Culinary School: Week 3 (of 12 weeks)
Last Week's Diary: The Make-Ahead Egg Trick That Will Change Brunch Forever
I've been in culinary school for three weeks now and I already feel more confident in the kitchen. I was trying to think of what exactly made this class so special, and I believe it has something to do with a new way of looking at food and cooking. I'm learning the classic French basics, yes, but these basics seem to have a deeper purpose than I previously realized.
This deeper understanding of cooking can all be summed up with eggs.
Chef's Salad Nicoise. Mine did not look as good.
This week in class we studied preserving, and composed and simple salads. During our talk on preserving methods, the chef said a simple, off-handed thing that sums up this larger purpose of cooking basics. He said: "Eggs are nature's best canned food." What an interesting idea!
This brought our chef to another point: do you refrigerate your eggs?
I don't know about you, but I always put eggs in the fridge, but I've never taken the time to understand why. If eggs are truly nature's best canned food, as chef explained, it's OK to leave them out for a few days before using them (unless you're poaching eggs). It comes down to questioning our assumptions and habits in the kitchen, and making sure form and function are in unison. This is exactly what culinary school has taught me so far.
Prepping vegetables for salad
Going over the classic French culinary basics has started to show me this union of form and function in the kitchen. We cut vegetables a certain way not because it looks pretty (although that helps), but because they all need to cook at the same time. We cook food instead of eating it raw because it helps digestion, not because it's trendy. And a traditional French dinner ends with salad (but before cheese or dessert), because it also helps in digestion.
When we look at food as more than just delicious, or a trend, or of being a "healthy choice", we get a little closer to the science of food and how everything comes together in the kitchen. This all starts with the basics.
Next week we're focusing on soups and filleting fish – stay tuned!
After dreaming about culinary school for the last five years, I finally signed up for a course this summer at the International Culinary Center in New York. The course, "Culinary Techniques," is a three month class that meets two nights a week, and focuses on classic culinary traditions and methods like knife skills, stock-making, classic recipes, and some pastry.
(Image credits: Ariel Knutson)