is not looking for the perfect 1/16 inch fine Brunoise cut onion.  Go through the same procedures to get you to two nicely peeled half onions with the root and blossom ends removed.  Lay that onion down again on your cutting board.  Now, from root end, again leaving your ¼ inch of root, you are going to cut from root to blossom, from the outside edge in a sort of rainbow of cuts.  Think of it like cutting lots of little wedges of your onion.  Now, just like with the previous cut, work from the blossom end back to the root end, and cut to your desired dimension, still leaving the root end intact with no more tears.

That was a LOT of talk about onions.  Now back to our originally scheduled program, already in progress.

Pretty simple stuff.  Let’s start with the mushrooms.  Heat the oil in your sauté pan, and add your onions, you remember those onions right?  Cook until they are just starting to turn a little clear.  Add your mushroom, garlic and ¼ teaspoon of salt and ¼ teaspoon of pepper.  Cook your mushroom and onion mixture until the mushrooms have given up their liquid, and that liquid has cooked mostly off.  If you don’t think your mushrooms are cooked enough, give them a splash of water to keep things moving and continue until your product has cooked the juice out.  Now set your mushrooms aside.

Take your meat, and all of your other ingredients, EXCEPT For our Worcestershire sauce, beef stock and your flour, that is for later, put it all into a nice clean mixing bowl.  Now add your half of your mushroom mixture, saving the rest for your nice brown gravy.  Using the best mixing tool in your kitchen, clean hands; fully mix the meat and all of the good stuff.  When you have a nice homogeneous blob-o-beef, take your sheet pan and hit it with our favorite cooking spray.  Plop your meat mound on to your sheet tray and form it into a nice loaf shape, about 3 inches wide, and as thick and long as you want it.  Why not use a loaf pan like mamma used to do?  Regardless of the lowest fat percentage beef, you still have a fat content.  When you cook it, you will melt that fat.  Rather than have the beef cooking IN that fat, which is what happens in a loaf pan, you cook in on your sheet pan, and the fat will pool to the OUTSIDE of the meat.  Cook your loaf for about an hour, or until it reaches an internal temperature of 165 degrees.

When your meat is getting close, it’s time to make the gravy.  Since this is a weight watchers friendly recipe, we will forgo the roux process.  Take your reserved beef stock, and add your Worcestershire sauce in a mixing bowl.  Grab your whisk.  Add your tablespoon of flour and whisk well, until fully incorporated.  EEK!  You are putting flour into water!  It’s gonna have clumps!  If you had more flour and less water, and did NOT whisk, you very well could have lumps.  Since we are whisking the flour into the liquid before heating, you are reducing the lump factor.  Now take the reserved mushrooms, put then into your favorite sauce pan, and add the stock mixture.  Heat over medium high heat.  Keep stirring.  The flour will start to thicken the liquid after it reaches the boiling point.  Cook for a few extra minutes, until it reaches the desired thickness, and taste it for seasoning.  ALWAYS TASTE YOUR FOOD!

For service, you can cut it to 1 ½ ounce slices and serve two slices per serving.  Sauce your meat with ¼ cup of your mushroom sauce.  Tonight we served with green beans and roasted potatoes.  Enjoy!

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Posted by on February 11, 2012 in Uncategorized


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Question and Answers – Questions on Eggs


I need some culinary help on two issues:

(1) I have been making a recipe which calls for whipping egg whites until stiff, then folding them into the rest of the batter ( My results are *never* as fluffy as they should be; they always flatten out and don’t stand up.

I’ve tried the suggestions from the author ( on how to do it right; I’ve whipped harder and harder; I’ve even watched a dozen videos on how to fold egg whites into another mixture . . . nothing seems to work.

(2) I can’t seem to make hard boiled eggs and then get the shell off without losing half the egg with it. I can usually get two or three per dozen to peel easily (regardless of which method I use to aid in this), but the rest have small-to-large amounts of white adhere to the shell.

I’ve tried using cold water. I’ve tried adding salt or baking soda to the water. I’ve tried letting them sit in the water until it was cool. I’ve tried the “make a hole in both ends and blow” method. As with the Oopsies, I’m outta ideas.

Held me Ovations-Sean Kenobi. You’re my only hope. 😉


Part 1.  The Egg Foam.  Why are you not getting the heft that you desire in your egg foam baked goods?  First answer MAY be that you are not beating your whites to a stiff peak.  There are three stages in beating egg whites.  Soft peaks, where the foam will form a Dairy Queen looking flipped peak when you pull the mixing whip out of the bowl.  Stiff Peaks, where the foam will form something that looks like a gnome hat peak, straight up with no fold down.  The last stage is over beaten egg whites.  These look dry and granulated.  You can still save an over beaten egg white by adding another fresh one and then rebeating them to the desired level.

Another reason for the lack of heft very well may be the thickness of your stir in batter.  You are using cream cheese and egg yolks.  That recipe calls for an almost even volume of both, and the cream cheese is not softened.  You will have a VERY stiff batter, which will tend to break the delicate foam structure of the egg whites.  I would recommend, first of all, soften the cream cheese to room temperature.  Then beat the cream cheese and egg yolks together until they are very loose and creamy.  If you cannot get a nice creamy batter, reduce the amount of cream cheese by a half an ounce.

Your egg whites are used as a levener and lightener for this batter.  If you break down the foam, you will not achieve any rise.  So you folding technique could be an issue here as well.  When you fold in, follow these steps.

