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Category Archives: Culinary 101

Teaching basic technique to make it easy for the home cook

Dinner Party Post Mortem.

Dinner Party Post Mortem.

 

As a small personal services business, sometimes we will do things to “show off” so to speak.  This last Friday I had the occasion to put on a show off event for some of my close friends and foodies.

I had a dinner party that consisted of a 5 course tasting menu with wine pairings.

The menu read as follows:

Amuse bouche

Oysters casino

Fresh Gulf oysters lightly broiled with herb casino butter and hickory smoked bacon.

First course

Chilled Avocado and cucumber soup

Lightly chilled soup with hints of citrus garnished with fresh cilantro and cucumber

Main course

Tournedos Rossini with Sauce Périgueux served with lobster potato foam and seared garlic broccolini

Seared medallions of beef tenderloin served with seared fois gras and a shaved black truffle demi glaze.  Served over warm potato foam made with lobster stock. With broccolini seared with garlic.

Cheese course

Triple cream fromage St. André on a baguette crostini with quince paste and balsamic reduction

Triple cream St. Andre cheese served warm with quince paste on a toasted baguette crostini over a drizzle of balsamic reduction.

Final course

Bitter sweet chocolate ravioli with sweet ricotta filling served with amaretto crème anglaise

Fresh made bitter sweet chocolate ravioli with almond and ricotta filling served with a warm amaretto cream custard sauce

 

I figure, if you are gonna go for it, go BIG right?

What goes into such an undertaking?  Just like with any menu, planning, planning, and oh, more planning.  Mise ‘en place is HUGE in doing something like this.  For the last 3 weeks, the prep for this event has been in the works.  We started with the menu and worked from there.

What comes after the menu?  Logistics.  Can it be done in the space allotted?  Sure, but only for 8 people, that means that we have to limit the guest list.  It went from up to 15 down to 8.  Next part of planning something like this is making sure your guests are firm and confirmed.  It would be a big problem to set a purchasing list and not have the right numbers of confirmed guests show.

Next step in logistics?  Making sure you have the flatware, china and glassware needed to pull this off.  Want to be washing dishes between service courses?  Not so much.  I set this menu up in with the idea of single cook execution and simplified plating execution.  Small plates with simple garniture.  We purchased a new set of plates for each of the courses.  Good thing is that they can all be used again.

Next stop?  Shopping lists!  You have to know where to source items, where to purchase for the bang to buck ratios, best quality etc.  Experience doing catering and event as well as private client work comes in handy for this step.  How does one set up shopping for an event of this style?  Run down your mise en place list.  Go line by line with each step.  Compile your needs and check your existing inventory.

Hard part about an event like this is that running single cook means all the pressure is on me to perform.  I spent the event day doing all of the shopping, and prep.  That meant that the menu had to be set up with items that were not too heavily needed for ala minute cooking (at the time needed).  I set my menu with the only prep at time item being the primary plating items.

The break down course by course:

Amuse Bouche:

Oysters Casino.  I added an item to this course.  It went from a strict hot item to an oysters 2 ways set up.  I purchased wild caught Gulf oysters for the casino and good quality Bluepoint oysters for the cold course.

The oysters fought with me, as would be expected when the pressure is on, but the quality was top notch from Central Market, and the course executed very well.  Nice opening item.

First Course:

Chilled Avocado and Cucumber soup.

Moved from a hot to a cold item.  Traditionally a pallet cleanser from the strong flavor Amuse course.  There was a slight hint of spice from the jalapeno but nothing overwhelming because of the base of Greek yogurt.  It was a very nice addition to the menu.  Very popular item.

Main Course:

Tournedos Rossini with Lobster Potato Foam and Garlic Seared Brocolinni.

The only course that was ala minute.  The tenderloin was butchered ahead to allow the tournedos to come to room temperature.  The potato foam was based on a recipe from el Bulli.  I should have stuck with the original recipe without too much derivation, as the foam base was a little too thick and did not stand up too well.  The lobster flavor from the stock came through and the texture was nice as an accompaniment to the truffle based demi glaze but I was a little disappointed at the lack of lift.  The brocolinni turned out to be broccoli rabe as Central Market was out of the other.  No big deal.  Same prep, just blanche and toss in to sear briefly with roasted garlic.  The flavor balance was spot on, and for the most part, the steaks were done just right.  I made sure to give myself the least appealing set up with the most overdone steak.  No need to give a guest an overcooked piece of meat.

