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By Chef Todd

What Is Eggs Benedict Without Hollandaise Sauce?

If you can poach an egg, toast an English Muffin and grill some Canadian Bacon, you can make an Egg McMuffin. But, what if you added a velvety smooth hollandaise sauce? Then, you’ve got Eggs Benedict, an upscale breakfast delicacy that can’t be gotten from the drive-thru window.

What is Eggs Benedict WITHOUT hollandaise sauce? It’s just a breakfast sandwich that any fast food employee can prepare. The difference between the dollar menu item and a professionally made breakfast lies in knowing how to make this delicate sauce that takes advantage of the science of emulsification.

Hollandaise sauce and all the small sauces that are derived from it involve an emulsification process. An emulsification is the mixing of two unmixable items as demonstrated in other procedures like how to make mayonnaise which uses the same science.

Egg yolks contain lecithin, a natural emulsifier. It brings together warm clarified butter, a small amount of water, lemon juice or vinegar and the yolks. The problem is that egg yolks contain fat. Fat and water don’t normally mix. Lecithin in the egg yolks brings the two unmixable items together in a permanent emulsion.

When the yolks are vigorously whipped with the liquids, the warm butter is slowly added and the lecithin coats the individual fat droplets and holds them in suspension in the liquid. This process is the difference between having a great hollandaise sauce and just creating scrambled eggs with melted butter in them.

If you are curious about the correct way to clarify butter, review the previous class “All The Butter Facts From Culinary College” 

A properly made hollandaise is smooth, buttery, pale lemon yellow colored and very rich. It must be absolutely lump free and not exhibit any signs of separation. It should be frothy and light, not heavy like mayonnaise.

What is Eggs Benedict with a badly made sauce? It’s a terrible mess! Temperatures play an important role in the proper production of hollandaise. As the egg yolks and liquid are whisked together, they are cooked over a double boiler until they thicken to the consistency of slightly whipped cream. Do not overheat this mixture. The object is NOT to cook the eggs but to give enough heat for the two unmixable items to join together. Even slightly cooked eggs lose their ability to emulsify. That’s why the clarified butter should be warm, but not so hot as to cook the eggs.

Eggs take on the most air and emulsify at about 110F, so this process is made much easier by controlling the heat and using warm clarified butter of about 110 degrees.

The procedure for making a great hollandaise sauce:

1) For 3 egg yolks, use 1 ounce of water and whisk them together in a glass or stainless steel bowl.
2) Place the mixture over double boiler and whisk continually.
3) As the yolks warm, the mixture will thicken. When it leaves a trail in the surface, it’s thick enough
4) Start adding the warm clarified butter, but only a few drops at a time to delicately begin the process.
5) Once the emulsification starts, you’ll notice the egg yolks getting lighter, fluffier, and increase in volume considerably.
6) Add vinegar, lemon juice or a small amount of tomato juice. The acidic product will help coagulate proteins in the eggs and give greater structure to the sauce.
7) If necessary, strain the sauce to remove any small lumps of scrambled eggs before service.

What is Eggs Benedict WITH hollandaise sauce? It’s the perfect brunch item to class up your weekend breakfast and can be just the beginning of all the inspirations you might have. Add a crab cake and you’ve got Eggs Chesapeake. You can also add poached asparagus spears, slices of tomato, smoked salmon, even sliced steak to make a classy breakfast that the McFast food restaurant can never match!

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By Chef Todd

What is Demi Glace?

What is Demi Glace?  It’s only the most indispensible ingredient for making brown sauces.  Professional chefs know that the secret to making rich and flavorful gravies for beef, veal, lamb or game lies in the few simple steps needed to make their sauces pop.

Demi Glace uses one of the mother sauces, called “Espagnole”.  The brown sauce is combined with brown stock and reduced by half.  This means that the two ingredients are combined and softly simmered until half the moisture evaporates, intensifying the flavor and reducing the volume.

The resulting ingredient is intensely flavored and extremely rich, with a full bodied texture.  Espagnole sauce is already packed with flavor, but when you eliminate half the liquid in the sauce, it really packs a serious meaty punch.

