Sunday, August 30, 2009

Meat Lesson: Pork, Fish, Chicken

Before I start, I have no doubt that some of you will say, "that's not the right way," or "that's totally wrong." I'd love to hear from you when you disagree. First, I am writing this a week after the workshop, so my memory and notes aren't perfect. In fact there were some pics that I just couldn't tell if they were beef or pork! Second, the chef was trying to replicate techniques for my specific kitchen. For example, we did almost everything on the ceramic stove top - I don't have gas nor an outdoor grill at my café (we did bring a mini-grill in just for a brief lesson). So, please do share your thoughts and corrections.

One overall tip that she provided to me was whenever you cook chicken or pork, be very selective in what goes into the pan because those two meats, moreso than others, will flavor the meat.

Pork Loin
Our grocery store called this thing a pork loin, but best we could figure, they left adjoining meat onto the loin - you'll see more clearly when we cut it. We marinated in a mixture of 5-Spice, peanut oil, tamarind, muscovado sugar and a bit of lemon. We started by coating with salt and pepper, added a bit of canola in the skillet and the pan seared so all sides were evenly browned.

We gave the loin a 15 minute rest (just cool to the touch), then butchered the meat into 3/4" steaks. We also sauteed onions to go on the finished meat.

With this shot you can see that this was more of a roast than a loin.

We coated the pork in the marinade again with the onions and cooked covered in skillet for 10 minutes.

We then wrapped them in saran wrap to simulate restaurant prep and hold. When it was time to serve we did two methods - a quick pan sear and also a microwave flash for 30 seconds. Both came out extremely juicy.

For the lamb I made a quick shwarma spice blend and mixed it with equal parts white balsamic and olive oil, with yogurt. The lamb was left to marinate for about an hour. We salt and peppered the meat and heated some canola in our skillet.

While we were cooking the meat, we moved the lamb away from any pooling liquid.

And ultimately we deglazed the pan with white wine while rubbing the meat into the wine. As soon as we were deglazed the meat was taken off heat, fresh chopped mint was added and we rested the meat for service. Her test for doneness in this case was the caramelized color on the outside since lamb should be more on the rare side.


I tend to undercook my salmon, but its such a common cater food that we had to do some. I insisted on good salmon instead of the cheap stuff you normally get and banquets. We salt and peppered and rubbed oil on the fillets. The fish was placed flesh side down in the skillet. Chef explained that some would disagree with this technique, but her rationale was that if you mess up the skillet heat and the fish sticks then its better to rip a bit off the top than have the charred skin all over the fillet.

Her test for doneness was simply a knife poke peak to where its a bit pink on the inside. At that point we removed the pan from the heat and simply covered it to retain the moisture.

And sure enough the fish was moist and cooked.

We did two variations - a whole roast and breasts. Remember to remove the guts, neck and such.

The cavity was filled with a rough cut of celery, onion and green onion with fresh oregano tossed with salt and pepper. We opted for vegetable filling because a bread filling would extend the cooking time.

The bird was then patted dry and rubbed with sage and butter.

Into a 350ºF oven until a thermometer reads an internal temp of 180ºF. We finished the bird in the oven at 400º. This temperature switch is opposite of what you are normally told, but I neglected to ask the reasoning. The bird was regularly basted with the drippings. Chef suggested that you can also tell when the bird is done if the bones pop when pulled, as well as the juices running clear. After a good rest, she demonstrated how to split a bird for service cutting just along the rib.

For the breast, we seared them in my panini grill.

We then put the breast in a 200ºF oven that was covered in foil and that had a good layer of stock on the bottom. We held our chicken for a good hour like this and I was sure it would dry just like mine.

When it was time for service, we salt and peppered the breasts, tossed with oil and thyme, cut into service portions, sopped in the juices, covered in saran wrap and microwaved for one minute. And what do you was perfectly moist.

Beef lesson tomorrow.

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