Chicken

Roast Chicken
I recently got a call from a woman, hysterical because I had “ruined the turkey” for her Thanksgiving dinner. She had discovered pink where the thigh joint joins the back of the bird. I tried to explain that a properly cooked bird will be pink (but not translucent) on the inside of the thigh. (Wolfgang Puck is the only one I know who backs me up on this.) I asked her if she at least ate the breast (which I assume was more cooked) and she said, no, that she had thrown the whole bird in the trash. So, I should probably explain in my books, when I tell people to take the bird out at 140 degrees, that the bird will still be pink near where the thigh joint joins the back.
While I think of roasting a chicken as the gastronome’s equivalent to a tv dinner–basically all you do is stick it in the oven–people are still intimidated by it.
The fact is you can have more than satisfactory roast chicken by simply sliding it into a 500-degree oven and cooking it about 45 minutes. If you have convection, turn it on.
You may wonder why the high heat. It’s essential for browning. Browning is one of the central challenges in roasting, particularly with small roasts, because the heat has to be high enough to brown the roast before it cooks through. Thus it’s impossible to brown a quail in a home oven (restaurant ovens are something else) without cooking it to death. On the other hand, roasting a turkey presents no problem because it spends so long in the oven in order to cook through.
The solution for small birds is to brown them on the stove before sliding them in the oven.
While you can roast a chicken by just sticking it into the oven and forgetting about it, there are a few tricks that improve it significantly. One of the most persistent problems facing the roaster of birds is the tendency of the breasts to cook through before the thighs. This is why the breast meat of so many turkeys is dry; relying on the pop-up thermometer is catastrophic. To avoid this, cover the breast of poultry loosely with buttered aluminum foil (or a bard, see page 000) for the first 20 minutes of roasting. This slows down the cooking of the breasts and gives the thighs more time to catch up. The bird is done when a thermometer stuck between the thigh and the breast (near the joint but not touching) reads 140 degrees. If you don’t have a thermometer, determine doneness by looking at the juices in the bird’s cavity. Most recipes say to wait until they are clear (initially they are a cloudy pink) but I’ve found that this overcooks the bird. A more reliable system is to wait until the juices are clear but streaked with red. Once out of the oven, cover loosely with aluminum foil for about 15 minute to let the heat redistribute and leave the chicken more evenly cooked.
The relatively low internal temperature that I call for often provokes questions about safety. While a somewhat higher temperature is required to kill salmonella, keep in mind that salmonella is only on the surface of the bird and not in the muscle tissue (the meat) unless the bird died of a septicemia. The surface of the bird gets much hotter than 140 degrees.
It is in part for this reason that it’s not a good idea to stuff turkeys and chickens. To cook the stuffing and get it to a safe temperature (around 160 degrees) you have to cook the bird to death. A better idea is to wrap some stuffing in aluminum foil and put it in the roasting pan next to the bird.
I’m often asked about roasting racks. I never use them because they suspend the bird above the roasting pan. This causes the juices to drip down on the pan which is much hotter than the bird and burn. To prevent this, put the bird right in the roasting pan. Select a roasting pan that’s close in size to the chicken so there aren’t bare patches that get too hot and cause the juices to burn. To keep the chicken from sticking to the pan, set it on a few slices of onion or carrot (these will contribute flavor to the juices, see below) or the giblets taken out of their little paper package. There are those who dispute the value of trussing, but trussing keeps the bird together and helps it cook evenly. It makes it look much more presentable at the table. Fortunately, there is a simple method that requires no needles or other instruments designed for putting holes in the bird.

