Thursday, June 12, 2008

The Basics

I've been thinking about this a lot lately. I'm a big fan of chefs such as Grant Achatz, Wylie Dufresne and Ferran Adria. They've brought a lot of innovations to the culinary world lately, through something that is frequently mistakenly referred to as "molecular gastronomy". I think a lot of these types of chefs would prefer to think of it as something else, such as "experimental cooking". However, experimental though it may be, each of them still understands the importance of the basics.

I bought a frozen duck a few days ago, and I finally got around to thawing and butchering it. I really got it for the leg meat, and haven't really decided yet what to do with the breasts. But when I had it all broken down, I was left with a bunch of duck fat and an empty-looking carcass. Normally I would have rendered down the fat, but I didn't have any plans for it, and didn't want it hanging around my kitchen until it spoiled. But I did have an idea for the carcass. I made stock.

I didn't make a "proper" stock. I didn't weigh out my bones or my mirepoix, and I didn't have any bay leaves or parsley stems around. I ended up using just whole peppercorns and dried lemongrass for my aromatics. I didn't even bother taking photos. I ended up with a pretty decent stock. It was nice practice. I'm hoping to do a write-up of a proper stock in the near future.

Later, I decided that a nice French onion soup would be nice for dinner. I had enough onion laying around, but no beef stock or broth. But I did have fresh duck stock, and some packaged chicken stock. Not classical, but I didn't care. At one point I remarked to my wife that I hoped it turned out okay. She seemed a little incredulous that I would be making French onion soup with no recipe if I'd never made it before (true story). But I already knew how to make it. It's a classical preparation, and I watch a lot of Food Network. It turned out pretty much exacly like I thought it would. Again, no photos. Sorry guys. I'll have to make more next week and photograph it this time. It's a sacrafice that I'm willing to make.

Maybe it's time for me to get back to basics for a while. In October it will have been 5 years since leaving cooking school, and I feel a bit rusty. I'm hoping to have enough time next week to make another batch of stock, and photograph it this time. Maybe I'll move onto mother sauces. It's been at least a year or two since I made a Hollandaise. I might even do it properly. We'll see what happens.

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