Wednesday, November 18, 2009

French Onion Soup, The best way to practice sauteing and deglazing...and seduction

As the winter begins to draw in, the Cooker can think of nothing else but seduction.  Oh the lucky one (if the bear is hungry he will eat), who is targeted for this seduction.  For this person will get to enjoy the sensual delight that is French Onion Soup.

The best way to enjoy this post is to open this link in a separate window to set the mood, put on your finest silk lounging robes, pour yourself a little something from the cellar and then scroll down...slowly.  You are about to read how to make French Onion Soup, the most sensual of all soups.  Deep flavor, crunchy bread, gooey gruyere.  Aaaahh maaannnn.

Like a good lover, it takes patience, heat, oil, and...onions...and salt.  Think of this recipe when you need to do some impressin' to help with the undressin'.  Now you could spend all day in front of your designer, commercial style stove, but you have got rose petals to scatter and votive candles to light.  So the trick is to use your oven and a dutch oven to take care of the first couple hours or so, to help that deep flavor develop.  The most important thing to remember is that the more times you are able to deglaze the pan, the deeper and rounder the flavor will get.  Aaaaahhh maaaan.  To do a proper job of it you will need to deglaze the pan more than ten times at least.

So strap on your egyptian cotton apron, slip on you whale penis leather clogs, press play on your Prince playlist and head into the kitchen to make delicious.

Have a look at these teases

OH! So sorry to catch you undressing.

Ready for the Steamy Sauna

Oh, a salt rub, kinky

Sneaking a peak during the oven time

No tan lines, provocative

Getting closer to the climax

Ah there is the fond, now is the time to add some liquid

Sensual bath has started

General Notes:

Serves: 4 -6 depending on the serving size
Prep Time:  1 - 4 hours depending on how deep you want the flavor, not all is hands-on time
General:  Deglaze as many times as you have time for, and remember to always keep it sexy.  Some of these ingredients may seem exotic so just have your personal assistant procure them for you.

  • Oven Safe Pot with lid or dutch oven large enough to hold a whole bunch of onions, only use your hammered copper pot if you will be presenting the soup at the table.
  • 1 inch thick, end grain cutting board, thoroughly rubbed with bamboo oil
  • Handmade French Chef's knife, preferrably from Solingen with Ivory Handle
  • Broiler safe bowl or crock for presentation of the soup,  gilded skull if you have it
  • Cheese grater
  • Stove/oven combo with broiler
  • 2 Farm Fresh Vidalia Onions flown in from Texas (preferably by Zepplin), sliced
  • 2 Farm Fresh Red Onions driven in from Chile (preferably by Bentley), sliced
  • 2 Farm Fresh White Onions sailed in from Southern California (preferably by Yacht), sliced
  • 64 ounces of extra fine broth, this recipe used Vegetable but Beef is traditional
  • 6 cloves of Farm Fresh garlic rickshawed in from Gilroy, California, minced
  • Extra Virgin Olive Oil from the oldest tree in the Piedmont region of Italy (preferably also read the story Are you my mother nightly) as needed
  • Flaked Sea Salt from the smallest tide pool of the Omaha Beach
  • A crusty baguette flown in from Le Baguette in Paris, better use the Concorde to get it fast enough
  • Gruyere cheese, cave aged only please, shredded
Written Instructions:
  • Dim the lights in your thoughtfully appointed, commercial style kitchen
  • Carefully, but firmly arrange your equipment, ingredients and preheat the oven to 350 degrees
  • Take a sip from your champagne while admiring your reflection in your stainless steel appliances, go ahead toast yourself, you deserve it
  • Next take the top and bottom off of each onion and then halve them
  • Now remove the outer layer of each onion and lay them out
  • Slice the onions against the grain from top to bottom in medium thick slices
  • Put the slices into your dutch oven/ pot
  • Salt and Olive Oil the Onions, cover them and put them into the oven
  • Pour yourself a touch more bubbles and head in to either finish your nude (oil painting) or nude
  • Stir the onions a bit and place back in for another hour if you have the time or begin sauteing if your desire cannot wait any longer
  • When you are ready remove the dutch oven/pot from the oven and place over medium heat on the stove
  • Begin sauteing the onions while constantly stirring
  • When the pan has dried up a touch and a layer of brown fond has developed, deglaze the pan with your broth while stirring with fervor
  • Saute until the pan is dry again and you have developed another layer of fond and deglaze once more
  • Continue fonding and deglazing until you have gone through 32 ounces of broth or you have reached your deglazing limit
  • Add the rest of your broth and bring the whole mixture up to a simmer and simmer until you are ready to serve
  • Turn on the broiler of your oven
  • Slice 2 slices from the baguette, top with shredded Gruyere
  • Ladle the soup into a broiler safe crock or bowl
  • Place cheesy bread over the top of some soup and broil until the cheese is browned and bubbly
  • Carefully make it happen in your tum tum, AAAAAHHH MMAAAANNNN!!

