I’ve been threatening to improve my cooking for quite some time now, and I finally did something about it. My local University has a Culinology program. Culinology is a cross between Food Science and Culinary. I don’t want to earn another degree at this point in my life, but the culinary classes are based on the Culinary Institute of America’s text book. I decided to enroll as a non-traditional student taking the three culinary classes offered. This semester I am enrolled in Culinary Fundementals. Then next Autumn, I will enroll in the advanced course and in Baking and Pastry.
One thing that I have learned above all is that “mise en place“ is not a suggestion, rather, it is a way of life. I am not an organized person by nature. I am more the embodiment of entropy. It is imperative to be organized in a production kitchen. I have also learned how important it is to read, reread, and reread again, the recipes that you will be attempting in class. When making a half recipe of Espagnole sauce, you don’t need a full recipe of brown roux! Who’d have thought? Fortunately for me and another student with the opposite problem, we were able to “work together,” so to speak, and make a full batch of sauce that turned out darned good!
The first cousin of organization in the kitchen must be focus. I don’t think that I’m related to either, but I hope to be adopted into the family by the end of this semester. I am, by nature, a friendly, talkative person. I want to get to know you. I mean, everyone has an interesting story to tell. Chatting doesn’t seem to have a place in the kitchen. I have turned far too many broccoli florets into olive green tragedies. Pan steaming is not as easy as one would think. Green beans are a bit more forgiving, but broccoli continues to evade me.
So far we have made two of the five mother sauces: Espagnole and veloute. We’ve pan steamed several kinds of vegetables and made a very tasty glaze for the carrot batons. We’ve deep fried chicken, and roasted large dice potatoes, which create an enormous amount of waste! Seriously. A large dice is precisely 3/4″ by 3/4″ by 3/4″ and not a bit more or less. There may not be a rounded corned, nor a skewed side. I used a medium sized russet potato and managed to carve only six cubes out of it. We actually use a plastic ruler to ensure our cuts are perfect. I am sure that, except for the highest end restaurants, this need not be the case. Rustic is beautiful too. Also, these pieces of trim don’t have to go to waste. They can be used in hash browns or potato puree, or potato soup.
In the coming weeks we will be making the other mother sauces, Hollandaise, Tomato and Beurre Blanc. We will also cover fabrication of beef, pork, poultry and seafood.
At home, my cooking has become more. Mostly messy more, but also more in the sense that I am improving upon a lot of the things I was already doing. And I am getting more organized, despite my nature. The beans are now done when the potatoes and meat are done. That is quite an improvement!