daily reflection: french onion soup

9/7/2010

MISE EN PLACE:
Rubber mat
Cutting board
Pie Tins
Saucepot
Cheesecloth
Butcher’s twine
Pitcher with measurement lines

INGREDIENTS:
Onions
Butter
Bay leaves (in sachet)
Beef stock
Chicken stock
Vermouth, Apple Brandy, Brandy, Sherry, or vodka (alcohol)

Step 1: Figure out the amounts you need based on these ratios: 4 oz butter, 4 # sliced onion, ½ G beef stock, ½ G chicken stock, 3-4 oz alcohol. Gather, prepare and measure all your ingredients. Wash the cheesecloth, and prepare a sachet with just bay leaves. You may want to leave a longer end of twine or not cut off as much cheesecloth, so it will be easy to find in the soup at the end. If you are using base to make the stocks, measure 1.5 tsp per quart, and use a whisk to mix well. Step 2 will talk about how to slice the onions.
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Step 2: Slice the onions. First cut the onion in half, pole to pole, through the root. Next, put the onions on their flat side down and remove the root by cutting a small wedge around it.
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Position the onion so the lines are pointing at you. The plan is to cut with the grain. There are two ways to slice the onion. First, you can use all vertical cuts; place your guiding hand on the onion as normal (fingers curled, holding onion in place), and begin making 1/8” vertical cuts starting at one end of the onion. After you cut past the halfway point of the onion, you may start having trouble holding the onion steady. It may be easier to put the onion down on its other flat side (the side you have created with your cuts) and continue your 1/8” cuts. The other way of slicing the onions is to make radial cuts that all point towards the center of the onion. If you try that, place your guiding hand on the onion; make sure your fingers won’t be cut by any of the more horizontal cuts. Lean over so you can put the knife blade 1/8” from the cutting board; this is like setting up the first horizontal cut for brunoise. Make a cut towards the center of the onion, so the end result is a very thin onion wedge (skinner at the ends, thicker in the middle. Remember to cut with the grain. Make your way around the onion with all your cuts ending at the center of the onion. It might get hard towards the end, so you can just use vertical cuts at that point.
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Separate the onions into three groups of equal weight.
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Step 3: Place the butter and one group of the onions into a cold pan. Heat it over moderate heat. Let the onions sweat, and then caramelize. Keep the pan and your spatula moving constantly. Remember to keep scraping the sides of the pan as well. Keep an eye on the heat so the onions and butter don’t burn. The goal is a deep caramelization without burning. The onions should get very brown. Through this whole process, if some bits of onion are burned, remove them so they won’t ruin the soup.
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Step 4: Add the next group of onions. Keep moving the pan, scraping the sides, and stirring. Cook until this group of onions starts getting a little soft and translucent. You should see some sweating and steaming.
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Step 5: Add the last group of onions. Again, keep stirring and moving the pan; get all the new onions mixed in with the others. You don’t need to cook the third batch that long; mainly just make sure it’s all incorporated. There shouldn’t be much butter left at the bottom of the pan, because the onions should have absorbed it.
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Step 6: Take the pan OFF THE FLAME, and add the alcohol to your hot pan. Return the pot to the heat. Continue stirring, scraping, and moving the pan. You should continue cooking until a sec. You can also use your nose and smell whether there’s still a lot of alcohol being cooked off. Then, add in the sachet and the broth. Bring it to a boil, and then lower it to a simmer. Let it reduce until it loses about 1/3-1/2 its liquid. Check on the simmer level and scrape the sides periodically.
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Step 7: Remove the sachet. Taste the soup. You should mainly taste onion and some sweetness. If you still taste alcohol, you can simmer it longer and cook out more of the alcohol. If appropriate, spoon some out and enjoy. You can serve it with some cheese and french bread on the side.
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Reflection: When we started cooking the onions for the soup today, I focused on getting the caramelization right for this recipe, since last week I didn’t caramelize properly for the Espagnole. I paid more attention to the heat, stirred more vigorously, and watched the color carefully. Wow, it paid off! My onions got really good caramelization, and that carried over to the final product, which had nice color and flavor. Now I realize how important the caramelization step is. If that step goes wrong, a lot of times the final product will be seriously lacking in color and flavor. It’s hard though, because it’s really easy to cross over into burning the butter and vegetables. I’m going to keep working on getting better at caramelization. Another thing I found out is I really like French Onion Soup. I’ve had it before, but it was not as full of onion flavor. All day long, all I’ve thought about is this soup and when I can make some more to eat. It felt really good today to have good caramelization and a good final product that I enjoyed eating.

fundamentals of cookery: week 2 reflection

Goals: My goals for this week are to make sure to watch all the videos before class, to sleep early, and not fall behind. I’d also like to keep my area cleaner and remember to keep washing everything in between cuts.

