Cooking Update: The Clarified Butter Files

Quick update for those interested (Two and counting, woohoo!). Over the past couple of days I have been trying to practice what we have been learning in class on my own. Part of the deal with taking cooking classes that meet only once a week is that you do a lot of work on your own between classes. I have been slacking off the past couple of weeks so I am trying to catch up.

The knife skills are coming along slow but sure. Still can’t do a 1/4″ small dice of a carrot. My dice is more rectangular than square. (Apparently I have trouble planking correctly and don’t square off with my knife…) My onions are MUCH improved, and I have been inventing reasons to blanch, peel and seed tomatoes. I know, party animal, right?

My first batch of clarified butter turned out ok. Not completely clear of foam, but not bad for my first go. It is harder to get rid of the foam than I thought. At least I didn’t cook the butter, which apparently is a big no-no. I have yet to use it, but every time I open the fridge and see the container, I get a little excited about the recipes I can now try.

So last night I attempted a brown stock. I used about 1/3 of the ingredients from the textbook recipe, which means basically 1 gallon of water, 5 pounds of chicken bones, and less than a pound of mirepoix. I ended up using whole chicken legs, which I am not sure is a good idea or not.

The stock has great flavor. I got about 1 quart out of the deal. Alas, it is cloudy. I think I simmered it too hard. And of course, I started too late in the evening (8 pm by the time it started simmering), so I only let it cook about 4 1/2 hrs instead of the suggested 6 to 8. I saved the bones for a remouillage (a weaker stock made with reused bones). Hopefully this one will be a little clearer. If not, I will try a trick I read of adding a couple of egg whites to the broth and then straining them out. If nothing else, I think I will make some espagnole (brown sauce) so I can try a demi-glace.

My other culinary adventure from last night was to make a marinara sauce. I used a recipe from Giada de Laurentiis. I like the recipe because it is easy to remember, tastes great, and is basic, so it can be used as a base for a lot of other tomato sauce variations, including an all-time favorite of mine: vodka sauce. I made about two quarts of marinara last night. I do vary the recipe a little by adding oregano and by using a mix of crushed and whole tomatoes (squeezed of seeds of course). I prefer my marinara a little chunkier.

Most of the sauce will head for the freezer, but I did use a little for last night’s dinner: I did a shallow poach of sweet Italian sausages in a bit of red wine, finished them uncovered with dry heat. I deglazed the pan with some of my husband’s homemade salsa picante (tomatoes, jalapenos, garlic and salt) and added some of the marinara. I sliced the sausage links into bite-size pieces and added them back to the sauce, topped it with fresh chopped parsely, shredded fresh parmesan and served it with fresh pappardelle. Not bad! The sauce got a little dark for me, so I diluted with a bit of water and with a small can of tomato puree. Next time I might poach in a lighter liquid.

This weekend we’re tackling poached eggs and homemade hollandaise, so look for another update soon!

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