I began my first week of Foundations II this week. We have a new chef and a new kitchen to adjust to. In Foundations II we focus solely on sauces, soups and stocks. We don’t follow recipes, but rather we learn the techniques of how to make the basics of these foods. Our new chef for the next 6 weeks is Chef Sorci. He was born in the old country in Sicily and moved here over 40 years ago. He’s owned many restaurants and opened his first when he was 26. I think he’s really going to be able to teach us so much about how to bring that European flare into our food as well as many techniques he’s picked up along his travels. It will be an adjustment for some to get used to his accent, but I find it comforting and very easy to understand. I laughed so hard when he made the unforgettable Italian expression of kissing his fingertips and saying “MUAH! Delicioso!”
Our first day this week we learned about the three types of stocks: brown stock, white stock and fumet. When making a brown stock, we roast the bones of the meat we are using on large sheets pans in a 400 degree oven for 45 minutes up to an hour and 15 minutes.
Once the bones have browned, we place them in a large stock pot and fill it with cold water just above the bones.
Something interesting we learned from Chef Sorci, is to place the pot slightly off of the flame. The reason for this is to help with the skimming process once the scum from the bones reaches the top of the water. With the pot slightly off the flame, this ensures that the scum will be attracted to only that side of the pot. It will make it easier for us to skim off the scum! We brought the water a boil and skimmed the scum off. Once we skimmed, we lowered the heat to begin simmering the stock for 6 to 8 hours. We began tasting it after the 3rd hour, to ensure that the flavors are coming together well. At around the 7th hour, on the same sheet pans that we used to roast the meat, we sautéed our mirepoix in some oil.
I believe I’ve talked about a mirepoix before but if not, it is the three aromatic vegetables that are used together to flavor many sauces and stocks. It consists of 2 parts onion, 1 part carrots and 1 part celery. We sauté all of the vegetables and once they have begun to sweat we began to pince. Pince is when you take tomato paste and caramelize it with vegetables. Once you have pinced the vegetables, you add them to the stock pot. Add additional water to the pan to deglaze the remaining sucs left in the pan and add that to the stock pot as well.
In another pan, making oignon brule which in English translates into burnt onions. Take whole onions and cut them in half with the skin on. Place in a sauté pan with oil and cook until the bottoms are burnt. Add the onions to the stock. We do these two parts only an hour before the stock is done because it takes that long to fully pull the flavors out of the vegetables. If you keep them in for longer, they can begin to dilute the flavor of the sauce, and it will no longer be tasty, but bland. After 8 hours and after ensuring that the flavor of the stock is what you are looking for, strain the stock with a ladle through a cheese cloth.
Once you start to get near the bones, stop ladling. You don’t want to disturb the bones. You can take the remaining stock in the pan and strain it into a separate container from the other strained stock. This gives you two separate types of stocks: one that is slightly cloudy and one that is very clear. The clear stock can be used for sauces and soups and the cloudy stock can be used to make rice dishes or other recipes that contain stock that do not need to be clear.
Along with our brown stock, we also made a fumet, which is also known as a fish stock. We took a very large piece of fish on the bone and placed it into a braising pan after having sautéed our mirepoix in it. We cooked the fish and mirepoix on the stove over low heat for about 30 minutes, or until the fish turns white.
We then added a few cups of dry white wine a reduced it by half. We then added cold water and a bouquet garni and brought it to a boil. We then took the stock and strained the entire thing through a cheese cloth. It was absolutely delicious! We weren’t able to taste our brown stock because of how long it takes to cook, but we were able to try out fish stock. We were also able to eat the fish that we used to make the stock and it was so delicious.
Chef talked to use about how we could use the stock to make rice pilaf and throw some of the fish pieces on top. I think I’m going to make that for dinner one night.
This is going to be a really informative and exciting 6 weeks. We are adding on to the knowledge that we have learned in Foundations I and although I know it’s going to be a challenge sometimes, I also know it’s going to be an incredibly rewarding semester. Don’t forget to ask any questions you may have. If I don’t know it, I’ll ask, and we can learn new things together. On a side note, my best friend bought me a pressure cooker this weekend, so I can begin jarring! I’ll be sharing those with you too, and if any of you have any tips, be sure to share them. I’d really appreciate it. Until next week…