High and Dry (Cooking)

Wednesday we played around with dry cooking methods such as saute, roast, grill, and fry.

Demo Kitchen – Morning

Below: Some of my classmates practice tossing dry beans in saute pans. Today our demo session was a bit more hands-on – with some students practicing sauteing onions and deglazing with white wine. The hands-on demo sessions are a welcome contrast to a typical lecture format. 

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Below: Bird’s-eye view of Chef Rosa doing a cooking demonstration.

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Below: Some marinated pan-fried tofu with a white and black sesame crust. I really enjoyed the toasted sesame flavor and the texture of the crust. Tofu has a lot of potential, but it takes the right accompaniments and methods to bring the best out of it.

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Below: Demo kitchen was a smorgasbord of samples – broiled tomatoes on onions, roasted Brussels sprouts, bok choy stir fry, and sesame-crusted tofu. One student took on a gluten- sesame- and pepper- free stir fry. The school seems to be very accommodating to allergy sufferers. I myself have sensitivities to gluten and dairy.

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Lab Kitchen – Afternoon

I was happy to have lab kitchen in the afternoon because the demo lectures right after lunch can be a bit tough. Today was my day in the dishwashing rotation, so I got familiar with the grimey aftermath of our cooking efforts. I’m enjoying the labs because we cook, and I am looking forward to intensifying them with more of a time crunch – so far, hitting our goals has been pretty easy, although each day we’ve been pushed a bit harder. It’s fun to see how much you can get done in 2.5 hours, how well you can cook it, and how well you can get the plating done.

Below: Lab kitchen required us to prepare THREE dishes! I made gremolata – parsley, lemon zest and garlic – shown in the red cup below. Some green tomatoes prepped for pan-fry on the right. 

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Below: Okra and squash for grilling.

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One area that I want to put more attention is presentation. Chef Alex has had some great tips this week and I also consulted an art design book that I had on hand, Design Basics (Lauer & Pentak). A few notes:

  • Height. Use height to create a more interesting plate instead of just using the typical two dimensions of the plate.
  • Space. Use “negative space” on the plate to make it more interesting. Negative space is space on the plate that is not filled with food. In art, negative space is the space between objects on the painting. If a plate is covered edge to edge with food, it’s not nearly as interesting to the eye as a plate with some negative space.
  • Color. Use complementary and contrasting colors. Uniformity in color is not as interesting. For example, red tomatoes on a red plate would not be very appealing. But red tomatoes on a white plate would be much more interesting.
  • Scale. A huge plate with tiny ingredients that take up very little of the plate will not be pleasing. Try to achieve balance in the size of the plate and the size of the ingredients.
  • Shape. Consider the shape of the plate along with the shape of the food placed upon it. An ordinary round plate may not be the best choice.

Below: The red team’s lab product: a delicious array of veggies and garnishes. My favorite was the roasted eggplant with gremolata – succulent, but with a satisfying amount of browning, and bright from the parsley and lemon. I’ve enjoyed some parsley-heavy bites in the past couple of days, much to my surprise. 

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Below: Me, ready to devour our work.

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Below: With all of the recent chopping, I had a huge bag full of potato to use. I made this potato-leek soup using two leeks, a couple pounds of potatoes, some garlic, some store-bought stock, and some leek stock I made at home. Oh, and I grabbed some green onion from my friend in the backyard. Some toasted Rudi’s gluten-free bread gave me a nice bready, toasty side for my soup, and some Earth Balance spread lent a welcomed buttery flavor. 

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