This Week in Culinary School: Week 4

nopalito

Top 3 Things I Learned This Week

1. Real Mexican Food is Really Good.  Of course, this is not news, but the definite highlight of the week was a workshop we had with the Chef at Nopalito, Gonzalo Guzman.  He brought in the starting materials of Mexican cuisine– dried corn (already nixtamalized) to make fresh masa, dried and fresh chiles, tomatillos and tomatoes.  He also brought in some old school implements– a hand grinder for the corn, a molcajete mortar and pestle), and tortilla press.  And he brought his passion for Mexican food and the memories of his childhood in Veracruz, eating produce that grew in the yard and fish he caught in the stream.  We made tamales, chilaquiles, chile verde and champurrado, all from scratch.  It was inspiring!

2.  Puréeing a portion of a soup, especially one containing beans or starchy vegetables like potatoes, adds a lovely texture and flavor.  We made a bunch of rustic soups this week, and pureeing a small portion of the white bean-escarole soup and the lentil soup added not only creaminess but a lovely mouthfeel, without any added cream and while preserving the overall texture of the soups.  I’ll be trying this technique with other soups.

3.  Etuvée– Looking for a new way to cook vegetables?  Sometimes the simplest preparations are best.  Here’s a non-recipe idea to make a lovely carrot side dish.  The technique is called “etuvée,” which means to cook vegetables in their own juices.  This can be done without precooking with softer vegetables or with harder vegetables cut into smaller pieces.  If you want to use hard, larger vegetables, such as whole carrots, as we did here, you’ll need to do a little precooking.  (We did the Brussels sprouts the same way.)

bunny carrots-Get yourself a bunch a small carrots, the ones with the tops still on.  Trim off the tops (and reserve for carrot top pesto, if you wish).

-Bring a large pot of lightly salted water to a boil.

-Blanch the carrots: with the skins still on, place them in the pot of boiling water , uncovered, just until the skins are able to be peeled off easily with your fingers, but the carrots are still firm.  Cool immediately in cold water, then slip off the skins using your fingers.

-Now you’re ready to etuvée.  Reheat the blanched carrots just before serving using this simple method with the fancy French name.  Put a small amount of butter or olive oil in a pan with the carrots and a tablespoon or so of water.  Cover and cook over high heat and allow the carrots to steam until hot.  (Do not allow them to brown.)  When done, sprinkle with a pinch of salt and finely minced dill for a beautiful side dish.

Thanks for coming by! If you’re curious what it’s like to be in culinary school, check out my previous posts and also come back weekly for my latest updates.  I’ll be sharing tips, ingredients, and recipe ideas straight from the classroom.  And for more healthy cooking and eating tips, join my community on Facebook at The Doctor’s Spicebox.  To your health!

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