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Food Prep 101: Following a recipe
January 24, 2013 - Anita Hanaburgh
Did you read last week’s column? “Mise en place” most clearly means what?
A. Measure each item.
B. Safety first.
C. Everything in place.
D. Read recipe carefully.
Today, we are continuing our series by following the first step of our mise en place: recipes and measurement.
Before starting anything in the kitchen, think ahead. If you don’t use a recipe, use a plan. Pulling out miscellaneous foods and assembling in a haphazard manner will yield haphazard results.
As you begin this cooking course, I sincerely recommend using a recipe. You can create it yourself, but write it down.
1. Develop a portfolio of products as you learn how to make them. Add personal notes to help you learn. Keep each recipe or make your own. The parts of a recipe are ingredients, measurements, directions, and yield. It also may include the temperature, equipment needed or foods to serve with it.
2. Measure solids accurately. It is as important to measure carefully at home as it is in a restaurant to control costs and insure a uniform product.
Ingredients are calculated in two ways — by weight and by volume measure (this uses a container). Most chefs consider weight as the more accurate measure, but as Americans, we tend to use volume for our recipes using the standard cup (c.) , tablespoon (tbsp. or T. ) and teaspoon (tsp. or t.).
Knowing the measurements quickly allows you to change the size of your recipes. It is best to use the largest utensil whenever possible. There is obviously more chance for mistakes if you measure 16 tablespoons instead of just one cup.
When measuring solid ingredients, the ingredients should be leveled. This can be done with a straight edge — your finger is a curved edge. I use a thin spatula or the backside of a dinner knife. Most items should be loosely packed in the container and measured carefully. Brown sugar should be packed.
Know that there are: 16 tablespoons in a cup; three teaspoons (not two) in a tablespoon; four tablespoons in a quarter-cup and eight in a half-cup and 12 teaspoons in a quarter-cup; two cups in a pint, four cups in a quart, and 16 cups in a gallon; two pints in a quart and four quarts in a gallon. (Remember third grade?)
3. Measure liquids accurately. When dealing with liquids, use a liquid measuring cup. A container to measure liquids will have additional volume so that the liquid can be filled to a line and will not spill on the way to the food.
The liquid should be filled to the desired amount, say half a cup, then checked to make sure it is at the half-cup line. Squat down to check at eye level — you probably need the exercise anyway!
Liquid measuring containers may also show weight. There are: eight ounces (oz.) of liquid in a cup, four ounces of liquid in a half-cup, 16 ounces of liquid in a pint (pt), and 32 ounces of liquid in a quart (qt.).
These conversions are for liquids only. Remember, each solid has a different weight. A cup of confectionary sugar does not weigh the same as a cup of chocolate chips. If a package contains eight ounces, it does not mean it is automatically a cup unless it is a liquid, based on the weight of eight ounces of water.
What about the metric system? Remember when we were told that the world was going to be all metric by 1980? Guess what?
Americans are stubborn souls. We tried but didn’t convert. In food prep, you will sometimes use metric measure. Many chefs, and recipes off the Internet or ones I?get from my sister, who is a converted Canadian, use metric. If you use metric a lot, do not convert it — there is too much chance for error. Buy a metric scale or measures.
4. Learn recipe terms. This is a lifelong process, but there are basic terms you should know. You can’t follow a recipe if you don’t know the vocabulary. Here are some must-know terms to get you started:?
Bake — To cook food in an oven by dry heat.
Baste — To moisten food for added flavor and prevent drying out while cooking.
Beat — To stir rapidly using a whisk, spoon or mixer.
Blanch — To cook briefly in boiling water to seal in flavor.
Boil — To cook in bubbling water or liquid that has reached 212 degrees F.
Braise — To cook first by browning then in a small amount of liquid.
Brown — To cook over high heat to Seal in juices.
Cut-in — To distribute solid fat through out.
Fold — To combine light ingredients gently into a thicker mixture.
Marinate — to soak in a flavored liquid.
Poach — To cook gently in a liquid.
Roast — To cook uncovered by dry heat.
Whip — To mix food rapidly by hand, whisk or machine.
5. Follow the instructions carefully, but use your head. Now you have a brief overview of getting started with a recipe. You can take it from here.
Task to Try
Write your own recipe for a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. Be sure to include exact measurements and through instructions. Prepare the sandwich using mise en place.
Readers may write to firstname.lastname@example.org or comment on the Anita a la Carte blog at www.leaderherald.com.
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