Culinary school is in session, lets get to work!

Let’s get to work! While my Demi Glace is simmering and reducing on the stove top, I’ll catch you up to speed…..The texts that I have chosen to work through are:

On Cooking, 4th Edition, “A textbook of culinary fundamentals” by: Sarah Lebensky and Alan M. Hause.**comes with a cd which I have yet to look at**

Zwilling J.A. Henkels Complete Book of KNife Skills, “The essential guide to use, techniques and care. By: Jeffrey Elliot and James P. DeWan

LeCordon Bleu Complete Cooking Techniques, from Le Cordon Bleu Academie D’art Culinaire De Paris.

I chose these books after a lot of research of culinary schools and what some of the most successful chefs keep on their book shelves.

So far I have been working in the “On Cooking” text. I am currently in chapter 11, sauces. To get here I have gone through chapters of:

Professionalism, where I learned of the development of modern food service (in other words the history of professional cooking.) The lay out and reasoning behind the layout of kitchens etc. Yes, this may have seemed like something to skip, but I am determined to be “in school” and do a complete and thorough job. I even do my version of homework and go through the questions at the end of chapter and write out the answers in my notebook. Makes me feel obligated, and really cements some of it in my “gray matter.”

A chapter on food safety and sanitation, which was basically review, since I am certified through the state anyway for my cafe, but still, I was faithful and answered the questions…

Next was a chapter on  nutrition, which I was absorbed in. It is by no means an all inclusive study on nutrition, but after my weight-loss, I am constantly up to speed as much as possible on nutrition. Its become a hobby, and maybe someday I’ll become a certified nutritionist and personal trainer…

Then we came to a chapter on Menus and recipe development, pricing etc. I found some very useful tools there.

Next: Tools and Equipment (self explanatory to you all)

Then: Knife Skills: again, seemed brief, but I’ll get to work on my skills as I work through the chapters and recipes….I am basically on track skill-wise. I have chopped 4 pounds of onions in the past 3 days just working through the sauces. I do need to practice and get better at knife sharpening….

Flavors and Flavorings, which has a great diagram of the human tongue and olfactory system. I had fun with this and the next chapter; Dairy Products, as they went through the normal expected spices, to alcohols, wines, beers, condiments, cheese etc. I read quite a bit out loud to my husband. He had many, “Really?” comments.

Finally I got to Mise en Place: which literally means “to put into place”…..its all the prep work before your actual cooking begins. Most us have heard this term before, most of us even practice it, but now its becoming ingrained into my kitchen routines.

After that we had the “Principals of cooking” chapter, basically understanding heat and its effects on food.

Now, I get to actually COOK! Chapter 11 has me preparing a variety of stocks, recognizing and classifying sauces, using thickening agents properly and preparing a variety of classic and modern sauces.  Last Sunday I began the beef stock, and a beef broth. I roasted the bones in the oven first for the stock, and simmered the beef meat for the broth. –We’re talking 15 pounds of beef bones, to make 2 gallons of brown stock! Good thing I have the equipment! All in all, my broth simmered for 3 hrs and my stock was 7 hrs. It was definitely an all day affair and the house smelled amazing! I went through an entire package of cheesecloth, of which I will be needing to find another source, as its way too expensive at the grocery store. Then, after cooling and de-fatting the stock, Monday (yesterday)I began my brown sauce or,  espagnole sauce.

I didn’t begin taking pictures until yesterday.

Here’s the mire poix:

the beginning of the caramelization:

the beginning of the reduction:

It was actually a bit of a family affair, as it needed to reduce while I also had “mama-duties” so my teenage daughter had the job of stirring it every so often while I was with my youngest at her piano lessons. At first I thought maybe I had burned it, since I have no teacher to guide me on when the mire poix was caramelized just right, too far, not enough etc. **Note: mire poix: mixture of 50%chopped onions, 25%celery and 25%carrots**  Yes, I have a general idea of caramelization, but I am after perfection here. I tasted, I strained it, I reduced it and in the end its a beautiful deep brown sauce. Now I have 1 gallon of brown sauce and 1/2 gallon of broth left.

brown sauce on the left, brown stock on the right

Today I am working the Demi Glace. It is an even mixture of 1 quart brown stock and brown sauce, which in turn will become one of the “small sauces” of the espagnole family.

brown sauce (molded) surrounded by the jelled brown stock

beginning the reduction process

Ta-Da! finished, successful demi glace! taste is AMAZING!

My plan for tomorrow will be to create the final Bordelaise sauce with my finished demi glace as part of the ingredients along with a reduction of red wine, shallots, bay, thyme, salt and pepper. I plan on serving it with a celebration of venison steaks for dinner. Then it will be on to the poultry stocks/sauces with a veloute sauce for the finale poultry entree.

Of course, this won’t be until I’ve finished schooling my kids and got my workout in and the house work done…

Bon appetite!

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About wannebechef

I am a mom of 3 home schooled kids, wife of 19 years, head chef/manager of cafe and a personal chef and event planner.
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