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  1. "For a long time I have been doing a pan cook method that I learned from egullet (which got it from Ducasse) which makes an incredibly flavorful steak. The heat never goes above medium low. Yet the steak browns nicely without any charring, black marks, or carbony, coaly taste. There is no gray, overcooked layer under the surface from high heat searing. The meat is also intensely flavored." I prefer this method to searing over a gas fired grill and I can confirm that it delivers a bit more flavor. As described as a low smoke and aerosol dispersing substitute to searing in a skillet, butter is preheated in the skillet before the steak goes in.
  2. "Well, maybe the French like there's made in such-and-such way, but that hardly makes it the only way! I mean, for pete's sake, I can't stand eggs and omlets made the French way!" I tried the French method the other day which turned out like the scrambled eggs shown. I used half and half because that's what was in the reefer and perhaps too much. The eggs tasted more like a custard than what we are accustomed to. My method is to let the egg mixture start to firm up and use a spatuala to heap the firming eggs while tilting the pan to run the loose mixture into the cleared part of the pan. The result is large folded curds which are plated while wet and there is a pleasing eggy taste in the result. Both styles are very good but I was struck by the difference in taste of the two methods.
  3. This is a splendid subject and spot on for me because both sides of my family have members under home care. I recently visited both and cooked massive quantities of pot roast with root vegetables which I froze and left for them to enjoy at will. I wonder if anyone has some experience with other dishes that freeze well so that the next time I make my rounds, I can stock their freezers with a variety of dinners they can thaw and reheat.
  4. Chef Hill, your replies to my queries have been most helpful. I'd like to ask you one more question. I must confess that if offered a plate of cauliflower and anything else, I'd choose the "anything else". But my wife loves cauliflower. Because she is my principal customer, I'd like to cook this veg competently and make it interesting. I have been steaming it without inspiration. Would you please share with us a recipe or otherwise improve my education for cooking cauliflower?
  5. What I've learned about this is that the tough cuts of meat must be of the best quality you can find. It must be able to survive the heat required to break down collagen, about 210 degrees for an hour, while retaining flavor. You also need fine intermuscle marbeling in the meat because the fat transports flavor throughout the cut. Think about it. The fat becomes more liquid under heat which permits the cooking liquor to enter the meat. It won't get into the muscle because it seizes up until the collagen breaks down. That is why I let meat cook for an hour after it is fork tender. I don't use a pressure cooker and I've never eaten a well prepared cut of meat that was cooked in one. This is more due to the fact that I have no room to keep the instrument in my apartment kitchen than having an animus against them. I think also there is a belief that one can retrieve a tough cut by pressure cooking or long slow cooking in a vessel just large enough to hold it a la Escoffier. In my days of cuisine sans argent (which seems to be persist) and American markets with only the horrid "select" grade beef on offer, I threw a lot of method at tough cuts. After a long stretch of applying fine technique to these tasteless tough viands, I arrived at the conclusion that a chuck roast (for example) must be well marbeled and in the USDA choice grade before one's effort is rewarded. (If I knew how include an image from my picture files here, you would see an image of a couple of chuck roasts approximately 2-3 inches thick with well distributed marbling of fat.) This beef was well browned in the pot. It was removed and a mirepoix was well browned in the pot. A cup of wine was added, the meat returned to the pot, and the wine was reduced. Beef stock was added with a couple of bay leaves, a bit of thyme, coarse pepper, and garlic cloves split in half. The pot was lidded over a sheet of foil to ensure a good seal and cooked at 250-300 degrees until the meat when tested with a carving fork would fall off the fork. At this point I ladeled out enough stock to defat and turn into a sauce. I continued cooking for an hour longer because I wanted the beef, now fairly tender, to take up some of the flavor in the stock. While the beef was cooking, I threw in some root veges, potato chunks, carrots, and little onions to cook with the meat while I concentrated on the defatted stock which was spiked with some wine and reduced to a thin consistency. I would have liked to taken some of the fat and laced the meat with it in a pan in the oven to give it a nice glaze but I was pressed for time. At present, I am not convinced that the pressure cooker would do more than save a little time in the preparation of beef dishes. It might answer to cooking pork in the US which can still be flavorful although pork has mostly been destroyed thanks to the effort to reduce its fat content and market it as "the other white meat". The only entree level pork I will still bother with are rib chops but I can't get them anymore because the restaurants have cornered the market on rib chops. A nice fatty pork butt cut might respond well to pressure cooking because it has the flavor to perhaps stand up to the violence of high pressure and heat, but I am waxing theoretical here. I think the adage about trying to make a silk purse from a sow's ear applies in cooking. Indeed I have tried but I don't think that it worth the effort to attempt good dishes from viands that should be ground into casings for bangers and mash.