This is an important food staple in the commercial kitchen, and can be in your home as well.  It takes only a small bit of skill, but a lot of patience as you wait for the sauce to condense.  However, the real key is to start with an excellent brown stock.

A quality brown stock is made from beef bones that have been caramelized along with carrots, onion and celery in the oven.  Ingredients that are nicely browned give the flavor and color to a great stock.  While these two elements are important, it’s the marrow of the bones, cartilage, and connective tissues that turn to gelatin when cooked in a moist environment.

The toasted bones and veggies are then added to a stock pot with enough COLD water to cover all the items entirely.  This should then be gently simmered for at least 5 hours to achieve a brown stock that when cooled and skimmed of fat will jiggle like Jello.

So, what is demi glace if you try to use Stock vs Broth?  It’s a thin and blandly flavored beef soup.  It’s absolutely imperative to use stock rather than broth because the stock has the gelatin that gives the texture and richness to all the small brown sauces that come from Espagnole.

Since great sauces always start with roux, the next step is to make a brown roux by melting butter in a sauce pan, adding flour to a paste-like consistency and cooking until it reaches a deep brown color and emits a toasted nutty smell.  This will become the thickening agent for the brown stock you made and the first part of demi glace.

Once you’ve made a flavorful brown sauce with brown roux and brown stock, you’re almost there.  Since demi glace is half brown sauce, half brown stock, reduced by half, all that is needed is an equal amount of stock added to the sauce and some patience as you watch it release moisture and reduce.

The finished product can be used immediately to make a long list of “Small Sauces” that derive from Espagnole.  Small sauces are the ones that utilize Mother Sauces as a blank canvas and continue adding ingredients for additional levels of flavor.  You can get a free downloadable PDF of my Mother Sauces Family Tree. 

If you’re still asking “what is demi glace” you’re missing out.  It might take some time to complete, but you’ll be using a richly flavored, silky textured ingredient that will add a professional level of flavor to all the foods you cook.  Plus, you made it, you created it, and it didn’t come from a jar with mystery ingredients and binders.  It’s real, it’s wholesome, it’s natural and it’s coming to your kitchen soon!

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By Chef Todd

Why Do They Call Them Mother Sauces?

The concept of having Mother Sauces from which to create most other sauces is a relatively new concept. Sauces have been used in cooking just about as long as fire has. Sauces in French cuisine date back to the middle ages. In those days, sauces were used to hide the bad texture and flavor of spoiling meats or preserving other foods by blocking out air.

In the early 1800’s the Father of Classical Cuisine, Antonin Careme devised an extensive list of sauces, estimated in the hundreds, that could never be duplicated because most were his one-time creations. My students in culinary school won’t be excited about memorizing hundreds of sauces, so they’re thankful for Auguste Escoffier.

Escoffier was “the chef to kings and the king of chefs” who simplified most of Careme’s lavish and lengthy efforts to create a list of only five that we call mother sauces today.

All sauces are categorized by two elements, their liquid and their thickening agent. The most often used thickener is Roux, which we reviewed in “How To Make Homemade Sauces Like The Pros”. However, the combination of fat and starch isn’t the only way to thicken a sauce so it will stick to food, that’s what can make these five sauces so tricky.

    Milk + Roux = Bechamel

The most often used of Escoffier’s list is Bechamel. This is made when milk is thickened with roux to create a basic white sauce. Bechamel is the start to all cheese sauces, Alfredo, mushroom, and the new sauce that you’ll create from the first of the mother sauces.

    Stock + Roux = Veloute’

A chicken stock or fish stock can be thickened with roux also to create a sauce that has the specific flavor of fish or chicken, but also the body and texture to compliment food. Veloute is most often used with the item that gave the flavor profile. A Fish Veloute would be excellent with roasted or sautéed fish. Chicken Veloute is perfect to add moisture to grilled chicken breasts with minimum effort.

    Brown Stock + Brown Roux + Tomato Paste = Espagnole

The two previous mother sauces are white or ivory colored because they’re made with milk or stock and a white or beige roux. None of these elements will add color to the sauce. But, a brown roux and brown stock with tomato paste will definitely add a distinctive brick red color to create Espagnole.

