Friday, October 9, 2009

The Big 2.0.

Week three came to a close with another theory day. These days are both great and exhausting because of the amount of information thrown at us. We sit in the demonstration room from 9 until 11, then we break for tea (tea is the new coffee), then back to our chairs until lunch around 1, and finally a marathon of learning from 2 till 5:30. By the time 5:30 rolls around, people are (as Rory says) swimming in a sea of lamb shanks and cassoulet and not coming up for air. However, as far as a day of lecturing goes, this was a great one.

In the morning we learned some great butchering skills with a couple different cuts of beef. We prepared a roast rib of beef as well as some braised short ribs. Whenever something is "braised", it means that it is cooked with a lot of liquid or sauce (usually slow cooked). When something is "roasted", it is generally cooked dry in the oven. We also learned how to make a classic frittata (which can be served as a canape like the photo below), horseradish sauce (grated from a fresh horseradish root), orange marmalade, and "yorkshire pudding". Despite it's deceptive name, Yorkshire pudding is actually popover-esque savory bread traditionally cooked in a baking pan greased with rendered beef fat (seriously flavorful). One serves it with roast beef and horseradish sauce. With this as our morning food lesson, you can imagine how tasty lunch was!

I rolled back into the demonstration room after a gross display of gluttony at lunch. To my great delight, Rosemary Kearney, co-author of Healthy Gluten-Free Eating, was giving our afternoon demonstration on baking for the gluten-free diet. Since the last thing I cooked before leaving for Ireland was a gluten-free peach tart, which my coeliac sister Grace (who doesn't usually pass up dessert!) left untouched and my coeliac Dad described as "cardboard-like", I was particularly vigilant during this lecture! For those unfamiliar with coeliac disease, a gluten-free diet avoids wheat, rye, barley, spelt, and usually oats. This cuts out breads, pizza, cookies, beer, and a number of other gluten-filled goodies. Fortunately, there has been a great push for better labeling and more bakery options for coeliacs. Thanks to Rosemary's lecture, I can now confidently attempt gluten-free cookies, biscuits, white soda bread, scones, banana bread, muffins, and, God help me, gluten-free TARTS! Grace and Dad won't know what hit them.

Tips, tips, tips:

- When buying meat, ask the butcher if he has any dry-aged meat. Most meats these days are "wet-aged", or sealed in packaging straight after they've been butchered. The wet-aged method takes less time (a few days) and does not have the same tenderizing and flavor concentrating effects of the two week dry-aging method (i.e. hanging meat in cold rooms).

- When preparing a roast, keep the majority of the fat layer on. Score the fat (run your knife in criss-crossed lines across it, about an inch apart) to allow the liquid fat to run off during roasting, letting the remaining fat get crispy and delicious. Conversely, when braising meat, remove most of the fat. You do not want the excess fat liquids in your braising sauce.

- In the classic French boeuf bourguignon, orange zest is used. You will not taste the orange, but the freshness will round out the beef flavor. Try this technique with beef stews and other slow-cooked beef as well!

- When removing excess fat from cuts of beef or duck, save it! Put it in a Pyrex jug, place the jug in a moderate oven, render it down to liquid, and jar it. Rendered fat has excellent flavor, and is perfect for roasting root vegetables or adding to gravy.

- On that note, a kitchen can never have enough Pyrex jugs

- Freshly (and finely) grated horseradish root is an excellent topping on a fillet of beef, a beef carpaccio, smoked fish, or venison. Good for the sinuses, good for the soul.

- For all you gluten free dieters, beware of spice mixes, English mustard powder, ground white pepper, and pre-grated packaged cheddar cheese. All can sometimes have a wheat based powder included- check the label.

- Monosodium Glutamate, a flavor enhancer in many foods, is gluten free despite its deceptive name.

1 comment:

  1. Binny: Can't wait to try all your new gluten-free recipes at Chrismas. It has been a real challenge for me trying to locate tasteful gluten-free stuff, especially bread. Most of the bread and pastry has a quite terrible aftertaste. Worse than even the really good cardboard that I eat. Why is that? By the way, does Guinness make a gluten-free beer? I love the Guinness that was served up in Irish pubs, but I can't drink the stuff anymore. Perhaps they have a gluten-free product, akin to Red Bridge, the Anheuser Busch gluten-free beer. Brilliant! Pots of love, Dad