For our third week of Foundations 1 we have branched out of focusing solely on out cutting skills and into some of the fundamental cooking techniques of French cuisine. We were taught how to make a basic stock as well as two of the mother sauces: béchamel and velouté. Regardless of what type of stock you are making, the definition of the word still remains the same; a stock is a clear, thin liquid that is flavored by substances extracted from meats, fish, poultry, their bones, aromatic vegetables and herbs and spices.
What I found particularly interesting is that some stock is made only from the bones of the animal alone. There is no meat on the bones and the stock that remains when the bones are removed, is from the cartilage that disintegrated to make the stock flavor. I hear many vegetarians say that they are unable to eat chicken soup even though they think it smells wonderful, but they can! Just make the stock yourself with only chicken bones!
There are three components to any stock and they are bones, a mirepoix, and herbs and spices. The bones add not only flavor to the stock, but when the cartilage dissolves it gives the stock a gelatin like texture which is the basis for a truly great stock. The more jellow-y your stock, the greater your results. The bones take up about 50% of your stock and your mirepoix should take up about 10% of the stock. In case you don’t know, a mirepoix helps to add additional flavors to your stock. The most common mirepoix is onion, carrot and celery; however other vegetables can be substitutes as long as they are aromatic.
When making your mirepoix your onions should take up half of it, and the celery and carrot should each take a quarter, if it helps use a sheet pan to see the distribution. The final component is the herbs and spices. There are two ways to distribute herbs and spices into your stock, the first is using a sachet with dried herbs, and the second is to make a bouquet garni which consists of fresh herbs.
To make a sachet, take an average sized piece of cheese cloth and place dried herbs inside such as thyme, whole peppercorns and perhaps some parsley. When making a bouquet garni, you take clean, large, wide ends of a leek and place parsley stems, a piece of celery, sprigs of thyme and a bay leaf and wrap with another piece of leek. You then take butcher twine and tie the bouquet garni tightly together on both sides, to ensure the herbs are secure. These are the three components for a truly great stock no matter what you may be using it for. Just remember to always “skim the scum” when you start to see foam forming on the surface of your stock.
Along with learning about jelly-like stocks, we also talked about two of the mother sauces béchamel and veloute. With a béchamel sauce, you would most commonly use this type of sauce for certain cheese sauces or other rich, creamy sauces. It has a very basic flavor and should not be overly seasoned with salt and pepper while in the process of being made. Only once the béchamel is done, should you adjust its flavor with other herbs and spices. The sauce veloute is made with a white stock and a blonde roux where sauce béchamel is made with milk and a white roux.
A blonde roux does not mean that it is yellow in color, only that you cook the roux slightly longer, until your flour starts to smell almost toasted. When working with a roux that has been cooked longer, you can expect your sauce to not be as thick as when you work with a roux that has not been cooked very long. With the sauce veloute that Chef Riley demonstrated for us, we turned it into a mushroom, shallot, parsley and cream sauce.
This week has really been about learning the techniques rather than studying a recipe. The problem that many people struggle within their own kitchens is that they are not confident in their cooking because they constantly follow a recipe rather than taking the time to learn the technique and be able to apply it to any type of food. Think of how much easier it would be to grocery shop and to cook an amazing meal for your family when you knew exactly what you had to do with the food in front of you, rather than running back and forth from the recipe you have up on the computer.
This weekend take the time to learn a specific technique that perhaps you do with many recipes but never really noticed before. It could be as simple as roasting. If you can know what the temperature of certain foods should be and how the roasting process works, you could become a master roaster! Look out Food Network, we’ve got a new show for you! Be confident in your skills and love what you’re making. Never apologize if something is a little off, because most of the time, nobody but you notices. Own your food and own your culinary abilities. Thanks for tuning in and let me know how your technique practice goes. Until next week…