Expectations: I expect the coming week to be a lot harder. We’re going to be working on stocks, sauces, and soups, all of which are a lot more complicated than cutting fruits and vegetables. I feel like if I don’t prepare more, I’m going to make a ton of mistakes and fall behind. It’ll be really important to stay on top of everything, both with prepping before class and executing things during class.

Reflection of Experiences:

Friday was pretty hectic. A lot more people came early today, so the kitchen was already humming along when I got in around 6:15. I finished up my parsley and garlic from yesterday; I was glad to finish that before the demo at 7. Then, the onions, celery, and carrot went pretty well. I had to make some corrections pointed out by Chef Leake, but now I have a good idea of how all the cuts need to turn out. Then things got really crazy when the chickens came out. There wasn’t that much time, and I only had watched the trussing video, not the deconstructing one. I’m definitely going to try not to do that again. It was pretty hard remembering all the steps correctly. I didn’t do a good job on the thigh and drumsticks on my first chicken because of that. Anyway, the day was very busy but still a very good day. I’m pretty psyched about learning how to deconstruct the chicken. I will definitely be trying that at home soon.

Tuesday we made chicken stock and veal stock. It was another busy day, with more multi-tasking since we were making both stocks and had to get things cooking so everything would be done in time. The brown stock took more work, since we had to roast the bones, deglaze the pan several times, and caramelize the vegetables. The caramelized vegetables smelled great. Overall, things went well for me, especially since we got to see Ben’s bones correctly roasted and David warned me about burning my tomato puree. Stock making is satisfying. A lot of times, bones just get thrown away, but we were able to draw out the marrow and good flavor to get something that tastes good and can be used to make many other things.

On Wednesday, we spent some time in the herb gardens learning about herbs and how to harvest them. One day I’d like to grow an herb garden. In the kitchen, we worked on thickening water with all-purpose flour, cornstarch, and arrowroot slurries; white, blonde, and brown roux; and vegetable cuts. The first slurry I made had black specks because I didn’t clean my pan well enough. I had to remake that one. That was a good lesson, because it’s a big waste of time and materials if the pan isn’t really clean. I enjoyed making the roux because the aromas are very pleasant. I ended up making my brown roux before the blonde roux because I let it cook too far. It’s neat how you can get such a range of smells from butter and flour. For vegetable cuts, I’m still pretty reliant on my ruler, so I need to work on knowing the measurements better.

On Thursday, we started on sauces – Veloute and Bechamel; we also made Liaison, Monte au Beurre, and Mornay from the Bechamel. It was a very busy day of trying to balance speed and control – heating the milk but not letting it burn, reducing the Veloute and Bechamel without taking the whole day but not letting it burn either, keeping the Liaison, Monte au Beurre, and Mornay warm enough but not too warm, and trying to cut vegetables faster but still have accuracy. Things are starting to get harder, so it’s getting more and more important to stay organized and make sure I gather all the correct ingredients. I also need to start working faster so I don’t fall behind. It feels like things are going to start getting pretty crazy in the kitchen.

Positive Experiences:

This week was a good week for my nose. There were some really good aromas throughout the week, and it was a positive experience learning to identify things by smell, and use my sense of smell as a tool in cooking. First, in the herb garden we got to smell all the herbs. Some of them were new scents to me. Next, when we made stock, the roasted veal bones had that nice roasted smell, and the mirepoix caramelizing smelled delicious. The best day was the day we made roux. It smelled like pie crust, shortbread, nuts, and popcorn, and I was able to tell which roux it was by smell. The roux aromas were also very comforting smells. Then, when we made the sauces, everything just smelled delicious, especially the cheesy Mornay. Normally I don’t use my nose that much in cooking, but now I will be sure to use its powers more.

I thought making stocks was another positive experience. It’s something I enjoyed and would like to learn more about. We learned how to make a white stock and a brown stock, and there are so many possibilities for those if they are made well. Personally, I really like the whole process of slowly simmering bones to extract flavor. I’m not sure why, but I’m very drawn to it.

Humbling Moments:

This week, when I showed Chef my julienned carrots, he said good job, and then he called the whole class over to show us how if you bunch the carrot up and look at the tips, you can see all the imperfections. A bunch of mine were too flat or not square. That was good lesson in being more self critical and more aware of the imperfections. Also, even if chef says good job today, that doesn’t mean you’ve reached the goal. There’s always ways to do better, work faster, and improve. Tomorrow chef will expect even better julienned carrots in half the time! That means more practice and more attention to detail, which isn’t easy.

