Saturday, February 21, 2015

Culinary Homeschooling- Part Two

I thought this was going to be just oh so fun. Things took a dramatic turn for the worse today, as I began reading a most horrific set of chapters. Math. Restaurant math. Food costing. Breaking recipes and ingredients down into servings and cost-per-serving. Establishing menu prices based on math formulas taking into consideration cost per unit and servings per quantity. Now I need a drink!

Thankfully this is just for fun, and I won't be tested on any of these things. I'll be honest, math is NOT my friend. Three pages into how to calculate these things and I was really in over my head. If the raw food cost for one sandwich is $1.70 and the desired food cost percentage is 23%, the selling price must be at least $7.39. Huh?

          1.70 divided by .23 = 7.391

Ok, sure. Whatever you say (insert confused face). On to things that are much more entertaining. Like mise en place. Now I knew what that meant years before ever getting this book. Everything in it's place. In other words, get all your ingredients out, measured, and ready to use so once you start a recipe you don't have to stop and dig through the pantry for ingredients. No brainer, right? 

I read the chapter on knife skills. I love knives. Really. Kitchen knives are my obsession. The book set out the parts of a knife (I knew this), talked about different metals and why some are better than others (I knew this), why a full tang is better (I knew this) and broke down the differences in knife sharpeners and why people choose the different kinds for different uses. I now need to obtain a whetstone sharpener. And more knives.

The knife chapter also included a primer of knife skills and cuts. Rondelles. Chiffonade. Julienne, Batonnet. Brunoise. Dice. Paysanne. Tourner. I am going to get a couple carrots, some basil or small leafy green and a couple potatoes and spend a hour or two brushing up on my cuts and techniques.

I learned about calibrating a thermometer. Never thought I needed to do that, but I now have a new skill filed away in the brain for future reference. Oh coffee- an entire chapter devoted to coffee, all the different roasts, types of grinds, the how and whys. I never knew these things, so I did gain lots of new knowledge from this chapter especially. Did you know that in other countries American Roast is known as City Roast? Neither did I! 

I often play with French recipes and many times they call for creme fraiche. Living in a rural area means I often cannot find ingredients like this. Lo and behold....... this textbook reveals how to make it myself. This changes everything. I'll be a creme fraiche-making fool!

One notable section of the book covered butter and margarine. Everyone who knows me knows my utter disdain for margarine. I am not alone. This point is driven home in great detail in culinary school, and this textbook details the chemical composition of margarine, the history, the nasty stuff, the gross stuff, the hydrogenation process...... things that make the case for Just Say No To Margarine. I feel validated.

I am approaching the food chapters, so I hope you will continue to follow along. Now that I'm getting into the real food nitty gritty I can have some fun with demonstration and really testing my skills.

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