Cheese Course:

St. Andre cheese with Quince and Crostini:

Simple and creamy.  I miss planned my plating diagram and had to make quick changes based on my purchases, but no big deal, just compress down.  The crostini was a bit on the tough side, but live and learn.  The cheese with the whipped quince and balsamic glaze was a very nice balance.

Final course:

Chocolate Ravioli with Ricotta and Almond Filling:

Not being mister pastry, this was the course that caused me the most pre event distress.  I have made pasta before, I have cooked with chocolate before.  I have yet to do the two together.  Thanks to Chef Michelle Brown at Collin College for the advice regarding the 00 flour.  The texture difference with the super fine cocoa powder made a difference.  The pasta was a bit stickier that other pasta that I worked with in the past, but the smell of chocolate filled the house when I was rolling it out!  The filling was fantastic, a perfect nuttiness and creaminess with the cheese and almond paste.  The crème anglaise was just the right note to finish with.  For my own purposes?  I will cook the pasta a bit longer or crank down the roller to a slightly thinner setting, as the pasta cooked a bit tough for my tastes.

All in all, my guests were VERY pleased with the results.  I cannot complain.

 

 
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Posted by on April 9, 2013 in Culinary 101

 

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Pantry Raiders 1. The Dreaded Little Jars

Venture bravely into your pantry one day and you will find a terrible and frightening things. Items so horrid, that Julia and August are ROLLING in their graves! What horrid things might they be?

Some canned this

Some tepid sauce that?

No, far worse!!! JARS OF HERBS AND SPICES!!!

Huh?

What can be so bad you may ask?

The answer can be found in a question. Do you remember during which presidential administration you purchased that uber tub of “Italian Seasoning” from your local discount mega club? How about that tiny and dusty little metal tin of ground nutmeg that hides in the back of your pantry? I bet you have no clue. Worse yet, just how much do you think you spent on those items?

Let me tell you friends. That it was too long ago and too much respectively.

Okay, reality check. There is nothing REALLY wrong with dried herbs, so long as you are not using the petrified and dead stuff that you happen to have purchased during the Carter administration. Dried herbs are a descent substitute for the fresh stuff when used properly. But what is your solution you may ask? Check out your friendly neighborhood “high end establishment”. Places like Central Market here in Dallas and Whole Foods Market on a nationwide basis, have a fantastic area of bulk bin dried herbs that you can purchase what you need as you need it. Here is the kicker. That $6 plus dollar jar of herbs will cost you cents on the dollar from bulk bin. You are paying a high premium for the fancy glass jar. I will spend no more than a dollar or two on a bag of dried herbs that can be as large as of not bigger than the glass jar “premium” brands at your local megamarts! PLUS, you know when you bought it!

Why is the when so important? Time! Open that bag of dried herbs. It smells pretty good huh? That aroma is the volatile oils that give the herb its flavor. What is volatile? It means that when exposed to air, it will dissipate into the atmosphere. In other words, your herbs will lose their flavor. Rule of thumb? I would not keep dried herbs in my pantry for any longer than 6 months. If you store them near your stove or oven, no longer than 3. Heat will speed the process of degrading the oils and flavors.

Now for their culinary bunk mates, spices….

They are a little different. When you buy the jar, 9 times out of 10 you are getting the ubiquitous brown powders. They pack a punch! The time rules that apply to dried herbs tend to play the same with pre-ground dried spices. Here is the exception. When you buy them whole, and I recommend that HIGHLY, you can keep them for almost an indefinite period of time. Why? The volatile oils are contained within the whole spice, and are not released until you break them down. Cool, huh? Added bonus? With whole spices, you can do cool stuff, like toasting! Why? Adding heat to whole spices like cumin or caraway will enhance the aromatic properties and deepen some of those wonderful substances that give those spices their depth of flavor.