Another thing that happened was I totally forgot to write the reflection part of my daily reflection. That was just being careless and not paying attention. It was a pretty dumb thing to do. It’s harder to pay attention to everything if you’re tired. I was pretty tired this week. I really need to sleep more and pay attention more. Those are some good goals for next week.

Of the things that I learned this week, I am best prepared to demonstrate to someone else? (list in bullet form)

-white chicken stock
-brown veal stock
-water thickened with slurry
-white, blonde, brown roux
-veloute

What feedback did I receive from my instructor and how did I use the information to improve my performance?

Chef said my celery cuts were too curvy, so I had to go through and flatten them all with my paring knife. I tried to pay more attention to my vegetable cuts after that. This week we did more celery cuts, so I made sure to work on shaving off the curved parts. I haven’t finished those yet, but hopefully they turn out better than last week.

Chef said my veal stock was over-reduced, so when we made sauces I paid more attention to the liquid level. Today I estimated 1 quart pretty well. I don’t know if that was luck or if I’m improving. Either way, now I know to just measure the liquid if I’m not sure.

Then, when I was making the liaison, chef said my heat was too high. Good thing it didn’t burn. That would have been terrible. Anyway, for the Monte de Beurre and the Mornay, I kept an eye on the flame level. I have to remember to keep it low when there’s milk involved.

daily reflection: brown veal stock

everyday we have to choose one recipe, take lots of pictures of it, then write a recipe for it + a reflection on it.

8/31/2010

MISE EN PLACE:

Rubber mat
Cutting board
Pie Tins
Scale
Sauté pans
Saucepan(s)
Cheesecloth
Butcher’s twine
Round Mesh Strainer
Water Pitcher (with measurement lines)

INGREDIENTS:
chopped veal bones
sachet (bay leaves, cracked peppercorns, dried thyme, chopped parsley stems)
mirepoix (large dice)
water
tomato puree
vegetable oil

Step 1: Preheat the oven to 500°F.

Step 2: Weigh out the veal bones on an appropriate scale and write down the weight so you’ll know how much water to add later. The general guideline is that 8 pounds of bones will yield one gallon of stock. For one gallon of stock, you’ll also add 6 ounces of tomato puree (step 7). Do not wash the bones. If they are wet, you should try to dry them with paper towels. If the bones are wet, the bones won’t roast well, and the flavor will be adversely affected. Now add a small amount of oil to the veal bones and mix with your hands to coat all surfaces. Add more oil if necessary. Try to break up any pieces that are stuck together. Next, spread the bones into a single layer in a large sauté pan (use multiple pans if necessary or a roasting pan). Make sure the bones are in a single layer, or else some of them may steam and not roast properly, which means less flavor.

Turn the oven down to 450°F – 475°F. Place the sauté pan(s) onto a rack in the oven and close.

Step 3: Prepare the mirepoix and sachet. Make sure the sachet is tied well with butcher’s twine, so you’ll be able to control when to take it out. You can’t remove spices if they escape into the liquid. Also, remember to wash the cheesecloth first with cold water so the starches in the cheesecloth don’t end up in your stock and affect the flavor.

Step 4: Remember to check on your roasting veal bones so they don’t burn. The total roasting time will probably be around 40 minutes. If the bones burn, your stock will also taste burned, and you might have to start over. Once the bones look browned, take the pan out of the oven carefully.

Carefully pour off any excess oil into a pie pan. Remember to dispose of this oil properly, not down the sink!

If you don’t pour off the oil, the bones will be deep fried instead of roasted, which is undesirable. With one hand and a dry 6x-8x folded towel, hold the sauté pan and move it back and forth on the stove. With the other hand and a spatula, break the bones up and move them about. This will ensure that more than one side of the bones gets browned properly.

Now put the bones back in the oven until they are a nice golden brown. It will probably be another 10-15 minutes. Make sure to check that they are not getting burned. When they look ready, take them out. Drain excess oil into the pie pan again if necessary. Don’t wash the pan!

Step 5: Transfer the bones to a large sauce pan or sauce pot. Use multiple pots of necessary.

Measure the appropriate amount of water in a pitcher with measurement lines. Pour the water over the bones. If there is a little extra water that won’t fit in the pot, keep it on the side and add it in as water evaporates. Put the pot on a stove and bring it to a boil, then bring it down to a simmer. You don’t want to leave it at a boil because the water will evaporate too fast and you won’t get enough flavor from the bones. Add the sachet.

