Wednesday, February 17, 2010

OMG - The Things I Learned in Cook School

I am not yet down from the mountaintop, having just spent the day at the Martin Wishart Cook School.  I learned so much that I am busily making notes even as I write so that I don’t forget.  Here are a few of the takeaways from the day:

To make a creamy soup lighter, yet more satisfying in smaller quantities, like you might serve as a first course or an amuse bouche, whip it with a wire whisk or immersion  blender until frothy and serve in a tea cup for a first course or a demitasse cup as an amuse bouche.

To cook anything in butter, heat the pan slowly first then add the butter and melt until foamy, do not let separate, keep at an even temp

The best general cooking oil is pumiced olive oil - generally sold as light olive oil - it is made from an additional pressing after the virgin and regular oils have been extracted.  It heats to the perfect temp and won’t add flavor to the food

For the best scallops you will ever eat, try whenever possible to get them in the shell and hand dived to eliminate the grit in dredged ones or the white preservative in frozen or shelled ones - but in any case, halve them across the grain and a salt the cut side.  Cook them in foaming butter in  a hot skillet cut side down  until caramelization starts to show around the edges, turn just briefly and then remove to blotting paper, squeeze lemon over.  

Chicken stock: Ask the butcher for about 8 chicken carcasses or buy a lot of wings on sale.  Fill a stock pot cramming in as much chicken as will fit.  Fill pot with water to cover chicken.  Bring to a boil and cook for 40 minutes skimming constantly until reduced by 1/3.  Strain and store in frig or freeze in small quantities until ready to use (add no seasonings or aromatics!)

Veal or beef stock: Ask butcher for marrow bones and roast in 375 F oven for one hour; sauté mirapoix (celery, carrot and  onion) in pumiced oil until just starting to turn color; deglaze pan with red wine; add bones and tomato puree; cover with water; bring to boil and skim several times until broth starts to clear; Lower heat to lowest setting or put in slow over and cook for 24 hours until reduced by 2/3;  Strain and store.  Put veggies and bones back in pot, cover with water and repeat to make second batch

Any meat of poultry should rest for 50% of the cooking time before carving ( so a turkey cooked for 4 hours  should rest for 2 hours or a 2” thick filet steak cooked for 5 minutes on each side to perfect medium rare should rest for 5 minutes)  Don’t fear it getting cold.  If served on a warm plate with a warm sauce it should be perfect eating temp.

For a wonderful, easy dessert, make sweetened French toast with a good loaf cake of any type,  sprinkle a few berries about, drizzle with warmed honey butter, dust with powdered sugar and top with a dollop of crème fraiche

Always use a warm spoon to serve whipped cream or cream fraiche

There is so much more that my head is spinning.  I will write all about the menu, how to cook a perfect duck breast and good inexpensive wines after I come down off this  cloud of wonderfulness.

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