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Last, there is the question of jus and gravy. A gravy is simply a jus that’s been thickened and in the case of roast chicken I rarely bother with the thickening unless it’s just to add a little heavy cream and reduce it a tad.
When your chicken is finished roasting, the roasting pan will contain both juices (some or all which might be caramelized into a brown crust clinging to the pan) and liquid fat. The trick is to separate the two. If the fat is perfectly clear, it means that all the juices have caramelized and that all you need to do is pour off the fat before deglazing. If the juices are cloudy, it means that they have emulsified with the fat. The trick is to separate these emulsified juices from the fat. To achieve this, boil down the juices by putting the roasting pan on the stove. Re-position the pan every 30 seconds or so so that the juices brown evenly. When the liquid in the pan turns clear, and a brown crust has formed in the pan, pour off the liquid fat. Now you should have a roasting pan with a caramelized crust and no fat. Deglaze the pan with a small amount of water or broth (never more than a cup for a single roast chicken) and put the pan on the stove. Boil the liquid while scraping with a wooden spoon to get the crust to dissolve in the liquid.
Another trick, and one that’s particularly useful if you don’t have enough drippings, is to make a kind of phony jus by caramelizing broth. Pour a cup of broth into the roasting pan and boil it down until it reduces completely and caramelizes on the bottom of the pan. Deglaze with another cup of broth, scrape up the crust, and caramelize again. Deglaze. Caramelize. Ad infinitum. (see also “jus,” page 000)

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Braised Chicken (Coq au Vin)

I’m not going to give a recipe for coq au vin since I think we’ll become better cooks without one. More valuable is a description of the principles at play and an analysis of how the preparation works.
Traditionally, a rooster for a coq au vin should be marinated with aromatic vegetables and a bouquet garni in red wine. The aromatic vegetables and the wine are then used to braise the rooster, about 3 hours.  The braising liquid is finished with beurre manié and the rooster’s blood. The braising liquid needs to be whisked into the blood and not the other way around or the blood will curdle. The cooked aromatic elements (onions, carrots, bouquet garni etc.) are removed and discarded (although some clever cooks puree them—not the bouquet garni–and use them to bind the sauce) and a separate “garniture” of glazed pearl onions, sautéed mushrooms, and little lardons of bacon is stirred into the stew just before serving.
If you have a real mature rooster, this is pretty straightforward, but most of the time we encounter or prepare “coq au vin”, we’re using a banal chicken, inappropriate for long braising. In the interests of authenticity, such a dish should be called “poulet au vin rouge.”
One might be tempted to assume that an identical process, with the braising time shortened, can be used to braise a chicken rather than a rooster. But there are problems. Since a cut-up chicken will cook in about 20 minutes in simmering red wine, the red wine and aromatic ingredients have no time to cook and the wine’s tannins and acids may remain harsh. The dish may have a raw wine taste. When using red wine, first, select a wine that is soft, that doesn’t have too much acidity or tannin, that’s a bit oaky, and very full-bodied. (Traits I like in cooking are often the opposite of those I like in drinking.) I find wines from Argentina to be particularly good cooking wines.
