Category Archives: Main Dishes

main dishes

methods & madness…

class 2: stock & sauces

PHOTOGRAPHY BY: CATHY NELSON ARKLE

Recipes & Ramblings from Chef School

This week we actually got to get our hands dirty…as well as my once perfectly white chef coat. Stocks are a messy business, at least when I am involved. I learned so much this week in class, yet it didn’t prevent my homework disaster. Let’s start with what I learned.

Lock, Stock and Barrel

Stock is basically simmering various ingredients in water to extract their flavor. We touched briefly on broths. I have always used the words “stock” and “broth” interchangeably, until this class. They are similar in technique and cooking time.

The difference being stocks are made with bones, and broths are made with meat with salt added. Stocks are thick and gelatinous like jello when cooled because of the collagen that is extracted from the bones. Pure broth will stay liquid when cooled and can be served as is.

Stock is a blank slate of sorts, and considered a starting point for other dishes like soup, and sauces.

“AFTER BEING IN CAMBODIA, NO DEAD FISH CAN SCARE ME!”


There are basically 4 things needed for stock.

Bones – The best bones are veal knucklebones or chicken necks and wings because of their high collagen content.

Mirepoixmeer-pwah It a mixture of 2 parts onions, 1 part carrots & and 1 part celery.  Note: Cut veggies on the bias to extract more flavor.

Water – Best if filtered and cold. Certain proteins will only dissolve in cold water; this also keeps your stock from getting cloudy.

Fresh Herbs & Spices – Traditionally they are tied in a cheesecloth bag that is known as a Sachet d’Épices sa-SHAY DAY-pees that translates to “bag of spices” in French.  A basic sachet: 5-10 peppercorns, 5 sprigs thyme, 5 parsley stems, 1 bay leaf, 2 whole cloves.

In class we were divided into groups to prepared Chicken, Fish, Brown & Vegetable Stocks. Rona, another classmate & I were assigned to the veal brown stock. Good thing little Rona has some big muscles because the pan of bones was too heavy for her wimpy partners. Because of the time frame we were only able to get halfway through making the stock. The recipe can be found on Rona’s blog.

The Mother Lode…

One of the secrets of becoming a pro chef is learning to make all five of the “Mother Sauces”. Master these and you will be ready to prepare hundreds of variations on the classical French repertoire.

5 Mother Sauces:

1. Béchamel (bay-shah-mel) white sauce made with milk and a white roux

2. Veloute (veh-loo-TAY) based on a white stock and thickened with a blonde roux

3. Brown or Espanol based on brown stock and thickened with a brown roux

4. Hollandaise (HOL-uhn-dayz) is an emulsion of egg yolk, butter and lemon or vinegar  (short of time…try this recipe)

5. Tomato based on tomatoes

I roux… how about you?

Then there is the business of roux “roo”. It is a thickener for sauces & soups that combines equal parts flour and butter. If you have ever made Mac and Cheese (and I don’t mean from the box) you have made a roux.

To make a basic roux, use equal weights of fat and flour. Four ounces of fat and four ounces of flour equal about 8 ounces of roux. If you don’t own a kitchen scale, one tablespoon of flour equals about ¼ ounce. One tablespoon butter = ½ ounce.

We had a cooking demonstration of Béchamel Sauce and then released to make a Veloute, which was easier to make than pronounce.

At the end of the evening we sat down to eat Macaroni et Fromage (okay, it was Mac n’ Cheese) with a green salad.

“Sauces are the splendor and the glory of French cooking” – Julia Child
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Homework Assignment – A Disaster in the Making

This week’s project is to make the Mac and Cheese. Sound simple? Not so much for me. The first dilemma was how to make breadcrumbs from scratch. I had to enlist the help of Rona for this one (see recipe below). I should have stopped there and had breadcrumbs for dinner. It would have been glorious.

But instead I continued on and somehow managed to mess up the Mac and Cheese. I did my Mise En Place before I started like I learned last week. But I decided to make a few substitutions, as well as talk on the phone while I cooked.  Because I am a girl, I know how to multi-task. And as an artist…I enjoy taking creative liberties. But, when you are learning something new, make the recipe as-written, next time – alter it to your choosing. I am leaving the re-engineering of recipes to my expert cooking school partner Rona.

