By Alison Sutherland-Mann
Red Seal Chef
The training kitchens at culinary school are ‘beautiful!’ There is no better way to describe them--they are equipped with all the bright shiny stainless equipment you can imagine and some you have never seen before!
(French onion soup is on the menu today)
With all of the latest gadgets in large well-lit work stations and the first thing your instructor chefs will tell you is this is the ‘best of the best’ and not what you will generally find when you’re out in the industry. Those words will haunt you as you venture out into different kitchens and have to adapt to new situations without the guidance of ‘your chefs’ or the best-equipped kitchen you will ever know!
The other thing you learn very quickly is to start acquiring your own set of knives: ones that suit you, ones that enhance your knife skills, and do not detract from them. This can be like test driving and you often have to try a few different brands to find the one that works for you.
Knife skills are the very first thing you learn. You also learn that you need different knives for different things, and that ‘prep’ is about 80% of your day in the kitchen. Once you have your knife set you take them with you for ever after! They can also be very expensive, so you won’t want to have to replace them very often.
I had my name engraved on my knives so there would be no question as to who owned them--some kitchens are huge and have many employees, and things can get confused, right?
So when it comes to knife skills, choose a good knife or knives: certain knives work for certain jobs. And practice, practice, practice--that is all you do the first week or two of culinary school. This did nothing for my culinary confidence!
French Onion Soup:
(this is a great dish to practice your knife skills )
6 yellow or white medium (or 3 large) onions peeled, cut in half and sliced fairly thin (a sharp knife, a quick hand, fewer tears)
2 tbsp olive oil
2tbsp worchershire sauce
½ teaspoon cayenne
1tsp garlic (or 2 small cloves crushed)
Saute above ingredients, on med/high heat, you don’t want to burn the onions you want to carmelize (bring out the natural sugars turning them a glossy brown)
When onions are soft and golden brown add:
1 cup tomato juice
½ cup red wine (Optional)
Stir to combine
Add 6 cups beef broth
2tbsp basil (or thyme) your choice/ your favorite
Cook and reduce over medium heat for a couple of hours, let the flavours build as it reduces, and add more broth if necessary and adjust seasonings.
Garnish by placing toasted bread with cheese (melted under the broiler) on top of soup as you serve it, or sprinkle cheese right on to soup.
Slowly simmered, fragrant french onion soup is a favorite in our household…enjoy!
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