Stella Culinary Blog

The Changing of the Guard: Tradition - Evolution - Innovation

by Zalbar


Apprentice. Journeyman. Master. Not only are they a measure of a craftsman’s skill, they are also an institutionalized methods of learning.  The apprentice learns first through observation, then by mimicking and practice, and finally having mastered one thing, moves on to the next. This method of teaching our craft has existed for hundreds of years and continues to this day. Even the greats of my generation learnt how to cook this way. These traditions are a way of life. A means of passing on the accumulated knowledge of the ages to the next generation so that they can take up their banner and replace them. Much as a proud father and mother pass the torch to their sons and daughters. The problem with this type of learning is that due to the very rigid and structured nature, questioning and innovation are not encouraged. Why do we do something in a particular way? Because it has always been done this way, and always will be. Through repetition and rote. Do not question, do not deviate. One omelette, two omelettes, three hundred omelettes.


Traditionalists abound, and even the younger ones will defend the old guard to their dying breath. This is very european. Their veneration for tradition is ingrained into their very bones. It’s one of the things that I think is a marked difference between european and american cooks. American cooks are more willing to experiment, to try new things. They have not been indoctrinated into the same culinary traditions. When european cooks come across the pond to america, they form their own culinary and cultural enclaves. Their bastions of tradition standing against the tides of change. Many american chefs send their cooks off to europe. They are told, go travel, go eat, go cook. I have not once met a cook that has come back that has not been changed by their journey. They spend time over there, and their experiences transform their food. However their cooking is influenced and inspired by, instead of taken over.


I’m not going to claim that one way is better than the other, I don’t believe that. I’m not going to say we should stereotype american and european cooks either. El Bulli in spain was probably the pinnacle of culinary innovation and I suspect they will continue to be so once they reopen in 2014. Personally, I’m more of a traditionalist and don’t really enjoy a lot of the culinary experiments that are taking place, but I respect them. Everything has it’s place, and the next whacked out sous-vide-liquid nitrogen-xanthan gum-spherical-tomato water-ice cream-wafer sprinkle flake may become as common as chopped basil in the future. Who knows.


What brought this all up was when I observed some rather heated discussions going on about poaching steak  (for the hell of it apparently), using sous-vide, and new versus traditional methods. One chef even tossing out “So one steak is cooked three times and chilled twice in zip lock bags before you put it on my plate? What has happened to real cooking?”  It was quite the discussion. Both sides had their points, but some of the closed mindedness was unsettling in the least. Funnily enough it wasn’t the old guard that were being so closed minded, they just stated their opinion and left it at that. It was their younger proteges that seemed to be the most vehemently vocal, railing against the fuzzy wrong headedness of their colleagues deigning to experiment with callous aloofness to tradition. I’ve seen this same attitude with bakers and no-knead bread. It is not bread they claim. There is no depth of flavor. No kneading? No art. Ridiculous. Never. You. Are. Wrong.


Following this, I could not stop thinking about how we grow and learn in this craft, this passion of ours. How we pass on our knowledge. Which I believe is a responsability and a duty for anyone with an interest in cooking. How things change over time. How very wrong it is to dismiss anything as it is stifling progress. It is limiting innovation. If at first you don’t succeed try, try again. While some may decry the innovators of the time, eventually some of those practices become a part of our culinary heritage.

Sourdough Boule - Tease

Been shooting lots of video this past week for our Stella Bread Series that will supplement some of our upcoming audio lectures. This is a 70% hydration boule with about 10% whole wheat and leavened with a sourdough starter. The video turned out great, the bread was AWESOME, but first, we need to get through two more audio lectures to lay a nice foundation. Sorry to be such a tease!

