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Improving your Repetoire

post #1 of 11
Thread Starter 
I am terrible at deserts/pastries/baking :blush: Have not tried very hard, but just don't have the patience (plus I don't really like sweets).

Give me a meat or veg dish anyday, and I can more than likely get by.

What would you like to improve in your cooking skills?

 Don't handicap your children by making their lives easy.
Robert A. Heinlein

 Don't handicap your children by making their lives easy.
Robert A. Heinlein

post #2 of 11
With me, it's mostly basic prep. I am still struggling with how to deal with a whole fish, for example: I can do it acceptably for home use, but no self-respecting professional would take a second look at my fillets -- he or she would be too busy screaming.

Then there is the family chicken curse. I have this thing where I can cook chicken, in America only (I don't know why), and bring it to terrifying temperatures, and still have it pink and raw at the bone. My (least) favorite example was the time I seared bone-in chicken legs (separated at the joints), until good and brown both sides. Then I added 2 cups of wine and various vegetables, covered, and simmered for an hour. Then I cooked the remainder in a hot oven, uncovered, until the liquid and veg had caramelized on the bottom. Cut into the chicken, and lo and behold, pink at the bone. Temperature gauge? 200 degrees -- way overcooked. But nevertheless pink and squodgy, like raw, at the bone. It's a curse, I think.
post #3 of 11
Try trussing a chicken, Chris. They cook more evenly that way.

I would like to improve:

- knife technique... I'm pretty good but you can never be too good at this for a professional kitchen.

- frying ... I would like to learn more about breading things propperly

- braising... I don't have alot of experience but I've produced a few acceptable results. I added this mostly because I just passed Daniel Boulud's book in Borders yesterday.

- salt... I can season food propperly but I would like mainly to research the effects of salt on tast at a phisiological level.

- BBQ... I'm American therefore I believe it's essential that I one day learn BBQ.

- Chinese Duck... all that salt makes me think there might be some curing going on?

- Herb/Product Identification... with limited experience, I need to work on this.

-Wine Tasting... I have a reasonable pallette but I need to learn more about the varietals and methods to distinguish why I'd be tating what I am. I'm on my way, I'm studying The Wine Bible (actual name) and making notes and progress.

That's what I can think of for now.
post #4 of 11
Advanced Chocolate and Sugar work, I enjoy working with pastries, but not being in an intensive pastry kitchen I don't get the chance to work with those things as much as I'd like to.

I'd like to perfect my techniques with artisan breads, working with wild yeast cultures

Pickling and fermenting foods (usually we're discouraged from doing those things at work... means the food's messed up :) ).

Knife technique, food carvings, intricate Japanese and Chinese knife work.
"If it's chicken, chicken a la king. If it's fish, fish a la king. If it's turkey, fish a la king." -Bender
"If it's chicken, chicken a la king. If it's fish, fish a la king. If it's turkey, fish a la king." -Bender
post #5 of 11
I would also like to lurn some more picklying and ditto on the yeist cultures and artisan breads too.

I just thought of something that I must lean though... Cajun Boning of poultery. I want to learn how they debone a turky, chicke, and duck for the turdeken. I know now it's mostly done by machine but I know there is still the original method out there somewhere.
post #6 of 11
Cooking meat--roasting, braising, grilling. I don't eat much meat, but my family are all meat-eaters and I would like to be better at preparing things they enjoy.

Greek, Arabic, Turkish dishes.

Working with phyllo.

Better knife skills, including sharpening.
post #7 of 11
Great thread idea.

I am in the process of learning to cook Fish better. I'm such a meat eater I've been perfecting my meat techniques for years, but never really spent the time to learn to cook (or even to learn to appreciate) good fish. I'm getting better at it, and sometimes I even order fish at a restaurant!! Last time I ordered Turbot it was simply delicious.

Definitely looking to get better knife skills - will probably also need a new knife and some basic knife sharpening skills. It takes me hours to do prep work!!

I also want to expand my Sauce repertoire. I have yet a shipload of sauces to learn.
post #8 of 11
Start with the chicken. Cut off the wings, and the legs at the thigh and reserve the wing tips and legs for another purpose. Split the back, and loosen the meat along the ribs, until you reach the keel. Detach the meat from the keel. Fold, pull and cut it loose until you reach the thigh's ball joint. Detach the thighs from the carcass. Run a sharp knife along the bone on the "naked" sides of the thighs, then debone in the usual way. If you like, you may leave the leg attached and debone it along with the thigh.

Debone the duck in the same way.

There are two different ways to debone the turkey. The first way is to butterfly it in the same way you did the chicken and duck -- but leave the legs, thighs, and wings (more or less) intact (I always take the wing tips for stock).
Usually, the chicken is laid on the duck and the two are rolled up jelly-roll fashion, the roll is then placed on the turkey, which is either sewed or trussed to hold them.

