- Converting traditional to sourdough--oh my!
- sourdough starter question
- Transferring from banneton to hot iron dutch oven
- Excited to be a new member!
- Pain au levain - from the grill
- Baking a BIG loaf
- Fermented my sauerkraut, now what?
- How to avoid dry turkey sausage w/o just adding fat?
- Halibut sous vide
- Using the Discarded starter
Basic Cooking Techniques
What is Blanching?
Blanching can mean a few different things depending on who’s using the word and what application you’re talking about. In the most basic use of the term, blanching refers to very briefly par cooking an item for later use, usually using boiling water or hot fat as a cooking medium.
Why Would You Need to Blanch Something?
To preserve the quality of the food and make it easier to store usually by freezing. Blanching the food helps to preserve it by destroying bacteria that causes food to spoil and enzymes that discolor food, as seen when raw potatoes turn brown shortly after being sliced.
It helps to save time in the kitchen, especially restaurant kitchens. Restaurant customers don’t care how long it takes something to cook, all they know is that they’re hungry NOW! Large batches of food such as vegetables will be par cooked and then later finished to order.
Blanching helps remove undesirable flavors. Some vegetables and meats with strong flavors, (such as veal tripe and brussel sprouts), are sometimes blanched to make their flavor a little more mild.
Sometimes you have to blanch something in order to prep it for further use. For example, you need to blanch tomatoes to loosen their skins before you can make tomato concassé and you need to blanch veal sweet breads to loosen the membrane before peeling.
Basic Blanching Technique
Knowing how to blanch vegetables properly is a must have technique in any cooks arsenal. Here is the basic method that you should use.
Blanching Green Vegetables
Bring salted water to a rolling boil in a large pot.
Place green vegetable in boiling water until tender. Whether or not you prefer your blanched vegetables cooked all the way through, or al dente (meaning firm to the bite), is a personal preference. First, learn how to successfully blanch your vegetables all the way through, and then if you prefer them al dente, just back off on the blanching time a little bit.
Once the vegetable becomes tender and the green color is solidified, shock in ice water. This causes the vegetable to cool rapidly, keeping it from overcooking which could turn it mushy and affect your beautiful green color.
Blanching Root Vegetables
The technique for blanching root vegetables with complex starches such as carrots and potatoes is a little different from blanching green vegetables such as spinach, broccoli and green beans. Because root vegetables are more dense, placing them directly into boiling water can cause them to cook unevenly.
To properly blanch root vegetables, start them in a pot with cold salted water and bring to a simmer. Cook them until desired tenderness is reached and then stop the cooking by shocking them in an ice bath.
Deep Water Blanching
In his book “The French Laundry Cookbook,” Chef Thomas Keller talks about the important of “deep water blanching. ” The term deep water blanching refers to blanching your vegetables in a large enough pot so that when you add your vegetable, that water maintains a rolling boil or comes back to a boil very quickly. This is based on the basic fact that the longer you cook your vegetables, the more chance you have of your color fading before they reach the proper texture.
The Importance of Adding Salt
Salt is a very important component to blanching vegetables but there is a lot of folklore surrounding the actual reason why salt is added.
A lot of people have the common misconception that adding salt to your blanching water will raise the temperature of the water, allowing you to cook your vegetables faster. Although this is technically true, it isn’t exactly accurate. Let me explain.
Two of my favorite books that I have come across in my studies are “What Einstein Told His Cook” and “What Einstein Told His Cook 2” by Robert L. Wolke. According to Wolke, adding one tablespoon of salt (or 20 grams to be exact), to 5 quarts of water, will cause the water’s boiling point to rise by only seven hundredths of one degree Fahrenheit.
However, there is an extremely valid reason for adding salt to your blanching water. Again, citing Wolke, in his book “What Einstein Told His Cook 2,” he talks about the molecular make up of chlorophyll molecules, the chemical that keeps vegetables green. Not to get too technical or geeky on you, but this is an important concept to understand.
