This Week in Culinary School: Week 2

chicken tarragon.jpg

You’ve been waiting for some photos of what we’ve been cooking, haven’t you?

Here are two of the dishes we made this week: chicken breast with tarragon sauce, with glazed carrots and duck fat-roasted potatoes; a dessert of citrus with a spiced syrup accented with dates and pistachio.  This had a really lovely combination of eye appeal as well as textures.

citrus with syrup dates pistachios

We focused on cooking vegetables this week– every kind imaginable, from leaves, to stalks, to roots, and in every method possible, from raw, sauté, roasting and more.  But my favorite theme this week was about building flavor.

Top 3 Things I Learned This Week.

1.   Advanced knife skills are not for the timid.  Or the less-than-nimble (that would include me).  See those adorably shaped glazed carrots and potatoes, above? They are tourne (turned), which is a technique from classical French cuisine.  It seems easy when a chef demonstrates a technique, less easy once in your own hands.  This YouTube video is a slightly different version of what we learned, but will give you an idea in case you’re curious or up to the challenge.  And in case you’re wondering why you might turn your vegetables, it’s both to be fancy/for presentation and also for even cooking.

2.  There’s more to flavor than taste.  What? This may not make intuitive sense, but if you read the excellent book Taste What You’re Missing by Barb Stuckey, you’ll understand how we experience taste (spoiler alert: it’s more than the tastebuds on your tongue that you learned about in elementary school).  We were lucky to have a workshop on how to taste with the author herself, and how I cook and enjoy my food will be forever enhanced.  We also had an herb tasting, and some were new to me.  More tools for my cooking arsenal! You can try this yourself at home: grab some fresh herbs (unfamiliar ones as well as ones you think you know), and smell, feel and chew on them.  You’ll discover new dimensions of flavor and aroma that might surprise you.  It’s the subtleties that can transform your cooking and eating.herbs.jpg3.  On the subject of taste, are you familiar with umami, the fifth taste? This is the taste of savoriness, meatiness, mouthfulness.  It’s most commonly associated with meat, but you can also get it in vegetarian (tomato paste, mushrooms) and vegan (soy sauce) ingredients.  If you think vegetarian/vegan broths lack depth, you need to try the two versions of onion soup we made this week to illustrate this principle.  First, start with caramelized onions.  (See my technique in this recipe.)  Then, choose your broth.  Version one is vegetarian, a parmesan broth, which uses a broth of vegetables enhanced with parmesan rinds (also reducing food waste!), similar to this recipe in Bon Appétit.  Version two is vegan, and believe it or not, is made simply by cooking your caramelized onions in water enhanced with a splash of soy sauce, as well as some garlic, salt and pepper.  Before you think that this will taste like an Asian soup, try it.  A little is enough to add umami without making it taste like soy sauce.

 

Thanks for coming by! I hope you’re having fun following along my adventures in culinary school.  Enjoy the long weekend.  I’ll be practicing my tourne skills.

For information on healthy cooking and wellness, join me on Facebook at The Doctor’s Spicebox.  And if you’re in the San Francisco Bay Area, come cook with me! I’ll be teaching my next class in a month, on 2/17: Cooking with Tofu.  There are still a few spaces left.  I’d love to see you there! To your health!