I’m back with a recap of culinary school!
Last week we were on Spring Break so this week was our first week back. We are in a new segment of classes, which means I am with all new classmates and chefs. The set of classes that I will be taking the next couple of months are the culinary fundamental classes. It takes you back to the basics of knife cuts and the mother sauces, and how to poach an egg and how to do all of the fundamental culinary skills that you build on as time goes on. People usually take these sets of classes first because it is a more natural progression to go from the basics to fabricating an entire rack of lamb instead of vice versa.
So this week was all about precision.
Everyday for at least one hour we practice perfecting our knife cuts by cutting potatoes. And we measure every single tiny piece of potato with a ruler, because exact precision is that important. We practice knife cuts (a julienne) that are as thin as 1/8 of an inch. TINY. So next time you go to a restaurant and in your soup are teeny tiny pieces of vegetables, there was someone back in the kitchen working extremely hard to get those perfect squares of vegetables to look beautiful for your soup.
One of the first things we learned in class was how to make fresh stock-
be it chicken, vegetable or fish stock. Just to give you a quick run down, the basics to a stock are cold water, bones or vegetables, mirepoix (carrots, celery, onions) and a bouquet garni (bay leaves, peppercorns, thyme and parsley stems). The most important key to making a good clear stock is to use cold water- it really does make all the difference in the overall look of the stock.
I mentioned this earlier but we are also learning the 5 mother sauces.
Mother sauces are the 5 sauces that every single other sauce is made from. This week, we focused on veloute. To make veloute you start by making a roux with equal parts clarified butter and flour. You cook the roux until it is a blonde roux and then take it off the heat and let it cook down. Next you heat up freshly made chicken stock and add the cold roux to the stock. You cook those together until all the flour cooks off and is “nape” consistency as the Frenchies call it.
Does this sound familiar?? That’s because it probably is! I just took you through the steps that you likely take to make gravy at Thanksgiving! So yes, veloute is essentially a fancy French word for gravy. But let’s be honest, veloute sounds much more impressive.
We also made clarified butter, which is also ghee, a huge trend in the health industry right now. Clarified butter, or ghee, is just pure butter fat. You boil a bunch of butter to separate the milk solids and the water from the fat and then strain off the milk solids so that you are left with just pure fat. This is important in cooking because it raises the smoke point of the butter tremendously because the milk solids can’t burn.
And lastly, poaching. We poached eggs, pears and chicken (the chicken was surprisingly a lot better than I had imagined it would be). I have always been scared to poach an egg. But it is WAY easier than I had imagined. All you do is get water with a bit of vinegar up to 170 degrees, make a super slight swirl in the water, NOT a tsunami that you see on videos, and dump the egg in for 4 minutes and VIOLA! Poached egg!
I’m super excited about this set of classes and can’t wait to share what I am learning with you all! Thanks for being here!
Start from the beginning of my culinary school journey here!