I’ve finished Week 3 of culinary school and just wanted to let y’all know that I haven’t blown myself up or cut off any digits. Yet. There are still 17 weeks to go, so my digits aren’t completely out of the woods.
And, not just because I have remained disaster-free (there are many, many reasons), I am loving culinary school. Loooooooving it! I have the smartest, most patient chef instructor, Laura. She answers all questions, sometimes the same question multiple times, with wit and expertise. This lady knows what she is doing. And we haven’t driven her from the kitchen screaming like her hair is on fire even though I’m sure she’s thought about it. That is what I call professionalism.
This week, we focused on sauces (emulsions, purees, vinaigrettes, reductions). Now, I know this sounds super boring, but sauces are really part of the foundation of any classic chef training. I know this because I saw The Hundred Foot Journey, and if Helen Mirren says it’s true, then it must be. Laura also said it’s true, so there. Now you know.
We made beurre blanc, romesco, red wine reduction, creole remoulade, salsa verde, mayonnaise, aioli, harissa, tapenade, chermoula, and chutney and they were all delicious. At the end of every class we get to feast and taste everything we’ve made (and all the yummy stuff the sous chefs make to complement our dishes).
Seriously, teachers around the world should take note: if you want your students to be excited about what they are learning, feed them something at the end (See my Bluebird post if you want another real-life example of this.).
One of my favorite sauces (and not just because my class partner and I made it) was the salsa verde. Growing up on the border of Mexico, salsa verde has always involved lots of green chile and/or tomatillos. This version (which I understand is the classic version) involves NO chiles or tomatillos, but a whole lot of parsley. Why it is named something Spanish when it is French is beyond me, but hey, what the hell do I know? This is why I’m going to culinary school – to unlearn all the wrong stuff I’ve learned and to learn how to sound fancy schmancy when I throw around words like velouté (instead of gravy), julienne (instead of chopped like a matchstick) and mis en place (instead of ingredients and tools). You feel less-than already, don’t you?
Anyway, back to the salsa verde. This stuff rocks. You can use it on fish, chicken, toasted bread – you name it. It is so fresh and flavorful that it really adds a little bit of Shazam! to just about anything you can think of. And it will keep for about a week in the refrigerator, so once you make a batch, just try it on everything and see what you like.
Yes, there is a lot of chopping involved (which I hate), and a couple of anchovies (which I also hate), but this sauce is totally worth it, trust me. I just turned on the coverage of Stormageddon Monday night and chopped away, no problem. And as for the anchovies, you cannot even taste them.
Really. In fact, the strangest thing about this whole recipe is that I’m not a big fan of many of its ingredients, but the sum of its parts just becomes something magical. Cooking is so weird like that. Kind of like babies. Okay, don’t tell my kids I said that, but if you’re a mom you know exactly what I mean – all the mixing of odd genes from both parents usually winds up being a pretty special baby!
* I roasted some cauliflower in the oven (400 degrees, olive oil, salt, 20 minutes) and then drizzled the Salsa Verde over it. OMG.
P.S. That’s purple cauliflower, not poison.
Salsa Verde (from the New School of Cooking)
1/2 bunch mint leaves very finely chopped
leaves from 2 bunches of parsley very finely chopped
4 scallions white and green parts very finely choppped
3 Tbsp. capers very finely chopped
zest from 1 lemon
2 Tbsp. red wine vinegar
1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
salt and pepper to taste
Combine all ingredients. Season to taste.
*This recipe does not call for any garlic, but next time I make it I’m going to add some. It seems like it would be a good addition. I will let you know.