Cooking 101: Back to Basics – Eggs

This evening i attended my second cooking class at The Cambridge School of Culinary Arts. This week’s focus was eggs, and it would be the first class that we would be given the opportunity to cook. This was a bonus as I would not leave hungry but equally as terrifying was the fact that we would be cooking for and in front of each other.  As I entered the class I noticed there were new faces that were not present during last week’s class. I signed in, grabbed a recipe booklet from the chef instructor and took my seat. It turned out, that our “new faces” were unable to make their class this week and therefore were allowed to make up their class during the one I was scheduled for. The room was looking full.

The class began and we went over the recipes in the booklet. It contained many different recipes ranging from sauces to full family-sized meals. After reviewing the recipes, discussing tips and noting what we had experience with making in the past, we were given the chance to choose recipes that we wanted to try and if there weren’t any, we would be assigned to them based on what had not been chosen by others. Our choices were, poached eggs, hard cooked (hard boiled) eggs, coddled (soft cooked) eggs, Hollandaise Sauce, mayonnaise, crepes, cheese soufflé, Italian fritata, quiche and pipérade and scrambled eggs. We were told that there would be plenty of time to cook and try recipes since there weren’t many and so I decided to start with some seemingly easy ones that I had not tried before, Hollandaise Sauce and mayonnaise, two mother sauces in classic French cuisine.

We entered the kitchen, donned our aprons and began the preparation of our work areas. Then it all started…chaos. Everyone started running around frantically raiding the pantry for ingredients, grabbing eggs by the hand full, grabbing utensils, pots and pans. The kitchen transformed into a pseudo Kitchen Stadium from the Food Network TV series Iron Chef America.We had our own time limit and everyone seemed keenly aware of it.

I worked on the Hollandaise Sauce first, measuring my ingredients and then heating up my water and lemon juice, heating it until became a concentrated acid reduction. Next the eggs were added into the sauce pan. I then worked my butter cubes in and whisked vigorously to add volume while moving it on and taking it off the heat so it remained warm; too warm and the eggs would curdle I was warned. Once all of the butter was melted in, I added salt and ground white pepper for taste. I tasted it and really enjoyed the silky texture and light buttery flavor with a subtle hint of spice. The night was off to a good start.

Back To Basics: My First Hollandaise Sauce
Back To Basics: My First Hollandaise Sauce

My next task was the mayonnaise. This would prove to be a surprise with respect to how much effort was involved in its making. I placed the eggs, dried mustard, salt and lemon juice into a bowl and combined them with my whisk. One of my classmates offered to help so we both could learn how it was made. He added the vegetable oil slowly as I whisked vigorously. Each drop of oil made this task harder and harder. My whisking became slower and slower. I read the recipe again, glancing over key words “Sauce, when finished will be very thick.”. When we were half way through the oil, he offered to whisk and let me pour. I gladly switched places with him and began pouring the rest of the oil in slowly. The whisking slowed even more and the strain was evident in his eyes and his breathing. This was no easy task. I switched places with the final bit of oil left and completed the whisking. What presented itself before me was an unfamiliar substance. It was yellow, thick and spicy to the tongue. This was unlike any mayonnaise I have ever had before and yet very pleasant, a superior compliment to any hearty sandwich for sure.

Back To Basics: My First Mayonnaise
Back To Basics: My First Mayonnaise

My next project was an omelette. It was pretty straight forward. I cut up some fresh chives on my cutting board to use as a garnish and to add some extra flavor. I then whisked the eggs and greased the pan. I poured the eggs in and started moving them around as they coagulated. Once cooked, I brought the pan to my plate and folded the eggs over and added the chives. So delicious.

Back To Basics: Omelette
Back To Basics: Omelette

I finished the evening making a poached egg and crepe and was able to taste my other classmates’ creations. The best part of the experience was the fact that I left feeling more confident in a kitchen preparing food with a time limit. My classmates enjoyed my Hollandaise Sauce with their poached eggs ala Eggs Benedict and it was a great experience to be able to try several fritatas, soufflés and omelettes, noticing the subtle and sometimes dramatic taste and texture differences.  We all started with the same base ingredients and recipes and yet were able to end with dishes uniquely our own.  This was perhaps due to technique, measuring, or the overall application of heat. Experience will teach me to know the difference I am sure. Next week our training will challenge us with soups and stocks. I eagerly await the classes for the weeks to come.

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