Needless to say, I had to throw out the whole dish (after we ate two servings) and try it all over again.  This time I had my friend Terese help keep me on track while I cooked it again.

Following the directions with the correct ingredients paid off big dividends this time.  We had two helpings and my husband ate three, which tells me it was a huge success.
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Today’s Featured Recipe:

You can easily cut this recipe in half.  Stay away from using any stringy cheeses.

Mac and Cheese with homemade bread crumbs

Macaroni and Cheese

From New School of Cooking
Serves 6-8

Ingredients

•  3 ounces unsalted butter (6 tablespoons)
• ½ c flour
• ½ tsp. cayenne (start with ¼ tsp and add to taste)
• Salt and pepper to taste
• 4 ¼ c hot milk (2% will work)
• 1 lb. extra sharp cheddar cheese, grated
• 1 lb. macaroni, cooked according to package
• ½ c breadcrumbs *see below for recipe

Preparation:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Melt the butter in a heavy saucepan over low heat.  Add flour and cook, stirring constantly till light brown, about 3 minutes. Stir in cayenne, and season to taste with salt and pepper. Whisk in hot milk, ¼ c at a time, and cook, whisking constantly, until sauce thickens.

Add cheese one cup at a time and stir each additional until incorporated into the sauce.  Reserve the last cup of cheese.

Combine the macaroni with the cheese sauce. Place half in an 8×11” baking dish.  Sprinkle remaining cheese over pasta and add the rest of the pasta.  Distribute the breadcrumbs over the top.  Bake until crust is golden and interior is hot and bubbly, about 30 minutes.

Homemade Breadcrumbs

  • Put four slices of bread (your choice) into a food processor, and pulse for about 10 to 15 seconds. (Approx. 4 slices of bread will make one cup of crumbs.)
  • To sauté fresh breadcrumbs, heat olive oil (or butter) over medium heat (1-2 tablespoons of oil for every cup of breadcrumbs.  When the oil is hot, add some finely chopped garlic cloves and fresh herbs (thyme, parsley or rosemary) and stir for a few minutes.
  • Next, add the breadcrumbs, tossing until evenly coated.  Sauté the crumbs until they are golden brown, and then allow them to cool.

If you would like to get more creative with your Mac and cheese, check out these recipes.

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Lesson learned:

Even if you can’t pronounce it, you can still make it.
And just because you can pronounce it, doesn’t mean you can make it.
…and then, she paused for thought

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Hope you have enjoyed our adventure in the culinary classroom. Join Rona and me each week as we continue learning new culinary skills.

You can also read about Rona’s experience on her blog or What’s Cookin online magazine.

 

methods & madness… 
recipes & ramblings from the culinary classroom

Thai Style Cabbage Salad with Grilled Shrimp

In the beginning…

As a child growing up on the farm, I remember loving to help my mother in the kitchen. At the wee age of one I was allowed to watch… and learn.  As mom kneaded bread, I played with the dough.  Soon I was baking mud pies in the sun, eventually graduating to edible cakes. My favorite part was food coloring and the creative license that came with it. Purple cake with green frosting, blue cake with magenta frosting…I mean really, why did they print color combinations on the back of the box if I wasn’t supposed to use them?

It has been many years since my cow pie inspired baking days. My inspiration these days come from culinary classrooms. “Hi, my name is Cathy and I am a cooking class junkie.”

Tiring of recreational classes, I recently upped the ante with a 20-week professional chef course at The New School of Cooking.  If you have ever dreamed of taking chef courses, or if you are a closet Food Network fan, I invite you to join my journey.  I will be sharing the adventure with my friend Rona Lewis who has penned two cookbooks.

Class One

I was already stressed after dealing with LA traffic, but quickly relaxed after meeting my fellow chefs in the making. First, we received our white chef coats, along with an explanation of how they worked and why.  I didn’t realize there was so much to this simple garment.  The double-breasted jacket can be buttoned both ways… In case you spill, you can simply cover it up by switching sides… clever! The second order of business, was receiving handouts of rules, regulations and other pertinent, but boring stuff. The real prize was an encyclopedia looking book called The Professional Chef from the Culinary Institute of America. Score!

Parlez vous francais?