Not particularly difficult, as long as you don't use too large or too dull a knife.

Alternatively, you can remove the turkey's carcass through the vent -- using a small, sharp knife to loosen and joint it -- working carefully all the while. It's a time consuming and difficult process, and massive overkill for Turducken. However, it was a popular presentation during the age of excess and worthwhile mastering if you feel the need to farcee a fowl. I used to do a pate stuffed duck when I catered.

Just take your time.

post #9 of 11
I do not agree. This is the usual way, but it's neither the fastest nor the most versatile. Try this:

1. Remove the end two joints of wings. Remove the wishbone.

2. Lay the bird on its side. Cut down the back, to but not through the bone. Lift one wing slightly and pull the shoulder skin back, then cut through the joint which is now almost exposed and aligned with the cut. Flip bird and repeat for opposite shoulder.

3. Stand bird on its bum, breast toward you. Grip the collar (thumb inside the neck) and one shoulder with one hand. With the other, grab the wing and the flesh on the back on that side, pull out and down, and peel the flesh down the back until you see the oyster (this is one quick motion). Repeat on the other side. Continue holding the collar with one hand. With the other hand, first two fingers in a fork, insert the fingers down the breast, one finger per side, and pull down sharply until the leg meat is on the verge of tearing.

4. Put the bird on one side. Cut under the oyster. Fold the knee and point it toward the neck naturally, then fold it out and down, cracking and exposing the thigh joint. Cut this joint and pull the meat down. Repeat on the other side. When you pull this meat down, the entire main carcass will detach from the flesh. (The tenderloins will remain on the carcass: see #7 below.)

5. If you wish to debone the legs, grab a thigh knuckle, cut around the nub, then scrape the flesh down to the knee. Cut around the knee joint, then scrape down to the ankle. Push the bone back into the drumstick to reform it more or less naturally. Either cut off the ankle with a quick chop, or, if roasting, break the ankle through the skin with the back of the knife (for roasting, this prevents the skin shrinking). Pull out the entire thigh-shin bone from the cavity. Repeat on the other side.

6. To remove the wingbones, cut around the joint, then grip the nub with the offhand and grip just below it with the thumb and first two fingers of the on-hand. Press the meat down to the board with the on-hand, and pull up sharply with the off, releasing the bone in a single jerk.

7. The breast tenderloins are still attached to the carcass, and should be removed by scraping under each with a thumb. Remove the tendon by holding its end and scraping down with a petty knife. Flatten out the bird, skin side down, and in the middle on each side there will be an empty space with skin and no flesh. Put a tenderloin on each, and you have a perfectly deboned bird for stuffing.

For Turducken, you probably do not want the chicken and duck to have all the leg meat, depending on the size of the turkey; I'd remove the drumstick before deboning the thigh, but leave the latter on. I would leave the drumstick on the turkey, and not debone it: when you get to the knee, just cut through the joint instead of around and pull out the thighbone. This will allow the final roasted product to look more like a normal roasted turkey.

Incidentally, the entire process described above takes me 6-8 minutes with a chicken. The trick is that you don't use a knife very much. Jacques Pepin, from whom I learned this technique, does the whole thing in under a minute.
post #10 of 11
Here is what I have been working on to try to improve my cooking skills:

1) Sauces - a good sauce seems to really helps to add another dimension to a good dish, and many people I know seem to be impressed by this

2) Timing - I have issues getting all dishes to finish cooking at about the same time

3) Fusion dishes - I like to make unusual twists that many people have not had. My Fajita Sushi was a big hit. Unusual and tasty but still working on the right sauce for this.

4) Proper spicing

5) Cooking food my little sister can have that is still tasty. Because of her food allergies I have to leave out milk, soy, onions, garlic, and leaks. Try cooking Chinese food with out those ingredients

6) Unusual presentation - one example is serving salad in bacon bowls. All the people that I have cooked for have never heard of these yet love them
Is a hippopotamus a hippopotamus or just a really cool opotamous? - Mitch Hedburg
Is a hippopotamus a hippopotamus or just a really cool opotamous? - Mitch Hedburg
post #11 of 11
Timing, proper spicing, sauces, braising - well, most things, really.

But I too am cursed. Being an American male, it shames me to say that I can't grill a steak without it coming out well-done. Part of the problem, I know, is that my wife and daughter want their steaks cooked medium and so I try to accomodate them and end up leaving the meat on too long. But it's not just that simple. I like mine rare and overcook it too. I hate well-done, but that's what I get, no matter how I try to adjust. I can certainly sympathize with the "family chicken curse". Bummer.
If you can't put it on a plate, it probably isn't all that important.
If you can't put it on a plate, it probably isn't all that important.
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