Many of us are looking for ways to better ourselves, gain new skill sets, all while being productive. What better way to do so than by learning new cooking skills. This week, we want to explore the basics of French cooking. So, don your chef hat and grab your whisk!
The Basics of Cooking
Before you can make an elaborate dish, you first need to have a fundamental understanding of cooking methods. Let’s break down some skills you need in your tool belt before you can make a traditional French meal.
Flambéing: To briefly cover food with liquor and light it on fire.
This method allows the chef to infuse the dish being prepared with additional tastes and aromas through the process. This is a very common method in dessert making.
Sautéing: To fry food in a small amount of fat.
In essence, sautéing involves lightly coating a pan with oil to prevent sticking, heating the dish and adding the ingredients. The heat browns the surface of whatever ingredients you are using.
Poaching: Method of cooking in a small amount of simmering liquid.
Many of us have heard of poached eggs–this is how they are made. When poaching, the temperature is key as your liquid must be in the range of 140 F to 180 F. You dip your food into the water and watch it closely to completion.
Broiling: Using direct heat to cook one side at a time.
This process creates charred, caramelized results for your menu item. A big issue with broiling is that if your oven turns off to control temperature, the result is the food using its steam to cook, which then becomes baking, not broiling.
Grilling: Much like broiling, this process uses direct heat from charcoal or propane, which allows you to control the temperature.
The end result is the same as for broiling, but it does create a different flavor. The smokiness of the grill creates an intense flavor.
Braising: Combination cooking method of sautéing the food at a high temperature, then completed in a pot at a lower temperature, covered in a small amount of liquid.
The main goal of braising is to enhance the flavors of meat–typically– using liquids and vegetables.
Baking: Method of preparing food using dry heat. In this process, the heat starts at the surface and is transferred to the center of the food.
While there are various types of baking that can occur, we will leave it in the traditional sense of baking bread or pastries–heat must transfer through the food item to be fully prepared.
Now you have your cooking methods, let’s talk about ingredients.
Fresh Ingredients for the Finest Cuisine
Whether you are enjoying authentic Parisian food or dining stateside, one thing is certain: to create French cuisine is to use only fresh, locally sourced ingredients. Many chefs will get their fruits, vegetables, and herbs daily from local markets.
While you may not be able to shop daily, by purchasing fruits and vegetables that are fresh or organic, you get a crisper flavor than using processed or canned items.
The freshness of the ingredients matters, but so does the use of it all. Many chefs will prepare dishes using all parts of the meat and vegetables to ensure nothing is wasted.
All in the Details
Now you have your methods and your ingredients, but something is missing. The presentation. If you’ve ever watched a cooking show, you know that presentation matters. It’s all about the details in French cuisine so add some garnish, plate it beautifully, and enjoy!
We hope these French cooking basics serve as a useful guide in your journey to French cuisine!