Home > Cooking school > Knives and Fire III

Knives and Fire III

I have finally conquered the chiffonade!  Yay!

We began with a long discussion of pathogens and cross-contamination in kitchens.  And the list of pathogens is long, and there are only a few things we can do about them – make sure to avoid contamination by good personal hygiene (washing hands, wearing and disposing of gloves when handling food that will not be cooked further, keeping hair covered), keeping equipment clean and sanitized, keeping uncooked foods separate to prevent cross-contamination, and by keeping track of time and temperature.  There is a danger zone of temperature.  The book says 41°F-135°F; Chef says 40°F-140°F.  His has the virtue of being easily remembered.  Note that room temperature is right in the middle of that.

Cold food should be kept cold – below 40°F (refrigerator temp).  Hot food needs to be kept hot – and he likes to make sure it’s kept over 160°F. 

We talked about cholent – I brought it up.  For those who don’t know, cholent is a quintessentially Jewish dish.  It’s a stew cooked overnight, in a low oven or on a blech (a sheet of metal over a low flame), or on a warming tray or, these days, in a slow cooker.  Used to be, it was in a baker’s oven that cooled slowly overnight.  It means a hot lunch on a day you can’t cook.  Some people love it.  I, well, don’t. I like it when other people make it, not when I do.

And it’s a problem because you don’t know what temperature it’s cooking at – ovens are unreliable at best, crockpots have high, low and maybe warm, as do warming trays, and blechs have no temperature control at all.  And things can happen – at the inn this past weekend, a fuse blew, and the crockpot had no power for a couple of hours.  It was eventually plugged in again by the innkeeper’s non-Jewish wife.  Even after Shabbat, I refused to touch it.  And once, I had a cholent going on a blech, and the fire underneath blew out.  I discarded the stew, and we vented the kitchen, and never used the blech again.  Chef suggested we get an oven thermometer and use a meat thermometer to test our crockpots (put in water and turn it on for an hour.)  And if it smells off, that’s it.

Then we made mayonaisse and concassed tomatoes.  To concasse a tomato, first you peel it (cut out the stem and make an x in the opposite side, and then blanche and shock.  The peel just comes off.), then you remove the pulp and seeds, and then you dice it up.  Done.

After he made mayonaisse, he asked me to chiffonade basil.  Again.  This time, though, it was *perfect*.  He mixed it with some of his mayo. 

I never got a chance to make mayo – by the time there was a mixer free, it was time for lunch.  Ah, well.

When we got back, we (Y, my 20 year old female partner) and I decided to make Ceasar salad out of our choices.  Y loves Ceasar; I don’t care.  So.  We gathered our mise en place and I made croutons – I diced a loaf of white bread (1/2″ cubes) and put it on a pair of cookie sheets and put them into an oven.  Meanwhile. Yonah sliced up romaine lettuce, and tried to get to a sink to clean them.

When the croutons finally toasted, I took them out, drizzled them with olive oil and minced garlic, tossed them a bit and then put them back in the oven to cook the garlic – just half a minute.  When I could smell the garlic, I took it out.  Came out *nice*.

Eventually, we got our romaine clean and mostly dry and I had the water for the eggs we’d coddle boiling. I poured that over a pair of eggs and let them sit for 60 secs and pulled them out.  And we made ceasar salad – crushed anchovies with a fork, mixed it with garlic in a (sadly, non-wooden) bowl, and then there was dijon mustard, olive oil, vinegar (he wanted red but there was only white wine), Worcestershire sauce, and pepper, and a cracked egg mixed in with the romaine.  Finally, he added the croutons.  It needed the cheese, but that was out in the fleishig kitchen.  And it was yummy enough.  We filled three small plates, and I took one downstairs to the guy in the store.  Then Y made another batch of salad, with a tad more mustard because she likes mustard, and we put that on a platter family style, and it looked *lovely*.  It was both our ideas – mostly, they were out of small plates – but she loved it more, so I let her take the credit.  It worked out nicely.

There were fancier salads which let people make pretty composed plates – pasta salad, tri-color salad, salade niciose, broccoli salad and a very pretty tomato and onion salad,done two ways.  But ours was good.

I ate very little. This a thing of mine – if I’m busy cooking, I forget to eat.

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  1. January 7, 2009 at 10:25 pm

    Speaking of kosher food —

    For the second time in a row, I’ve made matzah balls and they’ve come out … doughy, even rubbery, instead of fluffy. I’m of the “float like a butterfly, not sink like a stone” school, so I usually boil mine for 40 minutes. Both my sous-chef (the Distant Future) and I thought the dough looked browner than usual, and the matzah meal (Manischewitz) seems much finer. Did Manischewitz change their recipe?!? Do I have to switch to a different brand?

    But at least I’ve discovered that I love a little lemon grass in my M-B soup.

  2. January 8, 2009 at 1:30 am

    This is all fascinating.

    I attempted, somewhat successfully, I think, to chiffonade basil today, and used in a Caprese salad that I served to my rabbi who loved it.

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