07 September 2011

Day 16: Some of This, Some of That

When I first started cooking "seriously" at home (I guess that means when I stopped leaning on prepared stuff), I started to understand how cooking was, at a very basic level, part art and part craft. Which is to say I started to understand that recipes didn't need to be followed to the letter – that'd be the art – as long as certain things were done properly.

This notion has only grown in my early stages at culinary school. We were given a book of recipes, but it took nearly a month and a throwaway statement from our chef-instructor to remind me I even had it. So far, when I'd replicated a cooking demo at home, I'd just referred to my (sometimes out-of-focus) cell phone pictures that detailed a basic process.

For example, here's the "recipe" for navarin d'agneau printanier (lamb stew with spring vegetables) in picture form.

Basically: sear the lamb, add veal stock, braise. Obviously, this is a shorthand for someone who has seen it done. But here's the basic braising process as I copied it into my notebook:
  1. Prep protein - trim fat and waste, season and partition
  2. Sear - in hot fat until brown on all sides (remove)
  3. Sweat - aromatics, mirepoix, garlic, shallots (until translucent)
  4. Pincer - addition of tomato product
  5. Singer - flour (rain in)
  6. Deglaze - liquid - dissolves any particles at bottom of pan
  7. Simmer - cover, braise
That's the basic craft. As far as not following recipes to the letter, we didn't remove the lamb from the pan to sweat the aromatics, and we only had onions and garlic, no mirepoix or shallots. Measurements are nowhere to be found. (By the way, chilled veal stock has the consistency of gelatin. It just goes to show, there's always room for Jell-o!)

I didn't even take pictures of the spring vegetables, which were glazed. I jotted down the following notes:
cold water, simmer, reduce more than half, butter, sugar, reduce
That's it. Really.

Earlier tonight, I practiced by knife cuts on a carrot, and then used that very basic of recipes to make glazed carrots. It turned out pretty well.

This is probably why I prefer cooking to baking. There isn't enough room in my head for precise measurements, but processes are manageable. What's not to love about "butter, sugar, reduce?"

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