Anyone can cook, part 2 (work in progress)

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Anyone can cook, part 2 (work in progress)

Post by momopi »

Hello and welcome to Part 2 of "Anyone can cook". In the last segment, we went over some basic food safety topics and how to use the knife. In this installment, we'll continue with basic kitchen skills and start cooking!

* Mise en place (MEEZ ahn plahs): This is a French word that means "to put in place". This is the first step to cooking, you need to gather all your ingredients ready and put them in place. I prefer to use small stainless steel bowls, you can buy them at Chefs Toys in Costa Mesa. After I chop my onions, garlic, herbs, etc., I put them separately into the bowls and set them aside before I start cooking.

Cooking with heat releases the flavor and aroma of food, but cooking is also a battle against heat. Once food is over-cooked, there is no turning back. You don't want to cook something, and halfway through, you have to chop some onions and put it in. By the time that you're done chopping the onions, the food is probably burnt. So have all the ingredients ready first before you start. Here's a video on how to chop onions:

* Mirepoix: Back in the 17th century, a French noble with a very long name "Charles-Pierre-Gaston-François de Lévis, duc de Lévis-Mirepoix" hired a personal chef, who sautéed onion, carrot, and celery as basis for an aromatic sauce. When asked what the name of the sauce was, the quick-thinking Chef replied "Sauce à la Mirepoix" -- he named the sauce after his boss, and probably got a raise $$. Thus, "mirepoix" was created. End of history lesson.

Today Mirepoix is the foundation of sauce and stocks in French cuisine. If you look at the cover of the "Kitchen Basics" stock box (, you'll see a pot with onion, carrot, and celery. The ingredients are usually chopped to small dice (brunoise) in the ratio of 2 parts onion to 1 part carrot and 1 part celery. But you can adjust this to whatever flavor you prefer.

Making Mirepoix is great for knife skill practice. Check weekly specials from Superior Grocers ( in Santa Ana for specials on veggies. Here's a video demonstration on Mirepoix, notice the use of small containers for Mise en place:

* Bouquet garni: This is the French word for "garnished bouquet", commonly referred to as the aromatic bouquet. Like Mirepoix, Bouquet garni is used in many French cooking, sauces, and stocks. Making one is very simple, you cut open a leek, wash it clean, bundle some herbs and peppercorns inside, fold it over and tie it with butcher/cotton string ($1 at Ranch 99). Here's some video demonstrations:

Typical bouquet garni recipe includes Leek, Bay Leaf, Thyme, and ~10 cracked peppercorns. But you can also use parsley, rosemary, tarragon, garlic, etc. for flavor. If you suck at tying the bouquet, just put everything inside a piece of cheese cloth and tie it down. You're going to throw it away before serving, so nobody is going to care what it looks like.

* Clarified butter: When you remove the milk solids from butter fat, you get clarified butter. French, Middle-Eastern, and Indian cuisine (ghee) all use clarified butter for cooking. Clarified butter has higher smoking point than regular buffer, and longer shelf life. I've been told that you can buy pre-made clarified butter at Persian supermarkets, but have yet to check.

You can make your own clarified butter for cooking, all you need is butter and a sauce pan: ... etail.aspx

* Separating egg whites: Many recipes need egg whites separated from the yolk. For bachelors who can't crack or fry an egg, this is excellent practice. After you're done, you can mix the egg whites & yolk back together for scrambled eggs. Here's a couple video tutorials on how to separate egg whites:

* Scrambled eggs: Now that you have a bunch of cracked eggs, mind as well use them for breakfast. The key to good scrambled eggs is not overcooking it. Pour your egg whites and yolk into a bowl and beat them until they're combined, but don't over do it. Add 1 tablespoon of milk or cream for every 4 eggs, salt and paper to taste.

Now take a nonstick pan or skillet, and heat it up on the stove for couple of minuets on medium heat. Add 1 tablespoon of butter or oil for every 4 eggs (chicken, not ostrich) or so, and swirl the butter/oil in the pan. When the butter/oil is hot, pour the egg into the pan and reduce heat to medium-low. Let the egg cook for a little bit and then stir gently. The egg should be done in 2-3 minuets.

This is an exercise to practice your perception of when to remove the scrambled eggs. Most amateurs tend to over-cook the egg, or put food in the pan before it's hot. It's critical that you give the pan or skillet enough time to heat up before cooking. Once you've mastered the timing, you can make good omelette's! Here's some video tutorials:


More to come!
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