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Basic gourmet instruction


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Hello Everyone!

I have been posting and read, posting and reading on this board for some time now and I have decided to "put my money where my mouth is", so to speak, and really begin to training my palate and educated myself about good gourmet cooking. Currently I consider myself a pretty fair cook. Give me a recipe, I can make it, I have a good general working knowlege of ingredients. But certain things just elude me, things that would be considered "fine dining" or "the next level" like, tuffle oil, wine pairings, when certain stuff is in season, never had fois gras, things like that (am I making sense?) I am hoping to retrain my palate a little in the process.

So, how does one go about stepping out beyond the everyday cooking into the exceptional?

Thanks!

"I eat fat back, because bacon is too lean"

-overheard from a 105 year old man

"The only time to eat diet food is while waiting for the steak to cook" - Julia Child

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So, how does one go about stepping out beyond the everyday cooking into the exceptional?

Begin with Joy of Cooking (get an edition from no later than 1964). It explains a lot of stuff. The older the edition, the more classic the recipes.

Then try Professional Chef and/or Professional Cooking. See if they build upon your educational pursuits.

Try the internet. Millions of recipes, start by googling "gourmet recipes" or "gourmet techniques".

Just a few suggestions.

With practice you'll be able to make anything. My problem is that I'm a fussy eater. I tend to try something in a fine restaurant first, or better yet, get my dining companion(s) to order something I've never had, and then beg a bite of it. When I find something I really like, I go about researching it, and maybe spread a half dozen or more versions of the recipe in front of me, and then mentally taste each ingredient from each recipe, and from that I formulate what I'll use and how I'll make it.

doc

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"Culinary Artistry" is great book, but it also has a pretty comprehensive list of foods and ingredients by season. Its a great one to have on hand. Another suggestion is to eat at a fine dining restaurant and order something you've never had, such as foie gras. If you enjoy it and would like to make it, ask to speak to the chef about it. If hes not an a**hole, Im sure he would love to chat about how to make a correct foie gras tourchon.

-Chef Johnny

John Maher
Executive Chef/Owner
The Rogue Gentlemen

Richmond, VA

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truffle oil, wine pairings, when certain stuff is in season, never had fois gras

1. Truffle Oil - simple buy some BUT many truffle oils are just truffle flavoring in oil - use right these can add to food but they can also swamp food. Have you had a "real" truffle - not just the hyper expensive Alba or Perigord but there are others around (I still want to taste an Oregon white truffle but had to leave the USA as my job finished before they were in season)

2. Wine pairings - for me this is a way (esp in a multi course meal) for a restaurant to match what you eat to what you drink so you don't have to think about it. Having 3 courses you can manage it yourself, but a if a reastaurant has a sommelier then they know more than you and given your price point can work wonders, but when having a multicourse meal wine pairings are great (and in reastaurants that do not mention them a good sommelier will do it for you)

3. "when certain stuff is in season". Sorry but find it out!

The basics are E.g. You don't get strawberry's in January. Sprouts are not good in June. But this information is published everywhere from standard cookery books to magazines

4 "never had fois gras"

Do you want to try it?

So many ethical questions!

Me I love it, but always want to know that it came from a good farm. (Same about chicken).

If you want to try it, avoid the tinned, jarred stuff and try fresh fois gras either a terrine (for me the best way) or flash fried. I'd suggest that you do this at a place that knows how to prepare it rather than get a foie and try yourself. When you know what your after it's not that difficult if your careful.

The only way to find out is to try, I'd say if offered try it, if you have to pay for it - try and get the best you can for things like Foie (I.e. have a terrine not fried or a mouse the first time)

Time flies like an arrow, fruit flies like a banana.

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So, how does one go about stepping out beyond the everyday cooking into the exceptional?

One book I can recommend is Gourmet Cooking for Dummies, by Charlie Trotter.

Yeah, I know what you're thinking. "Gourmet Cooking for Dummies" sounds a lot like "How to get smart in 5 easy steps". That was my reaction too when I saw the book. But I really like Charlie Trotter's food, tv show, and other books. So I starting reading the book at my local Barnes and Noble. Lo and behold, I really liked it and went ahead and bought it.

This isn't a book about how to cook, or how to use "local" fresh ingredients, etc. It's very different from, say, Joy of Cooking. Instead, this is a book for people who already know, at some level, how to cook, but want to learn how to take things to another level - the level you might find at a place like Charlie Trotters (though the recipes tend to be much simpler than those from his restaurant books).

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Also if your library has it I reccommend watching Jacques Pepin's "Cooking techniques" video series.

IMO the cooking at the Academy (CIA) videos are more recipe oriented than technique oriented, but still a fun watch for a rainy afternoon...

Do you suffer from Acute Culinary Syndrome? Maybe it's time to get help...

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Also if your library has it I reccommend watching Jacques Pepin's "Cooking techniques" video series. 

IMO the cooking at the Academy (CIA) videos are more recipe oriented than technique oriented, but still a fun watch for a rainy afternoon...

I've been trying to do something similar to all this over the past year and a half to help further my career and cooking skills.

I second the Pepin idea; although I haven't seen the video series, I just got his "Complete Techniques" book. It holds more than 1000 techniques and classic French dishes with step by step photographs and a few recipes. Some of the things are a bit...um, well I probably won't be making brains anytime soon myself, but it holds a wealth of information.

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Here's another vote for Pepin's video series. Caution though they are about technique not specific recipes. But technique will arm you well for all future cooking. He shows you things you'd never learn on your typical chef TV show.

I don't know where you are located but there are some excellent 1-day classes at the Culinary Institute in New York. Their fall schedule is online now at ciachef.edu. I've taken five classes there and learned a lot!

Good luck and enjoy the fun!

*****

"Did you see what Julia Child did to that chicken?" ... Howard Borden on "Bob Newhart"

*****

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