  6. We enjoy eating big leafy greens in this house, particularly the varieties of chard, mustard greens, kale, American collard greens. I insist upon taking as much care and attention to the preparation of these as I do the main dish. To cook them, I add some water to a large saute pan, bring it to a simmer, pile on the leaves, and cover. I lift the lid and poke them with a fork to check their progress. Depending upon the green, I may sweat some onion or shallot in the pan before adding the greens or add a little butter when they are finishing, and season if I'd like the greens to take up the flavor. Unless I am negligent, they cook well with this technique. Have you a critique to make of this method or a systematic approach to bringing out the full flavor from this class of vegetables?
  7. Chef Hill wrote: [..]If this is too much song and dance for a pot of sauce then use potato flour - fecule de pommes de terre - which is the least intrusive of the cornflour - cornstarch - type thickeners. Add it the same way as arrowroot, diluted in cold wine or water the whisked in a little at a time I enjoy a little "song and dance" but I hadn't thought of the potato flour bit. Thank you very much for your succinct treatise on thickening and reducing. I have another question on a different subject which I will broach as a new topic.
  8. Chef, I may be showing my ignorance here, but I am curious whether you have a unique theory on the finer points of deciding which thickeners to use with specific stocks and if you have a policy for deciding to thicken rather than reducing. I've always been a bit befuddled on this subject but have violated recipes enough to know that sometimes a nugget of butter is better than a reduction or starch thickening. In fact, as a home cook with a day job that appropriates too much quality time, I find myself resorting to the butter as a time-saving expedient. But recently I used some finely ground flour to thicken the stock in the old chestnut coq au vin and thought I might have made a mistake, that perhaps arrowroot or more reduction might have been better. On other occasions, I have sometimes felt that overly reduced stocks become too bitter from being over worked.
  9. Mr. Day wrote: "There is also a point where ingredients are so bad that they aren't worth preparing." So true. I remember accurately following Escoffier's instructions for braising after making a good stock, also from his instructions. I bought a slab of meat from the supermarket and went to work. After throwing Escoffier's book at it, I ended up with flavorless piece of meat and surprisingly a better stock. So I threw out the meat, froze all but a TB of the stock, and finished the "lesson" by dining on hamburger with a pile of sauteed mushrooms napped with a slight reduction of the stock.
  10. To this thread, I will add the following reflection. We have a fund of classical recipes but the quality and culinary characteristics of ingredients vary greatly in terms of the geographical distribution of cooks. I think that regardless of where the chef is located, classic recipes can be performed with ingredients available locally. It is ridiculous to expect that a recipe performed in the US with local ingredients will be the same as the same recipe performed in France or the UK. A chef must know the culinary characteristics of his local produce and work through the problem that the dish may not have the identical taste with the dish cooked elsewhere. It is interesting when geography, not technique, is influentially determinate upon the outcome of a dish. But I don't think there is much that can be done about that, short of having ingredients flown in from the chef's chosen sources. The chef must still know what he can obtain for his work, know its culinary qualities, apply correct technique to exploit the unique flavor of local ingredients, and shape it into a magnificent dish to send to the table. The future of gastronomy lies in the chef reaching beyond what is delivered by the provisioner to shopping for ingredients in local markets. I remember cornering the chef of one of my favorite restaurants provisioning in the same market I was shopping in thirty years ago. It was perhaps my first epiphany in cooking. A good chef learns to do the best with what he or she can obtain. My bride wants me to fix her a salad with pear,pan toasted nuts, a strong cheese and a simple dressing. We are waiting for the pear to ripen a point. Maybe this time tomorrow...
  11. Saturday is a busy day for me. I have been to four grocery stores and I am now dealing with the well soaked produce from their "compost" section, but the task has been made much lighter by this delightful week of high intellection and stories from Guy Gateau and eGullet participants. Thank you all very much for this memorable Q&A.