A chlorophyll molecule consists of carbon, hydrogen, oxygen and nitrogen atoms with a magnesium atom in the middle. Basically what happens, is when you go to blanch your vegetables, if they are slightly acidic, which most commonly are, an acid’s hydrogen atom will replace the magnesium atom, turning your vegetable to a drab, green-gray color.
Now where the debate gets interesting is that some chefs will try and cancel out the acidity by adding baking soda (which is sodium bicarbonate) to the blanching water, making it more alkaline. The problem with this however is that the sodium bicarbonate breaks down the complex carbohydrates contained in the vegetable, making the vegetable mushy, not to mention giving off a soapy taste.
Now that we got that geek speak out of the way, here’s the punch line. Adding salt to your blanching water basically accomplishes the same thing by making it harder for the hydrogen atoms to break through the cell membrane and replace the magnesium atom. So long story short, adding salt to your blanching water improves flavor and helps keep greens from going gray.
Further Information On Blanching
Listen to SCS 4| Blanching for more in-depth information on the science and methods behind this cooking technique.
Watch KP 2| Blanched Garlic for a video demonstration on how to properly blanch garlic.
|For more posts just like this, check out our ongoing Kitchen Prep Video Series. You can also view our complete How To Cook Video Index.|
Blanched garlic is a great way to remove the harsh, bitter bite of raw garlic while still keeping the floral, garlic aroma and flavor. In Thomas Keller's The French Laundry Cookbook, his technique calls for the use of milk instead of water. I've found that for most purposes, water can achieve fairly comparable results and it's more cost effective.
How To Blanch Garlic
- Put desired amount of garlic in a pot and cover with cold water.
- Bring water to a boil.
- Once water boils, strain garlic and add it back to the pot.
- Cover with cold water, and repeat previous steps for a total of three times.
- Blanching your garlic in this manner will get rid of the bitter taste and allow you to use as much garlic as desired without having to actually roast it. This technique also works great for any white garlic sauce, such as a garlic béchamel.
Now that you've made blanched garlic, you can use it for any number of recipes where a strong garlic flavor is desirable minus its assertive bite. Here are some recipes to give you a little inspiration:
|For more posts just like this, check out our ongoing Kitchen Prep Video Series. You can also view our complete How To Cook Video Index.|
Consommé...the old school Frenchy soup with crystal clarity and robust flavors that dwells in the nightmares of culinary school students around the world. While feared and loathed for it’s finicky nature by young cooks, consommé really isn’t scary once you understand the basic concepts behind making it, and how a clarification raft works.
But before we get into the consommé making process, we first need a little perspective.
Flavor, Stocks, & Broths
As I discussed extensively in the comment section of my braised beef short rib video, making stock at home is important for specific cooking applications due to the gelatin content extracted from bones; something most commercially available stocks lack. Without gelatin you’ll have a tough time making a full pan reduction sauce or glazing braised meat.
This is why traditional stocks are made with collagen rich bones like knuckles, necks and backs. When moisture and heat are applied, the collagen breaks down, yielding the gelatin needed for so many professional level applications.
However, while bones contain a lot of collagen, they’re short on flavor. This usually isn't an issue since most stocks are reduced and reinforced before final use, to add flavor and increase gelatin concentration. Yet for a truly flavorful stock, you need meat, and lots of it.
Enter our quick aside concerning stocks and broths; wars of biblical proportions have been waged on internet forums between people discussing the difference between stock and broth, with the commonly accepted dogma being stock is made from bones, and broth is made from meat.
In reality, broth is a stock that hasn’t been strained before serving, while a stock is strained broth used for a secondary purpose like reduction sauces, braising, or...to make a broth. With consommé, you start with a stock, turn it into a broth by adding a raft, which then becomes a stock again once it's strained, and will then magically turn into a broth once garnished, unless it’s left ungarnished, in which case it remains a stock.
Now say that ten times fast.
The real point is, you need to have an extremely flavorful stock when making consommé because the clarification process will extract both gelatin and flavor. This means, you need a stock made with a good amount of meat, and if it makes you feel any better, you can even call it a broth. Hell, call it a “meat nectar extraction” for all I care, as long as you promise not to make a bland consommé.
