Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Culinary Homeschooling- Eggs, Cheese and Principles of Cooking

As I get further into my first culinary school textbook, I'm finding all sorts of interesting things I didn't know, and a fair share of things I did. For example, I did know this, so here is a clever little bit of trivia in case you didn't- the white part of the egg is actually called the albumen. 

The section on cheese was very very detailed. Step by step instructions for making homemade mozzarella was a big highlight for me, and something I really want to try. This chapter talked about how all cheese are made- by adding enzymes to mammal milk. The typical enzyme is rennet, which comes from the belly of calves- a fact I did not necessarily want to know.

Say CHEESE !!!
Did You Know?  Did you know that traditionally mozzarella cheese is made using buffalo milk? It's kind of funny that foodie types seem to think they are really eating a gourmet specialty if they find "boofalo mootzarell" when it should always be that way!

After filling my brain with cheese facts, I started the next big section- Part 3-Principles of Cooking. The fun is really starting now. I learned right off that, my previous thinking- that cooking is an art- is not really true. Actually cooking is not an art, as much as it is a science. I learned about the molecular changes in different foods when heat is applied, and about the different methods of heat transfer: conduction, convection, radiation and induction. The section also breaks down and explains all the methods of cooking we are all familiar with: broiling, roasting, steaming, boiling, and so on.

Chapter 10- Stocks and Sauces was a great chapter for me. Stocks and sauces are the bread and butter of the kitchen- master these and you can make almost anything. I am a longtime stockmaker and always have bags of bones in the freezer waiting for enough to roast and make a batch or two of rich, flavorful stock. This chapter walked me through the steps to making perfect stock, which I already knew, but it was still fun to see if I was missing anything. I'm NOT a perfect gravy-maker so I learned a lot from this chapter and hope I will become better at making gravies.

This chapter also introduces us to the mirepoix. The flavor foundation for all stocks, soups and sauces, the mirepoix is a must-have for all levels of cooking. This classic combination of onion, celery and carrots you will see used in soups, stews, casseroles, stocks and more.

Did you know? Did you know the proper name for vegetable stock is court bouillon? There are many kinds of veggie stocks out there but this is the mainstay, and is mostly used to poach or simmer other foods in.

Finishing out the chapter are the sauces- the History of Sauce, dating back to ancient Rome to today, and The Mother Sauces- Bechamel, Veloute, Espagnole, Tomato, and Hollandaise, and loads of variations with recipes. Lots of practice in saucemaking going on with this chapter. We start off learning all about making a roux (mastered that one long ago), as well as using cornstarch and other methods of thickening. 

Of all the chapters I have read so far, this was the most educational for me. Sure the earlier part of the book had history and some basic terminology I had not heard before, but seeing the techniques in actual recipes like all the sauce recipes was a huge bonus for me.

Up next in the book: soups. Perfect timing, as winter is winding down finally. After that we'll be cooking meat- time to dust off the grill!

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