Lost In Translation

LOST IN TRANSLATION


by Zalbar

Introduction

When I was asked to explain the whole saute pan versus frying pan issue it seemed at first to be a rather simple thing. However, the topic itself raised a whole other series of questions for me. Why are there so many french terms used in english speaking kitchens? Why do we even use them instead of our own unique words? What led to french labels and techniques dominating the globe and spreading as far and as wide as it does today? Subsequent Lost In Translation articles will explore the culinary history and evolution of french cooking as well as it’s impact on cuisines around the world. However, let’s first look at the subject that kicked off this series of articles. The saute, sauteuse and sautoir.


PART I

~ Saute, Sauteuse, Sautoir ~


The kitchen, both domestic and commercial, is littered with french terminology and for good reason. It is the french that set out in print the what, when, where and how of modern culinary practices and techniques in use today. It was the french chefs who were hired by other countries royalty and upper class houses to prepare lavish banquets and feasts. Their methods and terminology have stood the test of time and endured throughout the ages. History as well as several major societal and cultural upheavals are what has birthed one of the dominating and most influential cuisines to leave it’s imprint upon the globe.This is not to say that there are not also a goodly number of culinary texts and traditions from other countries that have endured as well, however, french cuisine stands apart as being recognized at either extreme of the dining experience. On the one hand it is almost art with it’s small complicated towering mounds of delicately sauced and perfectly cooked morsels of food. They flood the palate with undulating waves and layers of flavour and texture, each more exquisitely satisfying than the next. On the other hand it is also renowned for being a culinary pioneer of down to earth, rustic and heart warming comfort food using every scrap of an animal or vegetable. While most of us would snap our asparagus in half, blanch and eat the top part, the french would calmly retrieve the discarded stems, peel them, and show you the wonderfully tender shoots hidden beneath. To use a euphemism of my own making, the french dive deep in both ends of the culinary pool.


The english saute pan is derived from the french pan called a sautoir. A noun, a thing. The word saute can also be used as a verb, an action. Our problem is that we tend to borrow some terms and ignore others as well as the meaning behind the word and thus lose the comprehension of everything else similar that surrounds it.


In french, to saute something merely means to fry ingredients with a little fat over high heat. That is the complete definition right there, nothing more, nothing less. The word saute itself literally means jump. I’m sure this is not new to anyone, and everyone has read this explanation or heard it somewhere. What most of us fail to grasp is the actual meaning behind the word. The jumping is in reference to the action of ingredients in hot oil but can also refer to the sauteing technique of tossing food rapidly into the air. What type of pan you use determines the method of sauteing that is most applicable.


The sautoir is a wide shallow pan with straight sides, what is also termed a saute pan in english. Sauteing in this is what we would normally call pan frying. As water escapes the ingredients, due to heating, it jumps and bounces in the pan. It sautes. Think of how you cook a steak on the stove-top. High heat and a bit of oil in the pan and away we go. A few minutes on either side and then off to rest before plating and eating. There is no tossing of the food in the air. We are not swinging the pan around like we’re sifting for gold. Yes, this is still sauteing food to the french. Remember, high heat and a small amount of fat. That is the only qualification to be considered for sauteing an ingredient.


The sauteuse is a long handled bowl shaped pan. If you took a big cereal bowl and put a long handle on it you wouldn’t be all that far off. We would use small pieces of meat or vegetable, often times both at once, with the saute method of rapidly tossing the items in the air to achieve browning on all sides. This is what we are most familiar with when we use the term saute.


Another similarly misunderstood word is deglaze or deglacer. Glace. Demi-Glace. Glace de viande. These are all terms we have heard before. Most people know that glace is the french word for ice. If we deglaze the pan and make a pan sauce we call this in french, saute-deglace. But to understand it in culinary terms as the french use it we have to look at it’s meaning. For example glace de viande, which is really concentrated and reduced brown stock or sauce, would translate literally as meat ice. I know, it doesn’t sound very appetizing, but there it is. It also doesn’t really make much sense in english. Glace, where we get our word glaze from, doesn’t only mean ice, as in frozen water. It is referring to the whole process of cooling or heating something so that it thickens. If anyone has ever seen the rubber hockey pucks that are glace de viande, you are probably now getting an inkling of the true meaning of the word glace. Deglace where instead of glacing or glazing something till it thickens to the proper consistency such as in barbecue ribs, we are doing the reverse. The fond or solids, this glace, left in the pan becomes liquid. We deglace or deice them. Another way to say it it is that we un-ice it, we melt it.


