Here’s a picture Y took of me:
Written and Practical Finals
We began the class by everyone frantically asking each other questions that might come up on the test – well, not me. I’d read the chapters, and outlined them and, as Chef said, I’d been to all the classes and so I knew I was okay. And he’d assured us that the test would be doable – multiple choice and true and false.
We were to do the written test, plus three practical tests – knife skills, pico de gallo and American omelet. I was worried about the omelet, because to do it properly, it has to be flipped like a pancake, and I had yet to do it successfully. Fortunately, we could do each part as often as we needed.
We got ready for the test – I cut up parchment paper, and set up for blanching and shocking – a pot of heavily salted water put on to boil and a tub of ice water right next to it. G put the parchment paper on half sheet-pans and put the items necessary for the knife skills tests on that – we were to chop cilantro, julienne half a jalope&ntilda;o, small dice half a red onion, concassé two tomatoes, finely mince two garlic cloves, plus a julienne and bruniose each of half a carrot. We were to work clean and sanitary and show good hygiene skills.
The three women present did the written test first. When I finished and got a cup of coffee (which I wouldn’t drink for three more hours), I did the knife skills. I ended up doing my carrots three times because I didn’t like the first two. I also had to get an extra garlic clove because one of mine was in bad shape. What were my results? Everything passed except for the jalope&ntilda;o – I cut the strips too wide. He also didn’t like (and he was right) that I didn’t wash my board after chopping the cilantro. But those were the only down-grades and I was happy.
I recut the jalope&ntilda;os in half, and then I diced them up because the next item was the pico de gallo – mixing all the knife cuts *except* the carrots together, plus diced scallions, cumin, lime juice and olive oil, with salt and pepper to taste. We would be graded on taste and consistency. Since this mixture was too dry, I added strained juices from the concassé (no seeds, you see) and some tomato purée. I got every point for that one.
Then I made my omelets. Well, omelets. My first omelet (three eggs, some water and salt and white pepper)didn’t come out too well. Again, the idea is we flip it like a pancake. And while I managed to flip it, it didn’t flip evenly and some egg escaped the pan. (We had to flip the *pan*, btw, not use a spatula.) So I practiced flipping the remaining egg a couple of times to see how it would go, got another pan and more eggs and did it again. I put the teflon pan on the high fire and let it heat up – omelets need *hot* pans – and ladled in a little melted clarified margarine. Then I added the beaten eggs, stirring all the time with a rubber spatula. When they pulled away from the side of the pan, I loosened the bottom, banged the pan, tilted it and – perfect flip! All that was left was plating it. It wasn’t a perfect fold, though.
I garnished the plate with a thin slice of red onion, blanched julienned carrots and a twisted slice of lime, and put a spoonful of pico de gallo on top of the omelet (I got that idea from Y.)
Verdict? I had the pan hot enough to get a fluffy omelet, and it tasted good. The garnish was pretty and out of the box. It could have been folded better, so I didn’t get FULL marks, but I’m happy. Final score on the practical? 90.
I’m very, very happy.
Shabbos Cooking Day
Also, our last production day. I’m going to miss this so very much.
We began with a demonstration of a mandoline – a device used to slice vegetables evenly and quickly. Chef showed us how it made paper-thin rondelles, how it make juliennes, french fries, and gaufrettes (use a ripple-cut blade, fairly thick. Rotate 90 degrees each time. You’ll get slices that look like netting. Deep-fry for a garnish.)
Then we discussed our two menus – one for Friday night dinner; one for Shabbos lunch.
Striped bass in phyllo over a Veracruz sauce
Chicken soup with julienned vegetables and kreplach
Parisienne potatoes and Potatoes Anna
Sweet and Sour Cabbage
The reasoning behind this meal is things that can be kept on a blech ( a sheet of metal placed over a very low flame), a low oven or on a warming tray, and will either not deteriorate in taste or taste better. The fish would be served cold.
Marinated snow peas in Orzo salad
Grilled dark meat chicken with orange glaze
Potato and Noodle kugels
These are items that should be served cold, or are dry and can be reheated *or* are meant to cook overnight.
I made the chicken soup, according to Chef’s recipe. First I cleaned all the vegetables by soaking them in water with a drop of veggie wash. And then I washed the chicken (we used two whole chickens, a couple of legs and some scraps from the grilled chicken) and put it in cold water to cover by two inches, and brought it to simmer.
This gave me time to peel the onions, the carrots, the parsnip and the parsley roots, and trim the celery – none of these would be cut any finer – and to bind the parsley and dill securely. By this time, the soup was starting to need to be skimmed, so I did that, mixing in cold water to make sure I got it all out. We wanted this soup crystal clear. I put in some white peppercorns, a tiny pinch of thyme, a single bay leaf, a couple of cloves of garlic and the vegetables – plus part of a bag full of small cuts of carrots. I let that simmer and began my thin, thin – 1/16th”x1/16th” by 2″ – julienne of vegetables. We used parsnip, carrot and sugar snap peas (purchased instead of snow peas.) Taking chef’s advice, I took my time with the knife cuts, putting the trim of the parsnip and carrot into my soup pot.
