This week of school at the Natural Epicurean was fast-paced, high-energy and tons of fun, albeit tons of work. This is when we really delved into cooking and concocting fundamentals like stocks, sauces, and basic cooking methods (wet and dry).
I didn’t take any pictures of the stocks, because I’m sure you can imagine them. But it was fun creating a variety of depths (light, medium and dark) and flavor profiles (like herb and roasted garlic, or dashi). I did picture some of the other goodies, though.
For our sauce class we made a rich tomato sauce (front and center), a salsa verde with tarragon and toasted walnuts (right), a roasted red pepper coulis (left), and some nifty things you can’t see in the back – a mushroom jus, and demi-glace. I was super excited to create the demi-glace, which is a savory brown reduction sauce that’s almost exclusively made from meat, and it tasted great done veggie-style. Sauces are fun but challenging, since there are so many things to consider – flavor, color, texture, what you’re serving it with, and etc.
Next up, we had a lab on wet cooking methods, which is something I really don’t focus on much here on the blog (unless we’re talking soups and stews – I could eat those forever). But things like braising and poaching, and even steaming? These are all things I do far too seldomly. Why have I never braised before? Pictured in the very center is braised fennel, cabbage and leeks – the cabbage was scorched on each side prior to braising to give it a nice rich flavor, and holy hell was it good. More where that came from in my future.
And to contrast the wet cooking methods, we did a day of dry cooking, which involves pretty much everything with oil – think sauteing, stir frying, frying, grilling, and so on. Clockwise from the top left are sweet potato fries (tossed with applewood smoked salt, OMG), cauliflower-beet fritters, sauteed apples (with coconut milk ice cream), and grilled asparagus and eggplant. Somehow the roasted mushrooms missed the cut, which is a shame because he was plated as a mustached mushroom man. For real. The mustache was made of parsley.
We also had a couple of other non-cooking segments – one that was sort of an introduction to conscious cooking, getting us to consider the energetics of food and all that nifty hippie stuff, and another class that was math-based – yay conversions! Next week, we’ll begin to get more in-depth with certain food categories, like tofu, tempeh and grains. I’m pretty stoked!
And I even made a new friend in my neighborhood. This dude was totally chillin’ with me outside, he was way too cool.
Have a good weekend, folks, and I’ll catch up with you on Sunday for some mad brunch action!