Practice makes perfect…right?
So…. tomorrow is my big final practical exam for the cooking theory class. Today I am nervous, but not too much. I just hope my hands won’t shake tomorrow, because that will make it really hard for me to cook.
I’ve been practicing some things today, specifically the hollandaise and mayonnaise. These are both emulsions, which can be tricky to make because you need to add ingredients at the right time.
To make fresh mayonnaise, you need one egg yolk, 2 tsp lemon juice or sherry vinegar, 1 tsp Dijon mustard, and 8 oz (1 cup) or canola oil. Also, you will need a whisk and a medium sized mixing bowl. The yield is 1 cup for this recipe.
First, you whisk the egg yolk, lemon juice or vinegar, and mustard together until it gets frothy and pale yellow in color. Then, you slowly drip the oil into the egg yolk mixture while whisking like crazy and your arm hurts so bad you think it’s going to fall off. (But remember – it’s only pain.) After the egg yolk starts accepting the oil, you can pour in the oil a little bit faster.
Once the oil is done, you’re done! You add salt and pepper to taste (I suggest white pepper because otherwise there will be black flakes in the mayo). At this point, you can also add any other flavorings you like, such as fresh herbs, garlic, roasted pepper, wasabi, etc. Mayonnaise is a permanent emulsion, which means that the ingredients won’t separate readily if mixed properly.
So, my mayonnaise came out fine. Now the question is: do I only ever eat fresh mayonnaise in the future, because it’s so fresh and yummy; or, do I never eat mayonnaise ever again because it’s basically whipped oil?
Next, I made a hollandaise sauce, which again is an emulsion, but it’s a trickier thing to make because you need to heat it and keep taking it on and off the heat so the egg yolks don’t curdle. Basically, you whisk egg yolks, hollandaise reduction (white wine, white wine vinegar, and aromatics, reduced) or lemon juice, and cold water together. Meanwhile, you need melted butter (clarified or whole) on the side, ready to go. Once the egg yolk mixture has become frothy and pale, you apply low heat to it, still whisking. (The whisking NEVER stops.) Before adding the fat, you need to see a triple in volume, a lemon yellow color, and ribbons on the bottom of the pot.
Only then do you start adding the melted butter in tiny droplets at first, while whisking furiously. If your arm doesn’t hurt, you’re either Super-Woman, or you’re doing it wrong! While you’re whisking in the fat, you need to make sure that your pot is not too hot (curdling eggs, remember?). You should still be able to put you hand on the side of the pot and keep it there.
Once all the fat is added, the sauce is done and should be taken off the heat. You can then season to taste with salt and pepper, and add a pinch of cayenne (which helps stabilize the sauce). From here, you can make other sauces, like a Grimrod, which is a hollandaise sauce with saffron, or a Chantilly sauce, which is a hollandaise with whipped cream. (Although why anyone would want to add whipped cream to whipped butter, I don’t know.)
In order not to waste the hollandaise or the egg whites, I scrambled the whites and poured hollandaise over them, and added some dill. Not very appetizing, but still tasted good. I added too much cayenne to my hollandaise, which made it slightly spicy…. oops! Lesson for tomorrow’s practical exam: add cayenne slowly. Hollandaise is not supposed to taste like cayenne!
Other things I might have to make tomorrow include a bechamel (creamy, thick white sauce), veloute (white sauce), modern-style tomato sauce, roasted vegetables, braised chicken, sauteed chicken, poached salmon, consomme (clear broth), and maybe a pilaf or risotto. What I’ve heard from students ahead of me is that it is more of a time management issue. Also, if I get stuff wrong, I will be asked to re-do it until a get it right. Chef Emma said one of her students made a hollandaise 17 times until he got it right!!!! Scary!!!!
Anyway, wish me luck for tomorrow!