Presentation on theme: "10 techniques every cook should know July 09, 2008|By Amanda Gold, Chronicle Staff Writer."— Presentation transcript:
10 techniques every cook should know July 09, 2008|By Amanda Gold, Chronicle Staff Writer
This easy, three-step technique ensures an even crumb coating. It's commonly used on thin cuts of chicken, pork or veal that will be fried or baked. To begin, set up your breading station. Fill the first of three shallow dishes with flour. In the second dish, make an egg wash by whisking eggs with a little bit of water, milk or other liquid or seasoning. Finally, place your breadcrumbs (or other crumbs) into the third dish. Start by dredging a piece of meat in the flour. Dredging means to thinly coat the meat with the flour, then shake off any excess. This eliminates much of the moisture from the surface of the meat and provides something for the egg wash to grab onto. The second step is to dip the meat into the egg wash, again letting the extra drip off. At this point, you'll basically have a paste for the crumbs to adhere to. Finally, press the meat into the crumbs, coating evenly. Try to work with one hand as you complete the process, so as not to bread your fingers on both hands - that can lead to a sticky mess. Proceed with the recipe as directed. Breading
Myths abound about the benefits of searing, most notably that it seals in the juices. In reality, searing or browning meat or fish creates a caramelized, golden crust that adds texture and a depth of flavor. The most important factor in this technique is to start with a very hot pan. Ideally, you should use one made from a stainless steel or anodized metal - a heavy material that will conduct and distribute heat evenly and well. Although you can use nonstick pans for delicate fish, pans without a nonstick finish do a better job of browning, and leave lovely browned flavorful bits to use in a pan sauce (see "Making pan sauce.") To brown, heat a completely dry pan, then add enough oil to lightly coat the surface (if you're using meat that has a lot of fat, you can skip this step and put it directly into the dry pan). The oil should heat to the point where it shimmers, but does not smoke. You can test this by flicking a droplet of water into the pan - if the pan is ready, the water should sizzle and evaporate upon contact. Place your ingredient directly into the pan. It will hiss at first, but let it cook until a golden brown crust forms. If the pan is heated properly, the ingredient won't stick to the pan, and you'll be able to lift it with tongs or a spatula easily. Keep in mind that if you overcrowd the pan, the ingredients will steam rather than brown, so sometimes you'll need to cook in batches. It's OK to wipe out the pan in between, but leave the fond - the brown bits that stick to the bottom. Browning/Searing
Dicing an Onion If done properly, dicing an onion is very simple. It's little more than three basic cuts. Before you begin, make sure your chef's knife is very sharp, so that it slides easily through the onion. (This will help your watering eyes, too.) 1.Cut off the stem end of the onion, trim the root end, then halve the onion from top to bottom. This will give each half a flat side to place on the board.Leave the root end (which will be tighter than the stem end) intact to hold the onion together. Peel off the skin, and, starting with one half, face the root end away from you on the cutting board. Holding the onion firmly on either side, proceed by making vertical cuts along the onion half, spacing them according to the desired thickness of the dice. You'll want to angle your knife inward at the sides to hold the onion together as you cut along the half. Again, leave the root end intact, and don't cut all the way through to the root. 2.Next make horizontal cuts. With your knife parallel to the cutting board, slice the onion, spacing according to your desired dice size and not cutting all the way through the root end 3..Finally, cut the onion cross-wise, releasing the diced onions in each layer as you cut toward the root end. When you've reached the final piece, lay it flat on the cutting board and make cuts in both directions to finish the dice. This technique can also be used to dice shallots.
Folding is used in souffles, cake batters or any recipe that calls for combining two ingredients of different densities. Usually, whipped egg whites or whipped cream is incorporated into a heavier batter or custard to lighten the batter. In the case of egg whites, the air that has been incorporated into the whipped whites acts as leavening to help cakes or souffles rise. With the heavier batter in a bowl, gently deposit about a quarter of the egg whites or whipped cream on top of the batter. Using a rubber spatula, gently reach down through the whites and batter to the bottom of the bowl and lift the some of the batter up along the edge of the bowl and over the whites in the center. It's all about the twist of the wrist. With each folding motion, turn the bowl slightly. Continue this motion until there are no traces of egg white left. Starting with a quarter of the whites or cream will lighten the batter enough so that when you add the remaining egg whites or cream all at once, you can easily fold using the same technique. Be careful to combine the two ingredients quickly but gently, so as not to deflate the air bubbles. Folding
One of our all-time favorite techniques - making a pan sauce. Within minutes, you can create a quick, professional-tasting meal using just a few ingredients. This method utilizes the brown bits on the bottom of a pan (called fond) that appear after you've used the searing or browning technique, with anything from meat or poultry to fish. We like to start by sautéing some diced shallots or other aromatics for added flavor, either in the fat leftover from browning the meat or in a little extra olive oil or butter. Next, add liquid to the hot pan, and bring to a simmer. You can use wine, stock, vinegar, juice or other flavored liquid. Use a wooden spoon or spatula to scrape the fond from the bottom of the pan and incorporate it into the sauce, adding color and flavor. This is called deglazing. Reduce the sauce by letting it simmer and cook down, which concentrates the flavors and thickens the sauce. How long it simmers depends on how much liquid you add, but it's never more than a few minutes. To finish, remove the pan from the heat and whisk in cold cubes of butter, which will further thicken the sauce, add extra richness and provide luster. Season it with salt and pepper, and you'll have a finished sauce that will enhance a main course. Making Pan Sauce
Rolling out Pie Crust Even the most experienced baker can have trouble rolling out a pie crust and getting it into the pan. It's a technique that, above all else, requires practice. Plus, outside factors, like the temperature of the room or the dough, can affect success. Start with a flattened round of pie dough that has been chilled in the refrigerator. You want it to be cold enough so the butter or fat doesn't melt, but malleable enough that you can roll it out somewhat easily with a rolling pin. Have a pile of flour on hand for dusting - it's imperative to spread it on your work surface, sprinkle it on top of the dough and rub some onto the rolling pin, to ensure that nothing sticks. Starting in the center of the dough, make short strokes toward the edges in different directions, turning the dough often as it becomes thinner to maintain a circular shape. Sprinkle the work surface and dough with flour as needed to prevent sticking; avoid adding too much flour, which will toughen the dough. Stop rolling when the dough is about 2-3 inches larger than your inverted pie pan. Place the rolling pin on the edge of the dough that's farthest away from you, and roll the dough around the pin toward you, until you have about half of it on the pin. Gently move the rolling pin over the pie pan, and slowly unroll the dough, draping and centering it over the pan, and gently lift and coax down into the edges. Lightly press the dough into the bottom corners of the pan.Using a sharp knife, trim the excess dough around the outside, leaving a 1/2- to 1-inch overhang that you can roll under the border to create a thick edge, which gives the crust stability as it bakes. Decorate the border as desired, either with the tines of a fork or your fingers.
