FOOD: Cooking Primer – Good Food from Good Ingredients
Every now and then you need a refresher on basic cooking techniques; no matter how many reruns of Julia Child you watch, we all need a reminder of some of the basics. With so many diets, fads and trends that have clouded the landscape it is difficult to remember – do we use oil, butter or nothing? What is wet versus dry cooking? And not only how will this taste but how will it be good for me?
We recently attended a cooking class titled “Basic Meat Cookery Methods” which included Pan Searing, Braising, and Poaching. The class was part of a series of cooking classes taught at the Fields Of Athenry farm, outside of Middleburg which also raises beef, lamb, duck, turkey, chicken and goose while sourcing pork from a local Mennonite farmer.
The class setting is intriguing as it is part of a farm kitchen and many of the ingredients for the class could be purchased in the farm store. The farm, class and chef follow the Weston Price Foundation philosophies which believe that healthy lives are only possible if we eat nutrient dense foods and animal fats prepared in traditional manner from ingredients that are raised sustainably, organically and responsibly.
The class is taught by Chef Wes Rosati, formerly the Executive Chef at Landsowne Resort and now formally part of the Fields of Athenry farm. Chef Wes has been a long supporter of sustainably raised foods, so he fits in perfectly with the farm which adheres to sustainable farming practices.
For our class, the menu was set: Steak au Poivre, Braised Lamb Osso Bucco with Red Wine Integral Jus, and Poached Salmon with Winter Vegetables all which we were able to see prepared and then enjoy lunch. It was a sunny cold winter afternoon, but the class kitchen was warm and toasty and while observing the class we enjoyed local cheeses complemented with local wines.
The basics of the class centered on understanding that there are two different types of cooking for meat and fish: wet and dry. Depending on what end result you were looking for, you chose the appropriate method. Chef Wes first built a vegetable broth that would be used to poach salmon. Poaching is a wet method that requires first building a broth, which he did utilizing seasonal vegetables that could poach, create a sauce and maybe later use as a nice soup base.
Onions were first sauteed in lard, but coconut oil or ghee could be used. Chef Wes shared that certain sautéing ingredients are easier for the body to digest, thus he uses lard, ghee or coconut oil. Then adding spices, primarily turmeric, which is especially beneficial in a diet, he then deglazed with some wine. After this he added in lemon, garlic and his other vegetables – kale, carrots, turnips, celery and covered them with water and simmered. He shared that when using herbs distinguishing between hard and soft herbs that will stand up to cooking; using the hard herbs – thyme, rosemary, first and then following with the softer herbs such as oregano, parsley or chives.
After cooking for 15 minutes the broth is ready to use to poach the salmon. The salmon is first prepared with sea salt – again a more easily digestible form and better for the overall diet – and pepper and set at room temperature. The poaching took about 10 minutes, 5 minutes each side and then was served with some of the vegetables in the broth. The vibrant colors and delicious taste brighten up the winter afternoon. What was even for sublime, was that my husband was able to recreate the entire dish a few nights later using salmon from the farmers market.
The next dishes – steak au poivre and chicken – featured the dry method but using a spice rub or just plain salt and pepper, and high heat to seal in the juices. The preferred cuts for this method were Sirloin, or Delmonico as well as just a plain chicken breast. The key in this method is to use a high heat and patience – just a few minutes. This allows the ‘sealing” of the meat which happens as the meat pulls away from the pan. The final dish involved braising which is a long slow cooking process again in a broth, a heartier one than poaching, and a cut of meat that is fattier. The slow cooking allows the fat in the meat to render down creating a melt in your mouth texture.
The next class available is on March 9th which will feature how to prepare proteins with an accompanying pan sauce, a basic Sauce Bolognese and vegetable cookery. The demonstrated dishes will be: Pork Tenderloin Medallions with an Apricot and Red Onion Compote, Beef and Lamb Bolognese, Roasted Cauliflower, Sautéed Garlicky Kale.
The team at Fields of Athenry is developing a spring schedule of classes, so check their website for updates on upcoming classes. The Fields of Athenry will also be providing the “pop up wellness café” at the March 10th Grow Your Health conference occurring at the Woodson High School in Fairfax. The Wellness Festival will be featuring a food documentary called “In ORGANIC We Trust” as well as gardening classes and local foods panel discussions.
By Kathleen Nixon
March 1, 2013