I took enough time that I tasted the soup and it was about ready. So I fished out the large vegetables, leaving the onions to simmer a bit longer, and the chicken, which I placed in a separate bowl, taking care to drain any juices to put back in the pot. Then, with D’s help, I strained the rest through a fine mesh china cap. I put three whole onions back into the pot and put it over a very low flame. Then I blanched and shocked my julienne – each vegetable separate, because they had different blanching times, but mixed after blanching. I discarded the soup veg, but put the chicken aside to cool. The chicken still had flavor.
Then I tasted the soup and added a bit of white pepper and a couple of handfuls of salt. And that was it. When I plated it, I first put in some mixed julienne, and then a large kreplach (made by G), and then ladled soup over it. I gave it a bit of a stir so that the kreplach wasn’t hiding all the julienne, and served it forth. It was so very pretty.
It came out delicious – people were taking cups of it and were also taking it home – *Chef* took some home. I’m very proud of it. It also pretty much took up my time.
I watched chef show how to use phyllo dough – keep it covered and moist until use,and then cover it with melted butter or margarine or oil. I watched G make perfect kreplach. E made noodle kugel with chives and baked them in muffin tins, and it was beautiful. L made delicious potato kugel. And Y – Y made the Friday night veggies, the sweet and sour cabbage and roasted root vegetables (in this case, carrot, beet and celery root.) M made the saurbraten, J and S made the fish, T, with the help of our visitor Gw, made the salad and the chicken and D made the cholent. D the assistant made the Pommes Anna and Parisienne. And it made the most delicious display.
After this, I took the soup chicken and shredded it with my very clean hands, and took a lot home to be made into chicken salad.
Monday, we have our final – a written test and a cooking test. Wednesday, we have our school food safety test. And that will be it. *sigh*
We began by talking about the week past – the breads we baked (and how a pinch of salt made a difference between very good and truly excellent) and the pastry cream and paté au choux we made, and how a convection oven made problems for the eclairs.
Then we talked about what we were to do on Wednesday – Shabbos cooking. Vegetables can make or break a meal, and we need to make decent veggies for Shabbos, such as sweet and sour cabbage or ratatouille, or the traditional tzimmes. And we need to get out of the rut of making the same meal every week. More than that, we need to know how proper planning and mise en place can make the whole thing work for all the meals one needs to prepare. I am very much looking forward to this class.
Then we partnered up and made chocolate mousse. I partnered with Y. Chocolate mousse is made with chocolate, egg yolks, sugar, egg whites and flavorings. First we made whipped topping in a stand mixer using a whip attachment. Then we cleaned off the bowl and whip and put in about five carefully separated egg whites (you do NOT want any yolk or other fat in the egg whites or they won’t whip up, so you take each egg, and separate it in two bowls and *if* the white is shell and yolk free, put it with the other whites in its own bowl.) We put in a pinch of salt, but also, and this was a mistake, 4 oz of sugar. We should have waited until the eggs were nearly mixed – we got a slightly grainy product. Not bad by any means, but not perfect.
Then we melted chocolate over boiling water, adding a bit to get the melting starting. The recipe called for Sambucco, but we chose to use vanilla extract instead. When it was melted and smooth, we mixed it vigorously with 1/3 of the meringue to lighten it. Then we folded the whipped cream (which we whipped again with a whisk) and the remaining egg whites into the lightened mixture until it was pretty much streak free. And it was done.
Then we made toiles – thin cookies that are shaped when warm. This took egg whites. We creamed margarine and confectioners sugar, added egg whites bit by bit (it looked curdled) and then sifted cake flour all at once. We scooped the toile dough onto parchment paper covered sheet pans, and spread them out, sprinkled sliced almonds on some, and baked them until they were brown on the edges. These were removed with an off-set spatula and placed in cups or over a rolling pin or rolled or…well, we had fun.
After that, we made crème brulé and crème caramel – the same thing, actually, because both of these are the same baked custard. One either puts caramel on the bottom of the ramekin before baking *or* sprinkles sugar on top after baking and puts it under a broiler or a blow torch. I did the mise en place for the custard itself – two recipes made separately. I put two pots of non-dairy creamer to heat, each a quart and a half. Meanwhile, I separated two dozen eggs (one for each recipe) for the yolks, to which I added a whole egg because we were using non-dairy creamer. The extra white makes a difference. I mixed both sets of eggs with 2 oz of sugar with a whisk. I also made sure the salt and the vanilla extract were ready.
Mix the hot creamer with a pinch of salt and some vanilla, and then temper the eggs – adding small amounts of hot creamer until the eggs are warm enough, and then add the egg mixture to the pot of creamer and combine. That’s the custard.
We had a bunch of ramekins. To some, chef put caramelized sugar with some corn syrup to stabilize it on the bottom. These were placed in a baking pan, and we added a cardamon pod, and the pan placed in the oven. There M ladled custard into each ramekin and filled the pan with water until it was halfway up the sides of the ramekins. I did the second roasting pan load, but mine were to be bruléed, so no caramel. I also had a couple of low, oval ramekins in mine, so I had to be careful about the water. These were all closed up.
I made the second batch of custard, and filled the rest of the ramekins (this time we used the pods) and put them in a second oven.
Since chef was melting sugar for the crème caramel, he also spun some. He placed a series of wooden spoons on our cooks table, handles out, weighed down with racks. He’d already mutilated a whisk by cutting off the end, leaving long, stiff wires. He added some orange food coloring to the melted sugar. Then he used the sugar spinner (the mutilated whisk) to, well, spin the sugar over the spoons to make long cobwebby strands that he gathered into an orange nest. Very pretty. He took the last of the orange sugar and made a brittle with sliced almonds, to be used as garnish.