If you really want a full flavored consommé, you need to do what’s called a “double stock.” My preferred method is to cut up a whole chicken, bones and all, and make either a white or roasted chicken stock, depending on your desired outcome (this, of course, assumes we're making a chicken consommé). Strain the stock, and then make a new stock, with another whole chicken, using the first stock instead of water. This is a process I also commonly refer to as “reinforcement,” since the flavor is compounded by new meat an aromatics (vegetables, herbs, and spices).
I prefer to still use bones in this double stock, because the gelatin extracted is an important component for overall mouth feel.
Once you have a solid double stock, you can then make a good consommé.
Basic Consommé Ratio
1 qt Stock
2 Egg Whites, whisked until frothy
1/2 # Meat, Ground
5.5 ounces Mirepoix (Carrots, Celery, Onions), ground or cut into a fine julienne.
This ratio expressed in the Baker’s Percentage is:
50% Meat, Ground
5% Egg Whites
15% Mirepoix, Ground or Julienned
Herbs and Spices to Taste
The exact recipe used in this video:
4 qt. Chicken Stock
2#s Chicken Meat
1 Celery Stick, (78g)
1 Carrot (167g)
1 Onion (293g)
1 Leek, White Only (96g)
1/2 bn. Tarragon (6g)
1/2 bn. Chervil (4g)
8 Egg Whites (~200g)
2 Cloves (the spice, not garlic)
Understanding The Consommé Raft
It’s important to understand the clarification of a consommé is actually done by egg whites. As the stock is slowly heated, the egg whites start to coagulate, forming a fine mesh screen which works like a built in strainer. As long as you use 5% egg whites in ratio to your stock, and heat it properly, you’ll end up with a clear consommé.
While the large protein aggregates formed by the ground meat do aid in the clarification process, their true purpose, along with all the other ingredients besides the egg whites, is to reinforce the flavor lost during clarification. As the stock gently simmers and percolates up through the clarification raft, particulate matter which would otherwise cloud the consommé is captured, along with flavor a gelatin molecules. Since the meat and aromatic’s main purpose is to add flavor, feel free to swap any ingredients you desire to customize the taste of your finished consommé. The only caveat is, don’t use starchy vegetables like potatoes, which will yield a cloudy end product.
The meat and mirepoix are ground because more surface area equals better flavor extraction, and it makes them easier to suspended in the clarification raft.
The Consommé Process
Whisk egg whites until they begin to froth (about 30 seconds).
Mix in ground meat and mirepoix by hand, along with any other herbs & spices.
Place mixture in the bottom of a sauce pot and cover with cold stock.
Heat stock over high flame, stirring constantly until it reaches 120°F/49°, at which point the raft will begin to float.
Poke a whole in the center of the raft big enough to fit the head of a two ounce ladle.
Bring consommé to a simmer, being careful not to allow it reach to a rolling boil, which will break apart the clarification raft, ruining your consommé.
Once a simmer is achieved, turn heat down to low, and continue to simmer for 60 minutes, while pulling liquid through the center “percolation” hole with a ladle, using it to baste the raft. This will help filter the consommé while keeping the topside of the raft from drying out.
Once the consommé is clear (about 60 minutes), remove from heat.
Gently press down on raft with the bottom of a large ladle, filling it with the clarified liquid, and pass it through a chinois lined with a cheese cloth.
For added clarity, allow consommé to sit in the refrigerator overnight after it’s been strained, which will cause the fat to rise to the top and solidify. The next day, skim off all the fat.
Serve as desired, either chilled or hot, with various garnishes including brunoise and blanched vegetables, dumplings, sausage, meat balls...really anything you like. Don’t forget to season with salt.
In fine dining restaurants, it’s common to compose the garnishes in a wide bowl, and then pour the consommé table side so the guests can appreciate it’s clarity. This same serving technique is demonstrated in our “Composed Cauliflower Soup” video.
