Pro Series Class 5: Moist Heat Cooking

This post is part of a 9-part series related to my completion of the Pro Series 1 professional culinary arts course at The Culinary Center of Kansas City with Chef Richard McPeake. This course changed my cooking world! An introductory post can be found here.

This post is coming a little late. It is not week 5. It’s not even week 6. It’s week 7. Can you tell things have been a little busy?

Class 5 was really interesting, and the food we made was fantastic, but the best part of that evening was cooking with my team, and realizing that I am not alone in the world when I stand next to the stove and repeat variations of “This smells SO good!” I do this at home, both when I cook (often when I have onions sauteeing or celery cooking) and when I eat (“This is so pretty. Look. This tastes UH-MAAAA-ZING — you have to try it!” Blah. Blah. Blah.). So there I was, standing next to a saute pan sizzling with shallots and butter for Aromatic Citrus Herb Butter, and my teammate said just what I was thinking — “That smells so good!!!!” The same thing happened later in the evening when the sauce for our Braised Savory Swiss Steak was sauteeing, and all four of us are just standing there, smelling the onions, garlic, and celery and talking about it. I am surrounded by like-minded individuals for sure.

During the evening, we discussed and practiced six moist heat cooking techniques — steaming, cooking ‘en papillote’, shallow poaching, poaching, simmering, braising, and stewing.

Useful odds and ends:

*To quick steam asparagus, pour a small amount of water into a saute pan and bring to a boil. Once boiling, pour off excess water so asparagus will be covered only 3/4 of the way up, and place asparagus spears into pan. Yes, you can “mound” them if you are cooking a larger batch, just keep them moving around. Cook uncovered to taste (probably just a few minutes if you prefer your asparagus al dente).

*If you care to create “lighter” versions of sauces that call for heavy cream, replace the cream with Greek yogurt or sour cream. Do not replace the cream with milk, as most often it won’t cook properly. Oops…I am guilty of this.

*If you are poaching chicken (cooking chicken submerged in liquid around 180-185 degrees), you will have better results of you cook chicken breasts on the rib bone. Boneless, skinless chicken breasts will cook too quickly and become tough (yep…this happens to me everytime) but bone is a poor conductor of heat and will allow the chicken to cook more evenly. And it is VERY easy to remove the breast half from the bone — while the meat is still hot or warm, simple tear the “head” (larger portion) of the breast downward. And guess what — chicken is cheaper this way anyhow.

*Be careful using basil and tarragon in recipes cooked over heat — both are fragile and will blacken easily.

*Be careful when buying “cube steak” at your grocer to make Swiss steak. The cube steak should be made with round steak and not ground beef. Ground beef will fall apart when braised.

Our dishes:

Steamed Asparagus with Aromatic Citrus Herb Butter – butter, shallots, thyme, and OJ

Filet of Salmon en Papillote – cooked in parchment with white wine, butter, shallots, scallions, mushrooms, lemon, thyme, and of course, butter

Classic Chicken Eugenie – old-school elegant favorite – made the proper way…stacked with a Holland rusk toast, frizzled black forest ham, a chicken breast poached in white wine and stock, a carved sauteed mushroom cap, and napped in an herb and cream sauce

Braised Savory Swiss Steak – Kind of Ugly but I Sure Didn’t Bring Any Home