Friday, October 9, 2009

Duxelles, Further direction on How to Saute


Ah the French. These are people who unabashedly do everything that we Americans are too scared to even attempt. They strike at the drop of a hat for things as simple as getting governmental nannies for their kids. They encourage Gerard Depardieu to do whatever the hell is going on up there.

They also do crazy things with food that makes your heart hurt but your belly dance. Things like putting a fried egg on top of a ham and cheese sandwich, or drinking wine all day, in the park, on a weekday.

They also seem to be a people that love naming things and specifically love naming things after people. Add to that a cuisine that has been around for about 1 million years (citation needed) and you get some fun things. This post is about a combination of flavors that became so popular that they named it after a
Marquis,Duxelles (dook-sehl). Although, the Chef must have been pissed when it got named after his boss and not him. The Workshop would be pissed if it created a preparation so popular it needed a name and it was referred to as, a la Blogger, instead of a la Cooker.

Anyways, the following is dedicated to Duxelles a versatile accompaniment that can be made into a stuffing, a garnish, a side dish, or filling for a tart. It makes a great upgrade to sauteed mushrooms for your burger or steak as well.

It will also demonstrate a few more techniques for Sauteing, such as "fond" and "de-glazing." Fond is the brown that develops on the bottom of the pan as you cook something. This is basically the sugars that have been brought out of the food by the cooking process and have caramelized on the bottom on the pan. De-glazing is the technique that loosens up all those sugars from the bottom of the pan and turns them into a sort of glaze or coating on the food that you are cooking. This technique can greatly deepen the flavor
of whatever you are cooking. French Onion soup depends on this these two things to create that incredibly deep flavor.

So ladies, strap on your maid outfit, fellas your banana hammock and lets get Fronch (french with a thick French Accent).

The ingredients resting before the big protest march. Cremini Mushrooms, Onion, Garlic, Parsley and White Wine

Close up on the Sliced Mushrooms with finely diced onions resting on them in the saute pan

The brown stuff on the pan is called "fond" and it is made up of delicious

White Wine getting ready to "deglaze" the pan

The White Wine being poured while scraping like a madman to release the "fond" back into the wild

A close up on the "fond" releasing from the pan while "deglazing"

A sprinkle of fresh chopped Parsley finishes the dish. Notice how much darker the mushrooms have become from the de-glazing

General Notes:

Prep Time: 10 -15 minutes This will depend on how fast you can wash and slice mushrooms.
Servings: This is for 4 garnishes or 2 sides. It can also be used as a stuffing
Notes: Any type of mushroom will work for this recipe. This one calls for Cremini but that is just because they are a step up from white button mushrooms in flavor, easy to find and not terribly expensive. Onions and Shallots work interchangeably here, the classic version uses shallots but that does not mean you have them in your house when you want to make this.


