Holy cow this was a busy week.
I don’t think I have ever been so tired after coming home from school. We packed a TON into class this week and I can’t wait to tell ya all about it- especially how to make the perfect vinaigrette. The science nerd in me is loving this class- trying to figure out the why behind every experiment.
Why does a steak taste so much more tender when it is cooked with a reverse sear than when it is cooked with a traditional sear? Why does lemon juice make Indian butter chicken taste SO much better than the exact same recipe without any lemon juice?? Why does a vinaigrette in a blender hold its emulsion so much better than when it is whisked together? These are the big life questions I’ve been grappling with lately.
When we do an experiment in class, this is what the end result of when we test the experiment usually looks like:
This was an experiment my group and I did with flank steak, looking at the affects that marinating a steak in different fruit puree overnight has on the overall tenderness of the meat. The steak marinated in pineapple was waaaayyy too tender- pineapple has an enzyme called bromelain in it, and bromelain rapidly breaks down meat. The steak marinated in apple on the other hand was perfect. It was so tender, but not too tender, and the apple gave the outside of the steak a subtle carmelization that was so delicious. And the kiwi marinade was in between the apple and the pineapple- a little too tender but not completely destroyed.
What’s been really neat about this class is that it’s the one that most closely correlates with nutrition.
So for the first time since starting school, I have been able to raise my hand and answer questions LOL. One day we were testing blanching and shocking. Blanching and shocking is when you put something, usually a vegetable, in boiling water for 1-3 minutes, and then immediately transfer it to an ice bath. This partially cooks the product and it also locks in the colors of the vegetable to make it more vibrant and pretty. BUT what it also does is it extracts some of the nutrients out of the food. They use this technique a lot in restaurants for both time efficiency and also for plate presentation purposes. But for me, when I am thinking about how I will apply this in my future business, I probably wouldn’t want to blanch and shock vegetables unless it was necessary, so that I could retain the most nutrients for my clients as possible. Just a word to the wise: blanch and shock your broccolini- it will be way more pleasant and less bitter.
This week we also studied sous vide, and searing and Maillard browning and a bunch of other stuff. But one of the things we learned I think will be super helpful for you all when cooking at home is how to make the perfect vinaigrette. Have you ever tried to make a salad dressing and it is separated into layers and just tastes super oily because you can never get it all well combined and emulsified? I’d be willing to bet if that has ever happened, a blender was not used, and the oil was added too fast. These are the 2 key things to making the perfect vinaigrette.
To make the perfect vinaigrette this is what you want to do:
In a blender, add all of your water based ingredients (this includes lemon juice or vinegar) and seasonings. Blend those together. Then, with the blender on a high speed, very slowllyyyyy add in your olive oil in a steady stream. The olive oil will hit the blade, get chopped into an even smaller droplet, and will disperse into the water based ingredients. That will create a steady emulsion that will last a few hours.
But let’s take it a step further and say you want to make a salad dressing that will last the whole week and stay emulsified. Well to do that, you will need what’s called an emulsifying agent. Have you ever wondered why most salad dressings call for either dijon mustard or honey?? I have, but I found out this week that it’s because those two things are emulsifying agents. Meaning when you add them to an emulsion, in this case a vinaigrette, it will keep the emulsion together. So if you were adding an emulsifying agent, you would add it in with the water based ingredients, mix them together, and then add in the oil the same way we just talked about. To quote the highly esteemed science guy Bill Nye….. SCIENCE RULES. If you’re feeling nerdy want want to dive even deeper into vinaigrette emulsions, this is a cool article where they test them:
Did any fellow nerds find that super cool like me?? Hoping I’m not alone in geeking out about this stuff. Thanks for reading y’all!