Saturday, October 10, 2009

Old School

We're a 'what's next' society. Always looking for the hip new ingredient, cultural cuisine, chemical, powder, equipment.....the list goes on and on. Pick up any food magazine, watch TopChef or Iron Chef America or read the food section of any national newspaper; people are gaga over molecular gastronomy. It's the 'new black' of the culinary world. Is it fad or is it here to stay? That's a debate for others to have and another time. My point is that the old school stuff has proven the test of time and there simply is no molecular gastronomy or avant garde cuisine without the basics. A lot of cooks want to 'run before they can walk'. Playing with foams and making 'apple caviar' before they can even describe the steps to making a solid consomme. I've seen cooks who were highly decorated from culinary school who's excuse for consomme as cloudy as muddy water was that I didn't buy high enough quality ground meat. Hello?

So, let's go old school. I'm making a tortellini of smoked chicken with hard cooked egg, root vegetables and a chicken consomme as the first course for our Harvest Dinner. Yeah, it's basically a refined version of chicken noodle soup. So, how about the chicken consomme? First, I started with roasted chicken bones and a hand full of chicken feet. I poured chicken stock over the bones and feet and added a bit of mirepoix vegetables.(bay leaf, peppercorns. Check)This stock simmered for about 4 hours and then was strained and chilled, so I'm starting my consomme with a very rich stock....lots of body. Today, I poured the cold stock into a pot and added ground pork, pureed onions and carrots, lightly whipped egg whites, bay leaf, peppercorns and some red wine vinegar(how many people know what the acid from the vinegar or tomatoes is for? Free tour of the bowling alley for a correct answer....) I slowly brought the stock up to temperature while constantly stirring. When the stock reached temp., the raft started to form. What's a raft? The raft is the clarification net that traps impurities as the stock gurgles through it. As the egg whites and pork reach temp. they form at the top of the stock and form one of the most beautiful sights in cooking. When you carefully vent the raft and see beautiful clear stock bubbling through, it is an amazing sight akin to a beautiful sunset or a blooming flower.

Once you've allowed the consomme to bubble through the raft(once you've gotten good formation of the raft, turn the heat down to simmer or you'll break the raft) it's time to get the consomme out of the pot. I find that a siphon works best. Following the siphon step, then it's time to strain through coffee filters. After sending the consomme through a never ending series of coffee filters. Then......yeah, this is a labor intensive's time to take paper towels and blot off any noticeable bits fat that might appear. After all of this, the final test is whether or not your consomme is so clear that you can read the date on a dime. Well, I didn't have a dime...I had a quarter. So, here's what I got.

The finished product had a ton of body and an amazing chicken flavor. Why does this matter? Couldn't you just use regular, ordinary chicken stock? Well, yes you could, but you'd be ordinary. If you're satisfied with being ordinary, that's cool. You have to live with yourself.

Try a little old school some time. You'll be glad you did....AND, you won't be ordinary.

Sorry the photos aren't as clear as the consomme. It was an iPhone night...didn't have the digital camera.


Anonymous said...

you should always put acid in yor helps the clarification process, especially with lobster stock.

JB said...

acid denatures proteins and helps clear the broth. Little bit of acid also prevents oxidation, ie, maintains a good color


JB said...

oh ... one more: the acid probably makes for a better raft b/c it denatures the egg white as well.