Once the wine in hand, the obvious solution is to simmer the wine ahead of time, before using it to cook the chicken. But wine simmered alone just becomes harsh and aggressive. Red wine must be cooked with proteins so the proteins clarify out the tannins and soften the acidity. So the trick is this: make a red wine stock in the same way you make stock with water (substitute the wine for the water) by first browning drum sticks or wings (dark meat is best; just buy the cheapest) and aromatic vegetables and then simmering them for 3 hours or so in the red wine. The resulting “stock” can then be degreased and reduced and used to cook our chicken.
Brown the cut-up chicken in butter (or lard if you have it—don’t use bacon fat which is too aggressive) until it’s well browned on each side. Take out the chicken. If you’re adding more aromatic vegetables (which may not be necessary since they were included in the red wine stock), cook them in the same pan over medium heat for about 10 minutes to soften them. Take out the vegetables, discard any fat and put the chicken back in. Pour over the wine stock, cover the pan, and simmer about 20 minutes until the chicken feels firm to the touch. (Removing the bone from the thigh ensures that the cooking time for the thighs and breasts is the same.) Take the chicken out, keep it warm, and decide what to do with the braising liquid. There are a couple of approaches. It’s unlikely you’re going to have blood so we’ll skip that for now. But beurre manié is a good option. There is also the possibility of reducing and degreasing the braising liquid until there’s a very small amount left (a half cup or so) and then finishing it with cold cubes of butter—usually about 6 tablespoons. This latter approach makes the dish richer and more intensely flavored but there’s less sauce to go around—but you’ll want less since it’s so rich.
You must also give thought to the garniture. If you’re using the classic garniture, most of the work can be done ahead—just sautéing the mushrooms has to be done at the last minute—including rendering the lardons and glazing the pearl onions.
Fortunately, coq au vin or poulet au vin rouge lend themselves to all sorts of improvisation. First, you can concentrate on a specific wine. While it’s unlikely that the character of a particular wine won’t be obscured by cooking, it’s worth experimenting with specific wines such as Beaujolais, Rhone wines, or red wines from the Loire Valley. Be sure to advertise that you’re using something other than a banal everyday wine by calling your dish coq au beaujolais or poulet au chinon. This takes your dish out of the ordinary and lends it panache. (Although I assure you that there will be nothing ordinary about a poulet au vin rouge made with good red wine stock.)
While the pearl onion/lardon/mushroom combination is delicious and classic (in addition, heart-shaped croutons, tips dipped in chopped parsley are sometimes used to decorate the finished platter) some substitutions are obvious. Using wild mushrooms will elevate your dish to celestial realms. A bit of chopped truffle would do no harm either. Also, add a spot of Cognac (not “brandy”) to your sauce about a minute before serving (be sure to cook off the alcohol). On the other end of the spectrum, you may want to simplify your dish by including the carrots, celery, and onions that were used for the braising. This, in fact, is the difference between cuisine bonne femme, cuisine bourgeoise, and cuisine classique. In cuisine bonne femme, the aromatic garniture (usually carrots, onion and celery) is left in the dish and becomes the final garniture (keep in mind that the vegetables can also be pureed and used to thicken the sauce). In cuisine bourgeoise, aromatic vegetables are added to the stew at an appropriate time during the cooking; in cuisine classique, the garniture is prepared completely separately (as for a classic coq au vin).

