Start bringing the meat

So, I’m terribly sorry for the lag in blog posts.  My culinary class kind of blew up (in the busy sense… not the *actual* fire-in-the-kitchen sense) and it flew by before I could even say julienne.  ANYway.  I will still post my journal entries as blog posts for your reading pleasure.  Carry on…

After two whirlwind classes of knife skills, soups, stocks, sauces, and an adrenaline rush, we got to: The Meat.  This day (July 11, AKA Day 3) was about roasting and sautéing.  On the agenda for the day: whole roasted chicken, whole chicken breakdown, sautéed chicken breast, steak au poivre, and trout amandine (if there was time).

Class started off with a demonstration on how to truss a chicken to be roasted so that we could each get our chickens into the oven as soon as possible.  One of the first things Kevin brought up was one of the great debates: to wash or not to wash (a chicken before prepping).  Apparently there are two ways commercial chickens are chilled: either air chilled (in which the chickens are chilled in a cold room post-plucking) or water chilled (they are thrown into cold water after being plucked – the chickens seen in the grocery store wrapped tightly in a plastic bag with blood/water in it as well are usually water chilled).  Whether you should wash the chicken is a personal choice, though I prefer to rinse it and pat it dry, especially if it is the water chilled variety.

This was the first time I had trussed a chicken.  I’ve roasted chicken before (several times, in fact) but had never trussed it.  Trussing seemed to have more of an aesthetic reason, as the chickens I have roasted in the past have been quite tasty and retained moisture quite well.  So, I have not been swayed one way or the other.  If presentation is important the next time I roast a chicken, I will definitely truss it.

Robyn demonstrated how to make porchetta, which I had never done or had before.  The main things I took away from the demo were: stuff the meat with as much filling as possible (and then stuff it some more) because it tends to fall out when rolling, and how to tie the porchetta.  It’s not too complicated, but it does involve slipknots, so I feel like I should probably brush up on some Navy knots before attempting to tie it when I make it at home.  Robyn said that she sometimes wraps the porchetta in pork belly to ensure that it is basted with a constant source of fat.  She spoke my language – meat wrapped in meat.

Finished porchetta, Day 3: Roasting and Sauteing

When it got time to breaking down a whole chicken, I was very excited.  I had definitely never done that before, and I love learning about butchering whenever possible.  It was a lot simpler than I had thought, and now I know how to make those cool-looking chicken breasts with the drumette still attached (also known as a Statler breast, or Statler chicken).  After breaking down the chicken, we put the thighs and legs in a bucket of red wine to marinate overnight for the coq au vin we will make in the next class, and set the boneless breasts aside for the next dish – sautéed chicken breast with onions, garlic and basil.

We pan-fried the chicken breast (which was dredged in flour) in butter.  Once cooked through, we made the sauce, which was basically onions and garlic in a white wine and lemon sauce with tomatoes, chicken stock, and basil.  This was easy, quick, and delicious.  The chicken breast was very juicy and the tomato sauce was bold and tangy – very refreshing.

Pan-fried chicken breast with garlic, tomato, and basil

The last dish we prepared was steak au poivre.  My partner is a pescatarian, so I pretty much never have red meat in my house (what’s the fun in cooking for one?).  So the “meatiest” thing that I cook at home is chicken.  Saying that I was excited about cooking a steak is an understatement.  Plus, I had never made this particular dish before.  I was a bit nervous about the use of cognac in the sauce (I don’t drink and I don’t like the taste of alcohol).  But I went for it.  I think some of the black peppercorns burned a bit after cooking the steak because the sauce had a bitter aftertaste.  However, it also had roasted coffee notes, which could be from the combination of the cream, cognac, and the (possibly) burned peppercorns.  All of the alcohol burned off, so my concern about it tasting too much like alcohol disappeared.  I cooked the steak to how I like it – medium well.  It was juicy and very flavorful, with the sauce adding a nice complexity.  I’m very much looking forward to the upcoming classes.

Steak au poivre

We didn’t have enough time to do the trout amandine, so we will do it in the next class/blog post.

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