  1. Lighten the batter.  Take your first 1/3 of the egg white and mix quickly, without being gentle, into your batter mixture.  This will loosen the batter more, and allow for easier integration of your egg whites.
  2. Fold in the egg whites 1/3 more at a time.  By folding, that means, add the whites to the batter with a rubber spatula, and gently turn them into the batter.  You are not stirring, you are not whisking.
  3. Repeat with the final 1/3.  You will see some bits of egg white that have not fully incorporated into your batter.  That is really okay.  The more you stir or fold the whites into the batter, the more you damage the foam structure of the egg whites.

One thing in addition.  If you are in the foam building stage, be sure that there are no bits of egg yolk, oil, or fats on your beater or your mixing bowl.  The lecithin in egg yolk and the oils will prevent a foam from forming.

Part 2.  Hard Boiled Eggs.  A couple of things with hard boiled eggs.  I am planning on covering them along with the mashed potato soon on the blog, so you are getting a preview of the subject matter.  Eggs should not be boiled.  A fast boiled egg will have a rubbery white and the yolk will start to have a green tint to it.  Start your eggs in lightly salted cold water.  Bring them to a boil over medium high heat.  As soon as they reach a boil, turn the heat down to low, and cover for 10 minutes.  Remove them quickly from the water and shock them in an ice water bath.  This will quickly arrest the cooking and prevent, once again the greening of the egg yolk.  Why do they turn green?  Hydrogen and sulfur in the yolk begin to react with each other when the yolk is over cooked forming a compound that turns the yolk that greyish green color.

Now that you have your color right, why are they so difficult to peel?  The fresher the eggs, the harder they are to peel.  Consider the anatomy of the egg first of all.  You have the outer shell and 2 inner membranes.  When you peel and egg, and it sticks you are having problems with the inner membrane adhering to the albumen.   The older the egg, the less that outer and inner membrane adhere to the whites.  Egg shells are porous.  The shells allow for the escape of carbon dioxide from the inner shell and thus lowering the pH of the egg whites.  This slightly reduces the size of the egg white and will make it easier to peel.

To peel.  Be sure the egg is completely cold.  Running under cold water, crack the egg at the bottom.   Not the peaked end.  Roll it against a hard surface to crack the shell.  Then working from the bottom, which is where the air pocket is, run your finger along the shell, under running water. This will further loosen the shell and membrane.  You may still have some sticking, this is unavoidable.

Remember to NOT use fresh eggs, 1 to 2 weeks out is best.  Be sure to fully chill your eggs.  Hot eggs stick to the inner shell.  That should make for easier peeling!

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Posted by on February 7, 2012 in Uncategorized


Left Over Lessons Part I, Cottage Cheese

Left Over Lessons Part I, Cottage Cheese

Left Over Lessons Part I

Got Milk?  Better question.  Got old milk?  Not spoiled, but just at the “expiration” date?  Don’t dump it, recycle it!  With a little bit of chemistry and about an hours’ time, you can turn your skim milk into cottage cheese!


Start with the basics.  Mise en place.  Simple ingredients.  1 gallon of skim milk, 12 fluid ounces of white vinegar and ¾ teaspoon of kosher salt.


Put your gallon of skim milk into a large pot.  Bring your milk to 140 degrees over medium heat.  Yeah, I know the temp is reading at 120, those pictures were corrupted.  Gotta kill the potential bad bacteria ya know.  Take your milk off the heat and slowly add the vinegar.  Stir and cover for at least 30 minutes.  This will start to separate the curd from the whey.  What are curd and whey?  Let’s start with curd.  Curd is the solid that is coagulated in the making of cheese.  Curd can be harvested from milk by one of two methods. Rennet, an enzyme that can be either derived from plant or animal sources.  The enzyme from animals is primarily used to digest mother’s milk in young animals.  Acid coagulation is the other method.  Using edible acids such as lemon juice or vinegar will produce similar results.

Both methods raise the pH level of the milk, causing the casein, which is the primary protein in milk to tangle into solid masses.  These masses are curd.  Curd, is what cheese is.  If you press it and age it, you get any variety of hard or soft traditional cow’s milk cheese.  Take the loose curd and add cream to it, and you get the cottage cheese we are making.  If you slowly start to heat soured milk, you get a similar European product call Quark.

What is whey?  When you have coagulated your cheese curd the left over liquid is called whey.  Whey is mostly water.  The dissolved proteins in that whey are primarily albumins.  They can be heated later on to create ricotta cheese.  That is another article.

Now that you know what curds and whey are, let’s make a quick cheese.  Where were we?  Okay, we have heated our milk, added the vinegar and have now left the product to cool for 30 minutes.  Get a tea towel and your largest strainer.  Line the strainer with the tea towel.  Pour the funky stuff into the towel.  Let it rest and drain for 5 or 10 minutes.  Pull the corners up and ring the remaining whey from your curd.  Set your whey aside for later use.  Now rinse your curd, still wrapped in your towel, until it has completely cooled.

When you are done, you will have a dry and rather flavorless bowl of curd.

To make it into your servable cottage cheese, stir in a half cup of either half and half or heavy cream and your ¾ teaspoon of salt.  You now have cottage cheese!  Enjoy!

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Posted by on February 3, 2012 in Culinary 101, Menu Items


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