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Fricassées and Sautés
The difference between a fricassée and a sauté is easily explained. To make a fricassee, the chicken is cut up and lightly sautéed to, as the French say, “stiffen it.” In other words, as you see the pieces contract and firm up slightly, they’re ready for the next stage, moistening with some kind of flavorful liquid. Such a liquid, typically broth, then absorbs the flavor of the chicken and can easily be converted into a sauce.
The best known fricassee, fricassee de poulet à l’ancienne, is made by lightly cooking the cut up chicken in butter, sprinkling the chicken with flour, adding broth, and gently simmering until done. The sauce is then thickened with cream and egg yolks.
The term “sauté” is a little confusing because we normally associate the word with cooking in fat over relatively high heat to brown whatever the food is in question. When the word sauté is used in the context of cooking chicken, it simply means that the chicken is completely cooked in fat (such as butter or olive oil), taken out of the pan, the fat discarded, and the sauce made in pan. In this way, the sauce takes up the crusty caramelized juices attached to the bottom of the pan. At the last minute, the chicken is reheated in the sauce.

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“Sauteing” Breaded Chicken

When chicken is breaded–coated with flour; flour and egg; or flour, egg and breadcrumbs–it needs to be cooked in a sauté pan over gentle heat. The heat is much lower than if you were sautéing chicken that had no coating. Keep in mind that it is the bread or other coating that you’re browning and not the chicken itself. For this reason, browning breaded foods usually requires lower heat. In French cooking, there are several kinds of breading. A simple coating of flour, followed by sautéing, is called “à la meunière.” When the floured food is then coated in egg and sautéed, it is called “à la parisienne.” When coated with flour, eggs, and breadcrumbs, it is called “à l’anglaise.” When foods are coated à l’anglaise and gently cooked in clarified butter, they absorb some of the butter and turn a golden brown. When all goes well, there should be an ever-so-slightly-crispy coating and a melting, perfectly cooked, interior. But most people make horrible breaded foods because they use whole butter (which leaves specks on the breading) or, worse, oil (which has the wrong flavor if it has flavor at all), canned breadcrumbs (which are rancid and ghastly) and they cook over too high a heat. To make the breadcrumbs for the coating, cut the crumbs off several slices of dense-crumb white bread. Let the bread get ever so slightly stale or leave it in a low oven for about 10 minutes. You don’t want to dry it out, but rather just keep the crumbs from gumming up. The breadcrumbs should be as fine as possible (so they don’t absorb too much fat) such that I work the bread through a drum sieve. You can also use a strainer. Once the breadcrumbs are in hand, pound the chicken breads just enough to flatten the thicker end so that the breast is of even thickness. Don’t try to make the breasts too thin or they’ll dry out when you cook them. Cook over low to medium heat in clarified butter. If you continue to use the butter in the pan for a second batch, strain it first to eliminate specks.

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Fried Chicken

To fry a chicken, cut it up and plunge it in hot oil. The temperature of the oil, usually around 340 degrees, should be regulated depending on how the chicken is cooking relative to how it is browning. If the chicken browns too fast, it won’t cook through.
There is much debate as to how the chicken should be coated before it goes into the oil. My own preference is for the thinnest coating possible—such as a simple dipping in flour or a light batter of flour and water—but there are those who want a thick batter, perhaps containing eggs. Recipes for batters abound, but I’ve found that many of the traditions, such as using beer or seltzer, make no difference at all.
Whenever you fry, be sure to take precautions. Use a heavy pot, keep it on the back of the stove, and never fill it more than halfway full. Use tongs or a spider to lower the chicken slowly into the hot oil (if it’s plunged in all at once, the oil may boil up and overflow) a bit at a time. Continue adding the chicken, adjusting the temperature to keep the oil from boiling over.
While not usually served with a sauce, I find a flavored mayonnaise, such as tartar sauce, to be indispensable. Old recipes even call for elaborate sauces such as sauce poivrade, a sauce based on vinegar and pepper.

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Grilled Chicken
The main problem with grilling chicken is the tendency of the chicken to flare up and end up covered with soot. There are several ways to avoid flare up. One consists of building the fire to one side of a covered barbecue, browning the chicken on both sides over the high heat, and then finishing cooking the chicken with the cover on on the side of the grill with no coals. If you’re grilling chicken directly over a charcoal fire, cook it on the flesh side first. In this way, by the time you turn the chicken over to cook the skin side (where all the flammable fat is contained), the fire will have died down a bit. If you’re using a gas grill, use a lower heat to brown the skin side.
Then there is the question of marinades. I usually forgo them because I don’t think of what I want to have for dinner in time. If I have an hour or two, I’ll marinate with a few tablespoons of soy sauce, white wine, a little garlic and a little thyme. If have more time, I might include a sliced onion.

 

