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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.

 

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markets of the world…
hoofs, nostrils and gold of the incas

Peru market hoofs and nostrils

ALL PHOTOGRAPHY BY CATHY NELSON ARKLE

“Waste not, want not” or so the saying goes. The Peruvians excel at this when it comes to food.  They are as resourceful as they are creative in their diverse cuisine.

Today’s market adventure finds us in Cusco, Peru. Continue Reading →

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bodacious beets…
what they did not teach you in school

Beet Salad by Cathy Nelson Arkle

Beets belong in the category of vegetables I hated as a child. Anything that slid out of a can was high on the “yuck factor.” It was only until my girlfriend Nan gave me the “roasted beet challenge.” She said don’t tell me you hate beets until you have eaten a roasted one. Since I always enjoy a good challenge, I bought a single beet as I didn’t want to have too much to throw out. I wrapped it in foil, threw it in the oven for an hour and silently anticipated it’s doomed fate. Well the joke was on me as I devoured that tasty sweet thang with vigor.

Sweet Beets

Nutritionally speaking, the beet is a kindred spirit to the carrot, although it is much higher in sugar. In fact, of all vegetables, the beet has the highest sugar content. Not sure how I missed this opportunity to eat more sugar as a kid… oh yeah… my mother served it out of a can. It is estimated that about two-thirds of commercial beet crops end up canned. So sad.

Beets (everywhere else in the world they are called beetroot) are thought to have originated in prehistoric times in N. Africa. It is said that beetroot remains have been excavated in the Third dynasty Saqqara pyramid at Thebes, Egypt. I must of missed that when I was there.

Sand Storm at the Saqqara Pyramid in Thebes, Egypt

I couldn’t see much because I was too busy making a fashion statement in a blinding sand storm.

And the beet goes on…

Beet leaves have been eaten since before written history. The beet root was generally used medicinally and did not become a popular food until French chefs recognized their potential in the 1800’s. You have to love the French!  I wonder if they were the ones that came up with making beet wine.

Since Roman times, beet juice has been considered an aphrodisiac. Was that before or after it was made into wine?

If you are not getting your beets in wine, you might be able to get it in frozen pizza. Yep, some frozen pizzas use beet powder to color the tomato sauce.

Beets can even help melt snow! One way or another you are going to get your beets if I can help it.

Why? Because beets are loaded with lots of good stuff like antioxidants and nutrients, including magnesium, sodium, potassium and vitamin C.

Some experts say adding beet juice to your diet could provide a performance boost even beyond the blood, sweat and tears of more training. Does this mean I don’t have to go to the gym anymore?

Don’t take my word for it. According to the NY Times Blog, beets are among the 11 best foods you aren’t eating.

Cathy’s Bodacious Beet Salad

If this recipe was a piece of art it would be mixed media. I took a little of this and a little of that from different recipes to make this as I saw it in my mind. The Santa Monica farmers market provided the fresh ingredients for this salad. I used french thyme because that what was growing in my herb garden, but use what you like. The dressing generously Serves 2.

Beet Salad Ingredients 

  • 2 fresh red or yellow beets
  • 4 ounces goat cheese – rolled into balls I used Redwood Hill Farm’s traditional chevre
  • french thyme – a couple sprigs per ball, washed well and dried
  • 2 cups micro greens or any small leaf greens – washed well and dried I used sweet baby lettuce with edible flowers from Harry’s Berries
  • 1/2 cup walnuts, toasted – I used Peacock Family Farm’s locally grown walnuts

Walnut Oil Dressing Ingredients

  • 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • 2 tablespoon white balsamic vinegar
  • 1/4 cup walnut oil – I used La Nogalera Walnut Oil I could just drink this stuff plain!
  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • Coarse kosher salt, pepper

Preparation

  1. Preheat oven to 400°F. Line a roasting pan with aluminum foil. Place the beets in the pan, leaving a little of the root tail on. Rub olive oil over the beets, and sprinkle with salt. Cover the beets with another sheet of aluminum foil. Roast for 1 to 2 hours, depending on the size of the beets and how old they are. After 1 hour, test every fifteen minutes by poking a beet with the tines of a fork. Once the fork tines go in easily, the beets are tender and cooked. Remove from the oven.
  2. While beets are roasting, mix the dressing. Whisk the dijon mustard and balsamic vinegar together.  While you are whisking or using a hand blender, slowly add the walnut oil and then olive oil to make an nice emulsification. Add salt & pepper to taste.
  3. After the beets have cooled for several minutes, peel off the outer skins and discard. If you do this under running water you will avoid staining your hands. Cut the bottom of the beet so it will sit up straight. Then cut the beets into quarters, but not all the way through.  Place on a plate and open it up like a flower.
  4. Roll the goat cheese into little balls about 1/2” in diameter and roll in the fresh thyme.
    Place ball in the middle of the beet.
  5. Add your baby lettuce around it and drizzle the walnut oil over the salad.
  6. Add toasted walnuts

Ta-da! Long live the beet season. Thanks Nan for the beet challenge. I wonder what other yucky childhood vegetable will next on my discovery list?
…and then she paused for thought.

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Wild about Watermelon

watermelon on grill

PHOTOGRAPHY BY: CATHY NELSON ARKLE:

“…when one has tasted watermelon he knows what the angels eat…” – Mark Twain

square watermelon

Mark Twain and King Tut have different beliefs on who eats watermelon. Whether it’s angelic or royalty, Homer Simpson is the one who knows how to pick a proper one.

Click here to see the video.

I have read about an Egyptian tradition to put watermelons in the burial tombs of pharaohs as a present for their afterlife. As unusual as this sounds, numerous watermelon seeds were recovered from the tomb of King Tut.  I wonder if that meant King Tut ate the watermelons and spit out the seeds in his afterlife. Strange… I was in Egypt a few years ago and apparently missed the watermelon hieroglyphics. I went on a google pics quest to no avail, so I thought I would “imagine” what it would look like.

egyptian watermelon hieroglyphics

PHOTO ENHANCEMENT BY CATHY NELSON ARKLE

The current thought is that watermelon originated in Southern Africa, where it is still found growing wild, in the Kalahari desert.  What I love about watermelon is every part of the watermelon is edible, even the seeds and rinds. Now that is what I call “wholestic” eating!  Watermelon doesn’t contain any fat or cholesterol and is an excellent source of vitamins A, B6 & C, and contains fiber, potassium and lycopene. It doesn’t get much better than that! Continue Reading →

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