All this rambling is to point out what I meant by understanding the cultural and contextual meaning behind a word or phrase. Especially a foreign phrase, and to not use it rote or off the cuff. Why the words mean what they do is very important. If you asked someone how their boyfriend or girlfriend was and got the response “They rock my world.” You would understand. Trying to explain that to someone in a literate sense that only speaks italian, for example, would be almost impossible. Literal translations simply do not work. You have to get at the significance of the phrase to truly relay it’s meaning. This is the most important lesson to take away from this whole article and not just the meaning behind the saute pan and the saute method.


The weird dichotomy of the whole saute, sauteuse, and sautoir thing though is that, if you step into any non-traditionally french kitchen and ask for a saute pan what you’ll most likely be handed is a sauteuse, and if you buy a saute pan what you’ll get is a sautoir. Most pans you see stacked up and used in kitchens and on the burners are simply frying pans or poeles which we define as a flat shallow curved sided pan. We most often use the saute method with them, but they are neither a sauteuse or a sautoir.  Ironically, one cannot saute food, in an english kitchen, in a saute pan.

~Zalbar

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Elyse Wine Dinner Photo Wrap Up



Wine dinners are always so much fun; an intimate environment where people can interact with the wine maker and share their passion for everything food and wine related. On Friday, June 17th, we hosted special guest, Ray Coursen, owner of Elyse Wines. While their home base is in Yountville, Ray sources grapes from different regions all over Northern California, including the Naggier Vineyard, which is located in the Sierra foothill’s town of Grass Valley.



When I visited Ray in Yountville and tasted through his wines, we discussed what kind of foods we craved with every new sip. With their complex finishes and sometimes unorthodox techniques, Ray's wines inspired a unique menu.



ahi-strawberry "nigiri"
Elyse 2010
Rosé

This course was originally supposed to be an amuse bouche of foie torchon with roasted apriums. Yet, as is my nature, I can't leave good enough alone and I've been retooling my torchon recipe using a couple different techniques. This time around, it didn't turn out how I wanted. Not to mention, because of our late start to Summer, apriums weren't yet available. But it all worked out for the best.



Ray generously donated a case of his 2010 Rosé. It has a beautiful, crisp mouth feel with a clean and refreshing flavor structure, especially when served chilled on a blistering summer day. There was a slight hint of strawberry and the tingling of the acid on my palate gave me the slightest perception of effervescent carbonation, even though there was none present in the wine.



I had just received some beautiful A+1 ahi from my fish guru, Domi. As you can see in the picture, the ahi is a dark, rich red; not that flaccid pink color you see in a lot of low-end sushi cases. That pink color, by the way, is set by smoking lower grades of ahi with carbon monoxide.



We butchered the Ahi into "saku" and then cut nigiri-style slices. We then trimmed up some strawberry halves to make a platform for the ahi, much like a mound of rice. Since pickled ginger was a little too harsh for this presentation, (it would have blown away the delicacy of the Rosé), we opted instead to serve a slightly pickled strip of cucumber as a "palate cleanser."



The whole thing was sauced with a little bit of our home made citrus teriyaki and a slight sprinkling of sumac to enhance some of the slight citrus notes I picked up in the Rosé. It was garnished with a little piece of fizzy, which will fizz and sparkle in your mouth, a beautiful sensation when followed by a sip of Rosé.