When you continue to cook your roux until it turns a nutty brown, then add a cold beef stock that was made from caramelized bones and vegetables, you’ll get a brown sauce with a lot of color and texture. Don’t forget that “Stock vs Broth Makes All the Difference” when creating these sauces, because the most flavorful ingredients yield the best tasting sauces.

    Tomato + Tomato Paste = Tomato Sauce

 Tomato Sauce is one of the Mother Sauces but nobody seems to realize this. That’s because it seems everyone has made a tomato sauce, but you never hear someone bragging of their Grandma’s Veloute or Bechamel sauce!

Tomato sauce is perhaps the most simple of the top five sauces to make, but also takes the greatest patience. Peeled and Seeded Tomatoes are called “Concasse” (con-ka-say), and they serve as the liquid element. Tomato Paste and the process of evaporation and reduction by simmering the sauce serves as the thickener.

        Butter + Egg Yolk = Hollandaise

The fifth and most delicate to make of the mother sauces is Hollandaise. If you love a Sunday Brunch that includes Eggs Benedict, you’ve had this sauce before. It’s buttery, creamy with a hint of tartness and the texture of velvet when made correctly.

Clarified butter is whisked into egg yolks over a double boiler to create an emulsification, mixing the two unmixable items and keeping them in suspension to make perhaps the grandest of Escoffier’s creations. We covered the concept of emulsification in "Make Mayonnaise Yourself By Mixing Two Unmixable Items".

These mother sauces don’t taste like much on their own, actually they’re quite bland. They’re meant to be a blank canvas upon which the chef adds flavors and textures to create a “small” sauce from one of its mothers.

Bechamel needs cheese, Tomato needs oregano and basil, Hollandaise needs a few drops of lemon and a pinch of cayenne pepper. They all need a bit of help and creative effort before being ladled over the perfectly cooked piece of meat you’ve created. Whatever inspiration you take from the five originals, make sure they remember and have respect for their Mother!

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By Chef Todd

Stock vs Broth Makes All The Difference

The best soups and sauces are made from intensely flavored liquids. The question of stock vs broth must be considered when making either of these kitchen staples. What is the difference between the two? Why are they different? What effect will either have on my cooking?

These are all excellent and necessary questions to explore before making any soup or sauce. Luckily, I’m teaching a culinary college in Baltimore, so this is the perfect place to start asking the questions that can take your cooking from ho-hum household cook to HI-HO professional chef.

A stock is a flavorful liquid used to make a wide variety of other items in the kitchen. A well made stock is the key to a great sauce, soup or braised dish. It’s so important that the French term it “fond”, meaning foundation or base. A good stock is the foundation upon which so many things in the culinary world are built.

When you start to think about creating the most flavorful liquid for your cooking, you have to consider one item, BONES. The single biggest difference between a stock vs broth is bones, or more importantly, the marrow in the bones.

Vegetables have no bones, so a vegetable stock is entirely different. I’ve demonstrated previously how you can make an Apple Squash Soup and create a flavorful broth, but that’s another lesson altogether.

Animal bones contain connective tissue, cartilage, and marrow. These three items are high in collagen. Collagen is a protein that dissolves when cooked in moisture and turns into gelatin and water.

Gelatin is a tasteless and odorless, jelly-like substance used as a thickener in the stock. It is the gelatin that adds richness and body to the finished product. The best bones for stock are from younger animals because they contain a higher percentage of cartilage and connective tissue, yielding a greater percentage of gelatin and thus better body to the resulting stock. The best bones for chicken stock come from the back and neck for the same reason.

All stocks use the same 4 ingredients. They all use bones to give body, texture, and richness as well as vegetables and seasonings to add flavor. Water is the medium by which all these flavors come together, almost like making a bone and vegetable tea.

While they all use similar ingredients, it’s the procedure that makes the differences between the flavor and appearance of different types of stocks. White stocks are made from chicken, fish, veal or game, and brown stocks made from beef, veal, lamb or game bones. How you treat these ingredients determines the color and flavor of the resulting liquid.