A roux is the traditional way to thicken and enrich gravies, sauces and soups. It's essential to making our Best Way Gravy that is part of our Thanksgiving section every year, and is used often in Cajun/Creole cooking. A roux is a cooked mixture of equal weights of flour and fat - we generally use butter So, one stick of butter (or four ounces) would be blended with four ounces of flour, usually a little more than what would fit into a dry half cup measure. To make the roux, start by melting the butter in a heavy-bottom saucepan until it foams and bubbles. Add the flour all at once, whisking constantly until the two are combined and a smooth consistency has formed. It's important to cook the mixture for at least 2 to 3minutes. At this point, you have a blond (or white) roux, which is used to thicken soups or sauces like bechamel or veloute, where the lighter color plays a key role. Beyond that, the roux will take on different characteristics, depending on how long it cooks in the pot. Between 5 and 10 minutes, the roux will develop a light brown hue and a nutty flavor, good for thickening dishes like beef stew. In Cajun/Creole cooking, recipes most often call for a dark brown roux, which has been cooked for 20 to 25 minutes. Keep in mind that the longer roux cooks, the nuttier and richer the flavors become, but it will also lose thickening power as it darkens, which means you'll have to make more. To thicken your dish, cook it with the roux mixed in for at least 15 to 20 minutes. This will cook out the starchy flour flavor and bring the dish to the desired consistency. Making a Roux
Orange or other citrus segments, also known as supremes, make a beautiful presentation when they are removed from the peel, pith and membrane. We love them on salads, over fish or in desserts. Cut off the top and bottom of the fruit so that it sits flat on the cutting board. With a small, sharp knife, cut away one section of peel and bitter white pith, following the natural curve of the fruit from top to bottom. Continue around the citrus, cutting away sections of the peel and pith as you go. Trim any leftover pith once the peel has been removed. Holding the fruit in your hand, with a bowl underneath, make two cuts within the membrane on either side of a segment, and with the second cut, lift the segment out of the membrane. Place the fruit on a plate or in another bowl. Continue around the whole fruit in the same fashion. The juice will drip into the bowl as you work, allowing you to save it for another use, such as vinaigrette.The peeling portion of this technique can be used for any rounded fruit with a rind, such as melons and pineapples. Segmenting citrus
Tempering This technique refers to a method that blends ingredients of two different temperatures. Most often, we use it to incorporate cold eggs into hot liquid, such as milk or cream when making custard, ice cream or other dishes where eggs are the main thickener. In its most basic form, tempering involves gradually pouring hot liquid into the eggs in a steady stream while whisking constantly, which slowly raises the temperature of the mixture without curdling or scrambling it. Once enough of the hot liquid has been incorporated, the egg mixture can be poured back into the original liquid, where it will begin to thicken the liquid as it continues to cook. (Note: Tempering chocolate is a different process that produces shiny, smooth chocolate after melting.)
Making a vinaigrette Knowing how to make a vinaigrette always comes in handy. It's something that can be made on a whim with pantry staples, and it tastes much better and fresher - and is more economical - than bottled dressing. The basic ratio for vinaigrette is one part vinegar to three parts oil, although if you substitute something less acidic like lemon juice for the vinegar, you'll want to lessen the oil accordingly. As with anything else, you'll get the best results if you use the highest quality ingredients. You'll need both hands to make a vinaigrette - one to pour in the oil, and the other to whisk. To that end, it's important that the bowl sit stationary on the counter. If you don't have a rubber-bottomed bowl, you can shape a towel in a ring around the bottom of the bowl to provide traction. Start by dissolving a little bit of salt in the vinegar. Though you can season the dressing at the end, the salt will dissolve more readily directly in the vinegar. Add a small amount of Dijon mustard, which acts as an emulsifying agent, binding together the oil and vinegar. Whisk in the mustard until well combined, then slowly pour the oil in a steady stream, whisking constantly, until the dressing is blended and emulsified. If desired you can season with pepper or more salt, to taste. Experiment with this basic vinaigrette by changing the type of oil or vinegar, or by enhancing the dressing with other ingredients like herbs, garlic, shallots or citrus zest. It can be tossed with salad greens, or drizzled over grilled vegetables, pasta salad, fish or meat to finish a dish. Finishing a dish with a chiffonade of basil or garnishing with a brunoise of red peppers are techniques that most professional chefs employ.