We also baked the cookies we’d made and frozen last week – slicing them on to sheet pans with parchment paper. And two people combined bread trimmed and sliced into triangles with custard, chocolate and flavorings and made a lovely looking chocolate bread pudding. And then chef had fun with mousse, whipped topping, chocolate whipped topping , strawberries and toiles, creating many, many lovely plates.
What did this taste like? I have NO idea. I managed to not taste more than a piece of toile and of a couple other cookies – and I mean a taste. But I’m sure it was delicious.
We talked about how one can serve bread pudding as a budget dessert for a luncheon, or how word choice can make a menu item sell.
Welcome to all the people from the CKCA mailing! I hope you enjoy this.
We began by discussing our new schedule (the next two Mondays and Wednesdays, plus a test the following Wednesday.) We also learned that our final exam will be a practical – we’re to make pico de gallo (salsa) to show our knife skills, and then cook either a chicken or fish plus sauce. Chef will tell us which sauce, which everyone will make.
Then we did an exercise changing volume to weights using charts from The Book of Yields. I had fun with it, but then, I like doing things like this. Also, chef talked about how a chef in a hotel figures out how much to buy for a day, taking into account banquets and number guests and average number who dine in the hotel. We also discussed the chain of command in a hotel, which pretty much ends at the general manager.
After some housekeeping, we went to the heart of the day – pastry cream and paté a choux (cream puff paste.) We used lots of sugar and eggs to day, I’ll tell you that. Pastry cream is usually made with milk – we, of course, used Coffee Rich and/or soy milk in its place, as well as margarine instead of butter.
One thing to know is that in pastry, everything but the smallest quantities is scaled. “Everything” includes liquids – it’s a pound of water, not two cups even though they’re the same thing. Everything also includes eggs. Instead of so many eggs, it’s so many weight ounces of eggs. Weight is more accurate than volume, you see. So, pastry cream.
2 lbs of milk is brought to a boil with 4 oz of sugar and vanilla – either a bean or 2 tbls of vanilla extract. Meanwhile, 3 oz of whole eggs and 4 oz of yolks are whisked in a bowl with 4 more oz of sugar and 2 oz of cornstarch. When the milk comes almost to a boil, take it off the fire and temper the eggs by slowly adding the hot milk until the eggs are warm. Then add the contents of the bowl to the pot and, whisking all the time, heat until the mixture is thick and produces a bubble or two. Add some butter and cool as soon as possible.
I used soy milk – mostly standard sweetened soy milk plus a bit of vanilla soy milk to get the right amount. I did not adjust either the sugar or the vanilla, btw. And. It was perfect. I’m pretty amazed myself – everyone else was too loose or too tight or burned it. I thought it tasted cloyingly sweet, but other people liked it.
Then we made paté au choux. This dough is unique in that it’s actually cooked on top of the stove like a béchamel. I worked with G as my partner. We brought a mixture of water, margarine and salt to a boil, and then added bread flour all at once, off the heat. We then put it back on the heat and stirred until it pulled away from the sides and formed a soft ball. We transferred this to a mixer with the paddle attachment,and beat the dough until it cooled enough to add the eggs – the bowl warm to the touch, but not hot. We added the 1lb 2oz eggs (we used eleven) one at a time until about the end, when I added the last three at once. And it was, again, very good.
To use paté au choux, one uses a pastry bag – a large tip makes long strips for eclairs. One can also make puffs of whatever size. Use a smaller tip to make a paris brest – an inch thick circle – and the necks of swans. The body is made with an open star tip.
G tried very hard to show me how to use a pastry bag. I did get better by the end – the trick is to squeeze with the hand holding the top of the back tight. We made paris brest and puffs.
Chef then made a genoise – a sponge cake – in this case, lemon. Sponge cakes are leavened only by air and eggs. Many, many eggs. Over a pound of eggs. (Much like, now that I think of it, paté au choux.)
To fill the cream puffs and eclairs, he took pastry cream (mine!) and mixed it with whipped topping – one part cream, two parts topping. This is called “chantilly” cream. Add puréed fruit and it’s bavarian cream. We also had chocolate pastry cream – another recipe of pastry cream plus melted chocolate. He used a pastry bag to inject the cream into the eclairs and puffs, and he cut the paris brest in half like a bagel, and put cream between the halves. Meanwhile, he made caramel and an apricot glaze (melt apricot jam with brandy), and we still had the melted chocolate.
And he made swans – he cut the eclairs made with star tips in half lengthwise, and the tops in half again. He covered the bottoms with cream and crossed the tops over the cream. Then he dipped the top of the necks in chocolate and then stuck them in the cream – and SWANS.
We also used puff pastry (homemade, but not by us.) Well, chef did. He rolled out two long oblongs and docked them with two forks, to be made into napoleons. Then there was the Band of Fruits, or Parisian Band.
This is a dessert made with a base of puff pastry, with the long sides built up. The sides were both glued and brushed with egg yolk – the latter to make them shiny. This has to be done carefully because we wanted the center to puff.
Chef then spread a layer of chantilly cream on the base and added a thin lengthwise slice of the genoise cake between the built-up edges. He covered this with fruit – a row of thinly sliced strawberries in the center, a row of thinly sliced kiwi one side, and of mandarin oranges on the other. This was glazed with the apricot glaze and put in the fridge to harden a little. Then it was sliced the short way into thick slices. It was really beautiful. He also glazed strawberries just for pretty.
