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Cooking Class numéro deux: Bouquet garni and book list for cooks and chefs

I pulled up to the homey, friendly Edom Bakery and Grill Tuesday night ten minutes early, as opposed to ten minutes late, like last week, when we had the torrential rains in East Texas.  Several of my classmates were already sitting around a table,  looking over notes and recipes Jackson had ready for us.  I couldn’t wait to read them, too! Everything he has given us to read has been so interesting and helpful.

(by the way, Chef Jackson was honored as “State of Texas Chef of the Year 2010” recently; here’s a link to the story: Chef Jackson York on KLTV.com.)

The class was so good; we learned about the five mother sauces:  bechamel,  hollandaise, veloute,  tomato & espagnole. These sauces were designated “mother sauces” by Georges Auguste Escoffier, who is the father of classical French cooking.   They serve as the bases of most, if not all,  sauces we use in cooking, called “small sauces,” or “secondary sauces.”   For example, bechamel sauce becomes the small sauce “mornay” with the addition of gruyere or certain other cheeses.  It is quite delicious!  (it is my opinion that cheese makes almost anything better. )

Julia Child said, “Sauces are the splendor and glory of French cooking, yet there is nothing secret or mysterious about making them.”  I’m so glad to be learning how to make them!   A delicious mornay would make a stupendous macaroni and cheese, and you know how I feel about macaroni and cheese.  This is on my list of things to try very soon.

We learned how to make bouquet garni with which to season simmering broths, which I had learned previously from Martha Stewart’s old cooking show.  Before she went Hollywood and ruined it.  😉  Here is a link to Saveur’s suggestion as to how to make bouquet garni:  Saveur’s pretty bouquet garni.

Saveur’s bouquet garni (photo by David Brabyn)

We also learned how to clarify stock by making an egg white/mirepoix raft, which was completely new to me. I loved learning this classic technique.  We then made soup from some of the resulting consomme’.

We made cream of mushroom soup, or as Julia Child called it in the French, Potage Veloute Aux Champignons.  (why do people say English is more difficult than French? I beg to differ.)  It was so simply done by Chef Jackson, yet when I tasted it, it took my breath away with its perfect creaminess and mushroom flavor.

Another soup we made, which is a Chef Jackson original creation, is cheeseburger soup.  It is made with dill havarti, which is one of my new favorite cheeses.  I’m making this for lunch today for my boys!  Get to Edom Bakery as soon as you can…you must have some.  It will surprise your taste buds, trust me. Order that and mushroom soup.  Bring your appetite!

My mind is full of information that I am still processing.  Everything the chef teaches us leads me to research something, which leads me down other roads.  I love it. For example, I have open on my coffee table beside me now my Granddaddy’s old copy of Julia’s  Mastering the Art of  French Cooking and am browsing her sauces section. It’s very well done, and written for those of us who are not chefs. She has many pages of variations on the mother sauces…small sauces, in other words.

Julia Child in 1988, by Elsa Dorfman

Have I ever mentioned how much I love Julia?  She said, “If you’re afraid of butter, just use cream….”  How can you not love someone who had that philosophy?  Moderation, of course, is key.  But please, do use butter and cream instead of disgusting chemicals in your cooking.  Margarine is not good for you.  There is a reason that it is dirt cheap.  And “fat free half and half?”  Who even knows what is in that stuff?  Yuck.
But I digress.  That is my short summary of class with Chef Jackson this week, and I am beyond happy to be a part of it. Tomorrow, a cookie recipe for you, from me! 🙂

Also, if you’re interested in learning more about techniques and/or sauces, here is some recommended reading, most of which are available at Amazon.com:

Chef Jackson York’s recommended reading list:

Food Lover’s Companion – Barron’s

Baker’s Manual –  (his copy is old and worn and I wish he’d clone it, just as it is, and give us all one!)  🙂

The Saucier’s Apprentice – Sokolove  (a short book which covers all the mother sauces in an enjoyable, readable way)

The Professional Chef – Culinary Institute of America  (I hope Jackson will correct me if I’m wrong, but I believe he suggested this one on the first night of class.)

The Escoffier Cookbook and Guide to the Fine Art of Cookery – Auguste Escoffier  (I just ordered this, used, on Amazon.com, and total including shipping was only about $13. This will be a lot of book/education for so little money!)

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