Laboratory in the Culinary Arts: Day #6

By Jillian Bernardini - Oct 28, 2011 - 12:56 PM
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July 19th:  Grilling, Broiling and Sausage making, Charcuterie, Curing; Fresh Italian Fennel Sausage, Chicken Liver Mousse, Tomatoes Provencal, Grilled Sirloin, and Gravlax

At this point, every class is becoming my new favorite class!  There are so many amazing and exciting techniques to learn in the kitchen.  For me, this class could have been rebranded “Secrets Revealed,” considering I had never seen sausage made by hand or the ways that delicious little charcuterie-classified meats are made.  Honestly, I had never touched a chicken liver before tonight.  All in all, tons of new firsts for me and eye-opening food experiences that I will never forget. 

                                       Grilled Sirloin and Tomatoes Provencal

The demonstration of gravlax was very intriguing to me.  How does curing actually cook a food?  Well, it doesn’t cook, but it preserves the actual protein.  While watching Kevin completely engulf the salmon with sugar and salt, the coating maintains the color of the fish and inhibits any bacterial growth.  Smoked salmon is not the same as gravlax, and it is important to know the difference.  I would be nervous making gravlax on my own considering that the fish is basically raw during the entire preparation and preservation process.  However, I am definitely not afraid of a meat extruder and cleaning out the intestinal tract for sausage making!  I had never felt a sausage casing before, and as long as I did not think too hard about the body part that I was holding and rinsing, I avoided any sense of queasiness.  The use of vegetable oil was necessary for a smoother meat extraction, and it made the sausage casing a little easier to fill.  Twisting the fully-stuffed casing into links was interesting to handle, but I was concerned about how they would stay intact during the cooking process.  My links came undone during parboiling, but the spicy fennel sausage had delicious flavor.  The grill was a great way to get a nice texture and color on the outside of the sausage. 

Not only was I witnessing new techniques tonight, but I also was discovering new textures of food.  The chicken liver mousse recipe was adapted from Jacques Pepin's,  but I highly recommend everyone read his book, The Apprentice.  An incredibly inspiring memoir that I couldn't put down, and there are recipes in there too!  In class, the chicken livers felt smooth to the touch, but almost had a rubbery texture when you put more pressure on them.  Once cooked and pureed, you would have had no idea that they were livers!  Incorporating charcuterie recipes was an exciting skill to learn, and I aspire to create more of these as little tastes for my own charcuterie tray.  The mousse brought me back to my childhood and the liverwurst sandwiches that I used to eat.  I loved the hint of mustard tanginess, which completed our team’s perfectly seasoned chicken liver mousse. 

I’m realizing more and more that cooking, with practice, is very instinctual.  There is an internal sense of timing, awareness, and confidence that you need in the kitchen.  Prepping a mise en place and structuring the order of multiple recipes at one time is comparable to a choreographed dance.  Planning for time is something I will need to practice before our “Market Basket Challenge” in order to create a delicious and cohesive dinner.