  12. balmagowry wrote: "[...]yes, I am biased by my own special interest in Careme and his contemporaries." I picked Escoffier because his book provides a thorough documentation of his equipment and methods in addition to the recipes. But I was leaving it open to decide where we'd begin. I read today that a site in Israel has been discovered where homonids were preparing and cooking food nearly 800,000 years ago. On the menu were deer, horses, and hippo. I think that might be a bit early. I was not so much discussing the _historiography_ of cuisine as much as what might be considered a curatorial duty to collect and "perform" great recipes. I don't think the project would be "navel contemplation" as it would go a long way to raising gustatory literacy. Mr. Whiting asked whether I went to St. John's (Annapolis, MD and Santa Fe, NM). Yes.
  13. commander

    Carrot mousse

    Robyn wrote: "I'm not so sure I agree with you about pesto in the food processor as opposed to the mortar and pestle. I've made it at home - both ways - and I think the difference (if there is one) is very small. Perhaps I'm just not a good enough cook for it to make a big difference." "On the other hand - there are definitely things that should never see the inside of a food processor (like mashed potatoes - which wind up like glue)." I rarely use a food processor because the blades bruise the ingredient before they cut. It releases a lot of liquid which in some preparations I think should be released into the pan by cooking rather than by impact. Maybe I like using the knife too much. For sure, then, I agree that potatoes don't belong in a food processor because the bruising turns them into glue. I really dislike overtooled mashed potatoes so I use the squiggly potato masher I found in a store in Connecticut, and I don't mash much, maybe two or three plunges with the instrument. In my opinion, overtooling the mashed potatoes destroys the taste of the potato for the sake of putting something fluffy looking on the plate. I add a little butter, a dash of cream, and white pepper to the potatoes before addressing them with the masher and I find that the articulation of these ingredients is better preserved with the minimum of tooling. The hardest part of preparing mashed potatoes, to me anyway, is monitoring the simmering of the potatoes so as to not overcook them before draining the water and mashing them. My larger point is that we should be aware of the physics and mechanics of the equipment we use in the kitchen. I've examined the blades of my little food processor now and then and wonder whether they should be sharpened so that they cut more and bruise less. I have yet to do it, but I wonder if by not doing it and by taking the considerations above into account, I am wasting time with the knife that could be saved by using the food processor. As one who enjoys cooking and eating beef steak, I determined that there is a decided and clear difference in the flavor between cutting it with a serrated knife and a sharp smooth bladed knife. Some serrated knives bruise the meat and drains the juice from it before you can get it into your mouth. I conclude from this insight that studying the tools we use to prepare food is worthwhile. I think however that for something like pesto, it may not make much difference because the bruising action of the food processor blades is not unlike the bruising of morter and pestle. It just happens much faster in a food processor and that could be a benefit. What matters, of course, is the dish on the plate at the moment of service. And Robyn, you are enough of a good cook to wonder if there is a difference.
  14. Chef Gateau wrote: "It would be desirable that someone should come up a kind of “Library type gourmet selection”: Old & new classics, great hits, public favorites. But will certainly be objections to this based on subjectivity. Who is going to make or who made the first best duck and peaches?…It should be the work of an historian." I like Robert's idea. My undergraduate education consisted of close readings of the classics of literature, philosophy, and science. The criteria for the selection of these great works was their place in the disciplined "conversation" of the Western intellectual tradition. Chef's question asks for the criteria of selection of the great recipes. Just offhand, I would reply that the great recipes are the ones that produced meals that entered the secondary literature of cuisine. These would be meals that moved gourmands to take pen in hand and put their impressions upon paper. I suppose that criterio would include most of Escoffier's meals. If so, Escoffier's book would be as central to the project as the works of Aristotle are in the Western Philosophical tradition. I think I would begin there and see where scholarship takes us. We would require a vast library of culinary writing and a method of cataloging recipes. Perhaps we might consider a pilot project: First, determine in our discussions the protocol for inclusion of recipes. Then we might, both in our home kitchens and in our restaurant kitchens, perform them. I would reject the criterion that great recipes work with any quality of ingredients: I have expended much time in applying Escoffier's method for braising beef on the inferior product on supermarket shelves between 1980 and 1995 only to arrive at the conclusion (as well as the education) that inferior ingredients are not improved by master technique and therefore are not worth the effort. On the other hand, another criterion could be the consistency in which great recipes improve with the use of better ingredients carefully selected for quality, grade, and freshness. As an aside, I find it interesting that braised beef is scarce on restaurant menus because American tastes have so jaundiced by the