8 oz Ladle (for straining)
Chinois (fine mesh strainer)
Recommended: Warring Meat Grinder (this is what I use at the restaurant)
Mashed potatoes are classic comfort food 101. To the untrained eye they can appear deceivingly simple, but the best mashed potatoes require proper technique, a decent fat to potato ratio, and being aware of common snares that trip up the uninitiated along the way. By the time you're done watching the above video and reading through this article, you'll be able to whip up a great batch of mashed potatoes every time, whether you're creating a simple Sunday Super, or bringing the thunder on Thanksgiving.
Step 1: Let's Talk Potatoes
Although various types are available at your local supermarket year 'round, potatoes are split into two distinct categories; "waxy" and "mealy."
Waxy potatoes have a cellular structure which causes them to adhere to one another during cooking, resulting in a solid, dense, yet moist, texture. Common waxy varieties include new potatoes, and thin skinned potatoes such as white and red. Because waxy potatoes are made up of starches that adhere to one another when cooked, they make a great choice for salads, gratins, or potato cakes, but are undesirable for mashed potatoes.
Instead, use a "mealy" potato variety, with a cellular structure that dries out, bursts, and separates itself from it's neighbor when fully cooked. The fine, dry, and fluffy texture, makes these potatoes excellent at absorbing fat, and reduce gumminess. The most common variety of mealy potato is the russet, which makes great mashed potatoes and is available year 'round.
Step 2: Peel and Rinse
Once the potatoes are peeled, cut into quarters lengthwise, and cross cut into even chunks. Place in a pot, and rinse under cold, running water, pouring off and rinsing again, until the water run clears. This will remove excess starch from the surface of the potatoes which could possibly cause your mashers to become gluey later on.
Step 3: The Cold Water Start & Simmer
Potatoes are a root vegetable, and like we discussed in SCS Episode 4| Blanching, when cooking root vegetables in water, you should always start cold, bringing the water and vegetables up to a simmer together. This is because root vegetables are fairly dense, and the cold water will allow them to cook through more evenly.
Once you've rinsed all the starch off the surface of the potatoes, cover with cold water, bring to a boil over high flame, and reduce to a simmer until fork tender. Do not undercook, lest your finished product be annoyingly grainy with chunks of potatoes dispersed throughout. However, the whole point of simmering is to separate the potato's cellular structure so you can coat it with fat. If you over cook the potatoes past fork tender, the cells will rupture instead of separate, releasing excess starch, making your mashed potatoes gummy.
The moral of the story? Keep an eye on your potatoes; cook until tender, but overcooking is just as bad as not cooking long enough.
Once the potatoes are simmered to fork tender, drain well in a colander, and you're ready to move on to mashing.
Stage 4: Mastering The Mash
There are three basic approaches to mashing potatoes; a food mill, potato ricer, and a hand masher. The first two will give you a smooth, creamy texture, while the third will leave your potatoes chunky.
"But Jacob, what about using a fork?"
Just say no. I don't care what Alton McGyver Brown says about "unitaskers," a crude forking is no way to make mashed potatoes. If you're looking for other options, the paddle attachment on a stand mixer or a quick blitz with butter and cream in a food processor will get the job done, if not risking a gummy texture from overworking. But for the best, creamy mashed potatoes, a food mill or potato ricer is required.
To make creamy mashed potatoes, simply pass your well drained, fork tender potatoes through a food mill (as demonstrated in the above video), or a lever action potato ricer before adding any fat or liquid.
Step 5: Don't Be A Fat-A-Phobe
Look, I need to level with you. The number one reason why mashed potatoes suck is because they don't contain enough fat. If you're on a diet, watching your fat intake, or counting calories, I can respect that. But subjecting your family and friends to dry, starchy, soulless mashed potatoes is just cruel. Some foods are better not eaten at all if it's necessary to completely crush it's soul in the name of "healthy eating;" mashed potatoes should be at the top of this list.
For every 1 pound of raw, peeled potatoes, you'll need a minimum of 3 ounces of butter and 1 ounce of cream. For easy scaling using the baker's percentage, set your raw, peeled potatoes at 100%, add 19% Butter and 6.5% heavy cream . Remember, this is just a minimum. You can easily add more fat, which will yield looser potatoes with more richness, but leave the cream where it's at and just up the butter. The reason for this is simple: "Mo' Butter, Mo' Better,"
The easiest way to incorporate the butter and cream is to simply heat together in a small pot or pan, and gently fold into the riced or milled potatoes. If going the "smashing route," add the fat and cream while mashing, which will help to moisten the potatoes and keep them from becoming overworked.