Ahi and strawberries are always a great combination, especially when strawberries are at their peek. It was also Ray's favorite course of the night. At the end of the dinner he commented, "Everything was great, but the ahi with the strawberries just blew my mind!"



hamachi belly sashimi, prosciutto di parma, dehydrated roasted sesame oil, melon salad
2008 L'Ingénue, Naggier Vineyard


Oh hamachi belly, my arch nemesis for this menu. I've served hamachi belly many different ways, but when it came to this menu, I just kept over thinking it. I had about three iterations of this dish, including two failed components that I tried to experiment with the day before the wine dinner. In fact, I spent the Thursday before futilely testing a new concept that would ultimately end up in the trash.



The day of the wine dinner, I took a deep breath and realized I was forcing it. I was trying to make this hamachi dish something that it wasn't, and quite frankly, it was fighting back. Hamachi belly is such a beautiful, succulent piece of fish - my job was to leave it alone and let it do its thing...for the most part.



After the hamachi and I came to an understanding, it ended up being my favorite dish of the night.



The L'Ingénu is a complex white wine with an uncharacteristically long finish. I wanted to play off of some of these finishing notes; the slight smoke and citrus would go great with the prosciutto di parma. The fattiness of the hamachi and prosciutto would be cut nicely by the wine’s acidic bite. The melon salad was there to round out flavors and make a bridge between the hamachi and prosciutto.



The sesame oil is mixed with tapioca maltodextrin, an extremely light weight bulking agent. The cool thing is, when it hits your palate, the maltodextrin melts away, rehydrating the sesame oil back into its original form. This is especially convenient when pairing with a wine, allowing the guest to try different components together without the sesame oil running all over the plate, possibly taking over the dish.


roasted duck breast, bing gelée, spring radish, seared rainiers, soy-duck glace
2006 Le Corbeau - Hudson Valley


In last month's newsletter, our featured seasonal ingredient was cherries. I wrote about a dish I did a few years back that consisted of a pan-roasted duck breast and a Bing cherry reduction sauce. It was simple, tasty, and an instant hit. While pairing duck and cherries isn't the most original idea ever, it's damn tasty.



When I first tasted the Le Corbeau, it screamed out for cherries. Mind you, it didn't taste like cherries; often when I pair food with wine, I'm looking for complimentary flavors, not foods that taste like the wine. Pairing a wine that taste like blackberries with an actual blackberry dish will often cause the two to cancel each other out. But if you pair with a contrasting yet complimentary flavor affinity, that can lead to an interesting and inspired dish.



Another thing that struck me about the Le Corbeau was its finish; it had a lingering spice. This is usually caused by "un-ripe tannins" that will completely dry out your mouth. But as I tasted the wine again and again, I realized that my mouth wasn't dry or being overwhelmed with tannins; yet this spicy note lingered on the finish.



"What is that spice on the finish," I asked Ray. "I know it's not tannin; I just can't place it."



"We coil up dried grape vines and pitch them in during the fermentation process."



"Is that a common practice?"



"No!" He chuckled. "No one else is that stupid."



And I'll be damned; it worked. It really worked. The spice was absolutely screaming out for duck, but it wasn't until a few weeks later that I was able to match that flavor with food. We were having a late Winter with almost no Spring in California which allowed us to buy some heirloom radish varieties that were much more mild then usual. Once the Summer sun starts to heat up, radishes become extremely spicy. Lacking the overbearing warmth of the sun, they still have a distinct radish spice, but it's much more subdued on the finish, allowing you to appreciate complexities in the radish that one simply cannot taste during the mid-summer months.



Wanting to control the amount of radish each guest received per bite, we parisienne balled a mixed case of radishes which yielded little spheres about the size of a large English pea. This was mixed with a frisée salad that paired nicely with the sweetness of the cherries, helping to tame the spice of both the radish and Le Corbeau.



petite rack of lamb, roasted broccoli salad, honey-anchovy aioli
2007 Howell Mountain Zinfandel


Looking at this dish, it lacks the panache and presentation of the previous three courses. Yet sometimes simple is good. As a passionate young cook I often find that self-editing will reveal the best possible dish. When I took a sip of the Elyse Howell Mountain Zin, this lamb preparation was simply what I wanted to eat with this wine. 



