Despite never having entered a professional kitchen, millions of television viewers have gained an appreciation of the skills, techniques and equipment involved in producing a ‘quality plate of food’ (© Torode and Wallace.) Giving the token useless ‘Come Dine with Me’ contestant and Heston Blumenthal the same seven ingredients would be akin to giving me and Picasso the same palette and asking for a reclining woman reading. Mine would be recognisable and colourful but crap. Pablo’s would make you think a bit, be in two tone and awesome.
Of course most non-professional cooks are perfectly competent and many are extremely talented. However, put them in a top commercial kitchen and their unfamiliarity with the skill set and experience required to consistently produce high quality meals under pressure would find them out.
Perversely, if you put your amateur in a kitchen where professional incompetence and lack of talent are honed to perfection you’d get the same result. Never mind that the time pressures are as high, if not higher, as in a top notch outfit; they would lack the vital knowledge of the weapons in the dodgy chef’s armoury – The Shortcuts.
The Deep Fat Fryer
Can’t be arsed to par-boil your spuds and roast them in goose fat? No problem, stick them, raw, in the fryer. Ditto parsnips. Your menu may say that the mushrooms are sautéed but don’t bet on it. Also a handy tool when a steak is returned a little underdone.
To cook a chicken suprème and allowing it to rest is, for a good chef, a 25-minute job minimum from check-on to plate. For a mic jockey, 5 minutes tops. Halibut fillet frozen solid? Put the alleged ‘Catch of the Day’ in the magic box on full blast. You can trim off the bits that had cooked while the middle was still thawing then smother with (packet) parsley sauce.
Adding old fried onions to unspeakable gravy and slapping a piece of toast on top is neither alchemy nor French onion soup.
The Robo (pr. rowbow)
The Robot Coupe is a ubiquitous piece of kit and a tremendous kitchen workhorse, being an effective and reliable commercial strength food processor. In a Hoover/vacuum cleaner way most food processors, irrespective of brand, are referred to as ‘The Robo’. What it is not good for is blitzing soaking wet parsley which is subsequently left to dry on a tray on top of a dishwasher until it smells like toasted used tea leaves.
The Sunday Gravy
Gravy is a vital element of the Sunday lunch and chefs have several ways of making it. You pays your money….
Bespoke – Starts with demi-glace that took two days to make. Watered down it makes the gravy for beef. Adding in some chopped mint or rosemary and anchovies sorts the lamb. Reducing a little with cream, adding tarragon for chicken or grain mustard for pork completes the set.
Spoken of – A roux based gravy using the meat juices, red wine, a good stock and maybe tomato paste and redcurrant jelly. They may make flour or cream based sauces for white meats.
Have a word - Powdered beef stock, thickening granules, water, maybe a splash of cooking wine.
Unspeakable – Gravy granules, water.
The last two are ‘one size fits all’ creations.
Transmutation of ingredients in the hands of a talented chef far surpasses the famed lead into gold schtick. But adding old fried onions to unspeakable gravy and slapping a piece of toast on top is neither alchemy nor French onion soup. Speaking of which….
Soup of the Day
All good soups require good ingredients and some time. A good vegetable soup requires a lot of time in the fine dicing department. Alternatively you could bung crappy old veg into a pan, introduce any likely material returned from the table, throw in some proprietary stock powder, add water, boil to buggery and nuke with a stick blender.
Not to mention pâté made from the breakfast bar leftovers…
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