Step 6: Season Well
Beside choosing the wrong variety of potato and not using enough fat, one of the most common mashed potato pitfalls is under seasoning. Remember, fat coats the palate, which will deaden flavors, meaning more salt is required for your mashed potatoes to be properly seasoned. If you want to get technical about it, you'll need at least 1-2% salt based on the potatoes weight.
As a side note, I used to not be a big fan of white pepper (I was tortured with it by a few French Chefs at culinary school), but I find its funky, almost barn yard aroma to add a nice flavor to mashed potatoes. Use it, add black pepper, or no pepper at all; it's completely up to you. Remember, salt is a seasoning, it will actually enhance the flavor of your food, while pepper is a flavor, meaning it's a personal preference and purely optional.
While we're on the subject of seasoning, acid is a great way to brighten heavy flavors and cut through fat. You may want to consider just a few drops of a light vinegar (such as champagne) mixed into you mashed potatoes, right before serving.
Creamy mashed potatoes are one of the best base vehicles for delivering other flavors. Almost anything can be folded into mashed potatoes to take them from good to great, but some options off the top of my head include fresh herbs, roasted garlic, caramelized onions, sour cream, roasted shallots, and of course, bacon! Just add them to taste, fold in, and serve.
Keeping Mashed Potatoes Warm Before Serving
One of the great things about mashed potatoes is they're easy to keep warm for at least 1-2 hours, meaning you can make them a little ahead of time and then focus on the other components in your meal. In the video, I simply nestle a smaller pot holding the finished mashed potatoes into a slightly larger pot with simmering liquid. Place a lid on stop, move to the back of the stove, and reserve over a low flame until you're ready to serve.
A crock pot set on low will also work great for this application.
Too Long Didn't Read: Mashed Potato Formula - Based On The Baker's Percentage
100% Peeled Russet Potatoes
19% Butter, Melted (but who are we kidding, you may as well round it to 20%)
6.5% Heavy Cream, Heated With Butter
5% Raw Garlic Cloves, Roasted (Optional)
Pepper & Additional Flavors To Taste
SCS 5| Basic Starches - Audio podcast that discusses how to make basic starches including mashed potatoes, polenta, and risotto.
Braised Beef Short Ribs - The perfect meat to accompany roasted garlic mashed potatoes.
In it’s most basic form, braising consists of a tough cut of meat with a lot of connective tissue, combined with liquid, aromatic vegetables and fresh herbs; this mixture is then cooked in a low oven until they becomes tender. The connective tissue responsible for the chewy texture is collagen, which is a triple helix of gelatin. When moisture along with slow, steady heat are applied, the triple helix unravels into three individual gelatin strands, leaving gaps in the muscle tissue it used to bind together, giving the impression of tenderness.
Yet for the collagen to break down, the meat must reach an internal temperature of at least 155˚F/68˚C. This is well above the internal temperature of a medium steak (140˚F/60˚C), and well into the range in which protein fibers fully contract and coagulate, expelling most of their liquid, causing a dry texture and lack of flavor.
Enter the cold start and low temperature braise, in which the short ribs are placed in a cold oven, and braised at 200˚F/121˚C. As the short ribs slowly come up to temperature, they spend an extended period of time between 120-130˚F/48-54˚C, a temperature at which the same enzymes responsible for dry aged beef’s flavor and tenderness are hyper-activated.
Using the cold start approach means your short ribs will have more flavor, a superior tenderness, and most important, will require less time for the collagen to break down at protein-fiber-drying temperatures (155˚F/68˚C). Less time at this temperature means more juices are retained, which further enhances the short rib’s flavor and texture.