The rack of lamb was sous vide at 133°F/56°C for an hour and a half. After cooling the lamb, it was then seared to order and butter-basted to bring the core temperature back up, yielding a perfectly mid-rare piece of lamb with a beautiful roasted crust. It was served on top of a roasted mushroom and broccoli salad and dressed with a honey-anchovy aioli.



I know the aioli might sound a little weird, but think of it in the context of a Caesar dressing. In its emulsified state, Caesar is basically an aioli with parmesan, anchovy fillets and other ingredients incorporated. Now think of what happens when you take this same home made Caesar-on-steroids and add white boquerone anchovies and a 50 year aged sherry vinegar; only you add a little too much vinegar to really give it a tangy kick. That sour tang is then balanced with a dash of apple blossom honey to bring the dressing into focus.



Then imagine taking broccoli and wild mushrooms and frying them at 400°F, giving them a quick char, and dressing with this aioli. The dish is completed with a full reduction pan sauce, meaning that we don't use any starch thickeners. Instead, for this sauce in particular, we took about 5 gallons of veal and duck stock and reduced it down to about 2 quarts, reinforcing at each stage of reduction, straining multiple times, and finishing with a splash of Howell Mountain Zin and a few pats of butter.


"cheese & wine" - pierre rober, abbaye de belloc, livarot coupe
2006 Cabernet Sauvignon, Morisoli Vineyard


Ahh, the Morisoli Cab. Ray produces a few different Cabernets, all from different vineyards. They way he puts it, "You're either a Morisoli Guy or a Tietjen Guy."



To make things even more interesting, the Tietjen Vineyard is directly across the street from Morisoli. What's more, Robert Parker and the Wine Enthusiast scored both wines an equal 90 points. I had to make up my own mind, which should be expected, but is none the less a daunting task when the wine maker is watching you taste from across the counter expecting you to choose a side; to decide "what kind of guy you are."



"I'm a Morisoli Guy," I finally concluded. "The Tietjen is great, but the Morisoli is what I want to pair food with and in my mind, that's what I always go back to. What wine do I want to 'cook for'.”?



"I'm a Morisoli Guy too," Ray admitted.



So what does this mean?



The Elyse Cabernet produced from the Tietjen Vineyard is what I would call an "instant gratification wine." If you want to drink a big, California Cab by itself, this is the wine to drink.



The Morisoli on the other hand makes you earn it. It's not instant gratification. Up front, it's subtle yet complex. The wine was so cohesive that it was hard for me to put my finger on any one flavor. But the finish; oh the finish! It went on for decades, complex and ever changing from second to second. A good food wine is all about the finish; the flavor structure that lingers on your palate, ready to enhance the next bite of food, at the same time, the food enhancing your next sip of wine.



Ray's pairing idea was brilliant. "With this, I think we should pair cheese."



"Absolutely!" I agreed. Wine and cheese are a time-tested pairing made in heaven. The problem was, finding cheeses that could not only stand up to this Cab, but enhance it.



I choose Pierre Robert, my favorite triple cream cheese, Abbaye de Belloc, a sheep’s milk cheese with a subtle pecorino tang without the salt, and Petit Livarot. Petit Livarot is a washed rind cheese with a distinct, "barn yard aroma" that is actually much milder on the palate then it is on the nose. Bite for bite, this was probably the best flavor pairing of the evening.



flourless chocolate cake, seared plums, cayenne, aged balsamic, smoked sea salt
2006 Cabernet Sauvignon Port


The Elyse port has an amazingly complex finish. While this port is definitely "sweet," it's not so overbearing that it kills your palate, making everything taste dull or sour in contrast.



It was Ray's idea to do a flourless chocolate cake which turned out to be serendipitous. One of the newest additions to the Stella team is Kevin, our executive pastry chef. This guy kills it on a daily basis. His techniques are incredibly solid only to be matched by his recipes.



