Cooking for the Initiated

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There were times when people would refrain from cooking something other than the conventional while having a soirée at home. Reach of Media has made the Initiated take up challenges.

The following words, though many have milked it, so will I and for their worth, food does bring people together!

Cooking Simply

And it is in the best interest, I say that with the introduction of so many techniques and ways of putting it all together; the fanciest of meals can be presented with the simplest of the ingredients at home.

This article will cover two things. Plating of food at home while you have guests over, and the marvellous yet humble process of stewing.

Cooking A Meat Stew

The Chunk to be cooked

The ever glorious stew has been there ever since human kind learnt how to cook. The French farms had the humble Pot au Feu, the Irish Stew – Ireland’s Hearty Native Stew, and the Maharajas in India had something like ‘khade masale ka korma’ which is a jewel in its own right. This list can go on.

Where the pot au feu is concerned, a farmer would put the vegetables and meat at very low flame in a pot and leave it to come back to it in the evening. Whereas in a court bedazzled with lineage, spices and legacy, the stew would have intricacies with techniques that would give you layers of flavours. A dish as simple as a stew has come a long way.

Now you would ask me why or how would you plate / present something as simple as a stew. The whole point of a stew is to get flavors on max and the very word stew would defy the logic of plating or deconstructing it.

Dear ones, to make good food sometime you have to break a few rules while staying true to the cause. And in the end, it will all be worth the effort because it will taste delicious, it will have its heart in the right place and who ever eats it, will go home a happy person.

Presenting food consists of three basic steps. There is no going out of the way.

1. Prep
2. Cooking
3. Assembly

Prep

Dish : Deconstructed Classical Meat Stew with Potato Sauce

I mentioned the word efforts earlier. While the other steps are equally important, for me this remains the most crucial one. It is the foundation. Think of a conductor writing notes for the guitarist who will never be there in the orchestra. Don’t be that conductor.

Now, as difficult as it is to prepare some feasts, you’ll be surprised how easy it is to mess it up. But if the basics and the heart are in the right place, cooking can lead you to beautiful mistakes. It can be contradictory too. In the pictures below is some prep work done.

I deconstructed the Stew and replaced the conventional red wine juice with a hearty potato and cream sauce.

Here is a little on the sauce. Roughly chopped vegetables like onion, carrot, garlic and potato. Sautéed with butter and simmered with stock. Herbs like bay leaf and thyme help. Lastly finish it with milk and blend in a mixer.

Tip: if I’m going fancy with my dinner, I would always sieve the sauce.

The Sauce that was innovated on the spot

I can tell you a few pointers that can help sort the process and avoid the word remiss in your cooking.

  • I would always start with a checklist of three things, the utensils, ingredients and plates. If you have all of these in order you are going the right way.
  • Always thaw the meat the night before by keeping it in the refrigerator instead of soaking it in water. If you are getting the fresh stuff, don’t care for the things I just mentioned.
  • If you are making a stock, keep the bone size small crush them a little with the back of a knife. This will ensure maximum flavour.
  • If I have different vegetables to show case, I’ll be irregular with the cuts and let them shine individually.

I could have given you a recipe but I’d like to keep the hell’s gates open and let you try your own versions.

Cooking

This might be the easiest if you have your ears and eyes open and the most beautiful of it all. The aroma of the chicken broth, the caramelisation of meat as it hisses while it wears on the hot pan, the bubbling gravy or sauce, and if this still does not get you, you should perhaps stop reading. All that needs to be done is to identify what needs to be cooked when.

I had to make a sauce, so I got my pot of stock first (the recepie – you have above). The ‘doneness’ of the meat had to be almost breakable at the slightest touch, which takes a bit of time. The vegetables are to be kept boiled if needed so that they may be charged in butter before the assembly. It all falls into place once you get the timing right.

Assembly

Perhaps the most fun bit. Know what has to be placed where. I understand that plating for four guests or more could be cumbersome. So, I do it in front of them, one at a time. For example, if I have a roast, sides and sauce, I would carve and serve in front of them, it’s more engaging and theatrical!

Plating is creative and an art

In the end, I’m going to leave you with this, even if you go wrong with the presenting. No matter, you can always mix everything in a pot and serve your friends and the ones near the delicious stew.

Mix everything and serve…the Stew

I’m not the one to give out recipes and ratios, what’s right or wrong(most of the times I will). My philosophy of food contradicts itself every passing day and as I learn more, I realize my infancy in the world of cooking. And I shall share with you in the articles to come what little I know.  Cheers!

 

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