Food

Cooking Basics

Cooking Basics
Cooking Basics

Cooking Basics

 

Matching food and wine has now become very prominent with the dining out public. There have been entire books written on the subject and more articles than one can count.

Yet, matching food and wine must be approached from two perspectives, cooking technique, and both the taste, and texture of the wine.

As cooks know well the same ingredient subjected to different techniques changes its taste, texture, and intensity.

This is the reason for mentioning technique applied to a food and matching it to a particular wine.

If a filet of Dover sole is pan-fried and served with sauce vin blanc, it requires a different wine to one that is poached.

The same principle applies to a steak grilled or roasted whole strip loin that is sliced.

Basic cooking techniques have not changed in centuries.

The shape and construction of pots and pans have changed. So have heat sources. In antiquity, wood was the primary source of heat. Now gas, electricity, microwaves, induction heat, coal, charcoal derived from different woods, and propane, are available and used under certain conditions.

In order to produce tasty food, you must first buy the freshest possible vegetables, herbs, fruits, fish, and poultry. Meat, particularly beef should be dry aged, more tender and flavourful.

You need sharp and well-designed knives (chef’s paring-, boning-, and serrated), graters, measuring cups, and spoons, and possibly a food processor.

You should also consider pots and pans (size depends on the size of the family and your cooking style, food preferences and other considerations). If you eat a lot of pasta and prepare stocks, you need at least one large stockpot.

Regardless, always buy heavy-bottomed, well-designed, and manufactured pots and pans. Teflon covered pans are not recommended. Heavy-bottomed pots from Germany cost more, but are well worth the expense. (I still use pots and pans purchased 40 years ago, and they look like new).

Vegetables must be thoroughly washed before peeling. Salads need to be washed thoroughly too. Avoid pre-washed, and cut salad greens for a variety of reasons.

You can learn in one three-hour lesson how to chop vegetables, prepare salads and dressings, simple sauces. It is a good investment.

Start with stocks, soups and “mother” sauces.

Stocks are produced from bones and chicken, or beef, or fish, or lamb, or pork. Vegetable stocks are easy and quick to produce and can be frozen.

Stocks may be white or brown. For brown stocks, bones are fist roasted and then boiled. Stocks consist of chopped carrots, celery, halved onions, bouquet garni, water, parsley, bones and meat that are boiled, then strained.

Stocks are used to make broths. Consommés are clarified stocks  to which brunoise of carrots, celery are added. Clarification is done using egg whites.

There are cold, or hot, or clear or pureed, or creamed soups. All are based on stocks in addition of vegetables, noodles, rice, or potatoes as binding agents.

Soups based on stocks taste richer. Cream soups may or may not contain cream. You can cook a cream soup by using flour and butter as binding agents.

Sauces are based on stocks and start with roasted bones, vegetables, stocks, tomato paste, flour, butter, milk or chicken stock, onion and flavouring agents (veloute), béchamel, hollandaise (egg yolks, melted butter plus flavouring agents).

Pan sauces are made after discarding “burned” fat in the pan and adding dry wine, or whipping cream, or butter in addition to herbs, and seasonings.

Poaching, steaming and boiling

Poaching is a technique generally used for white meats or fish in a flavoured, barely simmering liquid or fish stock. Such dishes are digested easily, and may be served hot or cold with appropriate sauces.

Boiling occurs in fiercely boiling water. Pasta, perogies, rice, and potatoes are some of the foods that are boiled.

Steaming requires water vapour, a basket pot with a little water and lid. Steaming is a healthy way to cook vegetables. It preserves vitamins. Occasionally, a little melted butter, or some olive oil may be sprinkled over steamed vegetables. Needless, to say seasoning are also needed.

Sautéing and frying

Sautéing requires a little fat and a small pieces of meat that are continually stirred  (olive oil, clarified butter, or one of many other oils i.e peanut, vegetable, canola come to mind)

Stir-frying requires the least amount of fat, and is the quickest way of cooking. The fat must have a high smoke point, (peanut, canola or olive oil)

Pan-frying used more fat and the food is partially immersed in the hot fat.

Deep-frying requires immersion of the food in hot fat. It is a popular way to prepare French fries. Deep-frying imparts high amount of fat and people on diet should refrain from eating deep-fried foods.

Roasting means cooking with dry heat. Generally, meats or vegetables are roasted, and during this process shrink while concentrating taste. Baking on the other hand refers to mixtures that contain yeast, hence expand.

Cakes, muffins, and breads are baked. While baking bread, steam may be injected to obtain a shiny and crisp crust.

Roasting yields better results if the meat is elevated on an insert, or placed on chopped root vegetables.
Whole or filleted fish can be wrapped in foil and baked, resulting in a dish with crisp skin and moist flesh.

Braising

Is a cooking technique employed for larger cuts of meat. First, the meat is seared in hot fat to brown it, then simmered in an acid liquid for a long time to break down tough tissue.

Stewing

Requires small pieces of meat that are first browned in hot oil, then simmered in an acid-containing liquid, i.e tomato sauce.

Small pieces of eat my be coated with flour before browning to obtain a thick sauce in the dish.

Grilling

Refers to cooking techniques over charcoal embers. Gas, electricity, propane, and brickets are also employed, but charcoal imparts deeper flavours.

Direct grilling occurs on embers, while indirect grilling requires a specially designed grill with a cover. If food is grilled with the cover fully or partially closed, smoky flavours results. When grilling meat, ensure that the grill is clean and hot, the meat at room temperature, and properly covered with oil to prevent sticking. Salt should be added after cooking. Steaks and meat in general taste best when cooked to medium-rare.

Grilled hamburgers, sausages steaks, chops, and skewered foods taste more intense.

BBQ means long cooking over low smoky heat. The meat must be dry-rubbed with herbs or marinated in a sauce.

Lean foods in general do not lend themselves to grilling; vegetables are the exception.

Cooking follows logical steps, good coordination, judgement, interest, care, and a certain degree of artistic touch.

There are millions of cooks all over the world, who follow steps in a recipe, but only few come up with extraordinary tasty food; they are talented.

 

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