8 oz Cremini Mushrooms
1/4 cup
diced Onions
2-3 minced Garlic Cloves
1/4 cup chopped Parsley
1/4 cup White Wine
2 tbsp Olive Oil
Salt, Pepper and even Crushed Red Pepper if you like it a touch spicy, to taste


8-10 inch Saute/Fry pan
Cutting Skills
Cutting Board

Written Directions:
  • Assemble all of your ingredients and equipment
  • Give those mushrooms a good rinse taking care to remove the dirt from them. You can rinse mushrooms. It is an old french chef's tale that you should never let water touch them. It is a lie. You can actually soak mushrooms for hours without too much water getting in there. So go ahead and reap the benefits of modern society
  • Start your pan to preheating over low heat
  • Start prepping your ingredients taking care to slice things evenly
  • Add a bloop of Olive Oil to the pan and turn the heat up to medium, maybe even medium high
  • Add the mushrooms and the onions such that everything is in one layer, if you have too much then work in batches
  • Give it a quick toss or quick stir. THen leave that dang pan alone
  • SERIOUSLY. The secret to great sauteed mushrooms is to leave them alone to let them get some color "But you said to saute you should keep the pan moving" blah, blah, blah. The thing is this. Mushrooms contain a lot of water and you need to get that water out of there. If you keep them moving they will start sweating instead of sauteing. Booyah. You just got told sucka
  • Let those little guys hang out for a few minutes to let that color going. Then give them a good toss or stir to redistribute them
  • Next add in that chopped Garlic and let them go a few minutes longer
  • Now the fun part. Get your wine and your stirring implement ready. You should have some good fond on the bottom of the pan to loosen up. Now a note on de-glazing with alcohol. If you are doing this over a gas stove then you better move the pan off the heat to do this. If you do it over the heat you might ignite the alcohol that is fuming off and start a beautiful fire. However, it is still fire so be careful. Anyways, pour in the wine and stir like crazy to try and loosen up all those bits
  • Now mix everything up and add your parsley, stir around and remove form the heat.
  • Now you can either make it happen in your tum tum now...or you can stuff it into a chicken breast like below and then make it happen in your tum tum

Friday, September 11, 2009

How to Saute or Jitterbug...Jitterbug...Jitterbug

But am I ready to be a father figure?

Few musicians have captured the attention of the world quite as completely as George Michael. He just jitterbugged his way right into our hearts in the 80's and never left. So what in the world does George Michael have to do with cooking? EVERYTHING! DON'T YOU EVER QUESTION THE COOKER! is a bit of a stretch. However, that does not make either subject any less important.

Just like dancing, being able to properly saute is a skill that should be learned and developed. It is one of the most common ways to cook things and always adds panache to a description. Which sounds better; sweated onions and bell peppers or sauteed onions and bell peppers? Exactly. Sweated onions sounds like the fat guy at the beach that is sweating bullets because he is eating.

Mmm, that sounds good. I'll have that

This post is dedicated to Saute, the verb. This post will show some basic steps in sauteing and will even have a side dish sneaked into it. Look to sauteing when you want to deepen then flavor of something by browning it. Sauteing is normally reserved for things that can be cooked quickly and hold onto their shape pretty well. This is why shrimps and veggies are typically sauteed and potatoes and soup are typically not.

The important part here is that when you are doing some sauteing you want the food to be dancing or jitterbugging around the pan. If the pan is too cold you will sweat your veggies instead and this neither the time nor the place. So your pan must be good and hot, around medium for most people's stoves and pans. You must also be using some sort of fat that can handle higher temperatures, so only use butter if you have clarified it first. Also, sauteing is about getting some color on the food that you are cooking. You should be browning the food, if there is not enough heat to brown it then you need to crank it. With that in mind let us begin.

Grab yourself a pan. Either of these would work just fine. The one on the right is a proper saute pan but the cooker was feeling sassy so the fry pan was used, plus the saute pan was being used for something else. Whichever you choose, try to pick one that is big enough for the job at hand. If that pan is too small and you start crowding it you will have to work in batches so that you do not sweat. Anyways, go ahead and start letting it heat up while you start prepping the items to be sauteed.

These are the guys that will be getting cut up and then sauteed. It will make a lovely side dish for whatever else you might be having in the late summer time.

