Saturday, October 2

Feelin' Saucy

Before I elaborate on this week's cooking class, I feel I should mention my boyfriend, Rich, is taking the class with me. He's a trooper. Let's just say being forced to share my kitchen space has been very... challenging thus far. Rich may or may not have a name for when I'm "in the zone" cooking. Kitchen mode is it? I'm certain he means it in the most flattering way possible. Speaking of me in the kitchen, here's a pic of me in full uniform in the midst of chopping a million vegetables 18 different ways.

Our mission in this week's class: prepare 4 of 5 mother sauces and 3 rouxs. Bechamel, Veloute, Espagnole and Hollandaise (the 5th sauce we didn't prepare was tomato). Our instructor, Chef John, recommended we each be responsible for a sauce (you work in teams, 3 in our case) and go from there. I took the classic brown sauce, Espagnole. In the classroom we went through each recipe with a fine tooth comb, right down to answering questions like, "Chef John, what does season to taste mean?" (That is not a joke.) But when I walked into the kitchen a feeling of panic swept over me. I froze. Like when someone asks you what your favorite color is and you go totally blank... (as if that's an eat or be eaten kind of question) I felt just like that. I was supposed to make what? The espag-what?! For the first 15 minutes we were all running around like chickens with our heads cut off. And let me just say, Chef John has the patience of a saint. It's incredible to me. For someone with very little patience and very real control issues, I take my chef's hat off to him.
After panic mode subsided, kitchen mode set in. We got the Bechamel, Veloute and Espagnole sauces going and the ancient smells of French classical cooking took over. Technically, cameras/photos/etc. are not allowed in the kitchen, but I was able to sneak a couple for your viewing pleasure.

Rich stirring his Chicken Veloute.
Our sauces, simmering.

Luckily, our team had enough time to prepare a Hollandaise. My very first time whipping one into fruition. If serving Hollandaise for more than 2 people... scratch that, if EVER serving this sauce, finish it in a blender. Though buttery and delicious, it's torturous to prepare. In turn, my first two recipes I want to share with you are the sauces I had the opportunity to make. If you have the time and you've never made an Espagnole or Hollandaise (or any of the other mother sauces for that matter) I'd recommend it. Can't beat homemade, that's for sure.
Espagnole (Yield: 1 Gal)
1 lb onions, small to medium dice
8 oz carrots, small to medium dice
8 oz celery, small to medium dice
16 oz brown roux (you can prepare before starting sauce & set aside)
6 qt brown stock
8 oz tomato puree
1 bay leaf
1-2 sprigs fresh thyme
6-8 parsley stems
In stockpot, bring brown stock to a simmer. In separate pot, saute mirepoix in butter until well browned. Add tomato puree and continue to brown until mixture caramelizes. Gradually stir in roux and brown stock (you can bring roux back to temperature by adding a couple ladles of stock first), stirring constantly until mixture comes to a boil. Reduce heat to simmer and skim surface. Add the sachet and let simmer about 2 hours, until sauce has reduced to 1 gallon. Continue to skim as needed. Strain through a china cap lined with cheesecloth. Press on mirepoix to extract juices. Season to taste with S&P.

Hollandaise (Yield: 1 Qt)
2 lb clarified butter
4 peppercorns, crushed
6 fl oz white vinegar or white wine vinegar
4 fl oz cold water
12 egg yolks
2-4 tbsp lemon juice
salt and cayenne to taste
Melt butter and keep warm. In separate pot, add a couple inches of water and simmer lightly. Combine peppercorns and vinegar in saucepan and reduce until nearly dry. Remove from heat and add cold water. Pass the diluted reduction through a fine strainer into a stainless-steel bowl. Add egg yolks to bowl and beat well. Hold the bowl over a hot-water bath and continue to beat until the yolks are thick and creamy. Remove bowl from heat. Using a ladle, slowly and gradually beat in warm butter, drop by drop at first. When all butter is added, beat in lemon juice to taste and adjust with salt and cayenne appropriately.

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