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Assessment 2: Roasting, Grilling & Frying

I had my second and last assessment for the basic cookery unit of the course and this time, we were assessed on the principles of roasting, grilling and frying learnt from the previous 2 weeks. Our assessment task was 1 fried egg, a roast chicken leg, two types of roast vegetables, grilled sirloin steak, sautéed zucchini and deep-fried apple fritters. These photos are from my practice sessions at home.

 

ROASTED CHICKEN LEG & SAUTEED ZUCCHINI

Roasting as per my Unit Kitchen book is the ‘subjection of food to the action of heat in oven, OR while it is rotating on a spit – in both cases fat or oil is used as a ‘basting agent”. This  basting agent is otherwise known as jus roti translated to ‘roasting juice’. We applied this to a chicken leg which came with the backbone still intact so we had to remove that by making a slit just between where the skin of the chicken meets the edge of the backbone and then tearing off the entire backbone that adjoins the ball socket so the only bones left are those of the drumstick and smaller thigh bone. The whole leg shape remains intact, just minus the backbone which makes eating it so much easier. I am a novice when it comes to deboning and cutting up a whole chicken so this is a skill I really want to pick up.

As a basic principle, meats suitable for roasting are good quality tender cuts (as opposed to tougher cuts best suited for stewing and braising). We didn’t dwell too deeply into the finer points of roasting, such as what temperatures and length of time to achieve the desired doneness, only that poultry should be cooked through until the juices run clear or the internal temperature of the thickest part of the meat has reached 70oC. Beef and lamb as red meat on the other hand has more leeway when it comes to its cooking doneness, ranging from rare, medium to welldone. As roasting is a dry-cooking method, there is a tendency for the meat to dry-out which highlights the importance of sealing i.e. browning the meat first to seal in the juices and basting the meat with the pan juices at cooking intervals. Rather than browning the chicken leg in the oven at a higher temperature of  200oC , our instructor browned the seasoned chicken leg in a frying-pan to crispify the skin before suspending the leg atop the mire poix so it doesn’t stick to the pan base while roasting in the oven at a constant temperature of 180oC. The fat from the chicken that drips down the mire poix is then used to baste the chicken to keep it moist. When the roast chicken leg is done, the softened mire poix is passed through a chinois (conical sieve) into the demi-glace, a classic french brown sauce that we used to pour over the chicken. To plate up, we frenched the chicken leg, by separating the thigh and the drumstick and trimming the excess skin off plus tendon tip of the drumstick to expose the bone for better presentation. I decided to serve this with the sautéed zucchini and reserved the roasted vegetables for the grilled sirloin due to timing reasons.

The paysanne cuts of zucchini were sautéed i.e. cooked to colour at high heat, in minimal amount of oil. Note that my zucchinis above weren’t brown enough which meant my pan wasn’t hot enough because it was definitely cooked through. Either that or I must have overcrowded the pan a little which allowed it to steam or stew. I fared better in the assessment and got an A for this dish.

 

GRILLED SIRLOIN STEAK WITH ROASTED TURNED POTATOES & PUMPKIN

At last I can cook a decent steak! I won’t dive into the topic of steaks as my opening enthusiasm suggests I am no pro when it comes to cooking a great moo. But with more research and more moo serves, hopefully I can rectify that status. But I have to agree that Grilling especially char-grilling is the best way to a tasty slab of flamed-licked moo. Then again, it depends on which cuts you’re dealing with; thicker cuts e.g. from the tenderloin or eye fillet are usually seared brown and then finished off in the oven. In class, we used the top sirloin, which is from the back of the cow at the hip area. I found this to be a very flavoursome cut especially since it was grass-fed (indicated by the yellow fat) as opposed to grain-fed ( white fat).  It tasted awesomely BEEFY! Why do I sound surprised? Because lazy and beef-education-deprived me have been buying sub-standard beef from the supermarket. From today, I aim to make the market butcher my friend and get good beef. There’s also the cattle breed, marbling, ageing, type of feed to consider as well. Sigh..That’s a lot of moo to play with…I must up my fibre intake. Heheheheh