Here is the first major difference between stock vs broth. When cooled a stock is not pourable, it acts more like jello because of the collagen in the bones that were used. A broth that you buy in the grocery store is pourable from the can; there is no evidence of gelatin. Broths are thin, stocks are thick.

A white stock is very simple to make because very little preparation is needed. The necks, backs, legs, thighs or wings of a whole fresh chicken are combined with carrot, onion, celery and basic seasonings to create a gelatinous full-bodied chicken stock.

However, a beef stock is treated differently. To achieve a deep brown color, the bones and vegetables are first browned in the oven. At 320F (160C), sugars start to caramelize, getting sweeter and more brown. This flavor and color is what makes a beef stock or brown stock so unique. Chicken bones are rarely roasted before making stock; it’s better done with beef, lamb or game.

In seasoning, whether a white chicken stock or brown beef stock, herbs and spices are applied very generally. It’s important not to season a basic stock too heavily because it is an ingredient that will eventually be used in another preparation. Stock is not meant to be served on its own; it is there as the foundation to make myriad sauces and soups. Season softly and generally with salt, pepper and mild spices.

Stock vs Broth Principles:

1) Always start in cold water – cold water dissolves blood and other impurities that are undesirable.
As the water heats, these impurities coagulate and float to the surface where they are skimmed off. If hot water is used, they coagulate more quickly and remain suspended in liquid.

2) Simmer the stock gently NEVER boil!
Boiling is too violent for making a clear stock. The violent agitation of a boiling liquid causes a cloudy stock with impurities suspended in the liquid that will affect flavor and texture of the stock.

3) Skim the stock frequently
As impurities and bits of coagulated proteins rise to the top of the stock pot, skim them off with a slotted spoon and discard them. Any unwanted material will eventually sink back into the stock, making it cloudy and affecting the appearance.

4) Strain carefully
After 3-5 hours for chicken and 5-8 hours for beef, your flavorful liquid will be ready to be removed from the stock pot. It is critical not to disturb the ingredients when separating the liquid from the bones and vegetables.

It’s best to ladle the stock from the pot and pour through a fine strainer. The best stock pots have a valve on the bottom to separate the liquid. Do not ever pour the stock from the pot, this will further cloud the end result.

5) Cool quickly
The stock must be cooled to 70F (21C) within 2 hours and then to below 40F (4C) in 4 hours to prevent it from clouding and to keep it safe from potential bacterial growth.

Stocks can be cooled quickly by setting the strained container into a sink of cold water. This is called “venting” the stock.

6) Store properly
The stock must be stored properly in a sanitary container with a tight fitting lid and kept below 40F in your refrigerator. Here’s where the gelatin will cool and residual fats will rise to the top of the stock as it cools.

7) Degrease the stock
After your flavorful liquid has fully cooled, the chicken or beef fat will congeal and can be easily scraped from the top of the container. What is left is a white or brown jiggly liquid that is densely flavored with the type of bones you made it from.

Stock vs Broth? There’s no contest. Broth is bought in a can in the grocery store. It’s a thin liquid that has little flavor and texture when compared to stock. Broth can also be quite expensive when you purchase it in small cans or cartons. Canned broth is a lazy shortcut to the professional chef.

Stock is made by a skilled cook. You can’t buy stock. It’s a gelatinous semi-liquid that has an extremely dense and powerful flavor. The texture is rich and smooth, adding an instantly identifiable flavor to soups and sauces. Best of all, stock can be cost-free. It’s made with ingredients that you might otherwise throw away, like a chicken carcass, some beef bones, and the ends of onions, carrot and celery that are normally garbage.

If you’re still not sure, stock vs broth, here’s what to do. Follow this tutorial to make a great stock. Then, add some flavorless water to the stock. Viola! You’ve got broth. Which would you want in your cooking? Stock wins every time!

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By Chef Todd

The Real Facts About Eggs Say It IS The Perfect Food

Exquisitely simple, yet enormously complex, the egg is one of nature’s marvels. The real facts about eggs have been scrambled in recent years, as they’ve gotten a bad rap for being high in cholesterol and fat. This singular view has ignored the enormous benefit of fresh eggs to the human body and the entire culinary world.

