Food for Thought

10 Jan

I only have two days under my belt and I’ve already learned an immense amount regarding French cooking. The second day of my Essentials of Fine Cooking program kicked off with a lesson about food preservation. We learned how to make a “brine” or a “pickle”, which consisted of:

115g salt

200g sugar

2 cups white vinegar

1 cup cider vinegar  

Using haricots verts, turnips, carrots, cauliflower, and an onion, we made pickled vegetables. The strong fragrance reminded me of those delicious pickles served with a hot pastrami sandwich from Katz’s Deli. Just thinking about it makes my mouth water!

Next, I gutted my first fish—a sad little sardine. It was actually a simple process and truthfully, I am a big fan of seafood. The flavoring for this dish came from utilizing a similar marinade as the “pickle”. I thought this was interesting because the acid from the vinegar ‘cooks’ the fish to make it edible.

Duck confit and smoked scallops were the subsequent lessons, which filled the spacious kitchen with fabulous aromas. There’s nothing quite like the comforting smell of a slowly smoked food. This was mostly prep work, as I worked with these foods later in the day (more to come)…

The last two items on the day’s agenda were compound butters and flavored oils. To make Maître d’Hôtel Butter, I diced 1 lb butter and added parsley, chives, minced shallots, kosher salt, and white pepper. This was incredibly easy and would taste delicious melted on top of a filet mignon.

Next up were infused oils featuring the vibrant flavors of fresh basil, chili, and curry. We blended together 1 packed cup of fresh basil leaves and 1 cup grapeseed oil (can substitute canola oil but grapeseed oil is preferable because of its neutral taste, allowing the chosen flavor to shine), simmered and swirled the mixture (don’t stir), and finally strained it using a cheese cloth. The last step is to ice the mixture to set the color and stop the cooking process.

This method can be repeated using parsley, chives, sage, rosemary, and other dried spices. It’s important to remember that the flavor in powders is magnified, making it much stronger than when fresh, so the ratio is reduced to 2 oz powder:2 cups oil.

As soon as I returned to my apartment, I browned the skin of the duck leg in its fat and seared my smoked scallops in the compound butter. The result was two richly flavored foods that I could hardly believe I made.

Until next time… bon appétit everyone!


12 Responses to “Food for Thought”

  1. Robin January 10, 2011 at 7:40 pm #

    Your pictures and description of the foods look and sound delicious!

    • Michele January 14, 2011 at 1:44 am #

      It all sounds so exciting & delicious! I would love to be doing what you are doing….guess I’ll have to experience it through you:)
      Love ya

    • glamfabulouscity January 14, 2011 at 5:02 pm #

      Thanks! I’ve never made duck before, but it turned out delicious. I would suggest taking a class @ Williams Sonoma. It feels like a dinner party with new friends & most come with a cookbook!

  2. Jeff January 11, 2011 at 1:30 am #

    The duck confit and scallops look like they are cooked perfectly! I bet it was delicious 🙂 I wish I could cook that well!

    • glamfabulouscity January 14, 2011 at 5:20 pm #

      Most of the meals that look difficult are actually quite simple 😉 I had help from the pros at school for these dishes, but usually I try and dive right into a recipe (and find that it’s easier than it looks!)

  3. Fashnlvr January 11, 2011 at 8:57 pm #

    I just finished lunch not long ago but I want to EAT that filet minon – looks so yummy!!

    • glamfabulouscity January 14, 2011 at 5:13 pm #

      Haha I agree with you…no matter how full I might be, an enticing photo makes me hungry all over again. Thanks for sharing the link to your blog, I’ll be sure to check it out!! 🙂

  4. Madison January 11, 2011 at 11:19 pm #

    WOW! These pictures look like the food is quite succulent and delicious! Smoked scallops sounds wonderful also! Great job for only 2 days passed. -xo

    • glamfabulouscity January 14, 2011 at 5:18 pm #

      Thanks so much for the support. Look out for future posts with more pictures of my adventures in the kitchen. I’ll definitely be visiting your blog!

  5. kristy January 16, 2011 at 11:29 pm #

    omg, all of these pictures made me feel hungry (except the sardine one lol) i’m not a fan of fish. just a few things like salmon, sushi and shell fish. but anyway, i think it’s awesome you’re taking a french cooking class! nice! i can’t believe you learned how to make duck confit! =)

    Kristy Eléna – Full Time Fabulous
    Vogue Gone Rogue
    Twitter: @kristyelena

    • glamfabulouscity January 18, 2011 at 5:05 pm #

      I haven’t tried the sardines yet…they were quite easy to make but I still can’t wrap my head around actually eating them haha! I do love sushi though. Any suggestions for good sushi places in NY? We’ll have to go when you move here! 🙂

      • Tasia Kisscorni January 21, 2011 at 5:24 pm #

        Love sardines — and anchovies! I bet those will be great.

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