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Just what is Contemporary Cuisine?

Contemporary cuisine has been given many titles. Here are some of the names that contemporary cuisine might also go under: New American Cuisine, Modern Cuisine, Nouvelle Cuisine, American Cuisine, California Cuisine, Fusion Cuisine, Eclectic Cuisine, Conscious Cuisine, and Intuitional Cooking. All of these names are appropriate in some way or another. In the end, the proof is in the pudding. How it is named is irrelevant in comparison with how it is executed.

Contemporary cuisine approaches the ingredient with the utmost respect. One of the characteristics of this style of cooking is to take each ingredient and respect the integrity of that ingredient as much as possible. This means that the ingredients that are used have to be of the highest possible quality that can be acquired. Freshness is paramount. Food as living, organic matter contains good flavor based upon how the life in the product is treated. The method that was used to raise the ingredient is also important. Organic products taste better than industrially produced products. Conditions of the soil, weather, and how the ingredient is harvested and processed makes a huge differences in the end result that lands on the diner’s plate. Respecting the integrity of the ingredient also means limiting the number of ingredients in a dish to as few as possible. Fewer flavors confuse the palate less and preserve the respect for each individual ingredient to a greater extent. It is better to use the finest, most outstanding ingredients you can find, prepare them to the utmost of your ability, and add items that will accentuate the flavor of the ingredients without imposing on, or masking, the original flavor.

If one was to survey the nation’s greatest chefs as to what was the most important aspect in their cooking, I believe that the majority would answer that it was the development of flavor. There may be some who would insist on proper technique, but from everything I have read flavor is nearly always singled out as being of prime importance. It is easy to understand why. If food doesn’t taste good the customer won’t return. The chef’s greatest desire is that every plate that goes out is perfect. The last thing any of us want is for food to come back to be re-done. We simply don’t have the time. But it is more than that. It goes back to that concept of the integrity of the ingredient. If one respects the food then they will accentuate the importance of flavor in a dish. If ethnic and international cuisines are to looked at, which they will be later, then it is clear to see that the difference between most cuisines is flavor-based. Both Korea and China use soy sauce as a flavor base but in China it is mixed with ginger and rice wine whereas in Korea it is mixed with brown sugar and chile. It is the flavors that separate different world cuisines. Cooks have to be considering the development of flavor in their cooking at every step of the way. As the chef of all chefs, Escoffier, pointed out more than 100 years ago, without a good stock as the base every dish that follows from that stock will be progressively worse. What he meant was that you have to start with the best quality flavored ingredient and then intensify and add to that flavor as you progress.

Contemporary Cuisine Assignment # 1

Defining Cooking Methods/Techniques

Define the following:

l’ etuvee (a l’ etouffee)- The term à l’étouffée refers to the method of cooking food in a minute amount of liquid, tightly covered and over very low heat. This method is also called à l’étuvée .

en papillotte- En Papillote (French: “in parchment”) is a method of cooking in which the food is put into a folded pouch or parcel and then baked. The parcel is typically made from folded parchment paper, but other material such as a paper bag or aluminium foil may be used. The parcel holds in moisture to steam the food. The moisture may be from the food itself or from an added moisture source like water, wine, or stock. En Papillote is perhaps most often used to cook fish and also poultry. Choice of herbs, seasonings and spices depend on the particular recipe being prepared. The pouch should be sealed with careful folding.

 a la nage- Is a technique for poaching food, primarily seafood, in court bouillon. The leftover court bouillon and its attendant vegetables are then served on the plate as garnishes to the main dish.

Layering Flavors

Define the following: These can be found in the “On Cooking” text

Flavoring: A substance used to give a different, stronger, or more agreeable taste to food or drink. It can also be the combination of the taste, aroma and texture that a food has, as all of these things make up the overall flavor of a dish.

Seasoning: Something, such as a spice or herb, used to flavor food. Seasonings can also be salt and fats, but is really anything used to affect the flavor of a dish or cuisine.

Condiment: A condiment is sauce, or seasoning added to food to impart a particular flavor or to complement the dish. Often pungent in flavour and therefore added in fairly small quantities, popular condiments include salt, pepper, ketchup, mustard, olive oil, vinegar and sugar.

Project Prep

Define the following:

Salsa: Salsa may refer to any type of sauce. In American English, it usually refers to the spicy, often tomato-based, hot sauces typical of Mexican cuisine, particularly those used as dips. In British English, the word typically refers to salsa cruda, which is common in Mexican (pico de gallo), Spanish, Kenyan (kachumbari), Malawian (sumu) and Italian cuisines. While in the United States, salsa has been popularized and commercialized as a Mexican creation, there are many types of salsa which usually vary throughout Latin America

Chow-Chow:    A Chinese preserve of fruits, peels, and ginger. Also could be a relish consisting of chopped vegetables pickled in mustard.

Sambal: Popular throughout Indonesia, Malaysia and southern India, a sambal is a multipurpose CONDIMENT. Its most basic form is sambal oelek,  a simple mixture of chiles, brown sugar and salt. Another popular blend is sambal bajak  (or badjak ), which adds candlenuts, garlic, Kaffir lime leaves, onion, trassi, galangal, tamarind concentrate and coconut milk. Sambals have a multitude of variations, however, depending on the ingredients added, which can include coconut, meat, seafood or vegetables. Sambals are usually served as an accompaniment to rice and curried dishes, either as a condiment or as a side dish. Sambal oelek and bajak, as well as some variations, can be found in Indonesian and some Chinese markets.

Relish: A relish is a cooked, pickled, or chopped vegetable or fruit food item typically used as a condiment in particular to enhance a staple. Examples are jams, chutneys, and the North American “relish”, a pickled cucumber jam eaten with hot dogs or hamburgers.

Catsup:  Catsup is a sweet-and-tangy food sauce, typically made from tomatoes, vinegar, a sweetener, and assorted seasonings and spices. The sweetener is most commonly sugar or high-fructose corn syrup. Seasonings vary by recipe, but commonly include onions, allspice, cloves, cinnamon, garlic, and celery. Catsup is often used as a condiment with french fries (chips), hamburgers, sandwiches, and grilled or fried meat. In Australia and New Zealand it is called tomato sauce, and is commonly accompanied with savory baked goods such as meat pies and sausage rolls. Catsup is sometimes used as a basis or ingredient for other sauces and dressings.

Piccalilli: A pickled relish made of various chopped vegetables and hot spices.

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