Friday, April 15, 2011

Ten things I've learned so far in culinary school.

I have just completed the first month of culinary school.  I love everything about it and I've learned so much in such a short time. Chef Ted is like a walking encyclopedia of culinary intelligence and in addition to the lesson plans that are a required part of the curriculum; he is very generous in sharing little nuggets of kitchen wisdom with us in every class.

Many of the things that we have worked on are things that I knew already and the techniques are like second nature to me.  I've learned "why" these techniques are best and the reasons why they work. Some of the subjects that we've covered are things I had a vague knowledge of and now I have a much clearer understanding.  And of course, much of what we've learned has been a complete revelation to me!

Here are 10 observations that will forever change the way I work in the kitchen:

·      I will always have clarified butter in the refrigerator.

·      I will make chicken stock more often and freeze it in smaller containers so that it is available for quick sauces and soups.

·      I will start making brown veal stock regularly as well, so it also will be available when needed for sauces and soups.

·      I will never make mashed potatoes with an electric mixer again.

·      I will be better at "mise en place", gathering and prepping all of the ingredients, tools and equipment before I begin to cook.

·      I will keep a colander in the sink as I prep ingredients and cook meals to catch small bits of food that would otherwise dirty the sink or get washed down the drain.

·      I will try to always have a container of water next to the stove to keep the utensils that I am using, changing the water as needed.

·      I will be more vigilant in practicing food safety and avoiding cross contamination when working with raw protein. (Plastic gloves are my friends.)

·      I will continue to always let washed dishes air dry to avoid cross contamination. I always knew there was a good reason for not ever wanting to towel dry the clean dishes!

·      I will stop buying meat in the smallest, most expensive marketed form. (think chicken cutlets).  The most important thing I learned in the lessons on meat and fish fabrication was how easy it is to take a larger, less expensive piece of meat and divide it into it's smaller more desirably cuts.

  I was afraid that the lessons on meat butchering would be impossible for me, considering that i didn't eat meat for over a decade.  I thought I wouldn't be able to look at or even touch some of the proteins that we worked with.  I was fascinated though at how easy it is to separate cuts of meat on many different kinds of animals.  As the chef taught us how to locate the connective tissue, collagen and fat that was separating the muscle tissue I lost any queasy, grossed out feelings that I normally would of had. 

Nothing earth shattering here, right?  It’s all just common sense things that will make life in the kitchen easier.

Until then,
The Garlic Rose

Monday, April 4, 2011

Culinary Update: Fish, Shellfish, Beef, Pork and Veal

It's been a few weeks since I've posted an update on what is happening at culinary school. On the academic front it's been pretty intense. We have completed a couple of research papers and tests and tons of reading assignments that are completed at home during the week. It seems that all I do everyday is study and read and take notes. I'm learning a lot though so no complaints here!

During school we have "knife drills" each day. We work mostly with potatoes and the goal is to cut perfect squares that are exactly 1/2" X 1/2" X 1/2".  All of the squares have to be identical. No rectangles, triangles or trapezoids.  Perfect squares, quickly! We have little plastic models to compare our cut squares to. It's challenging but it's so pretty to see a bowl full of perfectly cut little squares of potatoes.  Eventually we will progress to cutting squares that are 1/4" X 1/4" X 1/4".  Quickly and perfectly.
The last 2 weeks have been jam packed with all things protein. Last weekend we worked with seafood. We learned how to correctly gut and filet a flounder, a striped bass, salmon and a mackerel. We saved the bones of the flounder and bass and added lobster and shrimp shells to make a fish stock. Later, we made a fish stew with the stock.

Dispatching a lobster video.
It's graphic.... so view at your own risk:)

We "dispatched" a lobster with the point of a knife to the head. Evidently this is the more humane way to kill a lobster, rather than dropping them into a pot of boiling water. We also cleaned shrimp, squid, clams, mussels and scallops. All of these were used to prepare the fish stew. It was so yummy that I brought a quart home for Bob's dinner.  He loved it!  I'll post a similar recipe along with preparation pictures in the next few weeks, so stay tuned.

This past weekend we continued to learn about stocks. We made chicken stock and brown veal stock. We will use both of these stocks next week as we learn about the five "mother sauces" and all of their derivative sauces.  I'm very excited to learn the mysteries of sauce making!

