From November 27, 2012; my last written post for Penn State. Three days later I was gone. The blogs at Penn State go away tomorrow, and if it all disappears, this is one I want to save.
Over the holiday I enjoyed several days of standing in the kitchen both cooking and preparing to cook. Everything in place. I was determined to be organized, approaching each task calmly and efficiently. Keller’s kitchen is apparently like that: Each task begins with a clean work station. Use a cutting board once, then clean it and your knife so they’re pristine for the next task. Each step of a process is done perfectly: a perfectly cut brunoise, an undisturbed boil, just the right amount of seasoning. It’s respect. It honors the people who grew the vegetables, picked the vegetables, packaged, shipped and sold the vegetables. It honors the plants and animals themselves, and it honors the craft.
For the most part it worked out well. There were a few minor mishaps over three days, but I came away satisfied and more experienced.
One dish that I did was traditional glazed carrots. I needed to have a long shape on the plate to balance asparagus, so I trimmed a couple pounds of whole carrots into small, evenly shaped fingerlings. The classic method cooks carrots in stock till the stock is thick and reduced. For the stock, I started by making a “perfect” mirepoix and roasting chicken backs with it. At the end of the first day I had a quart of very nice, dark chicken stock. The second day I defatted the stock and brought it almost to a simmer with carrot shavings and egg whites. After the second day I had a couple cups of stock that tasted like an essence of roasted chicken, but was sparklingly clear. I didn’t need all of it, so I poured a few ounces into a wine glass that was sitting on my counter. It was beautiful. The color of iced tea, but not at all cloudy, with no sediment at all. It caught the light just like the crystal around it.
Did it matter? To me certainly. To the dish- I’m sure it was important though I doubt many would notice or care. It was clean and attractive on the plate, but after simmering with carrots, brown sugar, butter and cracked pepper probably no one could tell that it had been crystal clear. It just worked as intended, and tasted good, too. And I’ll do it the same way next time.