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Salt Cod

Don’t confuse salt cod (bacalao) with stockfish. Stockfish is air-dried and requires a longer soaking period.Salt cod comes in many different qualities, by far the best shown here. Often, it is yellow (a sign of progressing rancidity) or excessively dry and thin. Look for the thickest filets you can find and those that resemble the unsalted fish as much as possible. Avoid buying tails, which are thinner and less meaty. Ideally, the fish should retain some flexibility. Soaking is the most important step in preparing salt cod. Most recipes say to soak for 24 hours but this is risky and may leave the fish too salty. Forty eight hours is a better bet. When soaking the fish, look for something you can prop it up on in the soaking container so that the salt, as it dissolves off the fish, sinks to the bottom and doesn’t remain in contact with the fish. Here we show using a fish poacher with the fish on the rack suspending the fish above the bottom. You can also use a couple of tin cans set in a large pot and arrange the fish on top. Change the water every few hours. Once the cod has been soaked, there is no great mystery to preparing it—prepare it like any other fish, but keep in mind that it is stronger flavored than fresh cod. Because it can be aggressive, salt cod is usually poached before it is added to such things as chowder or fish stews. It is sometimes helpful to separate the thinner and thicker parts of the filets so their timing can be controlled accordingly.  Here we show removing the bones and separating the fish into flakes. One popular preparation is a brandade. A brandade is a puree of salt cod with garlic and potatoes and is quite delicious when spread on little toasts. It does, however, seem like a waste when given beautiful salt cod such as that shown here. Salt cod chowder is prepared much like a New England clam chowder—in fact it contains clams—in that potatoes and leeks are simmered together, but differs from a traditional chowder in that it contains corn. The corn is taken off the cob and simmered with milk for about 15 minutes until the kernels soften. The mixture is then worked through a food mill and simmered with the other ingredients—clams, potatoes, and leeks.  The fish, poached and separated into flakes, is simmered in the soup just long enough to heat it through. The sweetness of the corn makes a perfect counterpoint to the saltiness (which, in fact, should be minimal) of the fish. In Spain, bacalao is served with romesco sauce. Romesco sauce contains dried red chilies (anchos are good), garlic, olive oil, bread, tomatoes (best roasted in the oven), almonds, and garlic, ground to a paste. While tradition dictates working everything together in a mortar, most everyone makes it in a food processor. Here we show baking a chunk of salt cod on a layer of romesco with lemon slices (rinds removed) arranged on top of the fish. Once you’ve poached the salt cod, you may want to use it in a salad. Salt cod goes well with citrus fruit which provides a sweetness and acidity that balance the gentle saltiness of the cod. Try also including ingredients such as chilies to provide heat. Here we show salt cod with three kinds of citrus—orange, grapefruit, and clementines—fennel, and raisins.

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Dashi

Dashi is the basic broth used in all manner of Japanese soups, stews and sauces. It’s as fundamental to Japanese cooking as a basic meat broth is to cooking in the West. To make dashi, a whole bonito (a relatively small tuna-like fish) is dried and smoked until it resembles a hardened, dark brown banana. This process takes about a year. Once the dried bonito is in hand, it is shaved with a device that looks a little like a shoebox but with a razor sharp blade running across the top. The bonito is shaved on the box, much like potatoes are sliced on a mandolin or a plastic Japanese slicer.
Dashi is best prepared just before serving (including the shaving of the bonito). To begin the broth, take a 12-inch length (for a quart of dashi) of konbu (giant seaweed) and put it in a pot with a quart of cold water. Slowly bring to the simmer. When the simmer is reached, take out the konbu. Add a large handful of bonito flakes—that you’ve either shaved yourself or bought in a plastic bag–to the broth, off the heat, and let infuse for one to two minutes. Strain.
Dashi has a distinct smoky taste and delicate sea-like flavor that make it useful for any number of seafood dishes, Japanese or otherwise. Eric Ripert, the chef at Le Bernardin, in New York City, does a number of interesting things with dashi. He once served what tasted like dashi with lime juice—the juxtaposition of tart and smoky was delicious—that had then been clarified like consommé. I also once had a cold fish dish, set on a round of dashi that had been set with, I assume, gelatin or possibly agar. Keep in mind, also, that dash is the base for miso soup. To make miso soup, just whisk a little miso into dash and you have it.

