Cooking School Daze, Week 2

Don't get saucy with ME, Bearnaise!


For those of you who are too young to remember Harvey Korman in Mel Brook’s movie “History of the World, Part 1,” you need to go rent it. For the rest of you, I’m thrilled we have the same sense of humor. However, this isn’t an article on old movies, it’s about sauces. Stocks and sauces to be exact. This was the subject of last night’s class.

Stocks are used as a base for sauces, soups, stews, etc. Most of us just grab the boxed kind from the store, but those tend to be too flavorful and not suited to all recipes. Last night, we learned about five different kinds of stocks: white, chicken (I’m an expert at this one, all Jewish cooks are), brown, fish and vegetable. What’s the difference between stocks and broth? Broths have more flavor as meat can be used if desired, they aren’t de-fatted and can be served on their own. There. Now you know.

There were four tables of students, three to a table. May Parich, our new and permanent teacher (also a CIA grad) assigned each table one of the stocks to cook. The white stock, a neutral flavored stock usually made with veal bones, was left for another time.

Related Imagery
Mac and Cheese (made with Roux)
Cathy and I, along with our tablemate Mindy, were assigned the brown stock. This type of stock is usually made with veal bones and is richer than the white as the bones and vegetables (called mirepoix-a mixture of onions, carrots and celery) are roasted with a touch of tomato puree and garlic. The pan is then de-glazed with red wine after all the ingredients are moved to a giant stockpot. Doesn’t that sound yummy already? This alone takes about 90 minutes. The next step, covering the bones, etc., with cold water and simmering for 6-7 hours was to be done by the staff that next morning. Obviously you’d want to make a TON of this all at once and freeze the stock in single-sized containers. Who the heck has time to do this during the week?!

While the bones were roasting, we learned about the five “mother sauces”: Béchamel, Veloute, Brown or Espanol, Tomato and Hollandaise. These mother sauces provide the base for all other sauces. Three out of these are made with Roux, an equal mixture of flour and fat. In our case, that fat was butter and May had us make a Veloute. This basic white sauce is made with roux, stock, salt and pepper. That’s it. The secret was in making sure the roux had the right color.

Roux is evidently really important in French cooking. I bet Julia Child went nuts with this stuff. Roux changes color and taste as it cooks. Recipes will have it defined as one of four types: white, blond, brown and dark. The darker the roux, the less it thickens.

For dinner, we had macaroni and cheese. Yes, made with roux. It’s actually our homework assignment. Of course, I’ll be re-engineering it to make it healthier and less caloric. It’s what I do. But, it’s nice to have the real thing once in a while!

Recipes from this week’s class:

Brown Stock (Veal)

Yields 8 quarts

12 lbs veal shanks and/or knuckles
3 lbs mirepoix, roughly chopped
4 oz tomato paste
1 head of garlic, cut in half, crosswise
1 cup red wine or water (go for the wine!)
Bouquet Garni - a few fresh thyme sprigs, fresh parsley, a bay leaf and some peppercorns

Preheat oven to 400. Place bones in roasting pan and roast until browned, turning once.  About 90 minutes total. Add mirepoix to pan, spread tomato paste over bones. Add garlic to the pan. Continue roasting until vegetables are carmelized, about 30 minutes. Place bones and mirepoix in stockpot. Deglaze roasting pan with wine. Add to stock pot. Cover with cold water. Bring to a simmer.  Add bouquet garni. Continue simmering, skimming off foam frequently for about 6-7 hours. Strain, cool, store.

Sauce Veloute (white gravy)

1 C white stock
½ oz butter
½ oz flour
Salt and pepper

Make a roux and cook it about 3-5 minutes. Don’t let it color. Whisk in stock. Simmer to desired consistency.

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