CHAPTER 2 : UNDERSTANDING VEGETABLES
Vegetables have long been abused and neglected, relegated to the minor roles of unimportant side dishes, to be taken or left, or at times, not even noticed on the table. Today, however, the lowly vegetables are beginning to be appreciated, not only for their nutritional importance, but for the variety, flavor, eye appeal and even elegance and sophistication they bring to the menu. Modern chefs owe it to themselves and their customers to treat vegetables with understanding, imagination and respect that they deserve. Because they are so perishable, vegetables require extra care from receiving to service. Freshness is their most appealing quality and one must be careful to it. The goal of good vegetable cookery is to preserve and enhance their fresh flavor, texture and color, to prepare and serve vegetables that are not just accepted but sought after.
As a chef you will have the choice of a multitude of vegetables and methods of cooking them. Cooking affects vegetables in four ways:
How much these four characteristics change determines if your final product is attractive and delicious to the customer or if it will end up in the garbage bin. You can control these changes if you know what causes them, and how they happen.
CONTROLING TEXTURE CHANGE
Changing the texture is one of the main purposes of cooking vegetables.
The fiber structure of vegetables (including cellulose and pectin) gives them shape and firmness. Cooking softens some of these components. The amount of fiber varies
- In different vegetables. Spinach (palak) and tomatoes have less than French beans and drumsticks.
- In different examples of the same vegetables. Older carrots have more fibers than the younger ones.
- In the same vegetable. The florets of cauliflower have fewer fibers than the tough stalk.
Fiber is made firmer by:
1. Acids. Lemon juice, vinegar and tomato, when added to vegetables during cooking extend the cooking time.
2. Sugars. Sugar strengthens the cell structure. You will understand this principle better in Fruit cookery.
Fiber is softened by:
1. Heat. In general, longer cooking means softer vegetables.
2. Alkalis. Do not add alkalis such as baking soda while cooking vegetables (especially the green ones, to retain their color). Not only does it destroy vitamins, but also it makes the vegetables unpleasantly mushy.
Starch is another vegetable component that affects texture.
1. Dry starchy food like dried beans, rice and macaroni must be cooked in sufficient water so that the starch granules can absorb moisture and soften. Dried beans are usually soaked in water before cooking to replace lost moisture.
2. Moist starchy vegetables like potatoes and sweet potatoes have enough moisture of their own, but they still must be cooked until the starch granules soften.
A vegetable is said to be done when it has reached the desired degree of tenderness. This stage varies from vegetable to vegetable. Some such as eggplant (brinjal) and pumpkin (doodhi/lauki) are considered properly cooked when they are quite soft. Most vegetables, however, are best cooked very briefly, until they are al dente (firm to the bite). At this stage of tenderness, they not only have the most pleasing texture, but they retain the maximum taste, color flavor and nutrients.
GUIDELINES FOR ACHIEVING PROPER DONENESS IN VEGETABLES
1. Do not overcook.
2. Cook as close to the service time as possible. Keeping them in a hot counter or bain-marie continues to cook them.
3. If vegetables must be cooked in advance, slightly undercook them, cool rapidly in cold water, drain, and refrigerate, then reheat at the service time.
4. For uniform doneness, cut into uniform sizes before cooking.
5. Don’t mix batches of cooked vegetables. They are likely to be cooked to slightly different doneness.
6. Vegetables with both tough and tender parts need special treatment.
CONTROLLING COLOR CHANGES
Cooking produces flavor loss:
Many flavors are lost during cooking, by dissolving in the cooking liquid and by evaporation. The longer a vegetable is cooked, the more flavor it loses. Flavor loss can be controlled in many ways:
a. Cook for as short a time as possible.
b. Use boiling salted water. Starting vegetables in boiling water shortens the cooking time. The addition of salt helps reduce flavor loss. The exception here are the starchy vegetables and root vegetables which need to be started in cold water so that the starch granules have time to soften.
c. Use only enough water to cover the vegetables to minimize leaching.
d. Steam vegetables when appropriate.
e. Add a small amount of oil to the cooking water. This will absorb some of the lost flavor and will cling to the vegetables when drained.
With certain strong flavored vegetables, it is desirable to lose some of their flavors to make them more appealing in taste. These include onion, garlic, cabbage and turnips.
Cooking produces flavor change:
Cooked vegetables do not taste the same as raw vegetables, because cooking produces certain chemical changes. As long as the vegetable is not overcooked, these changes are desirable. It produces the flavors one looks for in cooked vegetables.
Cooking and sweetness:
Young vegetables have a high sugar content. Green peas and corn for example. As they mature or sit in storage, the sugar gradually turns into starch.