Okay, so what do you DO with those whole spices? Invest in a coffee or spice grinder. They are not that expensive and can be used for most any whole spice to process down to whatever size powder you desire. Exception being nutmeg. Microplaners are handy tools that are relatively inexpensive and can be used in multiple applications OTHER than removing that fantastic fragrant powder….

Summary?

By small amounts when you need it. Don’t keep it long. Your food will thank you for it!

 
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Posted by on April 2, 2013 in Culinary 101

 

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Things will be changing soon!!!

Ladies and gentleman, I have been more than a little lax in my postings of late, but soon all that will be changing. There will be a revamp in the next few weeks and LOTS of exciting things are coming!

 
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Posted by on February 7, 2013 in Culinary 101

 

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Culinary 101 – Fish Stock

Culinary 101 – Fish Stock

After a long absence in posting, I am back in the saddle.  First things first.  I just finished teaching my first semester of Saucier at Collin College.  It has been a pleasure to work with my eager students.  Now that we are done with the pleasantries, it’s time for the nitty gritty.

Back to the basics again, we are going to a fundamental that we cover in the first few days of Saucier.  Stock.  Today, fish stock.

Of the primary stocks, this is the easiest, fastest and most convenient stock to make.  It is also the most pungent stock, so be prepared to have your home smell like a seafood shop for a day.  Why do I need fish stock, you ask?  Do you cook fish?  Do you like it dry?  Do you make gumbo or fish soup?  If the answer is yes, and it very well is if you are reading the blog, then you NEED fish stock.

Mise en place.  That word will keep popping up forever and ever and ever.  Simple mise en place today:

10 lb. fish bones (lean fish)

1 lb. mirepoix

8 oz. onion

4 oz. carrot

4 oz. celery

1 bay leaf (fresh is best)

6-8 pepper corns

2-3 parsley stems

1 or 2 whole cloves

1 gal cold water

24 fly oz. white wine

1 large stock pot 12 qtr. or larger

1 fine strainer and cheese cloth or fine chinoise

Fish bones.  Either fish bones you clean yourself, or that you purchase from your friendly neighborhood fish monger.  Today we have a combination of red snapper and pike.  You want a lean fish for this application.  Good fish for this are red fish, red snapper, pike, bass, flounder, sole, halibut or cod.    What to avoid?  Fatty, oily fish such as salmon, mackerel, tuna or trout.  The fatty fish have a more complex and intense flavor that just does not do well with stock.  If you use a large fish like halibut, you stock will take longer to cook as the bones are larger.  We are excluding the use of shell fish today.  We will cover the usage of shellfish bits in stock and other vital applications in another episode.

Mirepoix.  The classis mirepoix takes two forms.  The common first ingredient is onion, common second is celery and the most used third being carrot.  The second form of the French mirepoix is white mirepoix, which replaces the carrot with parsnip.  The classic fish stock contains this variation.  Today I am rolling with carrots.  Why?  I happen to have them in the cooler today.  For our fish stock, we are going to do a fine chop.  This differs from chicken stock or beef stock.  Chicken stock allows for rough chop, and brown beef stock uses large chunks.  Why so small?  You are cooking this stock for 45 minutes to an hour.  If you have a large cut of vegetable, you will not extract the full flavor from the vegetable.  The exception being halibut stock.  Thicker bones take longer to cook, so a slightly larger cut will work.

Spices or sachet.  Tradition would be that you make a sachet of this combination of spices.  I don’t bother.  Why?  I am going to strain this stock anyway right?  Why waste the time on making sachet out of cheese cloth.  Why not use ground cloves or pepper you ask?  You are making stock.  Stock should not have little black or brown spots in it.

Water and wine.  Wine is considered optional.   I don’t consider it an option.  A nice dry white wine adds flavor to the party.  Flavor is good.  Water is your primary carrier for your stock.  Duh.

So it’s time to make your stock.

Easy stuff.  Put your ingredients in your stock pot.  Pour the wine in, and add enough water to just cover the bones.  If it takes more than a gallon, so be it.  Next, turn your heat on to medium.  You want to simmer you stock, not boil it.  You are going to simmer for 45 minutes to an hour.  During that time, if there is “stuff” and “foam” or “scum” skim it off the top.  That’s it.  You have gotten the effective flavor compounds from your bones now.  Next we strain it.  I use a chinoise, which is a very fine mesh strainer that is used is making sauces.  It tends to be much finer than the average home strainer.  If you do not have a chinoise, this is where the cheese cloth comes in handy.  Take your strainer and line it with a couple of layers of

cheese cloth.  Carefully pour your stock through and discard your

 bones and leftover stuff.