The Pre Braise Stage
Before braising, the short ribs are seasoned with salt and freshly ground black pepper, seared in a screaming hot pan with plenty of oil, browned on all sides, and then set aside. Searing as I’m sure you’re aware has nothing to do with “locking in the juices,” but it simply creates more flavor through the maillard reaction in which proteins brown, form new compounds, and create those delicious flavors and aromas associated with roasted meats and vegetables. This is why it’s important to generate a dark golden brown color on all sides of your short ribs; more brown surfaces equals more flavor.
Some chef’s prefer to dust their short ribs in flour first before browning. But notice how I swapped the word “searing” for “browning” since flour will quickly scorch at high temperatures. Dusting the short ribs in flour achieves two goals. One, when cooked to a dark, golden brown color, the flour will add flavors and aromas reminiscent of toasted nuts and bread. And two, the flour will help slightly thicken the sauce during the reduction phase, just like a roux.
After the short ribs are browned on all sides, remove them from the pan, and immediately add thinly chopped aromatics.
In this particular recipe, I went with traditional mirepoix (carrot, celery and onions), along with ginger, garlic and leaks. The addition of thyme and parsley are always prudent (which I used), as is bay leaf, which wasn’t added, mainly because I didn’t feel like taking an extra trip to the store. But these aromatics can be swapped to fit any flavor profile you want. This dish could just as easily be at home in a Chinese, Japanese, Indian, or Italian kitchen, simply by swapping out a few aromatics and seasonings.
The aromatics are cut small for the same reason we brown the short ribs on all sides: surface area equals better flavor extraction. Once browned, place the aromatics at the bottom of a braising pan (this prevents the meat from coming into contact with the metal and scorching), add in any other spices and seasonings along with the seared short ribs, and cover with a liquid.
In this video I’m using veal stock for my braising liquid, but a well made chicken stock will also work. The only caveat is, your stock has to be home made (or bribed from a local chef) because the store bought stuff, while sometimes convenient, doesn’t contain enough gelatin to thicken into a glaze when reduced. No glaze equals sub par short short ribs, plus, this is a perfect opportunity for brushing up on your stock making skills.
The Braise Stage
Once the short ribs are combined in an appropriately sized braising vessel with aromatics and stock, seal the top of the container with a tight fitting lid or foil.
Place in a cold oven, and then set the temperature to 200˚F/93˚C for reasons previously discussed. Now forget about it for at least 4 hours.
Can you complete a braise in less time?
Sure. You can cook short ribs at 15 PSI in a pressure cooker for about 90 minutes with good results, but if you speed up the braising process by turning your oven temperature up, the short ribs won’t be as tender and flavorful as they could be.
After about 4 hours, check the ribs. If they’re done, a bone will easily wiggle away from the meat without much wrestling. If the bone doesn’t pull out clean, then put the short ribs back in the oven and try again in 30 minutes.
Depending on your oven and environment, this could take as long as 5-6 hours, but your patience will be rewarded. However, the cold start is the most important thing, due to its contribution to flavor and tenderness.
After the short ribs have been in the oven for at least 3 hours at a low temperature, if you’re starting to feel the threat of a possible kitchen mutiny staged by family members or guests who get especially irritable when hungry, feel free to turn the oven up to 350˚F/176˚C, at which point you should expect your short ribs to be done at the 3.5 to 4 hour mark.
The Glaze Stage
Once the short ribs are finished braising, pull from the container and allow to rest at room temperature. However, for best results, make the short ribs 1-3 days in advanced, and allow them to rest in their own liquid before moving on to this stage.
If making this in advanced, simply store in your fridge until you’re ready to reheat and serve. Reheat over low flame until the liquid is pourable (since it’s most likely set due to collagen that is now gelatin), and remove the short ribs from the liquid.
Strain braising liquid through a colander to remove large chunks of aromatics, and then again through a fine mesh strainer to remove any fine particles which will cause you sauce to have a gritty mouth feel.
Bring liquid to a boil over high heat, and then reduce to a simmer, moving the pot halfway off the burner so all the fat will collect on one side. Skim fat vigilantly throughout the reduction process; this is the key to having a flavorful glaze that isn’t greasy.
When reduced by 3/4s its original volume, transfer liquid to a large sauté pan and continue to reduce until a light glaze is formed. Place the short ribs back into the glaze, continuing to reduce, until the glaze easily clings to the meat, and the short ribs are heated through.
