Archive for the ‘Teach’ Category

Cloudy, murky, and grey are words I could use to describe my liquid after attempts to make a chicken, veal or beef stock (fond). After all that tender loving care – using the freshest ingredients, skimming the surface diligently, and simmering for hours – I still ended up with less than perfection.  I now understand the problem and I am privy to the solution. 

In lesson 8 we clarified beef stock to make consommé – the blandest of soup with a garnish of brunoised vegetables. Brunoise in this magnitude is close to torture therefore and should be avoided on restaurant menus as the kitchen staff may go on strike if forced to dice vegetables that small.

When making stock, impurities rise to the surface of the liquid which are to be skimmed off regularly during the cooking process. These impurities leach out of the ingredients in the stock, dirt, cartilage, blood, and conveniently boiling the liquid releases them from their host. To skim properly, have a bowl of water and a ladle or spoon at hand – when the liquid boils skim the surface to remove the impurities that have risen to the top (recognized as a foamy scum), dip the ladle or spoon back into the water to clean it and repeat until surface is clear. This must be done over the course of the entire cooking process. In the end, the stock may be sufficiently clear once finished to be used or it may be further clarified.

To clarify a stock is a whole other event once your stock has been strained! With beef, veal or chicken it is appropriate to mix a concoction of lean ground beef, veg, egg whites and optionally tomatoes and tomato paste. Bring the liquid to a simmer then add your clarifying burger to your cloudy stock and after 20 minutes or so, your stock will become clear.

The blood in the meat and egg whites draw to them the remaining impurities clouding up the stock – the veg and tomato are merely for flavour (the French must complicate things). Strain liquid through a sieve lined with cheese cloth and you will reach perfection.

Given this process is now close to 3 hours, I suspect you are now considering where to find the stock in the grocery store. At very least, buy the low sodium please!

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Mis en Place

Each week 2 students are assigned to assist, the Chef and other students, in preparing the practical room.  A trip down to the sous sol kitchen to find the trays of food prepared for the class and sends it up to the kitchen via the dumb waiter.  Why do they call it dumb?  It’s really very smart – who wants to carry heavy loads up and down the stairs?
On day 2, our team still had not understood the assistant concept and we arrived for our second practical to find no fish, no vegetables and one unhappy Chef.  Of the two persons assigned, one had already quit the class, leaving one student, Man Yee, to figure it out on their own.  

I suggested we should volunteer to help her Patrice and I bounded down to the basement where we found Man Yee sprawled out on the floor after dropping her heavy load on the way to the dumb waiter.  So much for slip resistant foot wear!  We picked her and the ingredients up only to discover she had the wrong class trays.   We all raced back to the walk in refrigerator, pulled out the right trays and sent it all up to the classroom. 

Back up two flights of stairs to find my “spot” was now gone, I was out of breath and not in a particularly calm state to start hacking up a fish.  After a frantic 5 to 10 minutes of trying to figure out what I needed to cook, I vowed that I would be better organized. 
Another fundamental part of the learning process in the practical is to organize you to cook or as the French say “mis en place”.  Everything must be in place to begin cooking so that the process is not interrupted at a critical moment.   Take out your cutting board and put your tools in a tray, your knives, spoons, and scraper.  What pots will you need?  Do you need a cold water bath? 
Mis en place has been rarely done effectively in my kitchen – but I am going to change my wicked disorganized ways!   Now it’s off to the kitchen store to buy some essentials.

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