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Tips For Properly Making Stock

Tips For Properly Making Stock

A great tasting stock is one of the many basic things every cook needs to know how to make. Whether you’re a professional chef or just trying to make your family dinner every night, stock is one of those cooking components that’s at the base of almost everything. From soups to sauces to risotto and so much more, all kinds of stock are used. Generally, people tend to make either chicken, beef, vegetable or fish stock and each one of them is easy to make. However, there are steps that need to be taken in order to make stock properly so that it greatly enhances your dish, rather than detracting from it.

Yes, you can easily buy stock from the grocery store. However, there are so many more benefits to homemade rather than store-bought. It’s a great way to use up vegetable scraps and leftover meat bones. Plus, making it from scratch means you can adjust it to your taste. Stock also freezes really well, a great way to freeze it is to pour it into an ice cube tray and just pop a cube out every time you need one.
The chef instructors at L’École Culinaire have some tips for getting your stock just right. Following these simple rules will help you prepare a stock that is flavorful and of the right consistency.

Never Boil It
The number one rule of stock making is to never boil, always just let it simmer. Bringing stock to a roaring boil can make it cloudy and greasy and can sometimes lead to a bitter taste.

Cool It The Right Way
Cooling a stock can be just as important as cooking it, especially when making chicken stock as not cooling it quickly could lead to salmonella. To cool quickly, plunge the stock pot into cold water. Ensure that it is not completely covered while cooling, the steam needs to escape otherwise the stock could turn sour.

Thickening and Thinning Are Easy
Depending on how your stock has turned out you may need to either thicken or thin it. Both of these are easy to do and don’t take much time. To thin just add extra water until it is at the consistency you prefer.  To thicken, add a small amount of unflavored gelatin to the mix.

Skim Fat At The End
You’ll notice that when you make a meat stock, fat tends to float to the top. It’s best to wait until the stock is fully finished cooking and then remove all the fat. This ensures a cleaner removal of any unwanted product left in the stock.

For more cooking tips and tricks try one of L’École Culinaire’s public cooking classes, designed for the at-home chef. To learn more or to register click here.

Summer Cocktails

Summer is the opportune time to drink cocktails. Seasonal stone fruits, berries and garden herbs can make for a scrumptious and fresh tasting drink. When it’s hot outside, there’s nothing more refreshing than an ice-cold spritzer or sangria.

You don’t need to be an expert mixologist to make a delicious summer cocktail. Just stick to one main ingredient, fresh fruit. The chef instructors at L’École Culinaire have chosen a few summer cocktail recipes that are perfect for the sweaty days (and nights) ahead.

Ginger-Peach Soda

Courtesy of Country Living

Ingredients

1 c. sugar

2 tbsp. minced fresh ginger

2 very ripe peaches

2 L Seltzer

16 fresh mint leaves

Directions

In a medium saucepan over medium-low heat, bring 1 cup water, sugar, and ginger to a gentle simmer, stirring to dissolve sugar. Remove simple syrup from heat, cover, and steep for about 30 minutes.

Over a medium bowl, pour syrup through a fine-mesh sieve, pressing minced ginger against sieve with the back of a spoon to extract flavor. Discard ginger. Cover bowl with plastic wrap, and refrigerate until well chilled. Evenly distribute peach slices among 8 tall glasses. For each glass, lightly press peaches with the back of a wooden spoon to release their juice. Pour about 2 tablespoons chilled syrup over peaches. (Store remaining syrup in refrigerator for up to 2 weeks.) Add ice cubes; then top with seltzer. Stir to distribute syrup, peach juice, and seltzer evenly. Garnish with 2 mint leaves.

Watermelon-Tequila Cocktail

Courtesy of Food and Wine

Ingredients

1/4 cup water

1/4 cup granulated sugar

8 cups diced seedless watermelon (1 pound)

1/4 cup fresh lime juice

1 3/4 cups blueberries

3/4 cup lightly packed fresh mint leaves, plus 8 sprigs for garnish

1 1/4 cups silver tequila

Ice

Directions

In a small saucepan, bring the water to a simmer with the sugar and stir over moderate heat until the sugar is dissolved, about 1 minute; let the sugar syrup cool.  In a blender, puree the watermelon until smooth. Set a fine-mesh strainer over a bowl and strain the watermelon juice, pressing gently on the solids to extract as much juice as possible. Discard the pulp. In a large pitcher, combine the sugar syrup with the lime juice, blueberries and mint leaves. Using a wooden spoon, lightly muddle the blueberries and mint. Add the watermelon juice and tequila. Refrigerate until chilled, about 2 hours. Pour the cocktail into tall ice-filled glasses. Garnish with the mint sprigs and serve.

