Friday, October 24, 2008

Lesson 2: Lessons Learned

The four lessons to be learned (or rather practiced, as I think learned means some level of mastery and I am sure not there with most of these) are stocks, sautéing and deglazing (two separate techniques, but they are listed together on pg. 13), and cooking in a water bath.

Working my way through each one, I made the stock after Lesson 1 with the leftover chicken carcass, and used half the stock for this lesson and half for another soup.  Excellent stock, a technique that I have used before, and if I can keep others in my house from getting upset with using up freezer space and/or not enjoying the house smelling during the stock making process, I should be able to continue to make my own stock.

Sautéing and deglazing are listed together, however are two different followed the other in this case.  My honest opinion is that the doneness of the sautéed veal was totally lucky, and not based upon any proficiencies on my part of knowing the right temperature, time and techniques of sautéing. More practice will help.

Deglazing with alcohol though, now that's something that gets the crowd going!  My wife knew exactly what was going on when I went for the bbq lighter, a single match just wouldn't the lighter is much longer, therefore I would argue safer.  When deglazing next time, I will for sure make sure the alcohol is all over the pan before lighting it.  I had a large pan, one I bought a few years back for cooking the thanksgiving vegetables for stuffing, and the I didn't get the brandy all over before the fire hit.

Cooking in a water bath (I like the words bain marie) seems simple enough...pan with not quite boiling water is placed in the oven with the charlotte pan for the custard is inside.  Making sure the custard cooks in an even, low and moist heat.  I am sure this helped the custard, which turned out fine...just took longer than expected, which I attribute to not knowing exactly what to expect. Now I know, or at least think I have a better idea.

Again, I still feel I have learned a lot from the process, and not necessarily from the stated learning objectives.  The most notable is the fact that I am so glad I have been posting everything to a blog. I feel there are so many unexpected learning opportunities by sharing with others.  Two are notable that I would like to share:

1. I had a nice email conversation with Kim at Easy French Food.  She first suggested looking at her info on Calvados, where I found plenty of great stuff to read as I move forward.  This led us to talking about where to find ingredients. As she said, "I think one of the most important things in cooking is to always use the freshest best quality ingredients you can find and afford.  If that means changing the recipe, so be it." I agree with the her statement, and am trying to find the freshest ingredients in my local area. It also confirms the fact that I used in the first lesson to use white onions instead of pearl onions (just wait for Lesson 3...I found some fresh pearl onions!)

2. Also the comment by the Mediocre Cook regarding plating, leaves me to wanting to learn more about taking good food photos.  I like checking out his food because I envy his pictures (they definitely make him look like much more than a mediocre cook).  I checked to see if he has done any posts about taking the best pictures, but I only find his bio of enjoying food photography.  Maybe he will post or email some suggestions on taking the best photos, that way I can learn to take pictures that do justice to my cooking (my wife said my plating, in person, far exceeded the picture I posted). 

I am glad that I have been posting, reading and sharing ideas, as this has been a great part of the learning process.  Thanks to those who are reading, and I appreciate the comments and help along the way!


The Mediocre Cook said...

I'm flattered that you think my photography is good! I'm still in the learning stages of taking photos but I have a few very basic points that I can make.

1) Lighting - my kitchen is well lit and it helps an immense amount with photos since I prefer not to use the flash.

2) Zoom - I don't use it. The camera is set at a minimum zoom and I move close to the food to take the picture.

3) Camera - I would say the camera takes good pictures and I'm just getting better at pushing the button. I still use all the automated settings except for focus which I do manually.

But really I take tons of photos and try different things until I find a method or technique that works. Have fun doing it!

Mark said...

Thanks for the suggestions...I will definitely try them out. Check out the Lesson 3 dessert pictures when they come out...I don't know what it is, but my desserts are the most photogenic.