Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Techniques of Fine Cooking, Class 2

The Menu


Arborio Chicken soup with Escarole

For this we learned how to make chicken stock – something I’m already well versed in but should really do more often. I did appreciate the instructions for “quick” chicken stock and how to turn your chicken stock into a glace. The instructor told us that we can put a pot of chicken pieces and water on the stove before going to bed and wake up to finished stock, I suspect he may have omitted the part where I wake up in the hospital with third degree burns covering my body.

Rosemary Roast Chicken

I had some chicken roasting experience but I learned a lot from this practice. I am now very much wishing for an expensive heavy duty roasting pan. We also got a lesson in the very messy art of chicken carving. I have to admit that in the past my version of carving has been closer to gnawing meat off of bone but I now feel fairly confident about my abilities to present my guests with some very pretty looking poultry.

Baked Stuffed Tomatoes Provencale

This recipe was a bit bland, probably owing to the out of season tomatoes. I’m planning to practice the vegetable roasting techniques later this week, as our class materials include some interesting options (including roasted artichokes and corn).

Brown and Wild Rice Pilaf

Kajal's Special Sprinkle

This dish was awesomely constructed almost entirely by Miss Kajal who rocked it. I try to use brown rice as often as possible but have to admit that it often tastes a little like cardboard this pilaf recipe is the anti-cardboard.

French Style Spinach Salad with Bacon, Mushrooms and Curry Vinaigrette

Spinach Salad

Another big winner – I don’t usually like raw spinach or mushrooms and the idea of curry flavored salad dressing was less than appealing. Either all of these elements can be redeamed with proper technique or adding bacon makes everything palatable! We used slab bacon which was cooked on a rack in the oven so we could all pretend it was healthy.


Clafouti Trio

The dessert whose name I will never be French enough to pronounce was awesome. The batter was incredibly easy to prepare and resulted is a moist and impressive looking cake. The recipe could be made with a variety of fruit options -- our team used blueberries and the other two teams make cherry and apple versions and all were yum-a-rific.

My Observations

  1. I am a huge liar. Periodically throughout the cooking class our instructor will ask if I have completed some step in the recipe. He will only ask this when it is too late to correct any mistake and often the “step” he refers to is something he made up on the spot just to torment me. “Have you salted your sauce?” “Did you add the herbs to the soup?” “Did you remember to mix me a martini?” In all of these cases the answer is almost always no (usually because I forgot the step but sometimes because a girl can’t afford to share her vodka). If I hadn’t been practicing the "fake it til you make it" philosophy for 29 years I might be capable of answering honestly but in reality I can only managed to slur “of course!” and avert my eyes.
  2. Sauces as hard. At first I felt like a failure when the sauce for our chicken was pronounced insipid by the instructor (after I half lied about tasting it by claiming that another team member *TOTALLY* tasted it). But then he proceeded to call all of the sauces insipid (he’s got a bit of a Gordon Ramsey mean guy thing going on but it mostly works for him) and our sauce the LEAST insipid. GO TEAM! I’m not sure what we could have done to improve on the sauce – we probably could have used some extra reduction time and we did somehow manage to lose our herb butter between the soup course and sauce preparation but the other teams had herb-y reduced sauces that also tasted weak. When making a sauce at home my answer to lack of flavor is usually to add butter or booze but the sauce in question already had both so I’m all out of ideas.

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