Then he took the tops of the paris brest, dipped them in caramel and then in pine nuts, and replaced them. He melted fondant and glazed the tops of the napoleons (rectangles of puff pastry layered with pastry cream.) Chef also mixed the melted chocolate with some fondant and sugar syrup. He glazed some eclairs with the chocolate, and drew lines of chocolate over the white glaze on the napoleons and zig-zagged them with a toothpick. He also made a zabaglione.
And then he said for us to fill and do things and have fun. And, well. Dessert is not my thing, but I managed to be sligtly creative – I took a too-thin paris brest and dipped half in chocolate and then in pine nuts. Crushed nuts would have been better, but it was yummy.
And then we cleaned up.
Bread and Cookie Day
First, we discussed fish purchasing, where we figured out that there are times it’s more cost effective to purchase already dressed (drawn, scaled, head/tail removed) as opposed to merely drawn (just entrails removed.) It might cost more in time and labor to dress a fish on site than you’d save otherwise.
Then we moved to breads. We touched on types of leaveners (chemical and yeast), types of flours (high-gluten, bread, all purpose, pastry and cake plus rye). We were to make bread sticks, rye bread, garlic knots, white bread, French bread and foccacia – all yeast breads, some using all purpose flour, some bread and some high-gluten. And, of course, rye flour.
Y and I made foccacia. Foccacia is basically pizza dough. We proofed dry yeast in sugar and 90°F water, and, using a stand mixer, put in 1lb 2oz of weighed and sifted AP flour slowing until it started forming a ball. Then we added salt and onions as per the directions. This was placed in an oiled bowl and covered with plastic wrap and allowed to rise. (Chef took our baker’s rack (a metal rack which holds sheet pans as shelves) and turned it into a proofing chamber by placing a couple of cans of sterno on the lowest shelf, and a roasting pan of water just above it, and wrapping the whole thing in aluminum foil. It got up to 100°F, which is what we wanted.)
When it doubled (we went to lunch), it was punched down and put in an oiled half-sheet pan. Y pushed it until it filled the pan, and then we drizzled it with extra virgin olive oil, rosemary, oregano, kosher salt and black pepper, and then topped it with sliced tomatoes and onions. We then drizzled it with more oil and added more seasonings. This was put back on the baking rack, along with L’s foccacia, which used spices, oil and garlic. We let it rise until doubled and put them into a 350°F convection oven (recipe called for 400°F, but that’s a normal oven.) And we let it cook until it was risen and golden brown, and then they were let cool on the rack.
When we finally ate them – well, ours was delicious. No question. L’s was better. She used a bit more salt in her bread.
We had a lesson braiding challah – chef made a double one (a small braid on top of a large one.) Oh – we took all of the doughs after the first rise, in their bowls, and covered them with the same cover, and E took challah, because challah is both the braided Shabbos bread, and the dough removed from a large enough batch of bread (over 5lbs of flour with a blessing.) This handful of dough is destroyed, usually by being burnt in the oven. It used to be given to the Kohanim, but not anymore. We had much more than 5lbs, but once was enough.
And then, since our breads were either finished or baking, we made cookie dough. This, as you can imagine, was torture. I love cookie dough, and I can’t eat it! I wasn’t doing anything, but J and D had been asked to make a checkerboard cookie that used almond flour, and J is allergic to tree nuts. So I offered to help D. As I sliced up margarine to make it creamable, D assembled our two similar but not identical recipes – one for vanilla and one for chocolate. These would be assembled in layers, and then sliced and reformed to make checkerboards. D made the vanilla, and did it first, and I was to do the chocolate. D did fine, making a nice, firm vanilla dough. As for me – well. I got flustered and spilled a lot of the powdered sugar and then the entire container of four eggs, and, well. Because once you get flustered, you make all sorts of mistakes.
However, all was well, and I made a nice chocolate dough as well, for the first time in over a decade. Both doughs as well as a chocolate cookie dough – one with and one without nuts – were put in the freezer. Y made chocolate macadamia nut cookies using melted chocolate (I used cocoa) and they smelled heavenly.
We have the next two days off, but we’ll continue with pastry on Thursday. These days will be made up.
Well, most of fish day, since I had to leave early. A classmate will tell me what else happened – or maybe Chef Wiseman will.
We began with a discussion of lamb, to finish up with the day before. (Note – heated the half-rack in a sautoir and then put them in the oven. Sautéed the marinated shoulder steaks in the sautoir. Removed the steaks and added minced garlic and deglazed with the marinade (balsamic vinegar, water, oil, pepper and oregano) and some chicken stock. When the sauce in the pan was reduced, put the steaks back. Served a steak and 1/4 rack with roasted sweet potato slices dusted with ginger and steamed broccoli.)
We started with the side dish from yesterday, anna potatoes. These are thinly sliced potatoes arranged in a sauteuse in spiral layers, each layer drizzled with salt, pepper and melted butter. Cover and bake. Take off the cover and finish baking. Can be made ahead of time – good for Shabbat. Must use Idaho or other dry potatoes, the older, the better. High starch content is a must. Do NOT put the slices in water – put directly in pan.