Remove from heat and serve with something tasty like glazed root vegetables or classic mashed potatoes (see links below).
What's The Difference Between Braising And Stewing? - Video Lecture
SCS 6| Sauteeing, Searing & Pan Roasting - Audio Podcast
SCS 7| Braising, Poaching & Roasting - Audio Podcast
SCS 2| Stocks Part 1 (Veal Stock) - Audio Podcast
SCS 3| Stock Part 2 (Chicken Stock, Vegetable & Fish Stock) - Audio Podcast
6” Half Hotel Pan - This is what I used as my braising pan in this video. Super convenient, all purpose pan (and much less expensive than traditional braising pans).
Related Recipes and Videos
Garlic Chive Mashed Potatoes - This is what I served the short ribs with in the above video recipe.
Spatchcocked Chicken With Glazed Vegetables - These vegetables can be made exactly how this video demonstrates, sans chicken, and will go great with any number of braised dishes.
Did you make this dish? What are some of your favorite ingredients to add to you braises and reductions sauces? Let’s talk about it below.
In this video we make a version of Stella Culinary's most popular recipe, our "World Famous Braised Chicken Thighs." Since a lot of the SC community has already made the original braised chicken thigh recipe, we change it up slightly by using sherry wine instead of balsamic vinegar and fry whole cloves of garlic to make an infused oil instead of using blanched garlic.
If you want to hone your culinary skills over the course of a couple days, buy a few whole chickens and break the chicken down into its separate parts. Use the bones to make a roasted chicken stock which you can then use to braise the thighs. The following day, use the breasts to make a poached chicken roulade. Practice your sauteing technique by serving the roulade with sauted vegetables such as english peas, pearl onions, and/or fava beans. Sauce with a a reinforced chicken stock that's been turned into a pan reduction sauce to round out an epic training session.
Blanching and peeling fava beans is a spring "right of passage" for many cooks. Labor intensive and somewhat time consuming, when prepped properly you're rewarded with meaty little green morsels that are well worth the work.
Also known as broad beans or horse beans, favas are only available for one to two months during spring. Because they have such a short season, you'll find chefs prepping and gorging, in that order, as much as they can before the season ends. Favas are widely used in European, Mediterranean and sometimes Asian Cuisine. They're also widely grown in California which makes them hard to ignore if you live on the west coast.
In early spring, "fava greens" (the actual leaves) are tender and full of fresh fava flavor. They can be treated much like a hearty spinach; served raw in salads, blanched, baked or wilted into a sauté.
How To Peel, Prep And Blanch Fava Beans
Fava beans come in large, oversized pods also known as husks. The first step is to remove the individual beans by opening the seam that runs the length of the fava pod. Later in the season, there's a fiber that runs along this seam that is sturdy enough to pull, making this step more efficient.
On younger favas, use a sharp paring knife to make a shallow slice along the same seam.
Once open, remove the fava beans from the pod and blanch in boiling, salted water. This will help loosen the tough skin that encases the meaty flesh.
Continue to boil for 2-3 minutes then shock in an ice bath until thoroughly chilled.
Once the fava beans have cooled, it's time to start the "picking process;" every cook's favorite job. Start by ripping a hole in one end of the skin then squeezing the opposite end with your other hand. When done correctly, the fava will pop right out.
Speed Tip: To increase your peeling speed, gather up a large amount of fava beans in your dominate hand. Pinch each fava between your thumb and index finger, using your other hand to rip a hole in the skin while you squeeze the fava, popping it loose.
I've Got Prepped Fava Beans....Now What?
Once the favas have been blanched and peeled, the fun part really begins. Favas have a meaty yet tender texture that is unique only to them. Their green, slightly mineral taste just screams spring. They're also known to taste much better if you didn't actually prep them yourself.
Early this spring we did a Fava Pizza that combined fresh beans, greens and pecorino. The fava greens were placed on the crust with the beans, pecorino and raw tomato sauce lightly sprinkled on top. The pizza was cooked at around 850-900°F in our wood burning oven. The intense heat cooks the pizza in less then 90 seconds, first wilting and intensifying the flavor of the greens, then slightly charring them right before it's pulled from the oven.