Lillet-Basil Cocktail

Courtesy of Martha Stewart

Ingredients

1 cup ice, plus more for serving

1/2 cup Lillet Blanc

1 ounce (2 tablespoons) gin

2 tablespoons fresh orange juice

1/4 cup loosely packed fresh basil leaves, plus sprigs for garnish

Splash of tonic water

1 cucumber spear, for garnish

1 cinnamon stick, for garnish

Directions

Put ice, Lillet, gin, orange juice, and basil in a cocktail shaker; shake well. Fill a glass with ice; strain mixture into glass. Add tonic water. Garnish with cucumber spear, cinnamon stick, and basil sprigs.

 

Want to learn more ways to make seasonally inspired food and drinks? Try a L’École Culinaire public cooking class, designed for the at-home chef.  For more information, click here.

Unique Ways to Use Summer Fruit

Biting into a juicy piece of fresh fruit on a hot day is just about as summery as you can get. There’s so many wonderful fruits in season this time of year, it really isn’t hard to get them in at every meal, and we don’t just mean in a smoothie, salad or as dessert. There are plenty of creative and interesting ways to use fruits in your recipes that you have probably never even considered before.

 

The chef instructors at L’École Culinaire have rounded up a few recipes to help get you thinking about alternative and unique ways to use fruits in your summer dishes. You’ll be amazed at the possibilities of what you can do!

 

Fontina + Blackberry Basil Smash Grilled Cheese Sandwiches

Courtesy of How Sweet Eats

Makes 4 sandwiches

 

Ingredients

1 loaf of multigrain bread, cut into 8 thick slices

12 ounces of fresh blackberries

12-15 fresh basil leaves, chopped

6-8 ounces of fontina cheese, sliced

2 tablespoons olive oil

 

Directions

In a large bowl, mash blackberries with a fork (be careful – they will splatter!) and stir in chopped basil. Heat an electric griddle or large skillet over medium-low heat. Lay a piece of cheese on each slice of bread, then top with some smashed blackberries. Gently pick up 3 slices, brush some olive oil on the bottom, and place them on the griddle or skillet. Place the remaining slices on top, brushing them with olive oil too. Let each side cook for about 3-5 minutes.

 

Watermelon Gazpacho

Courtesy of The Food Network

 

Ingredients

1 large tomato, pureed

1/2 serrano chile

2 cups cubed fresh watermelon

1 teaspoon red wine vinegar

1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil

2 tablespoons minced red onion

1/2 cucumber, seeded and minced

2 tablespoons minced fresh dill, plus more for garnish

Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

1/4 cup crumbled feta cheese

Directions

In a blender, puree the tomatoes, chile, and 1/2 of the watermelon. Pour in the red wine vinegar and olive oil and pulse. Add the onion, cucumber and dill and season with salt and pepper. Puree until smooth. Pour into chilled bowls and sprinkle with dill, feta, and remaining watermelon. Serve.

 

Grilled Skirt Steak with Fruit-and-Green Tomato Salsa

Courtesy of Food and Wine

 

Ingredients

3 tablespoons plus 2 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for brushing

1 1/2 tablespoons red wine vinegar

1 tablespoon soy sauce

1 teaspoon sambal oelek

1 small spring onion or 2 scallions, thinly sliced

1 large green tomato, cored and cut into 1/3-inch dice

1 black plum, cut into 1/3-inch dice

1/2 cup fresh sweet cherries, pitted and quartered

1/4 cup pitted Niçoise olives, chopped

2 tablespoons finely chopped basil

2 tablespoons finely chopped parsley

2 tablespoons finely chopped cilantro

2 tablespoons finely chopped sorrel (optional)

Kosher salt

Pepper

2 lbs. skirt steak, cut into 5-inch lengths

 

Directions

In a large bowl, whisk the 3 tablespoons of olive oil with the red wine vinegar, soy sauce and sambal oelek. In a small skillet, heat the remaining 2 teaspoons of olive oil. Add the sliced onion and cook over moderate heat, stirring, until softened, about 3 minutes. Scrape the onion into the vinaigrette and let the mixture cool. Add the green tomato, plum, cherries, olives, basil, parsley, cilantro and sorrel, if using. Toss well and season with salt and pepper. Light a grill or preheat a grill pan. Brush the steaks with olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Grill over high heat, turning once, until lightly charred outside and medium-rare within, about 6 minutes. Transfer the steaks to a carving board and let rest for 5 minutes, then thinly slice across the grain. Serve the steaks with the fruit salsa.