Step 6: Now back to the sauté pan. We need to deglaze it. If there’s still a layer of oil in the pan, blot it with paper towels to remove the oil. You don’t want extra oil in there because we’re going to deglaze with water, and hot oil and water will make a mess. Put the pan on the stove on high heat. Pay attention that none of the fond burns. Add a small amount of water to see if it’s hot enough. If a lot of the water turns to steam right away and sizzles in the pan, it’s hot enough. Add a little more water, enough so you can swish it around in a shallow layer. Using your spatula, scrape up the fond. Pour the deglazed liquid and fond bits into the pot with the veal bones. Do the same deglazing process again to get more of the fond, and put it in the pot with the veal bones.

Step 7: Your sauté pan should be relatively clean now. It shouldn’t have a lot of water either though, because now we’re going to add vegetable oil to the pan. Add enough oil to coat the pan in a light layer of oil. Drop in a vegetable from the mirepoix to test the heat. If it sizzles and there are bubbles, it’s ready. Add the rest of the mirepoix.

With your spatula in one hand, and the pan in your other hand, keep moving the vegetables around so they don’t burn and have even caramelization. Adjust the heat as necessary to make sure nothing burns. Once you smell the sugars, you should lower the heat to moderate because they will more easily burn at this point. If some bits of vegetable are near burning (but not burnt yet), you can remove them earlier and put them into the pot with the veal bones. Don’t put anything burnt into the pot though. Don’t over-caramelize either.

Bunch the vegetables together in one area, then add the tomato puree on top. This is done to prevent the tomato from burning. Continue cooking and stirring the tomato and vegetable mixture.

Keep your eye on the heat, because tomato can burn very easily. You’ll smell acid first, then sugar, and then you really want to watch for burning. Remove the pan from the heat if necessary to prevent burning. Cook the tomato until it’s as dry as possible, then add the tomato and vegetable mixture to the pot with the veal bones.

Give it a stir to make sure all those flavors get incorporated into the stock. It’s okay to stir because brown stock doesn’t have clarity.

Step 8: As the stock simmers, depouillage it as the fat gathers on the sides. Hold the ladle as close to the spoon end as you can so you’ll have good control for turning. Starting in the middle of the pot, push the ladle down about ¼ of the way down of the spoon part, so it’s just sitting on the liquid. Push in a counter-clockwise, then clockwise direction to push the fats toward the edge of the pot. Then go around the side of the pot, and skim off the fat into a pie tin.

Step 9: When the stock is about 1” above the bones, it should be ready. Set up a metal bowl, strainer, and washed cheesecloth as in the picture. Make sure the cheesecloth is big enough for the strainer. Pour the liquid into the cheesecloth, and let the liquid strain out into the metal bowl.

Now we have a bowl of brown veal stock. Taste it. If it’s good, cool it and store or use it.

Reflection: Overall, this recipe came out pretty well today. I think that’s because there were some good examples from other students and also some advice. Ben’s bones roasted very quickly, so we got to see what the bones should look like when properly roasted. I’ve never roasted veal bones, so I wasn’t sure what to look for. I went to look at his bones several times to note the color of the bones. Later, when I was cooking the tomato puree and mirepoix, David told me his burned so watch out for that on mine. I made sure to be more careful because of that. Chef said I over-reduced it a little, so next time I make stock, I’ll have to pay attention more to the level of the liquid. It was an interesting process making brown stock, so I enjoyed it.

fundamentals of cookery: week 1 reflection

we have a surprising amount of writing for fundamentals. here’s my first weekly reflection that we had to turn in:

Goals: I think before class started, my goal for the week was to not get kicked out of class. That was my biggest fear. Also, just to get through the first week, in terms of sleep, doing homework, work, and staying healthy.

Expectations: I was really nervous before this class started. I was having trouble sleeping and driving my husband crazy, checking my supplies over and over, practicing tying my neckerchief, reading the website, and stressing a lot. My main thought was, “I hope I don’t get kicked out of class.” If I think about it, yes, that was probably irrational, but that’s all I could think about at the time. Actually, I was kicked out of class once in first grade, so maybe that is why I have this fear. Anyway, I read the website a lot, but I still didn’t know what to expect, and I generally have a fear of the unknown.

