This morning I got in early for "stock duty" - basically, we chop a bunch of carrots, onions, celery stalks, and carcases of some description to throw into a pot with water to boil. Chicken carcases for chicken stock, lamb bones for lamb stock... you get the picture. One thing we don't add to the stock is salt. This way, you can control the amount of salt in your cooking later. Stock freezes very well, so consider making some the next time you are about to throw away the remains of a roast chicken. Homemade stock makes such a difference in flavor, and it is a great way to avoid wasting bones!
Then I was off to the kitchen to make grapefruit and pomegranate sorbet, an apple cake, and CHEESE! That's right, I made my own wheel of cheese today! I nearly fell asleep making it, it was so relaxing (seriously). You basically warm the milk (I used unpasteurized cow's milk from the morning's milking), add a starter (to get the bacteria going), then add some rennet (which coagulates the milk). After half an hour, the milk coagulates and you cut it into tiny pieces. Soon, you'll have pea sized curds swimming in a sea of whey. Plop the curds into a cheese mold and press the living daylights out of them to remove any moisture.
For my starter, I added yogurt, which will result in a "simple" semi-hard cheese. If you wanted a different type of cheese (blue or parmesan, for example), you would have to buy a different starter (ask your local cheese shop). At the end of class, I took my newborn cheese out of the mold, sprinkled him in sea salt, wrapped him in swaddling cheese cloth, and laid him on my windowsill. I'll flip him over and re-salt him tomorrow morning, and continue this flipping pattern for a few days. I'll have to wait 5-6 weeks before he is ready! I'll keep you all posted on the life and times of this new addition in my life, as I can sense you are all waiting with baited breath!
In the afternoon demonstration, we watched Rory make Focaccia, French Peasant Soup, Poached Monkfish with Hollandaise Sauce, Matchstick Fries, and a French Apple Tart. The trick with Hollandaise is to whisk continuously, and not let the mixture get too hot. Keep it on a very low flame, and if it starts to curdle, take it off the heat and whisk in a teaspoon of cold water. Many a hollandaise have been saved by this quick fix.
Here are the tips picked up from today!
- Another use for a Japanese Mandolin: making Julienne Vegetables (some Japanese Mandolins even come with a Julienne blade). A Julienne vegetable is basically any vegetable cut into long, thin, matchstick-like slices. You can add them to a crystal clear broth and call the soup "Consomme Julienne".
- Hollandaise Sauce does not reheat well, so if you make it ahead of time, keep it warm. Put the hollandaise in a Pyrex jug, and place the jug in a pot of warm, but not simmering, water. If the water keeps trying to simmer on you, use a heat diffuser mat. The sauce will sit happily for a number of hours.
- When reading recipes, pay attention to the difference between "mix gently" and "beat vigorously". If the recipe says to mix gently, do not over mix! This is the number one cause of tough pastry, tough pancakes, tough bread, etc.
- When you're pouring filling into a tart or pie shell, do not fill it to the absolute brim while the tart is still on the counter. You'll have to preform a one-man balancing act from the counter to the oven. When it's two-thirds full, transfer the tart pan to the oven and finish filling it there.
- To loosen cakes from their tins (when turning them out after baking), run a non-precious knife around the edge to break the seal.
- Spinach is the easiest vegetable to over-salt. Beware! It doesn't take much.
- Don't forget about water, the "forgotten ingredient" in the kitchen. Great for thinning soups, sauces, etc.