This particular application will make anywhere from 1 to 1.25 gallons of stock.  If you happen to have a walk in cooler you can keep your stock for up to a week.   You can also freeze it, and it will keep for several months.  Your next option is the one that I tend to roll with the most.  I reduce my stocks down to a glaze or a glace de poisson.

Making a glaze allows for easier storage of your stock.  It takes much less space to store 1 or 2 cups of glaze then it does to store

1.5 to 2 gallons of whole stock.  Reduction like this does tend to change some flavor profiles when fully reduced, but not so drastically that it does not taste like fish stock.   I will reduce my gallon and a quarter today down to about a cup and a half.  To

reconstitute, take about a ¼ teaspoon to a half teaspoon to a cup

of hot water, and behold, fish stock.

Variation:  Fish Fumet

Fish Fumet is a moderately more fragrant and flavorful procedure because you are changing the flavor profile by pre-sweating the bones and mirepoix and deglazing your pot with your white wine.  Because you are precooking the bones and the mirepoix, you can cut your stock cook time down to 30-45 minutes.

 
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Posted by on May 11, 2012 in Culinary 101

 

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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!

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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.

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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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Culinary 101 – Sauces – Sauce Tomate

Culinary 101 – Sauces – Sauce Tomate

Tonight we will go over the next on the complexity scale of the Escoffier Mother Sauces, Sauce Tomate, or Tomato Sauce.  The yield of this sauce will be 1 quart.  A good manageable amount.

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Mise en place.  Buy now, you should be getting used to this word….

  • 1 quart of Tomato concasse( don’t worry, it will explain)
  • 1 pint of canned tomato puree
  • 2 ounces of yellow or white onion, diced
  • 2 ounces of carrots diced
  • 1 ounce of either salt pork or bacon
  • 1 small ham bone
  • 1 clove of garlic
  • 1 stem of fresh thyme
  • 1 stem of fresh rosemary
  • 1 bay leaf
  • ¼ teaspoon of crushed black peppercorns
  • Salt to taste
  • White sugar to taste

Equipment:

  • Heavy bottom sauce pot
  • Either a food mill or bur mixer
  • Cheese cloth.

Ladies and gentlemen, I have done something on this blog tonight that I have not done before.  I have posted an actual RECIPE!  Why?  This is a very straight forward, but highly useable everyday sauce.  If you are willing to make this on a weekly basis, there is no reason to keep the little baby cans of processed tomato product in your pantry.  This is SO much better than that “stuff.”  Now, don’t be mistaken.  This is not the sauce your Italian MaMa puts on your pasta.  This is base stuff.  Use this in place of your cans.

Now for the how to.

Render the salt pork or bacon.  Huh?  Render?  Okay.  That means.  Cut it into small pieces.  Put it in your sauce pot, and cook it on medium heat until the fat is melted off.  You DO NOT WANT TO BROWN YOUR BACON.  Sorry, did not mean to yell.  But you are not looking for smoked bacon flavor.  You just want the fat.  Take the cooked bits out.

Add your onions and carrots and sauté until slightly softened, do not brown.

Build a sachet with your herbs.  Again with the culinary words huh?  Okay.  A sachet is a pouch made from cheese cloth that herbs are tied into to infuse flavors into sauce, without having to dig out sprigs and twigs later on.  What goes into your sachet?  Everything on your recipe list from garlic on down.  Take a 4 or 5 inch square of your cheese cloth.  Put everything in the middle.  Gather the corners, and tie off the top.  Drop it in.

Add your tomato concasse, juices, and tomato puree.  Now for the tomato concasse.  Big word for an easy concept.  Tomato concasse is nothing more than tomatoes that have been peeled and de-seeded.  Ummmmmm…  How do I peel a tomato you ask?