Nature designed the egg as the food source for developing chicks. Eggs, in particular chicken eggs, are also an excellent food for humans because of their high protein content, low cost and ready availability.

I recently put two types of farmer’s market eggs to the test in “The Farm Eggs Challenge: Cage or No Cage?”,examining the type of feed and environment and its impact on the final product. Both farmers I interviewed were passionate about treating their birds humanely and producing a high quality product. But there were differences between the two philosophies.

The most nutritious eggs ARE the freshest, from your local farm. Nutrition declines with age in an egg that must be shipped across the state or the country. Often, eggs must be additionally treated for such a long journey, even if that means exposing them to unnatural treatment until purchased by you.

You can see the differences between a “national” egg and the two farmers market eggs in the “Egg-lympics” I created in “The Great Egg Test Cracks The Case!

One of the stunning facts about eggs comes from the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, which has created a scale to measure the efficiency with which protein is used for growth in the human body. This is called a “Biological Value”.

Egg contains the highest quality food protein known. Based on essential amino acids it provides, egg protein is second only to mother’s milk for human nutrition. On a scale with 100 representing the top efficiency, eggs are rated at 93.7 percent in protein efficiency.

One of the many beneficial elements in an egg is called Biotin, one of the B vitamins which play an important role in cell metabolism and the utilization of fats, proteins and carbohydrates in the human body. Biotin is present in egg yolk. An egg white omelet may have less fat, certainly has no flavor, but also omits this important B vitamin.

While eggs are widely known as breakfast entrees, they also perform in many other ways for the knowledgeable cook. Their cooking properties are so varied, that they have been called “the cement that holds the castle of cuisine together”.

When you know the true facts about eggs, you’ll realize that there is barely an area of the kitchen, for the professional or the home cook that eggs don’t touch.

Eggs can:
Bind – meatloaves, Lasagna, croquettes
Leaven – baked goods, soufflés, and sponge cakes
Thicken – as in custards and sauces
Emulsify – mayonnaise, salad dressings, hollandaise sauce
Coat or Glaze – cookies or breads
Clarify soups - to make consommé
Inhibit crystallization – in boiled candies and frostings
Garnish – chopped egg whites and/or yolks give a finishing touch.

Eggs are composed of three basic parts, the shell, the yolk and albumen. The shell is made of calcium carbonate, and prevents microbes from entering as well as moisture from escaping. It’s the casing that protects the egg during handling and transport. The color of the egg shell is determined by the breed of the hen and has no bearing on its nutritional value or flavor.

The egg yolk is the yellow portion of the egg which takes up only 1/3 of the egg’s mass, but accounts for ¾ of all the calories, minerals, vitamins, and all of the fat. The yolk contains lecithin, which is an emulsifier that enables us to make mayonnaise, dressings, and hollandaise sauce.

Albumen is the clear portion of the egg, often referred to as the egg white, taking up 2/3 of the eggs mass but none of the fat and only 16 calories. Whipped egg whites can hold twice their volume in air, and create a protein web that helps leaven baked products. There’d be no Angel Food Cake without whipped egg whites, among many other baked goods.

What about that pesky strand that always seems to cling to the shell when you’re trying to crack them? This is called the “Chalazae Chord”. It’s the thick, twisted strands of egg white that anchor the yolk in place, They are NOT embryos nor imperfections as many people believe, but the more prominent the chalazae, the fresher the egg.

Don’t be chicken! Seek out the true information concerning all the food you eat. Eggs have been the victim of bad press in recent years. This is nature’s perfect food; it helps build cells, helps us metabolize nutrition, and has given us almost every sweet and savory pastry you’ll find in the bakery. The facts about eggs say they deserve another chance, and they deserve our respect.

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By Chef Todd

Beware That Different Potatoes Cook Differently

Different potatoes DO cook differently.  Most people think a spud is a spud; one is no different from the other.  But this isn’t true; all varieties of potato are not the same.  Using the correct type for the dish you’re making is important for excellent results.

In today’s culinary college class, we’re examining the potato because it can be cooked in so many ways.  The class is meant to focus on cooking methods, but there can be no better example of a food item that can be steamed, baked, poached, fried, roasted, sautéed, braised, and even smoked!