Another dish recently served at Stella was our crispy trotter terrine with sautéd favas, wilted frisée and a simple pan reduction. The saltiness of the cured trotter paired nicely with fresh favas. Wilted frisée adds just enough bite to bring the other flavors into focus.
Here are a few more tried and true flavor pairings to help get you going.
For a Mediterranean inspired meal, try serving roasted rack of lamb with fava beans sautéd in a little garlic and olive oil. Right before you serve, transfer the hot favas to a mixing bowl and add a little Greek Yogurt, a dab of honey and some mint chiffonade. Season with some fresh cracked black pepper and finish with a pan reduction sauce that uses a good aged sherry vinegar for your acid component.
If you want to feature fava beans as a dish unto themselves, try sautéing with whole butter and thinly sliced shallots. When the favas are nice and warm, finish with a shot of balsamic vinegar and then garnish with shaved pecorino, prosciutto and a drizzle of good olive oil.
SNS 5| Pan Reduction Sauce (Video)
CKS 11| How To Chiffonade (Video)
SCS 4| Blanching (Audio Lecture)
KP 3| How To Blanch Greens (Video)
A different and more modern take from the duo at Ideas In Food, they cryo-blanch their Fava Beans which involves vacuum packing, freezing, thawing and then peeling.
An elegant and fresh Classic Niçoise Salad by David Lebovitz--a great way to utilize your blanched and peeled fava beans.
If you're looking for a simple, delicious and hearty main course to feature your favas, you might enjoy this "Pasta With Favas, Tomatoes and Sausage" by Smitten Kitchen.
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- Although deep frying is an incredibly versatile technique, it is used mainly for poultry and chicken because it keeps these products from drying out while allowing them to achieve a nice, crispy exterior.
- Cooking temperatures range from 300 to 400 degrees Fahrenheit. Use a lower frying temperature for items that take a little longer to cook such as frying chicken at 325 degrees. Also, potato chips are usually fried at about 300-310 degrees F to allow enough time for all the water to be fried out of them before they become burnt.
- Fast food joints use special pressure cookers that raise the internal boiling temperature of water to 250 degrees F (which is usually 212 degrees F at sea level). The higher boiling point allows the food to cook without as much moisture loss, ultimately resulting in a juicier finished product.
- When frying fish, first salt with a little bit of kosher salt and then dredge in flour. The salt will bring a protein rich fluid to the surface of the fish which will allow for better adhesion to the flour. The flour will give the fish a nice protective coating, keeping the flesh from becoming fibrous and chewy. It will also allow for even and thorough browning.
- When making batters for deep frying, use a flour that has a lower gluten content such as cake flour. Too much gluten can produce a tough, bready coating. However, gluten also aids the clingy properties of your batter so you don’t want your flour to be completely gluten free.
- When using all purpose flour (AP) for batters, the addition of cornstarch and corn meal can be added to the lessen the negative effects of gluten in the flour.
- When breading items with bread crumbs, first dredge the product in flour, then dip in egg, and then coat with bread crumbs. The flour will allow for the adhesion of the egg, and the egg will allow for the easy adhesion of the bread crumbs. Panko bread crumbs are a favorite among chefs.
For more information on proper frying technique, listen to SCS 8| Frying, Confit & Deep Fat Poaching.
Basic Technique For Poaching
- Heat poaching liquid (usually stock, wine, or court bouillon), to anywhere between 160-180 degrees Fahrenheit. A good visual guide is when bubbles start forming on the bottom of the pan but do not break the surface.
- Some chefs will heat their poaching liquid to upwards of 200 degrees to counteract the cooling that will occur when the protein is placed in the liquid.
- Monitor the temperature of your poaching liquid with a good thermometer to make sure that the temperature remains consistent.
- Poach your protein to the desired finished temperature (about 130-135 degrees for fish and 135-140 for meat).
- Remove protein and allow to rest for about 5-10 minutes depending on size and weight.