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.
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.
• Mirepoix – meer-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
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
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.
Today’s Featured Recipe:
You can easily cut this recipe in half. Stay away from using any stringy cheeses.
Macaroni and Cheese
From New School of Cooking
• 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
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.
- 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.
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