day four - sauces

Note: For six weeks, July 5 - August 11, I will be enrolled in the culinary arts cooking and pastry/baking certificate programs at Boston University. Cooking is Monday and Tuesday, baking is Wednesday and Thursday. We have to keep a daily journal of the experience, so I'll be blogging about the class every day.

What a long week that last one was, am I right? I'm right. The week started with fireworks! In the sky! And then it was all downhill from there. I mean, most things are downhill from fireworks, but still, work work work, school school school, you know?

But, despite being tiring and late and often overwhelming, the culinary arts courses are quickly becoming the highlights of the day. It's nice to do real things, with my hands, and see the end results. Taste the end results, I should say (oh gosh, those graham crackers). Anyway, Friday's class was all about sauces. And boy are my arms tired! Ba-dum-dum. Kind of.

No, really, that was a lot of whisking. We don't have a lot of time in class, so we watched Chef Madden make a demi-glace, which we got to taste, and it was fantastic. My favorite sauce of the night. Sorry, other sauces. We made some of the other sauces as groups and some as individuals. Good story!

So, béchamel. The thing about béchamel is you have to be very careful not to overbrown anything, but you still have to cook that flour taste out. You want a nice, light sauce. You should make this right now while I talk about it. To get some practice. I actually had to give a presentation about béchamel and Alma McKee, a Swede who worked for the Queen and the late Queen Mother at the time of the accession, writes in her cookbook "To Set Before a Queen": "The order in which the ingredients are added, the small variations in quantity, the heat of the stove, and the amount of time spent in cooking it, plus the mood of the cook, are the factors which make the classic béchamel sauce what it is. 'Thick and lumpy -- hot and grumpy,' I always think to myself when tasting the wrong sort of béchamel, made, I am sure, in the wrong frame of mind."

The thing is, I think a lot of people are put off by sauces. They seem fussy and difficult and rich. But really, they aren't that hard, you just have to pay attention to them. It's not boiling water. But if you are careful, cooking the eggs and/or butter slowly, over low-medium heat, maybe using a double boiler, keeping things moving, taking the pan off the heat, whisking things in slowly and methodically, you will have a fine sauce. Pay attention! Use your instincts!

We made some other sauces. Velouté? Did we make a beurre blanc? I forget. It all feels so long ago. One big chopped, sauced, baked dream. 

Hollandaise was kind of the big test of the night, but nobody's sauce broke! They were all tasty. I think they had a bit too much salt and vinegar/lemon juice, but I tend to think everything we make is oversalted. 

So the bechamel became delicious macaroni and cheese prepared by our awesome assistant chef, Robyn, the hollandaise was spooned over asparagus and we all sat down to dinner to end last week. One week down, five to go!

Tonight - roast chicken, steak au poivre and trout almondine. I did some reading about carcases from our textbook to prepare. Mmmmm.

Also, check out my friend and classmate Meg's blog, Ginger-Snapped, where she is blogging about the class and remaking some of the recipes as well!