I'm not a huge chocolate fan, usually too bold for my palate. Just a personal preference. And I'm especially not a fan of flourless chocolate cakes, which are usually dense, chewy pieces of formed chocolate. Yet Kevin has made me a convert. His flourless chocolate cake recipe is amazingly simple and will be posted in an upcoming article.



The chocolate cake was served with aged balsamic syrup and seared plum. The plum was sprinkled with a small pinch of cayenne to give depth and dimension to both the chocolate and the port. The cake itself was sprinkled with a little smoked sea salt; smoke always being a great flavor to pair with sweet.

Six Tips For Prepping Salad Greens

Although prepping a salad is seemingly a simple culinary task, there are a few tips and tricks to keep in mind when selecting your greens and then later turning them into a delicious course.
 

  1. When at all possible, try to use young, fresh greens. Young salad greens have a more tender and delicate flavor, where as older, “over-grown,” salad greens tend to be more fibrous, giving off a somewhat rubbery texture.

  2. Slice your greens, don’t tear. There is a common misconception that for some reason tearing your salad greens is better than slicing them with a sharp knife. However, tearing salad leaves force you to grip them firmly, potentially crushing cell walls, which will ultimately cause bruising and wilting. Instead, use a sharp chefs knife to cut your leaves down to size if you feel they are too big.

  3. Don’t wash lettuce leaves directly under running water. The pressurized water coming from the faucet has enough force to crush the lettuce green’s cell walls, causing bruising and browning. Instead, place the lettuce greens in a sink filled with cold water and agitate gently with your hands. Switch out the water when it becomes dirty and repeat until the salad greens are nice and clean.

  4. Soak your greens for a couple of minutes in ice water, especially if they aren’t quite as crisp as you would like them to be or they’re showing signs of wilting due to age. Soaking them for a few minutes in ice water will replace any water-loss from their cell walls, bringing back their nice, crispy texture.

  5. Use a salad spinner to dry greens. The centrifugal force of a salad spinner will make sure that salad greens are thoroughly dried. Patting dry with a towel is inefficient and could cause bruising. Also, salad greens that have too much excess moisture on the surface of their leaves will repel a vinaigrette, making it hard to actually dress the salad properly.

  6. Store in a clean container, with damp paper towels. Wet some paper towels and then ring out the excess moisture until they are just slightly damp. Line the bottom of your storage container with damp paper towels, and then cover the top of the greens with more damp towels. Do not store in an airtight container or cover with plastic wrap. Salad greens need to breath.

Three Classic Salads: Caesar, Louis & Cobb

In the SCS 15| Classic Salads & Creamy Dressings, we discussed three classical salads that are commonly found in U.S. restaurants. These salads are the Caesar, Louis and Cobb. Here is a quick break down on each salad’s components and their corresponding salad dressings.

Caesar Salad Components

  • Romaine Lettuce, usually just the hearts. The romaine can be chopped, but was traditionally left whole and eaten with the fingers instead of utensils.

  • Garlic Croutons: Don’t over think this one. Croutons are nothing more than toasted bread, in this case tossed with crushed garlic, olive oil and salt and pepper after being toasted. My favorite way to toast croutons is to fry them in oil, but you can also bake, pan fry or toast in a toaster oven.

  • Anchovy Fillets (Optional): Not a part of the traditional Caesar salad but is now a common component in modern versions. I like to personally use whole, white anchovy fillets called Boquerones.

  • Grated Parmesan Cheese: This can really be any hard, aged cheese that you desire. Parmigiano-Reggiano, aged Asiago, and Pecorino Romano are all good choices.

Caesar Salad Dressing Recipe and Technique

To better understand the process of making Caesar Dressing, first review this post on Understanding Emulsions. To make Caesar Dressing you will need:

  • 2 Egg Yolks

  • 6 Anchovy Fillets (Optional)

  • 2 Cloves Raw Garlic

  • 2 Lemons Juiced

  • 2 Tbl Worcestershire  Sauce

  • 1 1/2 Cups Good Olive Oil

  • 2-3 Ozs Grated Parmesan Cheese (Optional)

  • Water to Thin

Process

  1. Combine egg yolks, anchovy fillets, garlic, lemon juice, and Worcestershire Sauce in a blender and blend until smooth (about 10-15 seconds).

