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Fine Cooking I, Day 2

November 30, 2010

Another excellent, if slightly more frantic, cooking class was had last night. On the first night we were more or less spoon-fed what to do, what bowl to put something in, what each step in the recipe was, etc. This time, it was significantly more on us to keep things moving. But no one actually told us that so there was a lot of confused standing around as we all figured out we just needed to pounce.

Lots of great tips from Day 2. We focused on roasting and baking; roasting meaning to cook to brown and baking to cook to golden. First up were some chickens. We made up another compound butter with rosemary and proceeded to trim the butt off the bird, cut away excess fat, and break the breast skin away from the sternum and legs. Then we shoved an extraordinary amount of butter under the birds skin. Seriously on the order of two sticks of butter per bird. Then we tied her up:

  1. Loop the kitchen twine
  2. Make a slip knot around the drumsticks, cross them and pull the knot tight
  3. Pull the twine in between the legs and separate the two ends into reins
  4. Pull the twine down hugging the side of the bird against the drumsticks
  5. Flip the bird and pull the twine across the bottom
  6. Flip the bird back over, pull the twine up along the wings and tie it off, keeping the wings close against the body

That was it, and she was already for roasting at 350° for an hour or so until an internal temperature of 160°. Then they should rest for 10 to 20 minutes.

Proper carving was another great lesson. First, you remove the leg by pulling it away from the body and cutting away the connecting flap of skin. Then, resting the flat of the knife against the leg you gently cut following the line of the leg. Cutting, not sawing, by just gently pulling the knife towards you, lifting the blade, and continuing. This will lead you directly to the ball-and-socket joint on the leg which you can easily separate with the knife

Next, you find the breast bone and start cutting downwards on one side or the other. When you hit bone, use the carving fork to pull the breast meat away from the knife and angle the knife inwards towards the breast bone and continue cutting down. This will eventually lead you through to the wing joint, which you easily separate. Repeat for the other side and you have a beautifully carved roast.

We also made a delicious and simple soup. We first chopped a mirepoix, a standard french stock/broth/soup base of carrots, onions, and celery. These were sweated (gently heated, not allowing for browning) until soft, then the broth was added and brought a boil. We then put about a 1/2 cup of arborio rice to let it release its starch and impart a nice viscosity to the soup. Served with salt, pepper and a sprinkle of parmigiano it was delicious and would make an excellent base for tortellini en brodo, etc.

A simple rice was on the menu as well. Here we learned the true technique for great rice is to toast it first, stirring, until about of 1/3 of the grains turn an opalescent milky color and release a popcorn smell. Then, with 1 1/2 cups of water to each 1 cup of rice, cover and let cook for about 20 minutes or until the steaming becomes less vigorous.

A salad was necessary to offset the 12 pounds of butter in the chicken. We had some baby spinach and made a simple vinaigrette to which we added curry powder which was toasted for 30-60 seconds (until fragrant) on the stove. Not satisfied with a healthy salad, we also needed some crispy bacon and mushrooms. Taking a slab of bacon, we cut it into thick ladróns. These we threw in a pan and covered with a bit of water. The water heats and helps render a good amount of fat without burning it. The bacon can then cook comfortably in its own fat once the water has boiled off. After the bacon crisped up a bit we dumped the mushrooms on top to cook in that lovely bacon juice (aka fat) stirring occasionally until perfect.

The last dish for dinner proper was a stuffed baked tomato. Again taking beefsteak tomatoes and cutting along their circumference, we seeded them and gently stuffed them. The stuffing consisted of bread crumbs, basil, time, scallions, and garlic. These baked for 20-25 minutes, until golden. Over-baking would cause the tomato to break down and become mush.

Oh, one last piece which was a delicious addition to the soup. We roasted a head of garlic. Very simply, just cut the top off the garlic, wrap in tin foil, and roast for 20-30 minutes. This breaks down the enzyme which causes garlic to stink, and leaves you with an unoffensive sweet garlic. You can store these under olive oil and use the then fragrant olive oil as well.

Dessert was a clafoutis. We made these delicious baked desserts four ways – with cherries, blueberries, apples, and pears. A simple batter of eggs, cream, flour, sugar, and vanilla is poured over the fruit and baked until golden. Also about 20 minutes.

Altogether, dinner was excellent and we brought home some more super useful cooking tips. Can’t wait to get busy with the homework!

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