Prep work: stocks and blanching
Today I’d like to talk about some basic prep in the kitchen.
Obviously, stocks are very important for the kitchen. They are the basis for broths, consommes, and sauces. Plus, you can braise vegetables and meats in them.
We have two large stock pots in the back kitchen.
Lots of times, we reduce stock to concentrate the flavors. Reducing is a process in which we remove moisture from a liquid to concentrate the flavor and sometimes thicken it.
When draining a stock, it is important to use a strainer, something we call a china cap or chinois, to remove the scum that floats on top of the stock. Also, you need to cool down the liquid as fast as you can to prevent dangerous bacteria from growing.
In the large stock pots, we also sometimes blanch vegetables. When blanching vegetables, you want to use a lot of salt (the water should taste like the ocean). The salt will preserve the color of the vegetables. You also want to blanch until the vegetables are just tender (and not overcooked), and then put them in ice water to shock them. That way, you can stop the cooking process.
When someone orders the vegetables off the menu, we put them back into simmering water, or into a hot pan with butter (or both), just to warm them up again for the entree.
I pride myself in always labeling containers I use, so that everyone knows what is in the container, and what date it was made.
I really enjoy the prep work in the kitchen. Working in the back is different from working on the line, and is far less stressful. Plus, you get to actually cook things, and not just collect items and assemble salads. I don’t mean to sound ungrateful, because I have learned a lot on the pantry station. But it’s nice to be cooking with heat again!