Wednesday, December 02, 2009

Learning (not) to boil water

A final practice session today for the big competency exam in vegetables and starches led me to conclude that, largely, we students in Culinary Foundations II class are being taught not to boil water.

At one point in the two-hour session, I had five sauce pots on the stove, four with water and one with chicken stock, all related to the five dishes I was preparing. As they perked, simmered and bubbled, it occurred to me that my key task at that moment was NOT to let any of them boil.

Slow warming, sure. Simmer, fine. Bubble a bit, OK. But hard, rolling boil -- NO!

As Chef Dan Fluharty and others explain, a hard boil knocks the food around and damages it, cooks it too fast in many instances and unevenly in others.

One can recall foods that were over-cooked because they were plunged into boiling water. They came out mushy, flavorless and even discolored.

The practical exam will show if we can cook veggies -- artichoke, carrots and green beans -- and starches -- potatoes and rice -- so they are solid and intact with good shape and crispness, flavorful and of good color.

In short, we must show that we have learned not to boil water.

(Photo shows my pots NOT boiling.)

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