Jump to content
  • Welcome to the eG Forums, a service of the eGullet Society for Culinary Arts & Letters. The Society is a 501(c)3 not-for-profit organization dedicated to the advancement of the culinary arts. These advertising-free forums are provided free of charge through donations from Society members. Anyone may read the forums, but to post you must create a free account.

Sign in to follow this  
Fat Guy

Can you do what restaurants do?

Recommended Posts

Quote: from pastrychef on 10:00 am on Aug. 24, 2001

It is all technique and no heart. This is even more true in pastry than in savory cooking. When I train young apprentices it is mostly a question of getting them to work unemotionally and according to specific instructions. In the daily production of desserts I need engineers. In creating new desserts there is room for heart but always it must be second fiddle to technique.

this is certainly true more for desserts (baking) than savory dishes, as baking is more of a science.  

another aspect of "can you do it at home" that i don't think has been broached yet is the notion that not all of us, and i'd venture to say very few of us (home cooks) have the ability to break down a dish that they're chowing on at Jean Georges to even know what goes into it in the first place.  if you can consistantly do this, then your sense taste is much more astute, and your knowledge of food much broader, than the average mortal's.

and haven't i heard that angry or bitter cooks end up making angry and bitter food?  maybe there *is* a romantic side to cooking.

(Edited by tommy at 12:04 pm on Aug. 24, 2001)

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Here I thought I was in agreement of segments of Tommy's and FatGuy's posts, and along comes Pastrychef!  I have been cooking for so long (40+ years) that as my son says, I do a lot of my best stuff on autopilot.  To me cooking is all process, and once you get a handle on individual processes, you can tweak the ingredients by season and market choice to create infinite variation.  I love chef-written cookbooks: French Laundry, Daniel, Jean-George, Todd English, Danny Meyer, and in their days, Jeramiah Tower and Wolfgang Puck. And how many of us originally honed our skills with Julia Child and became sensitive to "terroir" with Alice Waters? The plus side is that it is never necessary to eat badly. The minus is that going out to eat becomes a sketchy proposition: nothing bugs me worse than to spend the calories and opportunity on a mediocre meal.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Great thread!  I am not a great cook by any stretch of the imagination.  But, I have perfected the grilled steak for my carnivore husband.  As long as I have access to the quality meats ( and I order them from D'artagnan or equal sources), then I can sear, grill and serve a steak equal to any, and I've been to the best steakhouses in the country.  All other preparations, besides my mom's marinara, cannot be duplicated in my kitchen, no matter how diligent I follow directions!  And my ex-husband is David Burke, a NYC chef, so I even have a built in tutor at times!  I yell to my son : "Call your father! Ask him why my salmon is not crusting! ( too much coating) Ask him if I really need to cool down the chicken broth and defat it, or can I just reduce it?  (yes, but its not as clear)  I had him walk me through a whole duck dish once, with my husband and I having him on speaker phone in the kitchen, and it was still too greasy!    So, my vote is that dishes can be replicated at home, but certainly not by me!

(Edited by Kim WB at 3:19 pm on Aug. 28, 2001)

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Good thread, thanks people. I'm only sorry I got here so late and wuld like to respond to too much of it, although it's also left things pretty well covered. If I had to offer a single difference betwen great restauant kitchens, It would probably be access to great stocks and fonds. I realize they can be made at home, but not at the last minute. I've not tried some of the commercial demi-glaces and don't recall seeing them as much. Are they still around, or was there no market?

Pastrychef, do I know you, or is there just a personality type that leans in this direction? I suspect I don't know you. Your "voice" is not familiar, but your point of view is. I'm the last guy to dismiss passion as useful trait for a chef, but I strongly beleive you're correct that emotion is of no use. Technique is certainly the prerequisite for any chef or cook.

