Cooking School: Lesson 2, Week 3

We are starting the second chapter of this book: Cookery. The dates listed are the dates for the lessons. Any section not covered with a date will be included on the date given after that section. This way, I can condense the sections and get through this quickly but efficiently, skipping nothing. This entire lesson will take 7 weeks versus the 11 weeks as originally taught. When we are finished, I am hoping we all have a good understanding (including myself) of cooking, itself!

As a reminder, the sections (and dates) are:

  1. Cookery w/recipe Baking Bread (Saturday, April 27th, 2013)
  2. Fire
  3. How to Build a Fire w/recipe Potato Soup (Saturday, May 4th, 2013, Sunday, May 12th)
  4. Ways of Cooking
  5. Various Ways of Preparing Food for Cooking w/recipe Broiled Fish (Sunday, May 12th, 2013)
  6. How to Bone a Bird w/recipe Mashed Potatoes (Saturday, May 18th, 2013)
  7. How to Measure
  8. How to Combine Ingredients w/recipe Boiled Eggs (Saturday, May 25th, 2013)
  9. Ways of Preserving w/recipe Hash
  10. Table of Measures and Weights w/recipe Scalloped Eggs (Saturday, June 1st, 2013)
  11. Time Tables for Cooking w/recipe Blanc-Mange (Saturday, June 8th, 2013)

Chapter 2, Section 3: Ways of Cooking

“The principle ways of cooking are boiling, broiling, stewing, roasting, baking, frying, sauteing, braising, and fricasseeing.”

Boiling: Cook in boiling water. Solid food turns into boiled food. When using a fire to cook at boiling temperatures, cooks would typically forget that slow boil is the same temperature as rapid boil. In this, no more wood was needed to make it boil “vigorously.”

When boiling, two things pass off from boiling water: watery vapor (visible) and steam (invisible). The author says that many people call it steam because they can see it when this incorrect terminology.

Water is boiled for two reasons:

  1. Destroy organic impurities in the water
  2. Cooking of foods

Remember the albumen in eggs? Boiling hardens this. It toughens the fibrin in meat, bursts starch-grains and softens cellulose.

“Milk should never be allowed to boil.”

When boiled, the casein hardens and fat is rendered difficult to digest. When you heat milk in a double-boiler, it is called “scalding” milk. When cooking foods over hot water, it is called “steaming.”

Stewing: Cooking in a small amount of water for a long time over low temperatures. The author states cooking this way is “most economical” and “all nutriment is retained.” Fibre and connective tissues are softened and the entire meat is tender and palatable. I am assuming that, in today’s world, stewing would be the same as using a crock pot. I love to use a crock pot for my meats.

I caution, chicken in a crock pot for a long time turns into a disgusting product. Don’t leave chicken in there for a long time. Next time I use the crock pot, I’ll bake the chicken and cut it into whatever was cooking in the crock pot all afternoon right before serving.

Broiling: cooking over or in front of a clear fire. The idea is to place it on a “gridiron,” hold it near the coals and turn it over many times in order to ‘sear” the outside. Once this is done, the juices will stay in the meat and the turning can be moderate while the rest of the meat cooks.

Roasting: cooking before a clear fire. Meat is placed on a spit and allowed to revolve.

“Meats cooked in a range oven, though really baked, are said to be roasted.”

Baking: cooking in a range oven.

Frying: cooking by immersion in fat at temperatures of 350-400 degrees. Olive oil, lard, beef drippings, cottolene, cotosuet and coconut butter are used. The book continues by saying, “Nearly all foods which do not contain eggs are dipped in flour or crumbs, eggs, and crumbs, before frying.” The albumen hardens, forms a coating and prevents food from soaking up the fat used for frying.

When frying meat or fish, it should be room temperature first. If you don’t, it will lower the temperature of the oil you are frying in and, because of this, it will not be hot enough to harden the albumen and instead, soak up the fat. What a concept! I hadn’t thought of this!

A trivia I wasn’t aware of: Fat does not boil. What boils is the water introduced to the fat while cooking. How’s that for something we didn’t know?

To clarify (clean) the fat used for frying: Melt fat, add raw potato cut in quarter-inch slices, and allow fat to heat gradually; when fat ceases to bubble and potatoes are well browned, strain through double cheese-cloth, placed over wire strainer, into a pan. The potato will absorb odors, gases and collects some sediment to itself.

Sauteing: Fry in a small quantity of fat. Food done this way is “much more difficult to digest” than frying. The reason: it is impossible to cook without food absorbing the fat. There’s another thing I wasn’t aware of.

Braising: Stewing and baking meat. Meat is sauteed to prevent escape of much juice in teh gravy. It is then placed in a pan with it’s accompaniments and covered tightly. It is then placed in an oven to be cooked over a low temperature for a considerable amount of time.

Fricasseeing: sauteing and then serving with a sauce. Tender meat is fricasseed without previous cooking.

I do hope there isn’t a test. I understand all I read and wrote but I’ll have a hard time remembering which definition goes with which word up there. I hope you enjoyed a peak into some vocabulary.

Chapter 2, Section 4: Various Ways of Preparing Food for Cooking

Egging and Crumbling: use dried bread crumbs or crumbled eggs diluted with 2 tbs water. It doesn’t say if the egg should be cooked beforehand; however, it does say to roll items to be fried in the egg before frying. In that, I read – don’t cook the egg! Even if it is confusing to read that you should “crumble” the egg.

Larding: small pieces of fat salt pork or bacon through the surface of uncooked meat. This can improve the taste of lean and dry meat. (I wonder if I can do that with chicken – it always tastes so dry to me!) There actually used to be a device called a “larding-needle” to insert the thin strips of lard into meat. Do any of my readers know if such a thing still exists?

The book continues with this caution: slicing lard through Beef will improve the flavor much more than simply placing the lard on top of it.

Boning: removing bones from meat and fish, leaving the flesh as intact as possible. According to the author, one should practice on small birds before trying the bigger animals and birds. The next section actually gives a description about how to bone a bird. That’ll be interesting to learn. I’ve never been taught that.

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*All quotes (noted or not) are from The Boston Cooking-School Cook Book c1904, my own personal copy, unless otherwise noted.

** All opinions stated here are my own, not medically backed, unless otherwise stated.

Recipe: Broiled Fish

“Cod, haddock, bluefish, and mackerel are split down the back and broiled whole, removing head and tail or not, as desired. Salmon, chicken halibut, and swordfish are cut in inch slices for broiling. Smelts and other small fish are broiled whole, without splitting. Clean and wipe fish as dry as possible, sprinkle with salt and pepper, and place in well greased wire broiler. Slices of fish should be turned often while broiling; whole fish should be first broiled on flesh side, then turned and broiled on skin side just long enough to make skin brown and crisp.

“To remove from broiler, loosen fish on one side, turn and loosen on other side; otherwise flesh will cling to broiler. Slip from broiler to hot platter, or place platter over fish and invert platter and broiler together.”

You won’t find me trying this recipe. I hate the smell and taste of fish.

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