Potatoes are categorized by the amount of starch and sugar in them.  “Waxy” or New potatoes have a high moisture content, a high sugar content and a low starch content.  These are usually smaller potatoes with a thinner skin whose flesh is white, red, yellow or purple.

These spuds hold their shape very well when cooked.  That makes them perfect for use in soups, salads, boiling or poaching whole, as well as shredded for hash browns.  A soup with cubed potatoes that don’t hold their shape will quickly turn into a starchy broth.  Potato salads NOT made with a waxy potato will soon be mashed potato salad because of these characteristics.

But, there are different potatoes that won’t hold their shape when cooked.  Thank goodness, because we wouldn’t have lump-free mashed potatoes without them.  This type is called “Mealy” or starchy.

Mealy potatoes have a high starch content, low moisture, and low sugar content.  They are light, dry and mealy when cooked, from which comes their name.  These are your basic Idaho, Russet or baking potatoes of a long, regular shape with a rough skin and deep eyes.

Beware that all taters are not created equal.  You have to consider your desired final result to know which type of potato to choose.  For soups, salads, and preparations that need the ingredient to hold its original shape, you’ll need a Waxy potato like Red Bliss, Chef, or purple fingerling.

However, the opposite is true with Mealy potatoes.  If you choose an Idaho or Russet potato for anything other than baking or French Fries, it will crumble and fall apart.  Imagine a soup where every little cube of tater has disintegrated, is soft and mushy.  The soup won’t have the same flavor or eye-appeal as if a Waxy potato were used.

Have you ever tried to bake a red potato?  It doesn’t mash like a Russet potato.  That’s because it holds its shape better, thus the wrong choice for a baked spud.

Different potatoes are required for different needs.  Making the right choice could mean the difference between a great dish that everyone compliments, and a mealy starchy mess.

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By Chef Todd

Ravioli Dough As Easy As 1-2-3-4

Ravioli dough is simple to make and easy to enjoy. That’s because there are an endless number of fillings for your pasta dumplings, limited only by your creativity. But wait! Before we go creativity crazy, there’s a basic procedure to follow so that you make the best casing for your filling.

Of all the things I took from culinary school many years ago, few have stuck with me as much as making fresh pasta. I’ve used the basic procedure for making red doughs, green doughs, even racing-striped ones. I love making seasonal pastas like Walnut and Butternut Squash in the fall, Beef in the winter, and fresh veggies in the spring. Fresh pasta transcends all seasons.

There are many skills I took from my formal education and used them daily throughout my career. Others, not so much. I’ve never had to make Consommé in all my years as a chef, so that’s not my strength. Making pasta, especially ravioli dough, that’s right in my strike zone.

School children are taught that Marco Polo discovered pasta in China. First of all, if the Chinese were already making pasta for hundreds of years, how did he claim to “discover” it? That argument aside, The Chinese may not have been the first to make these types of doughs.

In the first century, Romans made basic dough of water and flour they called “lagne”. This long flat noodle was baked until dry, not boiled, but the obvious early ancestor of lasagna. Regardless of who gets the credit, this is one of the oldest foods known to man and one of the easiest to make if you know how.

Ravioli dough is easy as 1-2-3-4. The basic formula is 1 cup of Semolina flour and 2 eggs to feed 3 to 4 people. Count from one to four and you can remember the recipe for fresh pasta for the rest of your life.

Semolina flour is used for pasta because it has a different protein structure than white flours. Bread, cake, pastry and all-purpose flours become tougher and chewier when they are mixed with a liquid. Moisture and agitation through mixing develops “gluten”. Gluten is a fibrous web of proteins that makes French bread, pizza crusts, or bagels have that chewy texture we desire in those products.

However, you don’t want chewy ravioli dough. The pasta should be soft, but firm enough that it doesn’t break and let the fillings escape. Avoiding white flours will help with this goal.