 

Interested in learning more about creative ways to use ingredients? Try one of L’École Culinaire’s public cooking classes, designed for the at-home chef. To learn more or to register click here.

How To Properly Store Coffee

Coffee

Coffee has become a beloved morning ritual for people across the country.  For coffee lovers, it’s important to make sure that the freshest cup of ‘Joe’ hits their lips while they try to start their day.  It’s easy to find a perfect cup of freshly brewed coffee at one of the 55,000 cafes and coffee shops in the United States, but it’s not always feasible or convenient to do it every day.

Brewing that freshness at home is easier than you think and a lot of getting that primo caffeine hit actually has to do with how you store your coffee.  The chef instructors and coffee aficionados at L’École Culinaire have listed some tips below for achieving the freshest fix possible.

Whole Beans Are Best

For the really serious coffee lovers that want the freshest cup possible at home, it’s better to buy whole beans rather than pre-ground.  You’ll then need a grinder for at home use to grind the beans just before you brew.  When the beans have been broken down by grinding, the coffee oxidizes faster, that’s why whole beans are better for stored coffee.

Do Not Store Coffee In The Fridge Or Freezer

Do not store un-opened coffee of any kind in the fridge or freezer, that’s just asking for the taste level to decrease.  Also, because of how porous coffee is, it could absorb the aroma of other items in your fridge (like a stinky cheese).

Air-tight Plastic Containers For Storage

If your coffee comes in a paper bag, it’s best to transfer it into an air-tight plastic container and store in a cupboard out of sunlight.  This will ensure the coffee stays fresher, longer.

Tired of not knowing how to maintain ingredients in your kitchen?  L’École Culinaire offers numerous public cooking classes for the at-home chef to make understanding ingredients easier.  To register or learn more click here.

Easter Egg Natural Dyes

Easter is on its way which means loads of chocolate bunnies, chickadee shaped marshmallows and all kinds of colorful eggs. The best kind of eggs though are the ones that you can spend quality time dying with your kids at home. Dying eggs can be a really fun activity to do but we’ve got an idea that can make the process even more fun and perfect for using up any ingredients in your cupboards and fridge: Dying your Easter eggs naturally!

It’s actually extremely easy to dye eggs with natural ingredients and the chef instructors at L’Ecole Culinaire have put together a list of recipes for a number of colors. Using these dyes can really help you achieve the type of shade and richness you’re looking for depending on how long you soak them and how concentrated you make the dye. Once you dye them natural you won’t want to go back!

Lavender: Mix 1 cup grape juice and 1 tablespoon vinegar

Dark Pink: Cut 1 medium beet into chunks and add to 4 cups boiling water. Stir in 2 Tbsp. vinegar and let cool to room temperature; remove beets.

Brown: Add tablespoon vinegar to a cup of strong coffee

Red-Orange: Stir 2 Tbsp. paprika into 1 cup boiling water; add 2 tsp. white vinegar.

Yellow: Boil 4 tablespoons of spice in 4 cups of water and 2 tablespoons white vinegar, simmer for 30 minutes and strain.

Blue: Boil 4 cups red cabbage in 4 cups water and 2 tablespoons white vinegar, simmer for 30 minutes and strain.

To dye the eggs you can soak them in the dye overnight in the fridge or simmer them in the dye gently for up to 30 minutes.

 

For more ways to make food and ingredients from scratch, try one of our many public cooking classes! We offer them at all three of our campuses and they’re perfect for the at-home chef. For more information please click here.

Healthy Cooking Tips

healthy_cooking

According to the Statistic Brain Research Institute, the number one resolution Americans made in 2015 was to lose weight. The promise to stay fit and healthy followed closely at number five. But statistics also show that only 8% of Americans are actually successful in achieving their resolution goals. Of course, those statistics aren’t very shocking as most of us know many people (possibly including ourselves) who resolve to lose weight or practice healthier habits in the new year but are unable to follow through.

Make this year different! With the fresh start of 2016, the chef instructors at L’Ecole Culinaire have some healthy cooking tips designed to help you achieve your goals in the new year and beyond.

Make friends with beans

When you eat beans you get a lot more bang for your nutritional buck. A half cup of cooked beans such as pinto or cannellini contains between 6 to 8 grams of fiber at the cost of only 120 calories. Fiber is very filling, making beans an excellent way help you avoid unhealthy snacking habits. Try adding beans to salads, soups, stews and burritos to help incorporate them into your meals. Chili is also a great dish for helping you up your bean intake.

