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Mama Deb
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Mama Deb [userpic]
Cooking School II

Day Three: Dry Heat

Dry heat is cooking without water - baking, grilling, broiling, cooking in hot fat. That last is either sauté (very little fat), pay frying (reaches halfway up the food) and deep frying (total immersion.) Properly done, it does NOT produce greasy food. We were going to sauté chicken breasts in an "airline cutlet". That's a boneless but not skinless breast with a wing bone sticking out.

This meant we had to butcher chickens. There's a whole procedure to it, from making the initial incisions to how to remove the meat and rest of wing from the breast. When we were finished, we were to have two airline cutlets, two "lollypops", two nicely trimed leg quarters, bone-in, and a carcass.

I did two birds. I like butchery. :) But my lollypops - the lower arm of the wing wrapped in meat - were not good. The breasts were seasoned with salt and pepper and placed presentation (skin, in this case) side down in a sauté pan with oil. It was cooked on both sides and then Chef put chopped onions (leftover from a previous day's demo) in the same pan, putting the chicken to one side. When they were caramelized, he flamed it with brandy and added chicken stock. Then, he added some tomato coulis (pureed tomatoes left from straining the day before's tomato soup) and covered it.) This was served with grilled zucchine and blanched and baked cauliflower, both flavored with a mixture of olive oil and rosemary.


(Side note: that night, I took red-skinned potatoes and cut them into large dice- 3/4 inch cubes. And I mean cubes, too. And I tosed them in a little olive oil and some salt and pepper and baked them. The edges came out crispy, the sides were crunchy and inside was perfect. Went very well with the hamburgers.)

Day Four - Moist Heat

Food cooked in or above water or other liquid (stock, wine, juice, etc.) Microwaving is boiling. There's also blancing, which is more of a prep technique - food is plunged into boiling water for a minute and then shocked with ice water. This is, according to the school mashgiach, also good for checking for bugs - one washes the produce and then blanches it. No more bugs.

We made braised vegetables, braised chicken legs (which caused a minor kashrut crisis), poached salmon and flounder en papillote. He butchered the salmon in front of us, and also showed how to butcher a flounder. The chicken legs we'd done the day before.

My group was assigned braised vegetables. So the three of us large diced (without squaring off) pounds of parsnips, turnips, a couple of bulbs of fennel and much, much, much celery. So much celery that one group of guys, upon finishing their own, pitched in. We were instructed to keep the leaves of both the fennel and the celery. And I had to keep assuring one of the women that yellow celery was just fine. I also waved cut fennel bulbs under their noses. Oh, that smelled good. And I'm not a licorice fan.

We browned the veggies and they were combined in a large pan with chicken stock (remember this) and wine. The wine was opened by one of the bewigged women, who also poured it into the pot. This is important.

Because. Well, the braised chicken legs. They were dredged in flavored flour and browned and set aside. Chef put in carrots, onions, celery, garlic and more tomato sludge, and then had another woman add wine and watch it. (Also, they put the chicken back in and in the oven and let it all cook together and added leftover cooked beans from the day before.)

This woman was not shomer shabbat. Strict interpretation of the law says that even if she's Jewish, she can't handle non-boiled wine. Not everyone holds with this, but the mashgiach of this place did. So - after we all ate some - he came up and said that while the utensils were fine, we should not eat the chicken. Ooops. It was delicious. (Fortunately, this woman had already left before it came up. It would have been horrible for her.) Wine is a funny thing with all sorts of awkward laws about it.

The one non-shomer shabbat man in the class had already declined to open or pour wine for that reason. Every other dish with wine was fine, and Chef Mark just stayed away from the wine itself.

The fish in paper was rice, lemon zest, blanched broccoli, flounder and, well, wine. It was also delicious. But it was seved at the same time as the braised vegetables. Cooked in stock. Yeah. It was manageable, though, and they, too, were yummy.

Day Five: Dough

He demonstrated math skills (deminsional analysis railroad tracks to convert grams to ounces. I was thrilled.) and sour dough. We were to make ciabatta with the sour dough, biscotti and flan. He made the flan - he made the custard with coconut milk. I left it untouched. :) He used it to demonstrate custard making and caramel.

The bread was made with Kitchenaids. I shocked people that my beautiful red Kitchenaid is still in the original packaging. I seriously have no room or need - one woman asked if I never used it for side dishes. I didn't even know you used it for side dishes.