After the 1-2-3-4 dough is mixed, it needs to rest in the refrigerator for at least an hour so that it stiffens enough to be rolled into a thin sheet. Once rested, it’s passed through a pasta press multiple times, folding the dough upon itself with each pass. This is called “laminating” the dough since you’re creating multiple layers, giving it pliability so it won’t tear.

Once the dough is smooth and thin enough to use for filling, it’s laid on a ravioli tray, brushed with beaten egg wash for glue, and filled with anything the chef desires. This special tray makes portioning the pasta dumplings very easy because a rolling pin across the tray cuts them all into perfect shapes.

Ravioli dough making is a great activity for the entire family; it takes very little skill, but does demand a bit of practice to do it perfectly. Once you’ve mastered it, then you’ve got endless possibilities for filling ingredients, and dozens of instant dinner ideas for the future. It’s easy as 1-2-3-4.

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By Chef Todd

Make Mayonnaise Yourself By Mixing Two Unmixable Items

If you want to make mayonnaise from scratch, all you need to know is a six syllable word, e-mul-sif-ic-a-tion.  Emulsification is the mixing of two unmixable ingredients.  If you can get oil and water to stay mixed together, you’re a magician.  If you mix oil and vinegar, then you’re a student in my culinary college class today.

Yesterday, we discussed oil and vinegar dressings called vinaigrettes in How To Make Salad Dressings With 3 Ingredients and identified the shaking or whisking of oil into vinegar as a temporary emulsification.  The oil and vinegar dressing will stay mixed for a few minutes, long enough to pour onto your salad, but then soon separate.  But, nobody wants their mayonnaise to separate.  We need a permanent mixing of the ingredients.

You can make mayonnaise by whisking oil into egg yolks and vinegar.  Normally, the oil and vinegar would never mix, but it’s the egg yolk that acts as a liaison, bringing the items together.  The introduction of the egg will make this a permanent emulsification and the two ingredients will stay together in a consistent texture

It’s a simple procedure because there are very few ingredients, but it does take a bit of practice and skill.  To create a proper emulsification between vinegar, oil and egg yolk, you must follow a specific process.  Then, you can start changing the flavors for your own desire.

First, separate two eggs, using only the yolks and saving the whites for another use.  Many chefs will instruct to add vinegar to the egg yolks and then the oil.  I disagree because vinegars can coagulate proteins.  Coagulation of yolk protein means little bits of scrambled egg in your mayonnaise.  This is not a desirable outcome.

With only the egg yolks in a mixing bowl, pour just a few drops of oil and start to whisk.  This is a very delicate process where adding the oil too quickly will break the emulsion and ruin the entire thing!  The second addition of oil whisked into the yolks should also be very slight.

Then, while constantly whisking, add oil in a very thin, slow stream to the beaten egg yolks.  If you’re doing it correctly, you should feel the yolks getting thicker.  As the eggs start looking more like mayo, you can add oil in a faster stream, incorporating as much as you’d like to reach the texture you desire.

Once your emulsification is achieved, then you can add any vinegars or flavoring you want to make mayonnaise that is uniquely yours.

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By Chef Todd

Teaching Future Chefs How To Braise

Knowing how to braise is a cooking skill that’s widely misunderstood. Knowing WHAT to braise is even more confusing to most home cooks. I’ve taught this subject many times in my videos, as part of the curriculum in my web cooking classes, and on “Burn Your Recipes”, my cooking DVDs.

Now, it’s time to end any confusion about this ignored way of cooking because I’m presenting the information to tomorrow’s chefs. Our braised food will be served by the companion hospitality class in the school’s dining room in an ‘a la carte’ style. This means they’ll be bringing us restaurant tickets like real waiters and waitresses.

Braising is a combination cooking method. In a previous class, “How Does Food Cook”, we categorized all cooking methods as either conductive or convective. Heat is applied either directly to food or indirectly through air or moisture. When you braise something, you’re using the best of both methods.

The first step in how to braise something is choosing the correct item for this type of cooking. Generally, the toughest, chewiest cuts of meat are braised. That’s because the very long cooking times, moisture and acidic environment have a tenderizing effect that no other way of cooking does.