  2. Add in grated Parmesan Cheese and blend until incorporated.

  3. Slowly start stream in olive oil to for an emulsion. If the dressing becomes too thick before all oil is emulsified, thin out with a little splash of cold water.

  4. Continue to emulsify olive oil until it is all incorporated. The final consistency should be that of a thin mayonnaise.

Louis Salad Components

The components of a Louis Salad will change from chef to chef. Really what makes it a Louis Salad is the dressing and the addition of either cooked crab or shrimp. Here’s I like to use in my Louis Salads.

  • Cooked Crab Meat (dungeness is the best)

  • Cherry Tomatoes, halved

  • Sliced Avacado

  • Thinly Sliced Red Onion

  • Iceberg or Romain Lettuce: It’s important to use a sturdy, crisp salad green that will stand up to the weight of the Louis dressing.

Louis Salad Dressing

  • Two Cups of Mayonnaise

  • 1/2 Cup Chilli Sauce

  • 1/2 Cup Heavy Cream

  • 1 oz Minced Onion

  • 1 oz Finely Minced Green Onion

  • 1 oz Drained Pimento, Minced

  • 1 oz Celery, Finely Minced

Combine all ingredients in a large mixing bowl and mix together until are ingredients are evenly incorporated.

Tip: To make sure the salad isn’t overpowered by the dressing, place all salad ingredients in an appropriate sized bowl, add a little bit of the Louis dressing, and gently toss with your hands. Add more dressing until desired flavor is reached, and then season with salt and fresh cracked black pepper.

Cobb Salad Components

  • Chopped Chicken or Slices of Turkey

  • Bacon, Cooked to Desired Doneness

  • Hard Boiled Eggs

  • Tomatoes

  • Avocado

  • Cheddar Cheese

  • Crumbled Bleu Cheese (Traditionally Roquefort)

  • Lettuce (Iceberg, Red Leaf or Butter Lettuce all work well)

Cobb Salad Dressing

  1. 1/4 Cup Red Wine Vinegar

  2. 1 tsp Worcestershire Sauce

  3. 1/2 tsp Dijon Mustard

  4. 1 Clove Garlic, minced

  5. 1/3 Cup Extra Virgin Olive Oil

  6. Kosher Salt and Fresh Cracked Black Pepper to Taste

  • Combine all ingredients 1-4 in an appropriate sized mixing bowl and whisk together.

  • Continue to whisk while streaming in olive oil.

  • Once olive oil is combined, season with salt and pepper to taste

Assembling Your Cobb Salad

Toss your salad greens of choice with the vinaigrette above. Place dressed greens in a salad bowl, and arrange ingredients from the component section in straight lines, side by side, across the top of the salad greens.

 


Further Information

The Five French Mother Sauces: The Mother Of All Resources

Since we covered so much ground in the French Mother Sauce Series, both on the blog and podcast, I figured it would be a good idea to place all the information in one, easy to find post. The mother of all mother sauce resources if you will.

So here it is; a list of the mother sauces with their corresponding podcast episodes, classical components, serving suggestions and how to posts.

But first, a quick history lesson.

A Brief History of The Mother Sauces

The French mother sauces were originally four base sauces set forth by Antonin Careme in the 19th century. Careme’s four original mother sauces were Sauce Tomat, Bechamel, Veloute and Espagnole. Then in the 20th century, Chef Auguste Escoffier added the fifth and final mother sauce, hollandaise, with its derivatives covering almost all forms of classical emulsion sauces including mayonnaise.

One Last Thing…

Some of the classical versions of these sauces use different thickening agents to bring the sauce to its proper consistency. If you’re unfamiliar with thickening agents such as roux, liasons, or emulsions, you can follow the corresponding links for more information.