As far as I know, a chef is not a higher form of cook but one who is in charge of others. If you cook at home, you're not a chef unless you can really boss your spouse around. My wife cooks much better when I boss her around, but I sleep less well on the couch.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Every six months or so I devote a day to making about 20 quarts each of chicken and veal stock, which I then reduce to a very thick demi-glace, really a glace almost. It gets pretty darn compact that way, and I portion it out in various Zip-Loc bags, ice cube trays, and Chinese food takeout containers. I find that having it on hand causes me to cook a lot of things I otherwise wouldn't cook. Certainly, it makes throwing together something like a vegetable soup very easy. It also allows for the simplest deglazing sauces to be made quickly and deliciously. Mind you, though it takes the better part of a day to make and reduce the stocks (with a night in between for refrigerating and defatting), that's not active time -- my real time spent on the project couldn't be more than an hour, it's just spaced over 24.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

The only stocks I make at home are chicken, vegetable, fish and lamb. I will use the carcass from a small bird such as a pigeon to make a sauce but I have never done a demi glace before. Perhaps I will now.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I only do the demi glace to save space. My intention always is to reconstitute it with some water to convert it back to a regular (well, maybe double strength) stock. My freezer just doesn't have the room for anything but the most concentrated form of stock.

I find veal stock the most useful of stocks, though it can be overused. At a really good restaurant every dish will have an appropriate stock so the pork dish will have a pork stock, etc. But I find that with veal and chicken I can usually get by. For risotto I like to use a weak mixture of veal and chicken stocks, because this most closely approximates the traditional approach.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Fat-Guy:

I've found that periodic stock making (and i too often reduce it to glace for space reasons) is a wonderful shortcut to the depth of flavor found in restaurant food.  And i also find myself cooking things i would not otherwise, especially when using the stock as a base liquid for cooking grains or legumes.

I also find that a few quality ingedients can really make a difference in my cooking.  I use sel-de-giere (sp), fresh herbs in abundance, and top notchh olive oil.  These three simple luxuries really do seem to make a difference in everday cooking.  Does anyone else have a similar experience with an ingredient and technique?

perhaps this is a topic for another thread and catagory, but steven, where do you get your bones?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Yes, Iwas with David in the River Cafe Days, 1986-1991. He is a great friend, and the father of whom I love best, Connor and Dillon Burke, our sons. I am happily remarried to an attorney and live the soccer mom suburban life in Princeton,NJ...David is a great dad, great pal, and he makes reservations wherever Bob and I want to go..and usually sets up a great bottle and a word with the chef

(Edited by Kim WB at 7:41 am on Aug. 29, 2001)

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Kim: Fascinating. And I have only good things to say about him.

Max: Yeah, we probably should start a new thread, but I'm feeling lazy. For chicken stock I use whole chickens, usually waiting until they go on sale and then buying like six of them. I find that whole chickens make better stock than bones. One chef said to me once, "If you want stock to taste like bones, use bones. If you want it to taste like chickens, use chickens." I let them go in the stock for a while and then pull them and remove the breast meat when it's nicely poached -- I use it later in chicken salad or sandwiches or whatever. The rest I put back in for a seriously long time -- I pretty much quadruple most of the recommended times for stock making, and if I have the luxury of time I leave the bones in overnight in the refrigerator.

For veal stock, I usually just bite the bullet and buy veal neck bones at the supermarket. At least in Manhattan, the days seem to be gone when butchers would give you these for free or cheap. Expect to pay a buck a pound or so and just deal with it. If I happen to be working with a bony cut of beef or veal at another time, I'll save the bones and freeze them. A little extra volume never hurts. I've also been known to use both veal and beef bones -- and I try to choose ones with a lot of meat on them. You can pick this meat off later and make very nice fried rice with it. Also if I find some sort of bony beef or veal cut on super-sale I'll add some of that to the stock too. When this sort of thing goes on deep discount you can sometimes see prices as low as 69 cents a pound even in the city. I don't roast the bones, by the way -- I use the tablespoon of tomato paste trick. I do clean them thoroughly, though, in 3-4 changes of boiling water.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Agreeing totally with Steven and bux, having demiglaze on hand is the answer to many if not most impromtu kitchen feats.  Honest confession: while my butcher will actually give me veal bones, I usually buy frozen veal and lamb demiglaze from him. (Don't think he's stupid for giving away bones in this day and age; he makes a fortune on everything else!)

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Yes, I've heard from people who are clearly good customers that their butchers will give them bones. But for me, having no relationship with a butcher, I find that when I ask I'm simply told there are no bones available.

Frozen stock or demiglaze from a good butcher is one of the only acceptable homemade stock substitutes I know of, because it is essentially homemade. Once you get into stuff in cans and jars, and of course cubes are the worst, you're almost always dealing with an inferior product.

Somebody start a new thread on stock already.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

We use canned chicken broth for soups and lots of everyday cooking. It's certainly better than water, as long as you watch out for the salt. You can't boil any of it down too much and if you use it to deglaze a pan, go light on the salt before.

