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Fine Cooking I, Day 3

December 7, 2010

Our third class was predominantly a cooking in liquid class. We talked a bit about braising, or cooking partially submerged in liquid, covered or uncovered, stove top or in the over.

You have you white braise which means you do not caramelize the product first, and a brown braise where you sear or saute prior to braising. You can’t really overcook on a braise so you can be a bit more lenient with timing. You just have to be careful your liquid doesn’t evaporate.

We braised lamb shanks, osso bucco style. First they were salted and peppered and seared a few minutes per side over a high heat. Then a standard mirepoix (diced carrots, celery, and onion) were sauteed in the lamb’s fat until brown. The recipe called for juniper berries, who’s flavor you can also get by tossing in a shot of gin. We then deglazed the pan with some wine and added rosemary, veal stock (or just use more red wine if you don’t have veal stock on hand), and tomato paste. Then put the shanks in the liquid, on the mirepoix, and braise away in a 325° oven for a few hours. Turning once. The goal with braising meat is to get the internal temperature to around 175° and maintain that for 1 to 2 hours. After the lamb is done set it aside, covered to keep warm, and strain the liquid, squeezing as much juice as you can out of the vegetables. Then reduce the liquid, skimming the surface, until it is thick enough to coat the back of a spoon. Coat the lamb shanks in the pan, and enjoy.

For our white braise we used leeks. To clean them you peel away the outer layer then slit, almost to the root, into quarters before washing off the dirt. Place the leeks in a skillet or baking pan, add liquid, butter, and seasoning. Then bring the broth to a boil, reduce to simmer and braise for 20-30 minutes or until tender.

We quickly steamed up some mussels. They were super tender – Richard said he thinks most people tend to overcook them. After washing and rinsing the little guys we boiled then simmered for 2 minutes a pot of white wine, shallots, parsley, bay leaf, thyme, pepper, butter and garlic. Then turned the heat to high, added the mussels, and cooked for about 3 to 5 minutes or until they opened up, shaking them around a bit, crab-style.

Possibly the highlight dish of the night was a simple warm lentil salad. We put the lentils, a whole onion studded with cloves and a bay leaf in a pot. For ease of removal, shoving the clove through the bay leaf into the onion helps. We added the water and salt, brought to a boil and then simmered, covered, for 25 minutes or so until the lentils were al dente and the water was mostly absorbed. The lentils were transferred to a bowl and we tossed them with oil, vinegar, minced onion, garlic, parsley, chives, and red pepper.

Our endive salad was quite nice as well. Endives will oxidize, so keep them in the fridge or on ice until you’re ready to work with them. We peeled off the outer layers then halved each and cut the base out in a V which then frees all the individual leaves. The vinaigrette we used replaced some of the oil with an egg yolk, which makes for a thick delicious dressing. Just need to keep it refrigerated.

Dessert was a chocolate mousse. Not my favorite, but good to know how to make. The melting chocolate technique involved plopping the chocolate chunks in a metal bowl and setting it over a simmering pot of water, making sure the water does not touch the pot and the just leaving it alone. Remove that once melted then whisk the egg yolk and sugar over the simmering water until thickened and lightened in color. Then remove and whisk until cool. Whip heavy cream until soft peaks develop – this is “underwhipped” which you should always do when you have a secondary use for the cream, in this case folding it into the chocolate and savionne (egg yolk and sugar ribbon). Pour the mixture into the serving containers, let set for 20 minutes, then cover the surface with plastic wrap to prevent a skin from forming and continue to refrigerate.

And thus concluded another delicious and entertaining Monday night.

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