Then we discussed the seasonings for lamb – rosemary, garlic, marjoram, oil. And went on to some talk of menu planning – the importance of contrast in color, texture, flavor and temperature, plus the use of height in plating. We may get a market basket on the final day. We also put G’s lamb en chemise (wrapped in puff pastry) in the oven.
Then we went on to discuss fish – mostly restricting our talk to the kosher ones with fins and scales. Fish are divided,roughly, into two kinds – round fish, who swim vertically, and flatfish, like flounder, who lie on their sides on the bottom. Note that – bottom feeders. Perfectly kosher. We don’t care what the fish eat. Fish must smell clean, have firm flesh, moist and full scales, bright eyes, and red gills (if they’re present.)
We talked about poaching – submersion and shallow poaching. Submersion is, well, covering the fish with just under boiling liquid, usually a court bullion – water, wine, acid, white mirepoix or a fish stock or fumét. Fumét is like a fish stock, but the liquid comes from the vegetables. Shallow poaching puts the fish on a cuisson, a base of vegetables and liquid that goes partway up, and is then covered, so it poaches and steams.
Then the lamb was out of the oven and rested to 160°. I got an end piece and it was so good.
Then we butchered fish. This was *hard*. We began with a round fish – farm-raised striped bass. We could tell because the stripes were broken, which is a sign of a genetically inferior fish – probably a cross breed. First, we put the fish on our cutting boards on their sides. They were scaled, drawn and had their fins trimmed. We put our boning knives (sharpened after yesterday’s frenching) into the hinge of the jaw and broke it. Then we cut behind the gill plate. Next, we cut along one side of the spinal column, finishing by flattening our knives and cutting horizontally through the tail. At least in theory – not so much for me. We cut gently until we hit breast bone. And then we twisted our knives and cut the breast bone. Only I cut around it. Once we had one fillet free, we did the other. I butchered both more or less. Then we removed any bones,mostly by cutting them out. We didn’t skin them. Frames were saved for stock.
Then we did a fluke, a “summer flounder”. He showed two methods – one similar to the round fish, one that produced four demi-fillets instead. I chose that one. Since the spine is in the flat side of the fish, you cut along it top and bottom, and then fillet out the meat on either side. I butchered these somewhat less, until it came time to skin. There I did poorly. When I left, my fillets were being chopped for mousse.
And that’s all I can say because I left early today.
This is DL’s update on what I missed:
A striped bass fillet en paupiette: one in mousse form (think gefilte fish sauce) with dill, the other in asparagus that was blanched. Both was poached in fish stock.
-Chef also took the entire striped bass and stuffed it with the mix veggies that were julienned with the mandolin. After, he covered the entire fish with kosher salt thus locking in the natural juices of the fish. You wouldn’t really eat the outside of the crust because it is…after all…all salt. E was a little too fast with her fork and had a piece of the crust. Funny to see her reaction after a mouthful of kosher salt.
-Another fillet set on a cookie sheet chef coated each one in a mixture of a honey-dijon mustard glaze (lemon juice, dijon mustard, honey. The ratio of honey to mustard was 2:1). In addition to the glaze, a topping of ground up pecans, parsley, and what looked like shallots was neatly lined up on each fish fillet. Shoved that into an oven at 350 for no longer than twenty-eight minutes and you got yourself some OH-MAYZING fish.
-J put together the “Red Snapper Vera Cruz”. Wasn’t a fan of it, but it’s in the textbook (p.612)
-The last dish was a fillet of fish double coated in flour then pan-seared. As soon as the ends started browning, one would transfer the fish to the plate and proceed with creating a nice butter sauce with the fond.
I’m missing two other dishes that I don’t remember all details but I am telling you so you’re able to bring it up in class.
Lamb. Agneau. Immature sheepies. Today, we did lamb. First we discussed our future schedule – fish tomorrow, bread Monday, pastry Tuesday and Wednesday, Vegetables/Shabbat cookery Thursday. Then we discussed lamb – how it’s cut (there are only five primal cuts for a lamb, which, unlike beef, are done on the whole animal, not half. The kosher ones are the shoulder, the breast and the rack (the ribs.) The loin and the leg are not kosher. We get shoulder chops and blade chops and ground and stew meat from the shoulder, and ground and stew meat from the breast, and we get rack of lamb and rib chops from the rack.
Lamb is traditionally marinated in an acid (usually lemon juice), an herb and oil. Most of lamb can be done anyway, but rack is best roasted, grilled, or broiled (dry heat). It’s also very expensive.
What we did today was to fabricate a rack of lamb, otherwise known as a hotel rack. The ribs came with the spine and featherbone cut out, but included. And each one was, on average, about $50 – and were enough for a main course for two people. Who were eating other things. Like I said. Expensive. What we were going to do was to “french” it – clean the bones down to the eye (where the best meat is) and get rid of everything else.
When we did veal and beef and chicken, we could make use of all the trimmings – we rendered the fat and the bones went to stock. Unfortunately, that’s not possible with lamb. One can certainly make stock out of the bones and render the lamb fat, but they have such a strong flavor that they’re simply not useful for much – one can make a scotch broth out of lamb stock but it would be intensely lamby. I love the flavor, but in that intensity, maybe not. So, heartbreakingly, they have to be discarded.