So - careful weighing of all the ingredients including the water. And we made nice dough, the three of us. And we think someone else took it home. The stuff I just baked...well.

I let someone else take home the unbaked biscotti. Too bad - it was flavored with anise and almonds and smelled lovely.

I loved this class. I liked the people, Chef was wonderful and I learned a huge amount. I already miss it. I will take a part II if offered.

And. Today, I'm going to butcher a whole chicken, and I'm going to blanch asparagus before baking it.

And I am extremely bossy. :)

Oh, and the bread? Delicious with a nice crust (I did a steam bake.)


I like butchery, too. Learning to cut up a whole chicken into nice, tidy pieces with no waste was one of my early cooking "aha!" moments, and I've been surprised at how much money it saves me. Once you have the technique down, all it takes is nice sharp knives.

Yep. The way Chef Mark taught us, you need one knife (we used chef's knives because there weren't enough boning knives) and poultry shears. So. I have a very good quality chef's knife and decent poultry shears. (I looked for a boning knife in the cookware store downstairs from the classroom, but there wasn't one.) And I grew up separating wings from breasts - "Friday Night Chicken" was breast quarters. We removed the wings and then the wing tip, which we discarded, and skin (to be discarded) from the breasts, and cut the breasts in half. These were all dipped in egg and flavored corn flake crumbs and baked until the breasts were bricks.

Just the way Daddy liked them.

So I learned how to disjoint chickens early - this was my job from childhood.

So. Now I have a carcass in one bag, the breasts in another and the legs are cooking in the oven. In a couple of weeks, I'm going to buy four more chickens and just go to town. That should get me enough carcasses to make a decent stock, plus chicken parts.

I was always somewhat squeamish about meat preparation as a kid, to which my mother wasn't that sympathetic, especially since the chickens from the butcher were already cleaned and without head, feet and feathers and such, whereas *she* as a kid had to watch her father or grandmother kill them, and then pluck them herself (they kept a couple of chickens in a shed in their garden when she was little and back then the regulations about home slaughter weren't as strict yet apparently). Uphill in the snow both ways and all that, I guess... *g*

One of the best things about being vegetarian is that I never have to touch any animal corpses -- vegetables are so much less gross. Like how fish move for so long after they are killed, it is just creepy. E.g. he carps my mother bought would still flop around and twitch not just after the fish monger whacked them over the head, but even after they were cut in half. Like fish zombies. *shudder*

This is why I'm not a vegetarian. Animal parts don't bother me.

But I am very glad I don't have kill, draw, pluck or kasher my own birds. I could if I had to - even kill, I think - but I'm glad I don't.

Yay cooking school!

If they offer a part two, I am so there.

Celery questions...and you're right about licorice scents!

And I had to keep assuring one of the women that yellow celery was just fine.

I don't think I worry so much about the nutrition or food safety aspects of "yellow celery" (it get yellow as it ages?) as the taste. I can handle fresh celery just fine, but the older it gets the more it takes on--for me--an unpleasant flavor that for some reason I associate with iodine. I guess my question is: was the worry at the food safety/nutrition end or the "taste" end? And has this something to do with the difference between the stalks and leaves of celery? (How did you use the leaves? I couldn't find in your entry what happened or will happen to them...)

I also waved cut fennel bulbs under their noses. Oh, that smelled good. And I'm not a licorice fan.

Neither am I, though I've gotten much more tolerant of that flavor over the years--I love Black Jack chewing gum and Stash Licorice Spice tea, though still will not touch black jellybeans or licorice whips. Yesterday in Boston's North End they were setting up for the Festival of St. Anthony and I was lucky enough to walk down Thacher street past a stand selling cookies, biscotti and small baked treats of all kinds. Mmmm, anisette! A lovely oasis of anisette and sugar amidst a lot of sausage, onions and peppers being cooked.

Re: Celery questions...and you're right about licorice scents!

This is very, very fresh celery - it's small, tender stalks of the heart of the celery, as oppose to the greeny-white stalks of the outside.

The leave were chopped extremely fine, mixed with lemon zest and sprinkled on the braised vegetables.

Sounds great. :)

Sounds like a great class. Thanks for sharing, it was great learning new stuff from you.