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Custards

A custard is a mixture, usually one containing some milk or cream, that’s set with whole eggs, egg yolks, or egg whites. It’s helpful to know that one egg or two egg yolks or two egg whites reliably set 2/3rds of a cup of mixture, even a little more. Once you know this formula, it’s possible to convert any number of mixtures into custards. Soups can be combined with eggs, baked in molds, and unmolded on plates. Leftover or fresh cooked vegetables can be pureed and set with eggs. Sweet custards include pots de crème and crème brulée, both of which are set with egg yolks alone and crème caramel which is set with whole eggs.
To make crème brulée, flavor simmering heavy cream with sugar and vanilla to taste and pour it into about 12 egg yolks per quart of cream. Bake in a bain-marie (see page 000) until the center doesn’t wiggle when you gently move the pan back and forth. Chill the custards, sprinkle with a thin layer of sugar, and use a torch or broiler to caramelize the sugar. I like to serve crème brulée with berries such as raspberries arranged on top. I also sometimes make a large crème brulée with berries and then spoon it out at the table.
A pot de crème is made in the same way as a crème brulée except that flavors other than vanilla are more common and there’s no top sugar crust. Try flavoring pot de crèmes with coffee (simmered in the cream and strained out), ginger (powder worked into the egg yolks or fresh ginger infused in the cream), saffron (combined with cardamom is awfully good), chocolate (cocoa beaten with the egg yolks), eaux de vie (stirred into the cream, off the heat, just before baking), whisky, Cognac etc.
Crème caramel or, as the French say, crème renversée (upside down cream), is made with milk and whole eggs, about 1 egg per 2/3 cup of milk. Before the milk, sugar, egg, and flavoring mixture is poured into ramekins, the bottoms of the ramekins are lined with a thin layer of caramel (see page 000). The crèmes are unmolded just before serving.

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Crêpes

Essentially pancakes without leavening, crêpes are thin and delicate and, despite their reputation, are a snap to make. I make a stiff batter with eggs and milk (mostly eggs) that I work with a whisk until smooth. I then gently whisk in milk until the batter has the consistency of slightly thick heavy cream. (It is important when making batters to add only enough liquid to form a smooth paste and then, once the paste is formed, add the rest of the liquid. This prevents lumps from forming and keeps you from having to strain the thing.) Much is made about allowing crêpe batter to rest but, I, always in a rush, rarely bother.
It’s ideal to have flat non-stick crêpe pans (four is the right number for when you get good) but regular non-stick or well-seasoned frying pans will also work. Start by making crêpes one at a time in a pan brushed with melted butter. When the butter froths and then stops frothing, ladle in the batter. Work on establishing just the right amount to cover the pan so you don’t have to pour off the excess if you accidently add too much. You may see, for example, that one crêpe takes a ladle ¾ full. When the pan is hot, ladle the batter in quickly and all at once. Pick up the pan and move it in all directions to get the batter to cover its surface. If there is excess batter, pour it off into the bowl of batter. Cook over medium to high heat until you can the edges of the crêpe begin to brown. Pick the crêpe up with your fingertips and flip it over. (Flipping it by just jerking the pan isn’t easy.) Cook for about a minute on the second side. Stack the crêpes on top of each other. If you’re not using them right away, put a sheet of waxed paper between each one. You can refrigerate them, covered with plastic wrap, for about a week or freeze them for months.

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Crème Anglaise

A crème anglaise is simply milk that’s been sweetened, flavored, and thickened with egg yolks. Unlike most custards, which are allowed to set, crème anglaise is kept in constant motion so that rather than setting, it thickens. It is usually flavored with vanilla (a whole split vanilla bean is simmered in the milk) but other flavorings such as coffee (ground, simmered with the milk, strained), chocolate (cocoa worked with the egg yolks and sugar), or spices such as cinnamon can also be used.