So. We each had half a rack of lamb. There are two sides to a rack – the shoulder end and the loin end, which ends just before the 13th rib. The loin end has the nicer eye – the tender round of nicely marbled meat. The shoulder end has pockets of fat and isn’t so nice. Some of us got the loin end, some the shoulder. Chef demonstrated using the entire rack, though. So, first thing – the rack is covered by a thick layer of fat with some meat inside. This has to be removed. The chef took a boning knife and sliced the fat off the bones on the shoulder end. Then, using his favorite butchering tools (his thumbs), he separated and pulled the layer of fat off, leaving only a thin layer of fat behind. He then sliced the thin pieces of meat out of the fat and put them to the side before discarding the rest. Normally one slices fat off of meat – in this case one slices meat off of fat.
Then he made a cut just above the eye, over a second,tiny round of muscle, on both sides in the back and the front. He then “connected the dots” – sliced a line directly over the bones,meat and fat on both sides. Below this line was the eye of the meat, and not to be touched. Above it was the stuff to be removed. This line was wonderful – it allowed me to cut with confidence. Then he pulled the remaining fat from the bones (leaving a layer on the meat) and scored down the bones in front. He then sliced out the meat between the ribs – this is long and skinny and called finger meat and it’s used for stews and curries and maybe little kebabs.
Then, he showed us how to hold a boning knife – grasp it in your fist and use your thumb to bend the blade. He also showed how to hold the rack – hand curled around the meat, with the thumb in back. Then he scraped the meat and tendons and fat and everything else off the bones, leaving them bare. This is very bad for knives – he had a frenching knife because it’s not good for anything else. My poor boning knife.
And then he talked us through our own half-racks. I got the loin end. This meant I had to use a knife to start the fat when peeling it away,and I had almost no meat to slice out of the fat. After that,it was easy. I followed the instructions on how to hold the knife (after he reminded me), and sliced and scraped only away from the eye so as not to risk it. It wasn’t easy and it was tiring, but I managed to get a nice clean rack fairly quickly. He told a couple of other women to use their paring knives as their boning knives because their hands were too small for the knives. I think I have the smallest hands in the class, but they’re strong.
And then we cooked. We covered the racks with herbs and garlic and oil to wait for use. We had Denver ribs – the ends of the ribs, and these were boiled and roasted with barbecue sauce, and also put straight in the oven. Some racks were cut in half to make double lamb chops, and some were cut into four chops. These would be grilled to make nice marks and the doubles placed in the oven. The single chops were served with potatoes anna and orange beets, plus rosemary for garnish and a bit of the glace we were nursing (I’d earlier skimmed and strained it while chef demoed a sauce). Glace is reduced veal stock. Reduced further, it’s glace de viand,and it’s *gold* – intense flavor and even thickening without flour.
And then it turned out Y brought her camera, and we took *good* pictures of all the finished platings (plus Y took some lovely still-lives of knives and equipment. I think my favorite is a cutting board with a pile of mint leaves, a knife and a peppermill.) So that was fun. G took a bunch of the scraps and ground them with spices and onions and added flour and made kofte kebabs, which I helped with. And chef took our stuffing of bread crumbs, salt,pepper, garlic and parsley and some puff pastry and made a rack en chemise (meaning in “tissue”, but in this case, he used the puff pastry.) The rack itself had been cooked for 16 minutes, which made it rare. He layered the stuffing over the meat and then wrapped it, cutting fingers of pastry to go through the ribs, and brushing it with egg for shine and glue. Then, he cut leaves for the front of the rack to make it pretty. This was put in the freezer to firm up the puff pastry and then in the oven.
To make pan sauce – brown the rack on a pan and put in the oven once all of it is seared brown. Take it out about rare (140°F) or at the point you want. Lamb does need to be medium rare, which is a problem for Ms. Well-done. Put the rack aside, and add shallots, or garlic, and deglaze with wine, and add other spices (like tarragon) and, since we had it, some glace, and salt and pepper to finish when it reaches nappé. Then cut the rack in half and arrange the double chops prettily with garnish and sides and so on, with the sauce.
Or, before putting the lamb in the oven, coat it with the parsley stuffing.
He gave me the end cut of the rack en chemise because it was better done, and *so* good. I started my own rack late, and only got it seared and in the oven for a time, so I was allowed to take it home,and I’ll finish it there. Since it’s a half rack, and therefore only enough for one person, I’m going to add a shoulder steak. Make a sort of mixed grill.
Today we took apart and cooked chickens.
Chickens are poultry – a domesticated bird bred for eating. Other examples of poultry are ducks, geese, turkeys, guinea and ratites. Ratites are flightless birds with small wings and large breastbones – ostrich, emu, rhea. They have red meat like beef but sweeter. They’re not kosher.
Chicken is the most popular poultry in the US, with turkeys in second place. They have light and dark meat (dark meat coming, as usual, from the more active parts, with more connective tissue and fat), relatively little and very accessible fat (no marbling), a neutral taste that takes on other flavors *and* they’re inexpensive. They’re also, for the most part, suitable to most cooking methods – they’re extremely versatile.
We did a costing exercise for chicken that showed that whole chickens that cost about $0.96/lb can end up, once they’re cut up and cleaned and so on, about $1.20/lb. Whole animals, of course, are the least expensive way to go, all things being equal. Except they’re not. The chef has to weigh as purchased cost vs. storage and labor and needs – why buy parts you don’t need? Inventory costs money; inventory you won’t use costs more.