Grilling is designed to be a fast method of cooking using radiant heat, either from above or below the food. Generally, the food is sealed first over high-heat to contain the natural juices of the food. In class we grilled the sirloin on a heavy-based grill plate placed on top of the stove burners. Good steak does not require any fancy additions other then just salt and pepper, completely doused in oil and then seared over the grill until the blood pools on the meat surface, an indication that it is time to turn it over (turn only once). The steak is further cooked to its desired doneness; you can use a thermometer but a really cool method is the finger touch method of steak-doneness. Check this cool finger test out. Most important of all-you MUST MUST MUST rest the steak for 5 minutes before plating; you don’t want to end up with a pool of blood or juice on your pretty plate. This essential step allows the steak to reabsorb or seal in the juices. If you cut into that steak right away, you’ll be losing all that yummy juice and compromise its tenderness. I plated this at home with roasted turned (barrel cut) potatoes and pumpkin but the latter was replaced with sweet potatoes on assessment day. I got an A for this dish.

 

FRIED EGGS

Easy?? NOOOOO..Not at first! I have fried countless eggs before mostly in a wok; usually until the white is browned and the yolk cooked through and then dabbed with soy sauce. MMMMMmmm…This however, is not how we do it in class nor are the wok-fried eggs a standard of breakfast cafés. So, what’s the fuss all about with the basic fried egg. I swear, I was going to tear my hair out and muttered to myself like a lunatic (no one’s home to hear me) after 3  failed attempts; burnt and excessive bubbling of the egg-white, yolk cooked through, a mangled yolk from the easy-over method before I could even get it on the plate. And then I paused to calm my nerves, had some soothing green-tea;  and analysed what went wrong. “If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again”. As I held my breath for my 4th attempt, I carefully cracked the egg into the hot oil in the skillet, lowered the temperature to medium, waited for the whites to cook (but not burnt) and then spoon  the hot oil over the egg until the white has set, smooth without bubbles and slightly translucent over the yolk. With utmost care, I eased the egg onto the plate. SUCCESS!!! And my normal breathing resumed.  Pierce the yolk with a fork and it should ooze out. I got an A for the fried egg.
Note: Try using a non-stick or cast-iron pan rather than the egg-sticking-prone stainless steel pan.

DEEP-FRIED APPLE FRITTERS

No it isn’t a Donut. It’s a Granny Smith Apple, sliced into 3 rounds, cored in the middle, coated in a yeast batter and then deep-fried at 180oC. Somehow, mine always turn out like a donut. I’ve had good and crispy ones, soggy and  oily ones, burnt with the fruit not cooked through ones; a total lack of consistency!! I confess I’m not a fan of this deep-fried dessert. Perhaps it is the use of really sour apples that could not be masked even with a generous sprinkling of cinnamon sugar. Don’t get me wrong, I LOVE a good apple pie baked with Granny Smith apples and cinnamon but somehow I haven’t warmed up to these apple fritters. I wonder: I might change my tune if the fritter contents were bananas instead of apples. My lack of enthusiasm rubbed off on my result. I got a B! 
As a basic principle, the oil must be hot enough; not smoking hot until burning point, but heated up to the set frying temperature before you can commence frying. This is to prevent the food item from absorbing too much fat/oil which gives a really soggy result and to ensure the food item is cooked at optimum frying temperature. Not overheating the oil also lengthens the life of the frying medium. Another guideline is that the optimum frying medium to food ratio should be 8:1 as overcrowding the deep-fryer reduces the temperature of the oil thus producing a soggy, greasy result.

 Ahhh…overall,  I got an A for the assessment. This marks the end of the basic cookery component of the patisserie course. I will definitely miss this class and our great instructor but I’m absolutely thrilled to begin the baking component of the course. YEEEEHAAA!!!

 

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