Crème anglaise can be made thick or thin depending on the number of egg yolks used which can range from 8 to 20 per quart of milk. I usually settle on 12. Beat the egg yolks with the sugar (I use 7 ounces sugar per quart which is a little less than the classic 8) until the yolks are pale and pour in half the simmering milk. Return the yolk mixture to the pot of milk (off the heat) and stir thoroughly. Now the tricky part. Put the pot over medium heat and stir constantly with a wooden spoon. Keep a close eye—if it boils for a second it is ruined—to watch for when it starts to thicken. Traditional recipes say to hold the spoon sideways after dipping it in the crème anglaise and make a streak with your finger. When the streak stays in place, the custard is ready. I find this technique problematic, in part because I don’t like to stop stirring the crème anglaise even for a second. A better method is simply to look at the crème anglaise while you’re stirring and notice how the ripples that form as you stir, transform into silky waves. Don’t expect a crème anglaise to get thick like a béchamel sauce, but rather like the consistency of cream that’s been ever so slightly reduced.

Beat together egg yolks and sugar
Beat together egg yolks and sugar
Before cooking, the creme anglaise remains thin
Before cooking, the creme anglaise remains thin
The crème anglaise forms waves as it thickens
The crème anglaise forms waves as it thickens
When finished, the creme anglaise coats the back of a spoon
When finished, the creme anglaise coats the back of a spoon
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Clarified Butter

Butter that’s been clarified has had all the milk solids (which are proteins) and water removed. Clarified butter is useful for sautéing and browning foods because it has a much higher smoking point than whole butter. It’s the proteins in whole butter that burn at a relatively low temperature. Clarified butter is also used for making emulsified egg yolk sauces such as hollandaise.
There are two approaches to making clarified butter. In kitchens when relatively large amounts (more than five pounds) of butter are being clarified at a time, the butter is simply melted in a large pot and allowed to sit. Any foam or froth that has floated to the top is skimmed off. The butterfat, which floats in a layer above the water and milk solids, is then skimmed off with a ladle.
With smaller amounts of butter, it makes more sense to make ghee, also called beurre noisette. Ghee behaves in the same way as butter that’s been clarified using the first method, but it has an incomparable nutty butterscotch flavor. For this reason, it is great in sauces (including pastry cream) and in any sauce calling for clarified butter. To make ghee, melt a few pounds of unsalted butter in a pot and boil the mixture until the froth subsides and brown particles begin to attach to the sides and bottom of the pot. When a brown crusty layer has formed on the bottom of the pot, immediately stop the cooking by submerging the bottom of the pot in a bowl of cold water. Strain the butter through a chinois (fine mesh sieve) or coffee filter to rid it of milk solids.
Many chefs and cooks don’t bother making clarified butter (or ghee) because of the extra work and instead add oil to whole butter when sautéing under the mistaken impression that the oil will raise the smoking point of the butter. The oil, in fact, has no effect since the milk solids still burn at the same temperature regardless of the liquid medium.0

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Hollandaise Sauce

While I’m not going to give a complete lesson on making hollandaise sauce, there are a couple of tricks and caveats I’ve learned over the years.
Hollandaise sauce is essentially an emulsion of butter and egg yolks that’s been flavored with lemon. One important trick is to whisk the egg yolks with cold water—about a tablespoon per yolk–over heat until the mixture fluffs up and stiffens. You have to be careful at this stage to avoid ending up with scrambled eggs. By doing this, you establish an emulsion or actually a foam—called a “sabayon”—before you add the butter. This makes the sauce lighter (you’ve beaten air into it) and also prepares the egg yolks for the addition of butter. Since the sabayon is already a foam (a foam is essentially an emulsion that also contains a gas, namely air), you can work the butter in relatively quickly than say if you were making a mayonnaise. This keeps you from overbeating the sauce which can turn it an off green.
Most of the time, hollandaise is made with clarified butter which yields a thicker sauce (almost as thick as a mayonnaise) than when it’s made with whole butter which, of course, contains water. When whisking the clarified butter into the sabayon, make sure the butter isn’t too hot—you should be able to hold your hand on the side of the pot—or it will cause the sauce to break.