We also discussed sizes of chickens, from tiny game hens weighed in ounces to capons and stewing hens that can top six pounds.
And then we put the books away and took out the cutting boards, the knives (chef’s knife, paring knife, boning knife, honing steel) and the gloves. And G dumped a whole chicken on our cutting boards. (I’d just finished sharpening my knives, too.)
First item: trussing. Admission – I’ve never trussed a chicken. Trussing makes the bird more compact and evenly shaped. It also protects the breast meat by covering it with the legs. This not only presents a better appearance, it also cooks more evenly, which makes a better product. So. How do you truss? Turn the bird onto the breast, the rear face you. Cut a long length of butcher’s twine. Put the twine under the wings, from front of bird to back, placing it as far back in the joint as possible. Put the wings close to the body and criscross the twine over them, pulling very tightly. Bring the twine down the back until you get to the legs. Flip the bird over, so that the twine is between the legs and the body, and the rear is still facing you. Cross the twine between the legs over the rear (still pulling tightly) and tie the ends of the legs together. Done. Well, it’s easier done than said.
I had the slight handicap of a chicken missing most of wing – and pretty much all of them were missing a wing tip. They were also extremely feathery birds. Kosher chickens tend to be feathery since they cannot be given the hot water bath that makes easier to mechanically pluck birds, but these birds had more than I’d ever seen. We cut, scraped with our boning knives, plucked with tweezers, and I discovered a paper towel helped, too. I still doubt I got it perfectly clean. (BTW, Canadian chickens are clean. They have to be – Canada will not allow the sale of feathery birds. The kosher distributors hire people to finish “flicking” their poultry.)
After we trussed our birds, two were put on to roast – chef rubbed them with oil with sage and garlic powder and black pepper. We then untrussed them. Chef demonstrated how to cut a whole bird in half by using the heel of the knife to chop through the backbone in one motion, and then used his fingers to remove the keel bone so he could just slice the chicken in half lengthwise. This was a 4lb bird, which means it was too big for half to be a serving. Half of that (bone-in) was about one pound uncooked and would be a serving. If one wants to serve a half chicken, one uses a two pound chicken.
Half chickens make a nice plating, with stuffing under the skin – this is neater and safer than stuffing the cavity.
But we were to divide the chickens the other way – the short way. We cut the skin connecting the legs to the breast. Then we broke the backbone in half with our thumbs (chef’s favorite butchering tools) and cut the skin that connected the two halfs. And there we had it – one piece with two legs and one piece of breast and wings. The leg halves were all collected, so we had only the light half the chicken on our boards.
We were shown how to remove the first joint of the wings (remember, no wingtips) – grasp wing and twist joint until it pops, and cut through. I only had to this once. Now we had top halves of chickens with humerus bones sticking out. We were to make a cut called a suprême, or an airline cut or a hotel cut – a half-breast with skin (or without skin), and no bones except the naked humerus. The humerus is naked because we french it – we scrape off all the meat and tendons. But first, we need to remove the breast from the frame.
We found the keel bone and sliced along one side of it until we got to the wishbone, which we cut around. Then we found the wing bone and popped it so we could slice the meat off with it, and did the same to the other side, leaving a fairly clean frame and preserving the tender (I sort of butchered one of my tenders.) Tenders are the strips of muscle attached to the breast that are often removed. All our tenders were collected. And then we cut around the remaining wing bone and scraped it clean, and, using the heel of the knife blade, cut the top off it. Now we each had two airline cuts. We then removed the skin and the wing bones – boneless skinless breast fillets, just like you buy in the store. (The bones were all saved for stock; the skin and fat for rendering.)
We trimmed them neatly, and that was that. Chef did demonstrate how to butterfly a fillet to make it thinner – just from side to side about 90% and open and pound flat. He also said his preferred method, which is to slice a breast on the diagonal as we did the veal, and make scallops. Makes a nicer presentation.
Then chef showed us how to bone out an entire bird while leaving the skin and meat behind. I can’t begin to describe it, but it was cool. He cut that in half to show how one would wrap the skin of the leg around a stuffing and roast it.
Then we got the back halves back. First we removed the legs from the remaining back bone. There’s a flap of connective tissue between each leg and the backbone. We moved this flap towards the back bone and slice down until we got to the joint,which we popped (using our hands) and then pulled so that the meat stayed with the leg – and sliced through the skin. We wanted to keep the oyster of meat with legs.
Now we had to bone out the legs. There’s a line of fat on the thigh, right over the bone. We were to follow that with our boning knives, pulling with our fingers until we freed the end of the bone, which we then scraped down. Then we went to the drumstick, and found a similar line, freeing the bone with first knives and fingers, cutting the skin at the end of the leg and pulling the end of the bone. We now had two bones connected to the leg meat and each other in the middle. Pinching and cutting, we freed the joint from the meat. We eventually had two pieces of dark meat with skin on one side. We trimmed off the larger tendons, and then removed the skin. And our chickens were done – lumps of light meat, strips of tenders, lumps of dark meat, skin and fat rendering, bones waiting to be used for stock.
(I loved all of it. I like butchering birds.)
Then we did some cooking. First, chef showed proper breading technique. Have three bowls – one of seasoned flour, one of seasoned beaten eggs and one of seasoned breadcrumbs, with a sheet pan on the end. Take your non-dominant hand (your wet hand) and pick up object to be breaded. Put in flour. Cover with flour and shake off with dominant (dry) hand. Drop in eggs. Pick up with wet hand. Drop in bread crumbs. Press the bread crumbs in with dry hand and place on tray, pressing down again to make sure it all adheres. This is an improvement over my previous method, which used my right hand exclusively, leaving the left (non-dominant) hand clean (I did some breading.)
