Thursday, January 13, 2011

Once Again Reporting from the Edge......

It's Thursday (now it's Friday afternoon and I'm at the school's library) and I'm counting the hours..... long weekend almost here and to tell you the truth I will be needing that extra day off. School has been intense, cramming knowledge into every part of my addled brain but surprisingly, I am retaining it, yet I wonder, where does it go? I must admit that a lot of what we do I've done before, the techniques as they're being presented are the same I've been doing on my own forever.... Who would have thunk it, I taught myself pretty darn well!.....

I've always been partial to books and have looked at them as a way of learning and they have taught me anything and everything from the time I was young and didn't have access to adults or others who could teach me my interests. So from the time I discovered the Public Library, I had my sources. When I needed to learn how to cut my kids hair, it was a book that taught me "How To Cut Your Own and Anyone's Else's Hair".... I swear. I use it to this day and my husband and son haven't been to a barber in eons. I used to cut my own too, but having to have someone holding a mirror for me plus having my arms suspended to cut the back was so tiring I'd rather spend the $15 and go to Supercuts, yet I still "customize" it.....
When my eldest was born, like others, I looked to my mother for guidance yet all she did was give me Dr. Spocks Child and Baby Book (this was a long time ago) and told me: "You're on your own".... and I was. That paperback got VERY used and I would read it for any and every doubt or situation I needed help with. It saved me and taught me common sense and what books were for. From then on I would look to books for learning anything else. It worked.

So, when I needed to learn to cook, once again I went to the library and looked stuff up. Betty Crocker was my mentor (I, but I had to learn somehow, right?) and little by little as I watched others cook (or not cook), it taught me how to go about things. I spent a bleak winter in Central California (another lifetime ago...), jobless due to the weather with lots and lots of potatoes.... I learned 1,001 recipes for how to cook potatoes and it never turned me off them, we enjoy them still. It taught me lots of valuable lessons on economy, flexibility, flavors, times, making do, doing without, etc. Lessons I still use.

Now when I'm in the school's kitchen watching a pot simmering away, I can't help but think back to how I got interested in food and the very twisted roads which led me to this space in time. You never know what turns your life can take but I have to say that I was lucky finding food because "if you're in food", I will never go hungry, there are always jobs for people who know how to cook and I can always make money with some type of food, regardless of where in the world I am at. How about that for job security? Trends may come and go, banks may fail and governments may falter but there is something that everyone needs, wants and loves= FOOD. So I tell young people who ask me about cooking: "Learn to cook and you will be very attractive to lots of people!".... so very true and yummy too!

The weather here is still "in flux", today it was warm and sunny yet the nights have been amazingly cold, winter is still here. With that in mind, here are a couple of recipes which may look hard but they're not and they will give you amazing results that you can keep for a lifetime. Just made these in class and I'm looking forward to having them tonight, YUM!

French Onion Soup.- Who doesn't like this? It's wonderful, easy to make and fantastic to serve. Great for a grand meal or just an evening in front of the TV.....

3 oz Butter, cut in small cubes
2 lbs onion, cut into fine slices
1 tbl flour
6 oz White Wine
1 Qt Veal or Beef Stock (good stock)
1 Bouquet Garni (cheesecloth with bay leaf, blk peppercorns, thyme sprig, parsley sprigs)
2 oz Heavy Cream
1 oz Port Wine (good one)
1 tsp Sherry Vinegar, if needed
1 French Baguette, cut in 1 inch slices
4 oz Gruyere Cheese, grated

Heat the butter in a saucepan and add the onions over med-low heat. Cook until the onions are dark golden brown, scraping the bottom so they get golden but don't burn. Don't brown too fast or use high heat, takes at least 20 min or more, be patient, it's worth it.

Once they're dark brown, add the flour and cook, stirring, until it this mixture begins to take color. Deglaze with the White Wine, scraping the tasty bits off the bottom and let it reduce by half over a med-high heat.

Add the stock and the bouquet garni (all tied inside of the cheesecloth, pu the bay leaf, parsley sprig, thyme sprig and some black peppercorns), season with a little salt and white pepper and let it simmer on low heat for about 30-45 min. Scrapping the bottom now and then. It should have a lovely brown color and wonderful aroma.

Remove the bouquet garni and in a bowl combine the port wine and the cream and mix them together, then take a small laddle full of soup and add it to the port/cream and mix well (you're tempering it), then another and mix again. Now add this mixture to the soup and allow to incorporate for a couple of minutes. You can add some some drops of Sherry Vinegar if you think it's too sweet, if not, omit. Taste, taste, taste... only way to tell....

Cut the bread into slices and put them on a cookie sheet in a 350 F oven and toast them for about 10-15min. so they will be able to withstand the soup without getting limp on you. They should be toasted and hard. Once everything's ready, taste the soup and check the seasonings: salt and white pepper.
Pour soup into a cup with two bread slices over top and cover, generously with the Gruyere cheese, now put it under the broiler (or oven) until it gets melted and golden brown. Serve.
Creme Dubarry (Cream of Cauliflower) Soup.- Rich, creamy, comforting..... MMMmmm!

2 oz flour
2 oz butter - in small cubes
1 pint Chicken Stock - hot
1 pint Milk - hot
1 piece of an onion, studded with a whole clove
1 Bouquet Garni (see above)
1 cup cauliflower, cut in small pieces (or you can use what you have leftover, like stems)
1 egg yolk
3 oz Heavy Cream
1 1/2 oz Butter, in small cubes
1 sprig of Chervil, for garnish

Make a white roux by melting the butter and adding the flour. Stir it until it comes together and cook it for 1-2 min. Add milk and stock and stir constantly until it simmers, it will begin to thicken. Add the onion with the clove and the bouquet garni, add the cauliflower and cook 25-30 min or until the cauliflower is tender.

Take our the bouquet garni and the onion. Puree the soup with an inmension blender or in a blender, you can pass it through a sieve to make it finer if you want. Season with salt and white pepper.

To finish: Combine the egg yolk and cream, then temper as described above, then add it to the soup. It should be velvety smooth, so you "Mounte au beaurre" (Mount with butter) by adding some of the butter, 2-3 pats at a time, mixing so they will melt. Check to see when it is enough, taste it, check seasonings again. Serve with a sprig of Chervil on top. Enjoy!

Well, my week's done and I'm off to rest but have plenty of research to do to prepare for the coming week. We're now going into Legumes, Grains, Vegetables and Pasta, so it promises to be not only tasty but pretty interesting as well., but that's next week, for now all I can think of is kicking off my humongous industry specific shoes (heavy, unattractive and steel toed, definitely NOT a fashion trend, but a part of the required Chef's uniform so whatever..), my uniform, silly hat, kerchief and get down to the business of relaxing..... TGIF all!..... Talk soon....

No comments:

Post a Comment