Cooking class 101
In the culinary world, several terms and cooking techniques can be heard over and over again. Here are three commonly used techniques every cook should master.
Making a roux
A roux is a cooked mixture of equal parts fat and flour, used to thicken gravies, soups or sauces for foods such as macaroni and cheese. Most recipes will include the amount of roux necessary to thicken the dish, but when cooking from the heart and not from a recipe, keep in mind that 1 tablespoon of roux will thicken approximately 1 cup of liquid.
- Melt the fat in a pan over medium heat. Many sauces use butter, but oil or animal fats can be used as well.
- Slowly stir in about an equal amount of all-purpose flour. The mixture should end up resembling a thick paste.
- Continue cooking until the desired colour is reached; then it's ready to use in your recipe. White roux for white sauces is cooked for only a few minutes, but the most-often used blond roux is cooked for a few extra minutes until it has a light golden colour, and a brown roux for brown sauces is cooked until it has a medium brown colour.
Basic breading technique
Breading helps seal in moisture and create a nice crunch to the outside of food. It's a procedure that can be used with meat or vegetables that are to be fried or baked.
- Set up a breading station with three shallow dishes. The first should hold about a cup of all-purpose flour, seasoned lightly with salt and pepper. The second is for two eggs beaten with 2 tablespoons of water or milk. The third will hold your bread crumb coating, such as regular or panko bread crumbs seasoned with herbs and spices.
- Pat the food dry.
- Dredge a piece of the food in the flour, and shake of the excess.
- Next, drop it into the egg wash, then remove, and place it in the bread crumbs. Use your hand to press the crumbs onto the food.
- Remove the breaded item, place on a tray, and repeat until all the food has been coated in the bread crumbs.
- Chill the breaded pieces for 20 minutes to help the coating stick, and then they are ready to fry or bake as desired.
Deglazing a pan
Deglazing is a process that uses liquid to loosen all the flavourful caramelized bits of meat that are stuck to the bottom of a pan after cooking. You can use the liquid and these browned bits (called fond) to create a delicious sauce.
- Remove the cooked meat and excess fat from the pan.
- Add a liquid such as stock, wine, beer or water to cover the bottom of the pan. The amount of liquid used is dependent on the size of the pan, how many browned bits there are and how much sauce you want to make. Be sure to have a minimum coverage of 1/4 of an inch in the pan.
- Turn on the heat to medium high, then stir and scrape the pan constantly to remove all the bits, and incorporate them into the liquid.
- Simmer the liquid until it has reduced to the consistency you want, then use it to make your favourite sauce.