inferior home "classic" of "Yankee pot roast" that chefs will not attempt it. But the Escoffier recipe (and the technique he so painstaking describes in his book, even now that we have figured out that browning is the "Maillard reaction" and question his explanation of the cooking process) would be an enlightenment in the hands of a master chef. I see great value in cuisine for recovery and the occasional performance of classic recipes. For one thing, exposing young gourmands to classical tastes and flavors would give them a sense that the culinary profession has a history. It might moderate the superficiality and ephemeral aspects of contemporary cuisine by giving it a deeper sense of culture, something I find lacking in the States. I'd like to see food writers and restaurant reviewers with a better grasp of the classics because I think the public needs to patronize good chefs and their restaurants with consistency and devotion rather than hop around town like bees attracted to the honey of an ephemeral single plate creation. Recovery of the classics would help provide a grounding in gustation that would again make it possible for a restaurant to make a decent living for its chef and employees, and I don't think it would result in a form of normalizing institution that would stifle creativity. As cooks and gourmands, we must work together. When we strive to cook the best for our guests in our homes and in our restaurants, we are in solicitude of the other, as Emmanuel Levinas put it, but we are also improving our self-respect. My efforts in performing the recipes of Escoffier mean not only that I can be a good chef at home, respecting my guests by putting good meals in front of them, but that I can enjoy the several fine restaurants in Santa Fe, both by having the motivation to dine out on the work of a fine chef but also that I can appreciate fully what I am dining on. I think the classical recovery project Robert suggested is essential in cultivating the new public for cuisine that I think now cuisine needs to sustain itself, particularly in the US because I don't think the US has quite the strong public that Chef has in France for his work.
  15. Robert Brown asked: "These days can we fault Michel Bras for always taking up a slot on his menu for the Gargoyle of Baby Vegetables (which, by the way, may well have changed since the last tine I had it in 1997) or Alain Passard for his lobster in yellow wine?" Certainly not. These are great dishes. They endure on the menus because the chefs like to cook them. One of the things I believe we tend to neglect is how pleasurable cooking can be when you have good ingredients and the skill to make them into a great tasting dish. This neglect makes us think erroneously about cuisine, that is, when we forget the simple pleasure of putting a great meal together. One of the best restaurants in Santa Fe, in the bistro style, was one in which the rather limited menu consisted solely of what the chef liked to cook, and while the chef was not world class, the dishes were always very good. But the chef lost his lease and went to work for another restaurant, but his dishes there were no where near as good because he was at the direction of owners and managers, and it was clear that he did not enjoy cooking in this venue. So I would never fault a chef for putting a dish he enjoys cooking on the menu time after time. VIMilor asked: "I am wondering whether a great meal is not "situate" in the world as a painting though. After all there is something called the recipe. Provided that(and this is a big IF) same quality ingredients are found you can recreate the same dish and this is why some dishes created by great chefs achieve immortal status just like a painting. What do you think?" The ontic status of a recipe is that it is a form of communicating an experience that cannot be described directly. The recipe is situate in the made world but the dish is not. Every instance of the performance of the recipe will be unique because each person who attempts it has a unique culinary experience that will condition the performance of the recipe. We have great recipes out there but individual performances of it will be different. Chef Gateau wrote: "So it is the case, I suppose, for "La gargouille de jeunes légumes" de Michel Bras or Passart's "Homard au vin jaune" . The absolute truth of a dish is in making it with the perfect authenticity of the products, this is grand Art, striving everday to be better ,or at least as good as the day before..." Yes, absolutely. Every ingredient is a voice with a role to play in the grand chorus that sings to the palate. The greatness of magnificient cuisine is its combination of composition and understanding, the evocation of the sublime (in the full Kantian sense of the word). Of course, you want to make it better, make the voices clearer. I wonder whether it is necessary or even desired to take advantage of processes and equipment that enable chefs to exert closer control of the performance of a recipe, that is, whether technology other than the labor-saving kind, sustains the art of cooking or reduces it to technique. This issue is what I had in mind when I replied to your question. I'm sure it is better to understand searing the beef for a braising as a Maillard reaction instead of browning, but I am not as sure whether such detailed understanding is very relevant to the dish on the table. I don't use the phrase "performance of a recipe" lightly because I compare cooking with conducting, letting the voices of the constituents of a dish articulate themselves while combining to make a great sound to the palate, which involves a compositional grasp of the whole and a little judgment to avoid standing in the way of some of those voices.
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