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Hare

Most of us assume a hare is just a big rabbit. This is not the case at all as hare, which is very large relative to rabbit, has red meat instead of white and a full gamey and very distinct flavor. It appears on menus in France during the fall, but rarely in the United States, in part, no doubt, because it’s illegal to buy food from hunters, at least for sale in restaurants. Hare is available in the United States (usually from Scotland) but it has been frozen. Frozen meat, while as flavorful as fresh, has the nasty habit of going from rare to well done in about 2 seconds.
While those not accustomed to game may find hare a little strong, for those of us who like it, it is one of nature’s great treasures. The legs can be braised (they tend to be tough but can contribute to the sauce) but the saddle (see under rabbit for more about the anatomy which is similar) should be roasted rare. It can be boned in the same way as a rabbit saddle (see page 000) and stuffed or not with all sorts of delicacies including foie gras and truffles.
Hare’s most famous interpretation is probably the civet, a stew finished at the end with the animal’s blood. An authentic coq au vin is an example of a civet.
My own approach to cooking hare is to bone the saddle (see an earlier entry for rabbit) and roast it (stuff it or not) quickly after braising the legs. I chop up the liver, combine it with any blood and an amount of butter equal to the size of the liver, and work the mixture through a strainer. When the saddle is roasted, I whisk some of the braising liquid from the legs into the giblet butter and then return this mixture back to the pan of braising liquid. I heat but don’t allow the sauce to reach to the simmer. I slice the saddle and serve the sauce on top or, if I’m presenting the whole thing at the table (a rather dramatic sight), I’ll sauce the whole saddle on a platter.
Hare is available frozen (the sale of fresh authentic game is illegal in the U.S.) from Scotland. It is sold by purveyors of fine poultry products.

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Rabbit

Before we can eat rabbit we need to get over our bunny rabbit anxieties. I know they’re cute, but so are lots of other things such as baby chicks. They also happen to be pretty stupid, so don’t think eating a rabbit is like eating a cat.
Once these anxieties have been overcome, there’s the rabbit’s somewhat confusing anatomy. Typically, a rabbit’s forelegs are removed and cooked with the rest of the rabbit to provide savor to the cooking liquid, but are not served. The head, if there is one, is split in half. The rib cage is cut away from the meaty rear part, called the saddle. The two large thighs are removed.
Young rabbits can be cooked just like chicken, cut into pieces and fricasseed or sautéed, fried, grilled, or roasted. Because rabbit has no protective skin as does a chicken, it should be brushed with melted butter or oil when it’s being grilled or roasted.
Older rabbits are something else entirely and need to be long-braised. When done correctly, a long-braised rabbit is among the most delicious of things. When braising an old rabbit, it’s ideal to have the throat slit and the blood saved in a jar with a teaspoon of Cognac. (The Cognac prevents clotting.) The pieces should then be larded (see page 000), browned, simmered in broth until easily penetrated with a knife (2 to 3 hours), the braising liquid reduced and degreased and the rabbit glazed with the reduced braising liquid. The delicious braising liquid can be left as it is or finished with the blood (which turns the dish into an authentic civet) by whisking a little of the hot braising liquid into the blood, returning the mixture to the pan, and then heating gently, without boiling, to thicken the sauce. Cream, mushrooms, and truffles are a few other possibilities for this elegant dish.
People who cook or order rabbit for the first time may find it difficult to eat because of the way it’s put together. The thighs are similar to chicken thighs, but the saddle confounds people because the meat, in four different muscles, runs the length of the saddle on both sides. The two loin muscles and the filets (on the underside of the saddle) should be cut away with a knife by running lengthwise along the saddle.
To avoid the anatomy problem all together, you can bone the saddle and serve it in elegant rounds. To do this, slide a knife along the underside of the two filets that run the length of the saddle on the bottom. Don’t detach the filets completely, but continue scraping the knife along the bones that underlie the filets and then around the bones to the other side. You then cut under the loin muscles, separating them from the bones, but leaving them attached along the middle of the saddle. The trickiest part is cutting the two loin muscles away from the bone. To do this, leave a little of each bone imbedded in the flesh and remove the strip of bones just before serving.

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