Sauce Bechamel

Sauce Veloute

  • Base: White Stock (Classically Veal, but Chicken and Fish Stock can also be used)

  • Thickening Agent: Classically a Roux, but sometimes also a Liason is used.

  • Classical Flavorings: None, used specifically as a base

  • Common Secondary Sauces: Sauce Vin Blanc (White Wine Sauce), Sauce Supreme, Sauce Allemande, Sauce Poulette, Sauce Bercy, Sauce Normandy

  • Classically Served With: Eggs, Fish, Steamed Poultry, Steamed Vegetables, Pastas, Veal

  • Technique and Recipe: How To Make Sauce Veloute and its Derivatives

  • Corresponding Podcast Episode: SCS 10| Sauce Veloute

Sauce Tomat (AKA Tomato Sauce)

  • Base: Tomatoes (Raw, Tomato Paste, Tomato Puree, Stewed Tomatoes)

  • Thickening Agent: Classically a Roux, modern versions commonly use a reduction or purees

  • Classical Flavorings: Salt Pork, Mirepoix, Garlic, White Veal Stock, Salt & Pepper, Sugar (Just enough to balance acidity, not enough to make the sweetness perceptible).

  • Common Secondary Sauces: Modern variations concentrate more on seasonings giving rise to sauces such as Creole, Portuguese and Spanish Sauce Tomat.

  • Classically Served With: Pasta, Fish, Vegetables (Especially Grilled), Polenta, Veal, Poultry (Especially Chicken), Breads and Dumplings such as Gnocchi.

  • Technique and Recipe: How to Make Tomato Sauce and Its Modern Variations

  • Corresponding Podcast Episode: SCS Episode 12| Sauce Tomat

Sauce Espagnole (AKA Sauce Brune or Brown Sauce)

Hollandaise Sauce



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The Science Behind Brining

With Turkey Day quickly approaching, there has been a lot of talk on the web about whether or not you should brine your bird. Although there are good arguments from both camps, I think it is first important that the science of brining is understood before making any decisions.

A traditional brine is a water based liquid that contains between 3-6% salt by weight. Along with salt, a brine will contain aromatic herbs, spices and sometimes vegetables (usually mirepoix, garlic, etc).

So Why Would You Brine Meat?

Brining has two distinct effects on muscle tissue.

First, the high salinity of the brine “disrupts the structure of the muscle filaments” (On Food and Cooking, Pg 155). At about 3% salinity, the brine will partially dissolve “the protein structure” which supports the muscle filaments that contract when cooked. The more these muscles filaments are allowed to contract, the tougher your meat will be.

At about 5.5% salinity, the muscle filaments themselves are partially dissolved. Since their contracting ability is hindered by the salt, the muscle filaments contract less, effectively making your meat more tender.

Second, they way in which salt interacts with protein, allows the protein to retain more moisture, which is absorbed from the liquid of the brine itself. According to Harold McGee’s on Food and Cooking:

The meat’s weight increases by 10% or more. When cooked, the meat still loses around 20% of its weight in moisture, but this loss is counterbalanced by the brine absorbed, so the moisture loss is effectively cut in half. (PG 156)

This is what allows brined meat to stay more moist, compared to its unbrined counterpart.

The reason why a lot of people prefer to brine their turkey for the big day is because turkey breasts are finished cooking at around 145 degrees F, and start to dry out at around 155 F. The legs on the other hand need to be cooked to about 165 degrees F, because they have a much higher amount of connective tissue (in the form of collagen), and collagen doesn’t begin to break down until about 160 degrees F.

So by the time the turkey legs are done, the breasts are overcooked and dried out.

The problem with brining a turkey is the drippings contain much more water, and are too salty to make a proper pan gravy. Harrold McGee actually doesn’t brine his Thanksgiving Bird, and he explains why in his New York Times Article “Miracle Cure or Just Salt Water?

Also, check out this Stella Forum Thread on Brining.