Life Outside My Cube

My life, a work in progress.

Cooking Class, Week 1

This week – vegetable stock and derivative recipes. We spent all of 15 minutes in lecture, though even that could have been pared down to 5 minutes. Chef is a very slow speaker! My first impression is that he’s not going to be the dynamic teacher I was hoping for. I overhear later that he retired from cooking over 10 years ago, because he was tired of the “pressure”. Well, he certainly slowed down!

We covered some brief safety rules and a very quick intro to stocks and sauces (all of which we knew). Then in the kitchen, we wash up and watch Chef prepare the vegetable stock. Of interest – he didn’t wash any of the veg! He used the outer skin of the onions (for color), didn’t peel or wash the carrots or celery. No mention of ratio of different veg (by volumn, should be 50% onion, 25% carrot, 25% celery) or veg to water; we simply added water to an inch or so above. Also, since class time was limited, he put the stock pot on to boil. Classic stock should not boil, only simmer, but he said boiling was ok (why?). Note: rough chop. Added 2 bay leaves.

Looks like the idea will be to prep a certain kind of stock each week, then prepare a couple dishes using the stock. This week it’s tomato soup and cream of mushroom. Chef provided recipes for the stock, two soups and something else, but never referred to them at all during class, and took grand liberties with the ingredients and method. He wants us, I think, to be able to construct dishes by feel, rather than being bound to a recipe. This is a good thing.

While stock was going, he briefly discussed/demo’d a blond roux, then had 4 teams of 3 prep a 2Tb blond roux. Important: cold roux to hot liquid, and vice-versa. We let the roux cool.

Briefly talked about the sugar/acid content of various tomato products (paste, whole, sauce), and 3 types of salt (sea, kosher, iodized) and when you’d use them. I disremember what he said, and will need to ask in a future class.

Tomato soup had stock base, used canned chopped tomatoes, salt & pepper, milk, that’s all I remember. Used an immersion blender on the tomatoes. Very simple, and tasted quite fresh, though some didn’t like the “graininess” of it. Well, yes, compared to canned cream of tomato. I liked it better. Maybe could have used cream to thicken a bit more, and fresh basil.

We reconstituted some dried mushrooms, and sauteed others. Sauteed diced onions and some diced celery in butter – Chef loves butter – then added stock and all our roux to make a sauce, then added more stock and mushrooms to make the soup. Seasoned. Excellent.

So very simple soups, but lots of flavor. Veg stock was a lot simpler than I imagined.

But we didn’t feel like we got a tremendous amount out of the class. Chef was not the kind of teacher we wanted, and the content of the class was decidedly not technical. May need to discuss whether to carry on.

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