Here they are after being cut up. The squashes were cut using what we will call for the time being, the carrot method, and the onions were cut up in the non dice version here. And then there is the garlic which is going to get its own post some day, cuz damn it tasty.

So you heat the pan and then pour your preferred fat in there and let it heat. You know it is ready when it slides easily back and forth across the pan. It is too hot if the oil is smoking or your kitchen is on fire. When it has reached the specified oil temperature, add the cut onions. Okay, and when you add the onions, don't be an idiot. Be careful. Add them close to the pan so that you do not splash the oil everywhere and look like this. You should hear a nice sizzle, if you do not your oil is not hot enough. Crank it up a little until you hear a good sizzle. Oh and add some salt at this point.

Keep the onions moving fairly regularly so that they brown but do not burn. They should look something like those above. if not you better crank it up a little or let them sit a little longer between moves. Next add your squash again without being an idiot. Add a touch of salt and keep that stuff moving regularly. Oh and remember to not crowd the pan. Crowding the pan will drop the heat of the pan and you will start sweating instead of sauteing.

Time for the big toss. Tilt the pan down and let the food slide towards that edge.

Then flick your wrist up while pulling back to throw the food into the air while also launching it backwards. This is no time for cowardice. This is no time to be timid. You gotta go for it. if you do not, nothing will happen and you will just coat your backsplash with squashy bits.

If you have acted with bravery and all has gone to plan, the pan will catch the food as it falls back to the earth. Does this a few times to mix everything up nicely. Oh, if you would like practice, try with a cold pan and some uncooked rice. Start with tiny tosses and move your way up. Toss that around a couple times and then add your garlic. Keep it moving until everything has some color. Then slide it onto a dish and you are ready.

That is the finished side over there on the right side. The Cooker did not get a great shot of the squash on its on so you get a sauteed dish in entirety. The mushroom thing and the chicken will follow, calm down.

To summarize.
  • You need a pan that gets hot.
  • You need a fat of some sort that can handle some heat.
  • You need to hear a sizzle.
  • You need to do some browning. Color is the goal.
  • Do not overcrowd the pan as this will lead to uneven cooking and sweating. Not the goal.
  • You need to choose items that cook rather quickly and hold their shape.
  • You must not be timid. The meek might inherit the earth but they will be making piss poor saute the whole time. This is why strong adjectives and verbs describe cooks. Galloping Gourmet, not shuffling. Iron Chef, not putty. Wham, not tickle.
  • You must then make it happen in your tum tum.
Questions? Need more elaboration? You better axe somebody.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Bell (Pepper) Biv Devoe

You have bested Onion and Carrot with flawless victories. Now for your final challenge in this introductory course, the Workshop presents the Bell Pepper. Slippery, stubborn, complicated, and sometimes containing half a clone inside, the Bell Pepper is your most formidable foe yet. You would be wise to sharpen up the knife before engaging this one in mortal combat. The Bell Pepper has been known take dull knives away from cookers, tying the cookers to a spinning wooden wheel and then flinging the knives at their helpless fingers giving them cuts a plenty. Do you want that? The tricky part with Bell peppers is getting the seed pod out without wasting all the flesh. Two general methods are shown here. After getting the seed pod out you can slice or dice however you like for the dish that you are preparing.

For the first method curl those fingers up and lay the Pepper on its side. Then cut the stem end off in a slicing motion far enough down such that there is an opening in the top big enough to remove the seed pod.

Then cut the bottom off, again in a slicing motion such that there is an opening on the bottom.

Then prop the the thing up on end and slice down through one side to open up the Pepper.

Then pull out the seed pod and all of the whit pithy stuff you can see with either your hand or your knife.

With the Pepper deseeded lay it out flat, skin side down and begin slicing it parallel to the ribs, all the way if you like slices or just most of the way if you like dice.

This is the other side of the Pepper that has been cut for most of the way to get ready for a dice.

Then just cutting perpendicular to get that lovely dice.