What did we do with the breaded scallops and tenders? We deep fried them. We also made some drummettes (Chicken ulnas with the meat pushed up to a lollipop, which were breaded, deep fried and finished in the oven.) We also breaded and cooked some dark cutlets with barbecue sauce – very yummy. We then did the same techniques on the chicken scallops as we did on the veal. We also discussed how to hold these for later service or for Shabbat dinner – cook the chicken and keep warm instead of putting in the sauce. Keep the sauce warm. At service, pour the sauce over the meat.
In the middle of this, we took out the perfectly cooked roasted chicken and – oh, so good. Nothing as nice as roast chicken fresh out of the oven.
Yeah. Busy, fun day.
More beef plus veal.
We began with our final kashrut lecture – this one was on the laws of cooking and Jews vs. non-Jews. Many Jewish laws, both Torah and, as in this case, Rabbinic, have one overriding reason – the separation of nations, both to preserve national identity and to prevent intermarriage. Sharing food is an intimacy. Sharing cooking is more so.
There are three kinds of “bishul” (cooking) – bread (any of the five grains – wheat, spelt, oats, rye and barley – ground to flour, and then baked), cooking (everything else) and milk, which isn’t cooking but is a special case.
Bread proved a special challenge because requiring it to be made by Jews (pas yisroel, Jewish bread) made a hardship. People could not find bread they could eat. So, they created the category “pas palter” – baker’s bread. This is bread baked by anyone, but using kosher equipment and ingredients. Such bread may be eaten if pas yisroel is not available.
The next category did not allow for such leniency, although it does have leniencies. This is bishul yisroel vs. bishul akum (other.) Not all foods count for this – only foods usually served cooked that might be used on a royal table during a state occasion (royal foods.) So, baked potatoes, yes; potato chips, no. Carrots, no because they are often served raw.
But for Ashkenazi Jews, the solution is simple – have a Jewish person turn on the flames – light the ovens and the burners. Once this is done, there is Jewish involvement and all is well. For S’phardi Jews who follow the stricter (in this case) Beit Yosef, it’s harder – an observant Jew must physically cook the food (or at least the meat) by putting it in the oven or on the grill, and turning it if necessary.
Then we have milk. Here, we’re worried that the dairy farmer mixed milk from a non-kosher animal with the regular milk (given how hard it is to milk horses and pigs, I’m not sure why this would happen, but okay, fine.) If he’s Jewish, we’re not worried; if he has supervision, we’re not worried. If there are no non-kosher animals, we’re also not so worried, although supervision is still necessary. This supervised milk is called “cholov yisrael” and it should be preferable. However, most large dairy farms are also supervised by the USDA, who also don’t permit mixing in non-kosher milk. And it was ruled in the fifties that such Cholov stam, produced on kosher equipment, was permitted. It’s better to use cholov yisrael, and those who hold by that regard dishes used for cholov stam to be non-kosher, and so those of us who are cholov stam need to know this.
After this, we had more discussion of beef – methods of cooking, basically. If the meat is tender, any method would work, but dry heat is preferred. If the meat is tough or cured, moist-heat or combination (browning first and then cooking in liquid – braising or stewing) is best. Since most kosher cuts are tougher, wet cooking is important, as are other methods of tenderizing – pounding, marinating, or cutting correctly (across the grain.
With dry heat, especially roasting, temperature is important – the larger the piece of meat, the lower the temperature, although for a large piece of meat, it’s good to start at a high temp to caramelize the outside before dropping down to a lower one. This cooks the large cuts more evenly and reduces moisture loss.
Chef also cut up another chuck – in this case, the chuck/shank of a veal. So, it was significantly smaller – the beef chuck coming from an animal over 4 times the size of the veal – and more tender because it is much young, and the flesh was white because it was milk-fed. The meat of animals allowed to graze turns red overnight. Poor thing. We took the tenderest parts and cut them, in a shallow diagonal, across the grain. We took these cutlets and put them between sheets of plastic wrap and pounded them gently.
After that, we made several kinds of veal dishes – veal marsala (with wine, demi-glace and mushrooms), veal piccata, with lemon and chicken stock, and veal francese, which floured and egged before being cooked. I made piccata, and it was yummy.
The method for the first two were about the same – the meat is very lightly floured and cooked in a hot pan with a very little fat until it was browned on both sides but still pink. The meat is then put aside, and items are added – onions, shallots, garlic, mushrooms – and cooked until done, and then the pan is deglazed with wine (off the stove, of course) and then there’s stock and/or demi-glaze, and maybe lemon juice. This is all reduced until it’s nappé and the meat added back, and cooked in the sauce until done. Then place the meat attractively on the plate, add the mushrooms (or lemon slice – both piccata and francese had a lemon slice in the sauce)and pour the sauce over everything. Maybe put on a bed of noodles.
The francese ws the same, but it was dipped into eggs *after* the flour. He also did one traditionally breaded – flour, egg, breadcrumbs,and one with sliced almonds (flour, egg, almonds.) He said that could be done with ground almonds and potato starch – so it could be used for Pesach.