It doesn’t make sense to try to braise filet mignon or a flounder filet, they’re already tender. Items like those should be grilled or sautéed because of the quick, intense heat. The perfect item today’s lesson would be tough beef cubes, veal shank, or tongue. We’ve decided to make Beef Bourguignon and Chicken Cacciatore.

How To Braise Anything:

1 ) Coat the item in flour – By using a starch to coat the item, you help thicken the final pan sauce.

2 ) Pan Hot First – Just like sauté method, sprinkle some water from your hands and when it sizzles, the pan is ready to cook.

3 ) Fat Hot - Add some type of oil and heat until it changes from smooth to striated, just before the smoke point.

4 ) Add the protein product coated in flour - Don’t crowd the pieces and don’t poke or push them around. Leave them alone.

5 ) 75% / up to 25% - Cook the item 75% on the first side so you can observe the changes in color, moisture, and texture. These are indicators of how much it’s cooking. If you turn it too fast, you lose these visual cues.

6 ) Deglaze - Add wine to lower the temperature of the pan, and begin combining with the roux to thicken the pan sauce. Reduce the liquid until the wine is almost gone.

7 ) Stock and aromatics - Add a flavorful liquid like chicken or beef stock and chopped vegetables to the pan along with an acidic ingredient like tomatoes or vinegar to aid in tenderizing.

8 ) Low and slow – The key to braising is cooking very slowly for a very long time. Reduce the heat to a very soft simmer or poach with no visible bubbles. Leave it alone because 5 to 8 hours wouldn’t be unusual for cooking something this way.

When you know how to braise something correctly, you can actually save a lot of money. You can buy less expensive cuts of meat and create delicious, tender morsels because of your cooking method skills. You can also save time, because the more you ignore it, the better it gets. You can’t walk away from a sauté pan, but you can walk away from a braise and be very pleased when you return.

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By Chef Todd

Do You Know The Two Types of Heat For Cooking?

Cooking becomes much easier when you discover that there are only two types of heat for cooking. We’re starting a new semester in culinary college, and this is the very first lesson. What type of heat you use and how you apply it to food is the basis of all cooking.

My Elements of Entrée Production class will eventually be cooking for 30 people in the adjacent student dining room, so this is not just theory. We must put it into practice and be able to duplicate the process with quality and consistency every time. That’s what makes a professional chef.

I challenge the class to use this basic information to question everything they apply heat to. They need to ask themselves, “Am I applying heat directly or indirectly to this food?” Most often, direct heat results in quick cooking and brown color. Indirect heat can take longer and be harder to develop plate-appeal.

Direct heat versus indirect heat is the first lesson in your expectation of the final result. This may seem obvious or overly basic, but still very important. When planning meals or following recipes, being aware of HOW the heat is cooking your food is paramount.

There are only two types of heat for cooking, conductive and convective.

Conductive heat is direct-source heat. This is when there is no medium or liaison between the heat source and the food product. Sauté’ is a dry conductive cooking method because the stove-top burner is heating a pan, the product in direct contact with the pan.

Broiling and Grilling are conductive cooking processes as well. They can be considered mirror images of each other. Grilling applies heat directly to food from below through gas, charcoal, or heated stones. Broiling applies heat directly to food from above through gas or electric element. They cook the same way, just from different positions.

Convective heat is indirect-source heat. You can consider a cooking method convective when there is something between the heat source and what you’re cooking. Roasting is a convective cooking method because the heat is transferred to food through hot air.

Steaming is a moist convective cooking process because it uses steam as the medium for imparting heat to food the same way that Smoking uses dry heat to give a distinctive flavor. Whenever you boil, simmer, or poach something, you’re using a moist convective cooking process.

This is an important concept to use as the foundation for any culinary education. When you add so much olive oil to a sauté pan that your food floats, you’ve changed from a conductive to convective cooking process. Instead of the item being in contact with the pan, using direct source heat, it’s now being cooked indirectly through the oil, a convective process.

When you discover and become aware of the two types of heat for cooking, your end results will improve because you’ll have a better initial plan. Just like my culinary students, you’ll be asking yourself questions about HOW to cook something rather than WHAT to cook.

Heat transfer, knife skills, mother sauces and more on my cooking DVDs

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