We butchered whole chickens and ducks, and learned several alternate techniques to properly fabricate the breast, legs and other parts of these birds.  It was very interesting to learn that the proteins that we know as meat are simply the muscles of the animals, separated by the fat, connective tissue and collagen that are holding them together. These muscles are fabricated into cuts of meat by separating the layers of fat, connective tissue or collagen with the tip of you knife. Once you can see the roadmap of the layers of muscle and connective tissue and fat, it's very simple to know where to cut.

We were given large sections of beef and pork that we fabricated into their smaller marketed forms. We cut beef into prime rib, strip steaks, tenderloin, filets, and other various cuts.

We worked with a whole pork loin and cut all of the various market forms that are derived from it. We took a Boston Butt and divided it up by carefully making our way through all of the various layers of fat, silver skin and collagen. We fabricated a rack of veal and then cut the ribs into veal chops. We pounded out veal scaloppini that we will cook in a future class. We also butchered a lamb and a rabbit.

By the time we worked on the rabbits, which were very small, 2 to 3 pounds each, we completely understood the concept of layers of muscle that are divided by connective tissue and fat and bones. This knowledge will forever change the way I see meat.

Until next time,
The Garlic Rose

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Sunday, April 3, 2011

Chicken Scalipinni Saltimboca

I was making a family favorite last night and I decided to snap some pictures so I could post the recipe. This dish is traditionally made with veal cutlets but we prefer chicken.  Although I've tweaked this recipe over the years, it originally came from a class I attended a few years ago at a restaurant in Hilton Head, SC, called Michael Anthony's. This is probably our favorite place to eat on the island, and definitely the best Italian restaurant in the area. Michael has a small school on the second floor of his building where you can always count on learning some yummy new skills while your husband is on the golf course.

Gather, prepare and measure all of the following ingredients before you begin to cook
  • 2 boneless skinless chicken breasts
  • 4 fresh whole sage leaves
  • 4 thin slices of prosciutto
  • 4 Tbsp grape-seed oil
  • 1/2 cup flour for dusting
  • 1 Tbsp garlic minced
  • 1/4 cup white wine
  • 3/4 cup homemade chicken stock
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 1 Tbsp finely chopped parsley
  • 1-2 Tbsp butter

  • Preheat oven to 450* F.

Prepare the chicken:

  • Slice each of the chicken breast in half horizontally to make 4 cutlets.
  • Place the cutlets between 2 pieces of plastic wrap and pound lightly with a mallet to create scaloppine that are of equal thickness.
  • Lightly season the cutlets with salt and freshly ground pepper.

  • Place a sage leaf on each piece of chicken and then place a slice of prosciutto on top, wrapping the prosciutto around the sides of the cutlet if necessary.

  • Tap lightly to make sure that that the prosciutto is adhered to the chicken.
  • Lightly dust the chicken with flour and shake it gently to eliminate any excess flour.

Sauté the chicken:

  • Heat the grape seed oil in a large sauté pan to a medium to medium high heat. The oil will start to shimmer right before it begins to smoke. Place the scaloppini in the pan just as it begins it shimmer, with the prosciutto side down.
  • Sauté the chicken until golden brown then flip to the other side. The timing will be about two minutes on either side.

  • Sauté the chicken in two batches if necessary to avoid crowding the pan.
  • Remove the chicken from the pan as soon as it is golden.

Prepare the sauce:

  • After all of the chicken has cooked, add the garlic to the same pan.
  • Quickly sauté the garlic being careful to not brown it.
  • Deglaze the pan by adding the white wine and and scraping all of the bits of garlic and pan drippings from the bottom of the pan as the wine reduces to about 1/2 of the original volume.

  • Add the stock and continue to cook until the sauce is beginning to reduce. Add the minced parsley. Return the chicken to the pan.

  • Place the pan in the preheated oven for about 5 minutes.
  • Remove the pan from the oven. Place it back on the burner with a medium high flame and simmer for just a minute or two until the sauce is smooth and sightly thickened.
  • Just before serving quickly swirl 1-2 tablespoons of butter into the sauce.
  • Serve the scaloppine and sauce over pasta.

The Garlic Rose

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