I was thrilled to discover a bonus – not only was this a cooking class, but I would be learning French as well since so many cooking terms are taken from the language.  I couldn’t remember them all, let alone spell them.  I am still regretting taking German in college.  Our first term was Mise En Place (meez ahn plahs) “everything in its place”.  It aptly describes the preparation and assembly of all ingredients and equipment prior to cooking.  We learned that a well-organized cook is the basis for a great chef.  Oh dear…I could be in trouble. Continue reading

chicken with charisma…
winning hearts, one dish at a time

Chicken with Strawberry Sauce

PHOTOGRAPHY BY: CATHY NELSON ARKLE

What do you get when you cross a chicken, a goat and a strawberry?

Rona Lewis - Does this Cookbook Make Me Look Fat? Vol. 2Today’s recipe… which is no joke. “Chicken with Goat Cheese and Strawberry Sauce” is the creation of Celebrity Fitness / Lifestyle Coach & Healthy Gourmet Chef Rona Lewis from her latest book “Does this Cookbook Make Me Look Fat – Vol. 2.” I purchased this book after meeting Rona in a cooking class at BLT on Sunset Blvd. I’m having the best time cooking my way through this humorous and healthy cookbook.

If I wanted to win your heart via your stomach, I would make today’s recipe for you.  If I needed to keep your heart healthy, your weight in check, and make sure you had lots of vitamin C, K, B6, manganese, selenium & niacin…I would still make Rona’s recipe.

I have to admit I was a bit apprehensive about making this recipe. I haven’t been a fan of chicken since childhood when my Grandma Nelson raised and “harvested” chickens on our farm.  One hot summer day I returned from a trail ride on my horse, Pidge. The open barn door offered an invitation from the heat, and she bolted through as I hung on for the ride. Unbeknownst to me, Grandma had hung “dinner” across the entrance to the barn.  I was not prepared for this “in your face” welcoming from my recently deceased friends. (My childhood issue with chickens was lost after devouring this recipe)

Chicken craziness:

There are more chickens than people in the world.  You should have no trouble procuring the ingredients for this recipe!

Chickens were first domesticated for cockfighting.  Could it be their impressive genealogy that makes them a natural for combat?  Research has found that chickens are the closest living relative to Tyrannosaurus Rex.

Note to Michael Bay and Tom Cruise: Potential movie idea here? 

Until then, we will have to settle for cockfights “Family Guy” style.

Today’s Featured Recipe:  You will Rule the Roost with this recipe. If you have any leftover strawberry sauce it is great on ice cream.

Chicken with Goat Cheese and Strawberry Sauce
Author: 
Recipe type: Main
 
Reprinted from “Does This Cookbook Make Me Look Fat - Vol. 2” with permission
Ingredients
  • 3 C fresh strawberries cut into pieces
  • 2 T balsamic vinegar
  • 3 T strawberry spread- no sugar
  • Black Pepper
  • 6 skinless, boneless chicken breasts
  • 12 thin slices of goat cheese, about ½ oz each
  • 24 basil leaves – slivered
  • Olive oil spray
  • 1 tsp. minced garlic
  • ¼ C fresh basil – slivered for topping
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. In a large Pyrex bowl, mix the strawberries, vinegar & strawberry spread together. Put aside.
  2. Make a horizontal cut almost through each chicken breast. Open the top half and sprinkle a large pinch of basil on one side. Take two slices of goat cheese and place them on the basil leaves. Sprinkle a touch more basil on top. Replace the top half. Sprinkle with pepper.
  3. In a 4 quart metal or oven-safe skillet, spray with olive oil. Over med-high heat, cook garlic for about 30 seconds. Add chicken breasts and brown for about 4 minutes on each side. Then, place both the skillet and Pyrex bowl of strawberries into the oven. Cook for 10 minutes. Take chicken out and let it rest on the stove. Cook berries another 5 minutes. Take out of oven and stir. Serve chicken with sauce. Sprinkle with basil leaves.
Nutrition Information
Serving size: 62518g5g10g6g2g33g81mg
Strawberry & Goat Cheese Bruschetta Recipe by Rona Lewis

PHOTOGRAPHY BY: CATHY NELSON ARKLE

Other strawberry ideas:

If you can’t eat enough strawberries to make you happy this summer, you will love Rona’s other recipe Strawberry & Goat Cheese Bruschetta