Lesson 1.3 How to make vegetable stock

In case any one of you are wondering about the previous entry on Amour doux, that is actually a post that I need to submit for a contest on Project Food Blog. I’m not entering to win but I find the challenge really challenging and so I participated. Well, you could of course vote for me if you find that I am good enough. In any case, I would be trying out the challenge whether or not I am moving on to the next stage. =)

For today, the lesson from my MS textbook is on how to make vegetable stock. For this recipe that is to follow, the vegetables are lightly browned to give the stock intense flavour. This is helpful especially since there is no base of flavour provided by meat as compared to the previous two kinds of stock.

I basically use celery, carrots, corainder (because I love it), onions and garlic for the stock and of course, how could we do without oil, pepper and some salt?

The 3 steps are basically browning the vegetables, making the stock and then straining it.

Browning the vegetables.
Heat the oil over medium heat until hot but not smoking. Add chopped onions and cook, stirring often until they begin to brown. Add celery, carrots and garlic. Cook and stir occasionally until vegetables are tender and lightly browned.

Making the stock. Pour in enough water to cover vegetables by 1 inch ( for me, 2 inches). Add the herbs (corainder) and the remaining onion. Season with salt and pepper and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to a gentle simmer and cook (uncover) for about 45 minutes to an hour.

Straining the stock. Pour stock through a fine sieve into a large bowl. pressing on vegetables to extract as much flavourful liquid as possible. Discard solids. If not using immediately, cool in an ice-water bath before transferring to airtight containers. Vegetable stock can be refrigerated for up to 2 days or frozen for up to 3 months; thaw completely before using (Martha Stewart’s Cooking School).

Let’s just see how I would use my vegetable stock next. Hmmm….

Lesson: 1.2 How to make chicken soup & Hainanese Chicken Rice

This is the second dish that the hubs has requested recently and I’ve decided to overcome all the inconveniences and attempted this! I found a wonderful site, steamy kitchen and followed the step-by-step instructions. I shall give the credits to the blogger but highlight the important points here.

Coincidentally, this dish tied in nicely with lesson 1.2 and through the making of this dish, I learnt some precious lessons. I’ll use the pics to highlight the salient points.

OK, I cheated. I should be using the whole chicken instead of the breasts only. However, there are only 2 of us eating and so… Before that, I scrubbed the parts with kosher salt to give it a smooth touch, washed and applied salt again and then stuffed ginger and spring onion in them. I poured in cold water until 1 inch above the chicken.

Yes, I have my own dutch oven. But since this is only 3 qt, I couldn’t put in the whole chicken right?

Skimming! An important step and is critical to the soup’s success, since the impurities from the chicken would cause the broth to become cloudy.

Giving the chicken a cold bath will stop the cooking process, keeping the meat soft and tender and giving the skin a soft and firm texture.

Fry the ginger and garlic, together with the rice and cook with the chicken broth!

I totally enjoyed making this dish. The aroma of the chicken just filled your kitchen. Totally worth every hard work!

Lesson 1.1 How to make white stock

‘It has been said that the measure of a good cook is how well he or she makes a soup. Not a complicated, multicourse meal or a delicate souffle, but a simple soup.’ ~ MS

So, whether or not I have the dutch oven (yet!), I thought I should just go ahead by making a small portion of the chicken stock using chicken thigh for the flavour base and carrots, celery stalks, onions and black pepper for aromatics.

Since I am using the stock and chicken immediately for dinner, there was no excess for keeps. I went on to make Chicken macaroni soup, a very simple dish I learnt when I was in Secondary School. As usual, I crowd the whole shallow bowl with ingredients and the turnout of the picture is bleh.

I quickly come to realise that food photography is another skill I must learn so as to present them to readers as delectable. That will include the setting, lighting and the cutlery & utensils (and even props) used to present the food. I’m posting the crowded dish that I have made which served as a gentle reminder to me to stop maximising the size of the dish! =p

 

Preparation

Class is starting soon and in preparation, I have been reading up on Cooking101, the basics and that ranges from knowledge of the various equipment and tools and their uses to the identification of herbs.

I don’t have the best of equipment here and sometimes wish Mom could just ship some of her stuff to me. She bought only the best and some of the pots and pans could amount to thousands of dollars. I remember one machine she bought when I was little, called Magimix (food processor) and back then, I considered her weird to fork out so much on that thing. But that THING does a lot of wonders but it’s a pity that mom seldom uses it now that we are all grown up and hardly at home.

So perhaps, such practice is passed on to me. I know there are things we can save but it is always wise to spend on good-quality cookware and knives so that they can last serve us well for a lifetime or even generations to come. I know my sis and I would inherit some of her cookware!

Back to my curriculum (which I base heavily on Martha Stewart’s Cooking School), I realised that her website has wonderful resources that we could use, tips and videos that I could watch as I learn my craft. Oh! They have quizzes as well and I top every one of them! I am definitely pleased to have bought the textbook and I must give credit to the team behind MS. Thus far, the information has been useful and comprehensible and I love it when they are supplemented with videos and wonderful pictures. It’s just like some colleges who offer different modes of learning!

I’m excited. I’m going to bring forward my lesson to today (oh! the benefit of being self-taught) as we are running low on food supply! I might as well start my curriculum today!  Oops! I realised I couldn’t start as I have not gotten my dutch oven yet! Bummer!

The first set of lessons would be on stocks and soups and there are 9 sessions altogether. I will be going through every one of them and with that, create related dishes for our meals.

Yea!