More often than not there are one or two reduced stocks in the freezer. I find if it's boiled down enough, you can actually take a warm spoon and dig out a piece to use in a sauce or deglazing without defrosting the whole jar. We used to make stock out of old chicken bones stored in the freezer. As you might guess, we got a grey gelatinous broth with little flavor, but we still tend to freeze those bones and add them when we make a stock. I find the carcasses sold in Chinatown still have enough meat on them to make broth, but it helps if they're matched with their weight in some meatier part.

Shaw, do you make a white or brown veal stock? We tend to make a chicken stock without browning the meat and a meat stock from bones and meat that have been roasted or browned on top of the stove. We don't much care for turkey and love dark meat. When we do a Thanksgiving dinner, we'll usually stuff and braise a goose. Standard procedure is to buy several pounds of duck wings and make a good brown stock from that to braise the goose. Odds are we'll have some leftover srock when were finished to boil down and freeze. It may be our brown glace for a while.

I mentioned poached home made sausages in another thread. At one time we had a great pork stock redolent of the French quatre-épices (cinnamon, nutmeg, clove and white pepper) we used to flavor the sausages. Naturally the cooked sausages just got better and better. It's also good for lightly poaching the pork fillets that are so cheap in Chinatown. Its a great summer cold meat.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Bux, I make a brown veal stock but without roasting the bones. As I understand it, roasting the bones adds color but doesn't affect flavor one way or the other. So what a chef friend showed me is that the same or better color can be achieved simply by adding a tablespoon of tomato paste to the stockpot early on in the process. For poultry stock I don't attempt to get any color.

I wonder if I'd detect it in a blind taste test, but I've certainly got myself conditioned to believe I can tell the difference between dishes made with homemade stock and canned stock. Salt is one problem, but also I find there's just no comparison in terms of flavor. Then again as a background ingredient in a complex dish I probably couldn't tell. Or maybe I could, on one of my good days.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

As far as stock goes, most of the flavor in the chicken is in the dark meat and skin. Very conveniently, so you can remove the raw breasts for another purpose with no loss in flavor, or just buy leg quarters. The most tasteless broth is made from barrel (carcass) bones leftover after white meat has been used for some other purpose.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I'd agree that the dark meat and skin are the most flavorful parts of the chicken. Still, I've found that when I've tried to make stock just from leg quarters the stock tastes too much like, well, like dark meat. The whole chickens seem to give the most balanced stock, and leaving the breast meat on for the first hour or so (and the wings all the way through) seems to make a difference. I can't be sure, because I've not done ten pots ten different ways simultaneously, but that's my opinion. I know that at several top restaurants they use whole chickens, informed by similar reasoning, and that they eventually remove the breast meat and snack on it.

Would anybody be willing to make the next stock-related post a new thread, with a link back to this one?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Michel Roux is my sauce/stock God and he roasts the bones for veal stock, so I do, too. He also throws in a pigs foot (but no barrel of beer.) For lobster stock, he recommends roasting the shells, which emits a wild ocean / lobster/ 'yuck what's burning?' smell but is worth it.

Yet I'll admit that for chicken stock, I break with M. Roux and roast the bones, too. I find the ensuing stock is much easier to make because most of the fat is left in the roasting pan, and not swirling around waiting for me to remove it; and it has a deeper flavor.  BTW, Jerry Traunfeld does this in The Herbfarm Cookbook.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Shaw: Would anybody be willing to make the next stock-related post a new thread, with a link back to this one?
As you wish, the thread on stocks and broths and demiglace is continued here.

P.S. Just in case this link didn't work before, someone moved the continuation to a better place and I just revised the link to take you there.

(Edited by Bux at 10:00 pm on Aug. 29, 2001)

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Quote: from tommy on 2:11 am on Aug. 23, 2001

I’ll go on record by saying that my best dishes have rarely been from recipes, by “star” chefs or not.  It takes a little something that I can’t explain (insert French phrase here) to make a dish “work”.  Sorry Fat-Guy, but it ain’t that cut and dried.  And by the way, I am an incredible cook. ;)

As I had been previously using for my footer in posts, "It don't mean a thing if it ain't got that certain je ne sais quoi!" This from Peter Schickele.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Sign in to follow this  

  • Recently Browsing   0 members

    No registered users viewing this page.

×