For the volume that we are looking at, 4 cups or 1 quart, you will need 2 pounds of roma tomatoes.  Why?  They have a good flavor, and they tend to be cheaper than their hot house counterparts.

Put the little buggers on the stem side down, and cut an X into the bottom of each of them.  In a large sauce pot, bring 1 gallon of salted water to a boil.  In a separate stock pot, build 1 gallon of ice water.

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When all of the tomatoes have been “X’ed” and the water is boiling, float enough on the top of the water to just cover the surface.  Count to 30.  (30 seconds by the way)  Scoop them out and drop them in your ice water bath.  Leave them in the ice water for as long as needed.  Rinse and repeat.  When they are all

done, you will notice that the skin of the tomatoes will easily peel off from the point that you cut the X.  Cut them in half and scoop out the seeds.  Rough chop what is left.  That is tomato concasse.  Why go through all of this?  Because you don’t want skins or seeds in your sauce, and it is much easier to address this now, than to go through the pain in the rear of having to back out and clean out your food mill, or pull skins out of your burr mixer.

Now that you have added your concasse, add your section of ham bone.  Visit your local butcher if you do not have one from your previous Easter dinner stuck in the freezer.  Oh, if I have not mentioned it before, DO NOT THROW AWAY BONES.  They are cooking greatness.  Exception?  Cooked chicken or fish.  Way to tedious to deal with.  Steak bones, ham bones, pork bones?  Save ‘em and freeze them.  Then refer back to the article on stocks.

Now that we have gone through ALL of that.  Cook your sauce on low heat for 1 to 2 hours.  Low heat, because tomatoes will scorch VERY quickly.  After your 2 hours, your sauce should be reduced down to a nice consistency.  Pull out the bones, and sachet.  Get your handy burr mixer ready to go, and give it a buzz.  You should have a nice thick tomato sauce.  Salt and sugar to taste.  Always taste and season your food!!!

Lessons for today?  Don’t be scared of funny sounding French words.  They are really simple if you get down to the brass tacks of it.

On a side note.  If you are NOT in the mood to concasse tomatoes, you can substitute canned diced tomatoes.  You may have a few seeds and skins to contend with, but this will work if you don’t have the time or patience.

 
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Posted by on January 27, 2012 in Culinary 101

 

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Culinary 101 – Stocks and Sauces – Bechamel and Veloute

Culinary 101 – Stocks and Sauces – Bechamel and Veloute

Culinary 101.

Okay.  So it was one of those days.  Nothing fancy on the menu tonight.  It’s hockey night.  Kids in the door, chow down hard and fast, and out the door.  What did they chug down?  I did make Sourdough Ham and Cheese Panini’s tonight.  I digress.  Nothing spectacular on the menu, so we will start to cover some of the basics.

I want to go to the more “fun stuff” of sauces, but ya gotta start with the bare bones.  Literally.  Stock.  Particularly, chicken and beef/ veal stock.  Without those two most basic liquids of the culinary gods, you cannot build any sauces, or for the most part, not do too much of anything.

Let’s go easy first.  Chicken stock.  Simple stuff really.  Chicken, water, a mix of veggies and herbs, and time.  I do chicken stock at home as a dual purpose thing.  I get cooked chicken, and I get a nice flavorful and rich stock.  Since your average home kitchen cannot come up with a 40 pound case of chicken carcasses, we will get ourselves a bag of chicken leg quarters.  You can usually get a 5 or 10 pound bag of random sized chicken leg quarters for a really cheap price.  The traditional method calls for just the bones.  Since you are using meat on the bone chicken, you will do this in steps.

Put the chicken in a cold empty stock pot.  The biggest you have.  If you are using all 5 pounds of the chicken, you will need two large yellow onions, 2 large carrots and 1 head of celery.  Cut your veggies.  You don’t have to be fancy.  Peel the onions and cut into quarters.  Cut the carrots into about 4 pieces, you don’t have to peel them. Cut the celery into about 4 or 5 cuts.  Use the root and leaves.  Next get 4 or 5 stems of fresh thyme, bay leaves and parsley.  Put everything in the pot.  Fill the pot until you have covered your chicken and vegetables.  Now cook it.  Low and slow.  Bring your pot to a simmer and cover it.  Cook it about 35 to 45 minutes.  Come back and check to make sure the chicken is fully cooked.  Now for the hot stuff.  Wear a couple of pairs of latex gloves to help shield your fingers.  Pull the chicken from the pot and pull the skin off, put the skin back in the pot.  Pull the meat off the bones.  Put the bones back in the pot.

