May 25, 2007

Techniques of Fine Cooking 1 - Class #2

We dove right into the class lecture this week both because there was no general introduction to go through and because we were roasting chicken and making chicken stock so we needed as much cooking time as possible. Lesson two was all about stocks and roasting and the chef described how to truss a chicken, what aromatics to cook it with as well as what aromatics to use when making stock. She also gave us her six or so rules to making good stock, which was quite interesting because all of them made sense after being explained, but I would have broken almost every one of them if you asked me to make stock on my own.

She then showed us a few ways to cut a pear and use a melon baller to remove the core nicely. Then she moved on to how to roast garlic and stuff a tomato. Then she opened up a package of pork belly and to prove that it really was from the actual belly, she showed us the nipple that was still on it. With the pork belly she showed us how to cut it in different ways and how one group would be using “lardons” for their salad. She then showed us exactly how to prep a chicken for roasting by removing the wishbone, tucking the wings, cutting some fat, placing butter between the skin and the flesh, and finally, how to truss it up properly.

We then broke up into groups and started preparing our dinners. I threw the chicken bones into a pot with water to start the chicken stock, chopped up an onion for the mirepoix for the stock, and then I prepped a chicken. I had a little bit of trouble with the wish bone because I sort of didn’t realize that when I found what I though was the wish bone, it was on the back side of the bird, so when it came out and clearly wasn’t right, I quickly tried to put it back before anyone saw what a horrible job I was doing. I then was able to find the correct wishbone and that came out without issue. I then stuffed the chicken, put some butter under it’s skin, and trussed it up. Into the oven with two other birds it went.

After five or so minutes, we turned the bird on it’s side, waited another five and turned it to it’s other side, then finally turned it back to normal after another 10. We also basted it with some chicken stock to get it going after that. We then went another 5-10 minutes between bastings for about 30 minutes, and then decreased the bastings to every 20 minutes. During a basting we noticed that two of the chickens looked pretty good and were showing nice signs of browning, but one bird was looking a little too light. The light bird also looked like it’s trussing had come undone. After checking the stuffing, it was clear that it was my bird that looked peaked. After some examination, it looked like I forgot to make a knot between the legs and therefore they came lose and uglied up the bird. It was cooking, it just didn’t look good.

Our group made a side dish of soup, while other groups made rice. In addition, all the groups made clafouti for desert. We were actually done with most of the prep and cooking of the side dishes about an hour before the chicken would be ready, so the chef showed us how to make chocolate candies with peanuts and cranberries (they were quite good, even though they were made with dark chocolate).

After a little more waiting and a few more bastings, we checked out the chickens to see if they were done, and lo and behold, they were (even my poor excuse for a trussed-up chicken). Chef then showed us how to carve the birds, and of course it looked so easy. As the chickens came out of the oven, each of us were able to carve at least one half of a bird to get a feel for how to carve the leg, find the oyster, wing, and breast. I had trouble finding the oyster and the breast didn’t come off as cleanly as I would have liked, but it was my first time, so I’m okay with it.

After all the carving, we sat down for dinner. I tried a little bit of everything, and everything was quite good. I especially loved the clafuti. Then we cleaned up and headed home. I took some chocolates and a container of chicken stock for use later.

All-in-all it was a good class and I learned a few things as well as got more experience about other things. The best thing I learned was that if a pan is hot on the stove, to make sure you remember it’s hot and show other’s it’s hot is to just leave a hand towel on the handle.