Reflection of Experiences:

The first day of class was hard for me. I hadn’t slept well for a few days, I was pretty stressed out, and feeling like I was already on the verge of getting sick. Sitting in a classroom for many hours when you’re extremely tired is pretty rough. Also, I didn’t drink any water the first day of class so I think I got a little dehydrated. I did like seeing the herb garden though. I’d like to grow my own when I have a yard. I even forgot my house keys that day, to top things all off.

The second day was pretty hard too. I had work and errands the night before, plus homework, so I didn’t get to sleep that early. I was pretty tired again. I was glad to get to start cutting fruit though. I felt pretty comfortable with all the cuts, which is good, because they’re the easiest. We didn’t get to spend that long on the cutting though, so it wasn’t my favorite day. I know cleaning is important, but it’s not as fun as cooking. I was also a little sore at the end of the day.

The third day was a good day. I finally got more sleep last night, and today I brought my chair to watch the demos, so I was more comfortable and had an easier time taking notes. Today we got to spend a lot more time cutting fruits and tomato concassee, so the time went by really fast. The orange supreme and concassee were new to me. They still seem a little crazy to me. I grew up in California, so I peeled and ate an orange almost everyday. That would be my preference. The supreme oranges are like small naked pieces of orange. Similarly, the concassee seems like an excessive amount of work to get a few small squares of tomato. Maybe a dish that calls for either of these could find some substitute that didn’t take so long and didn’t have so much edible waste. Anyway, that’s fine if some people want their oranges and tomatoes served this way. Now I’ll know not to order these things if I ever see them mentioned on a menu. Today I also took some good notes and remembered what I watched in the videos, so things went well. I had fun today, and I didn’t feel too sore either.

Positive Experiences:

First, I thought today when it was time to clean, my group, as well as the whole class came together well to get the job done. It’s nice when one person takes care of all the cutting boards, another person cleans all the counters, someone else is washing the pie tins, and the last person is starting on cleaning the demo station. Similarly, the class as a whole had good teamwork and pretty good communication. Everyone was contributing and doing his or her part. I like teamwork and people helping each other accomplish something.

Next, today when we were cutting fruit, I was chopping away, and when I looked up after finishing the watermelon, I realized I was one of the first people done, and Chef Leake said all my cuts looked good. I was pleasantly surprised at that. I do cut a lot of fruit at home, so maybe that helped. Anyway, if I can get better at knowing the size of the cuts, I can get faster while retaining accuracy.

Humbling Moments:

I had some trouble with calibrating my thermometer, which is kind of funny since I’m a chemist, but I got it in the end; I guess I haven’t been in lab for several years. I got a little flustered in the middle because of the heat and because I started getting mixed up with which way I should be turning it. I asked Kelly about which direction to turn it to make sure I wasn’t going crazy, and then eventually I got it. I’m glad I asked her, even though I felt a little embarrassed about my confusion.

For my bananas, Chef Leake said some of them were more like ¼”, which I hadn’t noticed because I was trying to cut it quickly. After that, I made sure to take enough time to ensure the cuts were more accurate. I think it made a difference because on the 2nd day of fruit, Chef Leake didn’t say any of my cuts were too big or too small. I had to measure a lot though, so I still need to get better at knowing the measurements.

Of the things that I learned this week, I am best prepared to demonstrate to someone else? (list in bullet form)

  • Orange supreme
  • Lemon supreme
  • Watermelon large dice
  • Apple eighthed
  • Pineapple large dice

What feedback did I receive from my instructor and how did I use the information to improve my performance?

As I mentioned before, the bananas helped me be more aware of measuring the cuts and being accurate. Chef Leake has some similar comments about a couple of my other cuts on the second day, so those also helped me be more careful on the third day. Also, when I was boiling water, my flame wasn’t all the way up. Chef Leake pointed that out, so then my water finally boiled. I’ll make sure to remember that in the future.

cruise food (formal)

overall, the formal dinners on the cruise were delicious. half the menu was always the same and half changed every night, so there was always a good selection.

appetizers
appetizer1

crab louie, shrimp cocktail, mushroom soup, salad

appetizer2

beef carpaccio, consommé, tomato bisque

appetizer4

crostini plate, salad, asian soup, potato leek soup

appetizer5

puff pastry with mushroom sauce, steak tartare, salads

appetizer6

salad, minestrone, eggroll, ratatouille w/ mozzarella

main courses

meal1

coq a vin

meal2

quail

meal2b

lamp chops

meal4

steak

meal4a

seafood risotto

meal5

lobster and pork chop

meal6

filet mignon and turkey

desserts

dessert2

cherries jubilee

dessert3

tiramisu

dessert5

baked alaska

dessert6

cherry cake