Method number two is a little trickier to explain so here goes. Take the whole Pepper and slice down the ribs of the Pepper from top to bottom using the tip of your knife. The ribs are those indentations just in case you are not familiar. Cutting down each rib makes it easier to open up the whole thing later.

Next, open up the whole Pepper, bending back the sections that you have cut. If you bend them all the back they will break off at the base of the seed pod.

You are then left with smaller sections of Pepper that you can then slice or dice. you can make rounded slices using this method due to the natural curve of the Pepper.

Looks like you passed the introductory course. Here is a Gold Star. You can now make the southern Trinity as well, onions, celery and bell pepper. They use that as a base for everything down in Louisiana. This has concluded the first course is cuttering. Future courses will show different cuts and the fancy names for them as well as how to make them. Did..Did you...Did you cut yourself!? Well then what is all that red on your fingers!? Oh. But how did you get that slice of Pepper stuck to your finger? You know what, keep it to yourself. Yikes. Now go wash your hands and make something tasty so that you may make it happen in your tum tum.

Monday, August 31, 2009

If Carrots got you drunk...Rabbits would be Faaaaaded

Well. Well. Well. You have defeated Onion my young grasshopper? (Cooker begins slowly clapping) Then you must feel ready to take on your next adversary. Hmmm? You were born ready? Well then prepare yourself grasshopper, for CARROT! Why is there no fear in your eyes? Feeling cocky then eh? Cocky enough to use...a PEELER? Still no fear. Right. Let's get on with it then.

Before you lies the carrot, edible raw or cooked, whole or cut, peeled or unpeeled. This post is designed to show you some basic ways to cut up a carrot without using crazy french terms. Those will follow shortly though if all goes to plan. So there is the simple round, wheel cut which is good for longer cooking where the carrot needs to be recognizable. There is the half circle carrot cut for slightly faster cooking and where it can begin fading into a background flavor. Then there is the quarter wheel cut which is good for fast cooking where you do not need to have a distinct carrot flavor. Remember to keep those fingers curled under and bigger carrots are easier to practice on. Oh, and that dang knife better be sharp.

Start by peeling the carrot. There are millions of ways to do this. The Cooker is meticulous and goes from top to bottom one ever so slightly overlapping strip at a time until the whole thing is peeled. The hand and peeler are out of focus because the camera's eye has a hard time capturing something that fast.

When the carrot is completely naked it is time to start making with the cuts. Snip the tip and the top just a bit from each side to clean it up. Then depending on what type of cut you are going to make you can cut it in half to make it more manageable or leave it whole. A variety of cuts are to be performed so this carrot is being halved.

Now curl those fingers under and start slicing the carrot into wheels. Something to keep in mind while doing this is to try and keep the carrots the same size as you go. Carrots are smaller closer to the tip so make wider cuts there and narrow then as you come up so that they cook at the same rate. P.S. use a rocking motion with your knife to make the job easier.

For the half wheel, take the section of carrot that you are working with and bisect it lengthwise. Taking care to keep the carrot from rolling which might sink the knife into your fingers. Use that same rocking motion here as carrots can be cruel mistresses.

Then use the same method and cut across your previous cut to make a series of half wheels.

To make the quarter wheel cut. Bisect the half carrot you have lengthwise again. Keep the two halves together though as it is quicker to cut them up this way. Then cut them the same way as both times before and you end up with cute little quarters.

Here are the three cuts ready for your viewing pleasure. From left to right, quarters, halves and wholes.

Still got all those sweet little fingers intact it looks like. Nice job. Seriously though these little guys can get the best of you if you are not careful. You can now cut up 2/3 of the super base mirepoix. Well really you can do all three. Celery is pretty much the same idea as carrots just shaped a little different. Celery poses the peel or not to peel? Keep the stringies or get rid of them. You make the call. So now you can make a solid base to soups, sauces, stocks, stews etc.

Okay so now just knock out 80 - 90 of these and you will be ready for your next task. Okay you don't really need to cut that many. But think about how you might make a dice out of a veggie shaped like a carrot. Go make something tasty with these little games so that you can make it happen in your tum tum.