Laboratory in the Culinary Arts: Day #3

By Jillian Bernardini - Oct 21, 2011 - 02:46 PM
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July 11th:  Sautéing and Roasting; Roast Chicken, Sautéed Chicken Breast, Steak au Poivre, Roast asparagus and potatoes

The resulting dinner from our sautéing and roasting class may have been the most delicious meal I have ever eaten.  A huge revelation that I continue to have through this class is that a tasty meal does not have to start from a bunch of steps and a plethora of ingredients.  Like the Steak au Poivre, so simple were the components, yet one of the most flavorful steak entrees I have ever eaten.  Also, I am not one to normally eat or order a steak for dinner, but I think I devoured that entire NY strip.  However, I did restrain myself from lapping up the remaining cognac cream sauce on the plate. 

In my own kitchen, I have sautéed before and definitely roasted some vegetables for dinner, but there are slight nuances and finer details that I learned today in class.  I had never trussed my own chicken before, which was exciting to learn.  I am curious as to why we used oil and not some sort of herbed butter to rub around the chicken.  The use of vegetable oil did facilitate a beautiful, even browning on the skin when in the oven.  Stuffing the cavity of the bird with fresh herbs allowed all of those aromatics to seep into the skin and juices during the roasting process, which gave another complex level of flavor to the gravy that we would make once the chicken was fully cooked. 

This class also made me more comfortable with working and handling meat in its whole, less processed form.  I never learned which cuts of steak work best for certain cooking methods, nor had I ever broken down a whole chicken.  There are so many things that can be done with purchasing a whole chicken: make stock from scratch using the bones, separate the delicate tenders from the breasts, and even the innards could utilized also.  I am also becoming more aware of the importance of the leftover fond from cooking the meat.  Incorporating these bits into a sauce can bring the finished dish into cohesion and add richer flavor.  Before this class, I had assumed that those bits were mostly burnt particles and had no use.  Deglazing the pan is a very important flavor component, which was also apparent during the steak au poivre recipe.  The smell of those leftover peppercorns simmering away in the cognac cream sauce was rich and decadently aromatic. 

                                            Photo courtesy of Mike Kostyo

Sautéing the chicken breast with a little dredge of flour was new to me too.  It created a pleasant crust and a more pronounced, golden texture on the chicken.  Even grating the tomatoes to create a sauce was a new technique for me, which resulted in the perfect consistency once reduced on the stove.  I feel incredibly accomplished that my knowledge of cooking has evolved tenfold, and it is only day three!