Veg, Potaotes, Grains

Since I’m behind in my posts, I’m combining all the demonstrations from the last 6-week rotation of the semester. I’d like to start off by apologizing for the lack of potato photos. Yes, I realize that potatoes are in the title, but since the chef instructor for this rotation is not a fan of phones in the kitchen I was more conservative with my photography. Not that photos are that good anyway. I’m also missing photos of the dumpling lecture – which included spaetzle and three types of gnocchi.

I do have photos from the vegetable lecture. What did I learn here? The addition of an acid or base to a vegetable can either enhance or dull its color. Check out the cabbage – the addition of baking soda gets us blue cabbage. Unappetizing, but neat, right? When vegetables are blanched, that means to bring salted water to a boil and dump in the vegetables and cook until al dente, then remove and plunge into an ice water bath to halt the cooking process. When preparing mixed vegetables, add the longest cooking vegetable first. We also went over ‘As Purchased’ cost versus ‘Edible Portion’ cost, best demonstrated by English Peas and Fava Beans, where the tough pods are not consumed yet paid for in the purchase price.

Although I don’t have photos of the potato lectures, I feel a some elaboration is needed anyway as it is one of the most popular vegetables. Or is it a starch? It’s both! Potatoes are called ‘Pomme de Terre’ in French, or apple from the earth, often shortened to just pomme. There are two main types of potatoes – waxy (think red skinned) and starchy (think Russet). Waxy potatoes have more sugar, less starch, and more water than the starchy type. Waxy potatoes are good for soups, salads, and ‘smashed’ potatoes. Most other applications lean towards the use of the starchy type, of which a few are outlined below.

Potatoes en casserole include dishes such as scalloped potatoes, au gratin potatoes, and pommes boulangerie. Potatoes Anna is made by shingling a single layer of potatoes in a saute pan, then browning in the pan on the stove, then popping it into the oven to finish cooking. You get a lovely crisp texture this way. You could also bake potatoes whole and dress them up with all sorts of toppings, or steam them and get mashed potatoes. If you decided to add pate a choux to mashed potatoes, then fried ’em up, you would have pommes dauphine. Or if you add egg yolks, nutmeg, salt, pepper, and butter to mashed potatoes, then piped the mixture with a star tip into various shapes and browned in the oven, you would have duchess potatoes, which is also the base for croquettes. Duchess potatoes are also part of a scallop dish called Coquille St. Jacques, where it’s used as a border garnish. Or you could make latkes, which are potato pancakes made of grated potato, egg, some flour, and seasonings and pan fried. They’re excellent served with sour cream and applesauce.

And finally there’s the America’s favorite way of eating potatoes – deep fried! We love them in all forms – french fries, potato chips, waffle cut chips or fries (aka a ‘gaufrette’ cut).  It’s a good idea to blanch french fries in 320-325°F oil first before frying it a second time in hotter oil for crispness. If you want tater tots, pipe some duchess potatoes into the deep fryer.

Now, moving right along to grains. Rice – there’s over 7,000 varieties! Some examples are jasmine, basmati, arborio, calrose, glutinous rice, forbidden rice, black rice, just to name a few. It is the most consumed grain in the world. In some parts of the world annual consumption per person can exceed 200 pounds. They’re typically found in two forms – white or brown. White rice has the bran layer removed which unfortunately also contains most of the nutrients. To make up for the loss, some of these nutrients are added back, resulting in an ‘enriched’ rice. Don’t wash these, as all the nutrients are getting washed down the train too. Brown rice has the bran layer intact, but also has a shorter shelf life due to the oils in the bran layer. It also requires more water and a longer cooking time than white rice.

Quinoa is a grain that has been gaining popularity in recent years. It’s originally from Peru. Part of its popularity is due to the fact that it is a complete protein. Polenta, grits, cornmeal – they’re all made from corn. The main difference is just the coarseness of the grind. Grits are also treated with lye so that’s why it has such a pale color. Other grains include bulgur wheat, wheat berries, barley, wild rice (actually seeds of a grass, not rice), and many more. Couscous is actually a pasta made from wheat, and orzo is a rice-shaped pasta.

Chef made a great grain salad, made with equal volumes of Israeli couscous, regular couscous, wild rice, wheat berries, and quinoa. (This is important – cook separately and then combine – they have different water ratios and cooking times!) Toss with some dried cranberries and apricots, sauteed onions, a drizzle balsamic vinaigrette, and you’ve got yourself a salad! Yummy.

Here we had a pasta demo. Combine eggs/egg yolks, semolina, all purpose flour and let rest for about half an hour before rolling out into various shapes for fresh pasta. There’s a million different recipes for pasta so it’ll take some experimenting to find one that works for you. To get colored or vegetable pasta, just add vegetable puree in place of some of the liquid.

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