Now we cook some more.  Cover the pot and leave it overnight.  You want to be able to pull the bones out of the water and have them be soft and easily breakable in your hands.  Why you might ask?  You are cooking the connective tissue and collagen from the bones and joints.  What is collagen you might ask?  Collagen is the protein that is contained in the bones and the connective tissues that binds everything together.  When you slow cook the bones and connective tissues, you denature the proteins and allow them to permeate your stock.  This gives it a nice rich texture and body.  Now you have chicken stock mixed with bones and used veggies.  Strain the whole thing in your finest strainer, and refrigerate your stock.  Throw the rest away.  No use for it anymore, you cooked all the good stuff into the stock.  After the stock as sat overnight, the fat that was cooked out will have congealed at the top.  Put it aside.  You can cook with it.  Cook with and enjoy your chicken stock.

Now for the more complicated variety.  Brown stock.  For this you will need bones.  Beef or veal leg bones are your best bet.  You can ask your local butcher shop to hold bones aside for you, they are usually happy to do so.

You will need the same pot as with your chicken stock.  Your same vegetables prepared the same way.  Here is the big difference.  You are going to “precook” them all.  Get a couple of sheet pans and layer them on to cover.  Put your veggies on top of the bones.  Now you are gonna roast them.  Put them into your oven at 300 and bake them.  It’s gonna take some time.  If you can stand it, 5 to 6 hours.  You are trying to brown and develop flavor in the bones.  Your veggies will take color too.  This is a good thing.  If your veggies start to look too far gone pull them out and set them aside.

Now we proceed as with the chicken stock.  Same herbs, same water.  No issues with pulling meat this time.  But, this takes more time too.  You are cooking some pretty heavy duty bones.  When the color is cooked out of the bones and the stock is dark and rich, you are done.  Roll the same procedures as with the chicken stock, except you can still cook the bones one more time for a white beef or veal stock.

Guess what.  You have large volumes of liquid to store.  That can be a pain in the butt to deal with.   There is a solution to that too.  Cook it down more.  Figure out how much you have to start with.  You will need to know what your ratios are to make it stock again.  Cook it down, uncovered until you can fit it into the container of your choice.  Note your final volume so you can reconstitute your super concentrated and reduced stock or Glaze back to regular strength.  You can use or freeze at your leisure.

What is next?  The fastest stuff you can cook.  Fish stock, or fish fumet.  Caution.  Your house will smell like a fish shop for a few days after you cook it.  You will need the same basic stuff.  You need bones.  Ask your fish monger at either your local grocery or your favorite fish shop.  If they filet their own fish, you can get the bones.  They will give them to you.  My favorite bone for fish stock is halibut.  Why?  Tends to be a bigger fish, more girth to the bones, and allows a slightly longer cook.  You need the same veggies.  Cut them a bit finer this time, you are not cooking it as long.  Use the same herbs, parsley, bay and thyme.  The difference is using 1 half a lemon and about half an ounce of peppercorns.  Bring to a simmer and cook for 45 minutes to an hour.  If you do use halibut, you can cook it for up to 2 hours.

Part deux.  Roux.  Pronounced roo.  Simple stuff really, flour and butter.  It’s all a matter of color.  Use equal parts of each.  If you use 1 tablespoon of butter, use 1 tablespoon of flour.  Roux is the thickener of choice for the vast majority of professional chefs.  You go into any kitchen you will find a big batch of roux sitting on a shelf or in the cooler.  Start with the butter.  Over medium heat, melt your butter.  Keep it cooking until the bubbling has stopped.  Why?  You are cooking the water out of your butter.  American butter, by law, must contain at least 80% butter fat.  So considering the 1 or 2 percentage that is butter solids, that leaves 18% on average water.  When you mix flour and water, you get glue.  You don’t want glue in your roux.  Hey.  That rhymes!  Okay.  Now for the roux.  When the bubbling is done add your flour to the pan.  Start whisking.  Keep whisking.  You are coating the individual flour granules with the butter fats.  Keep the roux cooking at a low and slow pace.  You will start to see it change colors.  This is good.  You are developing flavor.

