Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Thursday's - It's Thyme to Cook

This week I have watched Ina Garten's show, "The Barefoot Contessa" like a preschooler hooked on Dora the Explorer. Her show comes on three times a day, and I think she is amazing.

I have to admit I've developed a slight obsession with Ina Garten, but not in a weird way. I want her to teach me how to cook well. Growing up I watched Julia Child's show so I have a special affection for her, but Ina's style is much more approachable. She makes cooking look not only easy, but she gives me hope that I could pull off a great meal without my hair standing on end like Chef Anne Burrell's hair.

Both Ina Garten and Julia Child write about the importance of making your own stock. It's used in many of their recipes. According to Julia, you have white stock and brown stock. The difference is not the type of meat, but the roasting or braising of the meat, bones, and vegetables prior to the long simmering time (about 4 to 5 hours). These two techniques make the stock brown.

I've never made my own stock and really could not see a reason to, as store bought is so available and easy to use. However, once I made it, I could really tell the difference between the two. Store bought stock tastes like flavored, salted water. Homemade stock, that is made from fresh ingredients, adds so much depth of flavor to a dish. It's as easy as putting the bones/meat of poultry/beef/veal, any vegetables you'd like (root, such as turnips are not recommended), and an herb bouquet bundled in cheesecloth into a big stockpot. Season with salt and pepper. Add enough water to cover ingredients by about two inches.

Simmer together for 4 or so hours, skimming off any fat that comes to the surface. Strain out all the ingredients (best accomplished by pouring contents through a colander into another pot). When the liquid has cooled, strain it through cheesecloth into a clean pot. Pour into storage containers and refrigerate. The next morning skim off any fat that has collected on top, and freeze, if not using immediately. Lesson learned: Don't throw jellied stock down the drain. It's actually a good thing when it jells.

A cook's best secret ingredient...homemade stock!!

I had some leftover turkey and used my homemade stock to make individual turkey pot pies. These were a first for me. Ina Garten says if you can perfect a pot pie recipe, then you have a dish you can use with great variety, such as adding crab, lobster, vegetable, etc.

I made my filling with homemade stock, cream, onions, garlic, rutabagas, carrots, green beans, and a little cheese sprinkled on top.

The crust was made in the food processor: whole wheat flour, very cold butter, and ice water. Just mix salt and pepper, the flour/butter in the processor till the mixture is crumbly. Add ice water slowly, while processor is on, till a ball of dough forms. Wrap in plastic and chill for half an hour. Then roll out slightly larger than the pie pan being used and place on top of filling. Brush dough with egg wash, slash top to vent, and sprinkle with a little salt and pepper. Lesson learned: wrap any leftover dough in plastic and freeze for next time. No need to throw away enough pastry dough to make an apron.

I actually didn't get to bake these until the next evening. I just covered with foil in the fridge. The next evening I baked at 350 degrees until the crust was golden and the filling was bubbling. So delicious!

This week I learned that homemade stock really makes a difference in the outcome of a dish. It adds a depth of flavor that cannot be achieved with packaged stock. I also learned to not be afraid to make my own pastry dough. I even used soft whole wheat flour, and it was still tender and flaky. Both of these cost less to make homemade than to buy, so you are saving money too!

Have fun cooking!

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