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Court bouillons  

post #1 of 2
Thread Starter 
My apologies but I should have introduced my self earlier just so you understand why I am so dogmatic in finding out the answers to my questions. I teach in a university in the UK and one of the courses I have written is a degree in culinary arts[this course has even been franchised to a French college]; the primary aim of the course is the application and comprehension of food science and obviously your book is essential reading.

My next question is the use of court bouillons; chefs have always argued that the use of vinegar helps to tenderise shell fish and firms up the flesh of fish such as salmon etc as well as contributing flavour.

In the case of shell fish I conducted an experiment of my own and cooked a hard shell crab using boiling water, vinegar and gravy browning[the hypothesis being that if the court bouillon did denature the crabs meat and penetrate a hard shell; this would clearly be evident by a change in the color or the meat] there way no change in the color of the meat. Im not sure if this argument holds true for prawns or shrimps as obviously they have thinner shells Am i correct that the suppostion is another falacy or perhaps the sugar molecules are too large to penetrate.

My thoughts are similar when poaching fish I suppose to the questions of marinades; as far as I can see the court bouillon will only denature the surface of the fish and will not contribute to any flavour or structural change to the centre of the product

Your wisdom would be greatly appreciated

post #2 of 2
I would respond with three different points:

First, you’re absolutely right to be doing experiments to test the received wisdom, which actually sounds self-contradictory: how can the same cooking liquid tenderize one muscle tissue and firm another?

Second, the smaller the particle, the more easily and quickly it penetrates muscle tissue. Salt and acid come in the form of ions, single charged atoms, so they move relatively quickly. The brown color in gravy comes from molecules that are hundreds of atoms in size, and they aren’t even going to get in the door. Even the red pigments in wine, which are much smaller than browning pigments, are too big to penetrate tissue. So you can't use color penetration to judge the penetration of salt, acid, and other materials.

Third, it's true that short cooking times mean relatively shallow penetration of anything, salt or otherwise. On the other hand, when we eat poached fish or shellfish, we seldom eat a bit of the center without some of the surface, and the surface certainly gets flavored. Surface flavoring can be important too.

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