There are 3 plus 1 basic colors of roux.

  • White
  • Blonde
  • Brown
  • And plus 1 for our Cajun friends, Black

White roux is the “youngest” of your roux.  Cook it just long enough to cook the raw flour flavor out of it.  Blonde roux is just that.  Cook it until it just takes on a nice straw like color.  Brown roux is the next step.  Cook it until it is light brown.  Each roux will have a distinct nutty aroma.  The longer the cook, the more potent the aroma.  Last but not least is Black roux.  Cajun stuff.  Brown roux cooked until it is just on the right side of not being burned.  This is a major flavor and thickening component in the classic Cajun dish, Gumbo.  Mmmmmmmm  gummmmboooo…..  Sorry. Homer Simpson moment there….

You have your roux.  You have your stock.  Now we can make sauces.

What did the ol’ culinary instructors beat into the impressionable minds of the lowly first year culinary students?  Sauces.  Not just any sauces, but the “Mother Sauces.”  What are the Mother Sauces?  They are the base for any and everything in French cuisine.  Established by Georges Auguste Escoffier, the grand-father of the modern French cuisine, the mother sauces consist of the following:

  • Sauce Veloute
  • Sauce Bechamel
  • Sauce Espagnole
  • Sauce Tomate
  • Sauce Hollandaise

From these sauces, there are as many varieties of small sauces as there are chefs that cook them.  Since I have droned on for a while now, we will look at two of our five sauces today.

Sauce Veloute is the most basic of the 5 sauces.  It’s simple stuff.  Roux and stock.  Use the blonde roux that you have stashed aside.  For every 8 ounces of blonde roux, use 2 ½ quarts of your reserved chicken, fish or white veal stock.  Heat your roux over a medium pan, then gradually whisk in your stock.  Increase the heat to bring the mixture to a boil.  After it does boil, the traditional recipe call for reducing the heat to a low simmer and cooking for an hour, adding stock as needed to get your consistency.  When you are done cooking, strain it through your finest strainer.  This sauce is not traditionally seasoned, as it is almost always an ingredient in another recipe.

Sauce Bechamel is the second level technical stuff sauce that the home cook can make.  You want to make or use your reserved white roux.  Instead of using stock, you will be using milk.  The roux part was easy.  To make your sauce you will need a small white or yellow onion, 1 or 2 whole cloves and a bay leaf.  For every 8 ounces of roux, you will need a half gallon of milk.  Set your ratios from there.  You will want to scald the milk.  That means you are going to put it in a pot and boil it.  After it boils, turn it off and let it cool a bit.  Into your nice hot white roux, you are going to gradually whisk in your hot milk.  Be careful.  It will steam and spatter if you have your pan too hot.  Now that your milk is incorporated, you will add your onion, clove and bay leaf.  Cook your sauce for up to 30 minutes to impart the flavor from the onion and spices.  Strain it well, and season it with a pinch of salt and a little bit of fresh nutmeg and white pepper.  For my southern readers, this may sound like your traditional old fashioned white gravy.  You are right.  That is pretty much what it is..

Okay.  What do you do with these sauces?

Veloute:

  • Stir in mushrooms while cooking, strain it and finish with a little chopped parsley and lemon juice to taste and you have Sauce Poulette
  • Add a little tomato puree and you have Sauce Aurora
  • Sweat some white onions with paprika and reduced white wine, stir in your veloute and you have Sauce Hungarian

The options keep going from there….

Bechamel:

  • Finish your sauce with tempered heavy cream and you have Cream Sauce
  • Stir in Gruyere and parmesan until just melted and finish with a little butter and thin as needed with a little milk and you have Sauce Mornay
  • Stir in cheddar cheese, dry mustard and a splash of Worcestershire and you have cheddar cheese sauce

Again, the variations are as varied as the chefs that cook it.

Get creative with your sauces!  And remember as always.  Taste what you cook!

 
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Posted by on January 25, 2012 in Culinary 101

 

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