Try leafy greens as a side dish

Leafy greens such as kale, collards and spinach are excellent sources of an array of vitamins and minerals. Getting more of these into your diet will only be beneficial for you–just be sure to avoid using too much oil, butter or salt when cooking them. You could also easily add any of these greens to pasta dishes. Just pop them into the boiling pasta water a minute or two before the pasta is finished cooking. Greens can be added to any sauces you’re making. Just like pasta, remember greens cook down so be sure to add them liberally.

Add flavor, not calories

It can be easy to rely on salt, butter, cream and oil to flavor foods but there are so many natural (and calorie free) options for creating flavorful dishes. Herbs and spices can instantly elevate any dish whether they are fresh or dried. Citrus fruits like lemons, limes and oranges also provide great taste to many foods without the fat. Other ingredients such as mustard, dried or fresh fruits, Greek yogurt and vinegars can be used as well.

L’Ecole Culinaire offers a wide range of public cooking classes designed for the at-home chef to suit your needs and tastes, including nutrition-based classes. For more information or to register please click here.

Interactive Cocktails

The New Year is almost upon us and with that comes the added pressure for party hosts to be creative and inventive with new cocktails and foods that will dazzle guests. Innovative cocktails are a surefire way to get the crowd going and will definitely step up any New Year’s event. As you might have guessed, the idea behind them is that they’re unique and fun for your guests to watch you make, creating a way for them to be part of the experience. This will add an extra layer of excitement and entertainment to your party that guests won’t soon forget!

With that in mind, we’ve rounded up three interactive cocktail recipes (one is a L’Ecole Culinaire original!) that you can create at home:

All Spun Up Lemon Drop (Lemon Drop with cotton candy)

Courtesy of L’Ecole Culinaire

For the Cotton Candy:

6 lemon drops or lemon infused/flavored sugar (if spinning your own cotton candy machine)

Or

Lemon cotton candy

For the Lemon Drop:

Ingredients:

Crushed Lemon or Yellow Sugar to rim the glass if desired

2 ounces of Vodka

½ ounce of Grand Mariner, Cointreau, or citrus liqueur of your choice

1 ¼ ounces of Fresh Lemon Juice

1 ounce of Simple Syrup

Lemon slice or twist for garnish

Directions:

Rim the glass by running a cut lemon around the top and then dipping in the crushed lemon drops or sugar and set aside to dry, this step is optional.

Place large puff of cotton candy in the glass, the candy should be fluffy and fill the glass with the top of the puff extending over the top of the glass

Place all of the remaining ingredients except lemon garnish in a cocktail shaker and fill the shaker with ice.

Shake vigorously until the cocktail is well chilled; garnish the glass.

Strain and pour into glass in front of guest or place into small shaker so the guest can pour the lemon drop over the cotton candy and watch the drink change.

Makes one lemon drop, this cocktail recipe can be multiplied easily.

Vodka Root Beer Floats (with vanilla or coconut ice cream)

Courtesy of The Minimalist Baker

Ingredients

  • 2 cans Root Beer
  • 4 Tbsp (2 oz) quality vodka (Kahlua and dark rum also work nicely)
  • 4 scoops vanilla or coconut ice cream

Instructions

  1. Split a can of soda between two large glasses and then add a shot of vodka to each.
  2. Carefully drop two scoops of ice cream and then top off with remaining can of root beer.

 

S’moretini

Courtesy of Brit & Co.

Ingredients:

Smirnoff Fluffed Marshmallow Vodka

Milk

Bailey’s Irish Cream

Nutella (or chocolate sauce)

Graham cracker crumbs

Mini marshmallows

Toothpicks

Rim your glasses. Put a couple graham crackers in a Ziploc bag and crush them using your hands, a large spoon, rolling pin, or hammer. Set them on a plate.

Scoop out a bit of Nutella onto a plate. Dip the rim on your glass in Nutella and then the graham cracker crumbs.

Pour 2 oz of vodka, 2 oz of milk and 1 oz of Bailey’s over ice. If you want it extra sweet add in a few chocolate chips. Shake, and pour.

For a garnish, have either yourself or your guest roast a few mini marshmallows on a toothpick with a lighter.

Have a New Year’s resolution to become a better cook? L’Ecole Culinaire has classes to help you achieve your goals in 2016! In January our St. Louis, Kansas City and Memphis campuses offer public cooking classes for the at-home chef that cover topics such as nutritional and healthy cooking, regional cuisine and much more! For more information or to register click here.