Laboratory in the Culinary Arts: Day #1

By Jillian Bernardini - Sep 01, 2011 - 04:57 PM
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July 5th: Introduction, Knife Skills, Soups and Stocks

List of feelings on the first day of Laboratory in the Culinary Arts:

Anxious, excited, timid, dehydrated [post 7/4, you understand], ambitious, dedicated to learn.

I had been waiting all year for this class to finally begin.  The first day in the BU kitchen was amazing, and what I know that I need to take away from this is experience.  I need to savor every minute of it.  Practice, practice, practice.  Something as simple as cutting and dicing an onion into a perfect brunoise can take practice.  Developing flavor and thinking on a more complex, personal level with food or about a dish is something that you can acquire only if you are in the kitchen.  The introductory first day was incredibly exciting, and my only fear is that it will go by way too fast.

Our first lesson was about creating a stock, yes, from scratch.  I never knew there was a difference between a white stock and a brown stock [roasting the bones in the oven first!], and all of the ways to achieve more flavor by making your own stock.  The smell of our white stocks simmering away on the stove is nothing like the watery liquid that comes from a can!  The bubbling, foamy fat that rose to the top was something I had never seen before.  It smelled like Thanksgiving in a pot; all of those warm, comforting aromas that surround this fall holiday were simply coming from a pot that basically started out as boiling water. 

French onion soup has always been a dish that mystified me.  Cheese, onions, bread, broth; so few components, yet I never knew the exact cooking process or step-by-step recipe guidelines.  When I was caramelizing my onions, I was afraid of burning them.  The use of clarified butter really helps to prevent this from happening, which is butter without the milk solids (definitely will be making my own batch at home).  You can melt a few sticks of butter until the foamy milk solids separate, and then scoop these particles off of the top.  Thus, you are left with clarified, high-temp resistant butter!  

This soup was a defining moment for me and how I used to cook in the kitchen.  From now on, I will always start to think about, how I can extract the most amount of flavor possible from the ingredients available to me.  These are a few of my own pictures of caramelizing the onions.  You can take these even further, and the onions can almost reduce down to a syrupy, jammy consistency.


A dish like gazpacho, refreshing and elegant, can come together so easily with a mixer!  Despite the use of a robot coupe, there was a visible contrast of each vegetable in the chilled soup: flecks of green from the pepper and the blend of vibrant red tomato juice.  It was the perfect dish for a hot night in the kitchen and resulted in a beautiful color. 

I have used a robot coupe before, but I cannot wait to buy my own.  It is comparable to a huge food processor!  It makes pureeing foods so simple and efficient, especially if you need to emulsify something with the use of the open well at the top.  Overall, the day was incredible and I am truly looking forward to learning more French fundamentals and all of the "mother sauces"!  It will be the perfect start to the weekend.