1. Try to serve young fresh vegetables that have been stored for as short a time a possible.
2. For older vegetables, add a small amount of sugar to replace lost sweetness.
CONTROLLING COLOR CHANGES
It is important to preserve as much of natural color as possible, when cooking vegetables. Customers may accept or reject a vegetable only on the basis of its color! Visual quality is as important as its flavor or nutritive value.
Pigments are compounds that give vegetables their color. Different pigments react in different ways to heat and to other elements that may be present during cooking.
White pigments are called FLAVONES, are the primary coloring compounds in potatoes, onions, cauliflower and white cabbage, and the white part of vegetables such as cucumber and eggplant (brinjal). White pigments are enhanced in acids and turn yellow in alkaline water. So add a drop or two of lemon juice while cooking cauliflower and cabbage to brighten the whiteness. Cooking for a short time in a steamer helps maintain color (and flavor and nutrients as well). Overcooking or holding for service for too long a time turns white vegetables dull yellow or grey.
Red pigments, called ANTHOCYANINS are found only in a few vegetables such as red cabbage, beetroot and the skin of eggplant. This pigment also colors blueberries. Red pigments react very strongly with acid and alkali mediums. Acid turns them brighter red and alkali turns then blue or blue-green (not a very appetizing color). Beetroot and red cabbage must therefore be cooked with a little vinegar to maintain the color. Red pigments dissolve easily in water. This means:
- use short cooking times
- use only as much of water as is necessary
- cook beetroots whole and unpeeled to protect the color
Green coloring, or CHLOROPHYLL is present in all green plants. Green vegetables are very common in the kitchen, so it is important to understand the special handling required by this vegetable. Acids are enemies of green vegetables. Both acids and long cooking turn green vegetables into a drab olive green color. Protect the brightness of green vegetables by
- Cooking uncovered to allow plant acid to escape.
- Cooking for as short a time as possible.
- Cooking in small batches
Do not use baking soda while cooking green vegetables. Soda may retain the color for a short time but will destroy the vitamins and makes the texture unpleasantly mushy. Use large amounts of water here as this helps to dissolve the plant acids, but may lead to loss of nutrients.
YELLOW & ORANGE VEGETABLES
Yellow and orange pigments are called CAROTENOIDS and are found in carrots, tomatoes and red peppers (capsicums). These pigments are very stable. They are little affected by acids, alkalis and overcooking. Short cooking will help prevent dulling of the color and will preserve nutrients and flavor.
CONTROLLING NUTRIENT LOSSES
Vegetables are an important part of our diets because they supply a wide variety of essential nutrients. They are our major sources of vitamins A & C and are rich in many other vitamins and minerals. Unfortunately, many of these nutrients are easily lost. The following factors are responsible for nutrient loss:
1. High temperature.
2. Long cooking.
3. Leaching (dissolving out).
4. Alkalis like baking soda and hard water.
5. Plant enzymes (active at warm temperatures but destroyed by high heat).
Some nutrient loss is inevitable. It is impossible to avoid all the above conditions at the same time. Pressure-cooking shortens the cooking time but the high heat destroys the nutrients. Braising uses low heat, but the cooking time is slow. Cutting the vegetables into smaller pieces decreases cooking time but encourages leaching by creating more surface area exposed.
Tests have shown that no more nutrient loss occurs when cooking in a lot of water. The best cooking methods, nutritionally, are usually those that produce the most attractive, flavorful products. They are more likely to be eaten. Discarded vegetables benefit no one, no matter how nutritious they are. Factors that destroy nutrients are often those that destroy color, flavor and texture.
GENERAL RULES OF VEGETABLE COOKERY
1. Do not over cook the vegetables.
2. Cook as close to the service time as possible and in small quantities.
3. Undercook vegetables that need to be cooked ahead of time.
4. Never use alkali (baking soda) with green vegetables.
5. Cut vegetables evenly for uniform cooking.
6. When boiling, start preferably with boiling salted water.
7. Cook green and strong flavored vegetables uncovered.
8. Do not cook different colored vegetables together.
9. To preserve color, cook red and white vegetables in an acid medium. Cook green vegetables and carotenoids in a neutral medium.
10. Do not mix batches of cooked vegetables.
1. Dry vegetables like potatoes and onions are stored at cool temperatures (50-65°F/ 10-18°C) in a dry dark place.
2. Other vegetables must be refrigerated. To prevent drying, they should be covered or wrapped, or the humidity in the cooler should be high. Provide for some air circulation to prevent mold.
3. Peeled and cut vegetables need special attention and protection from oxidation. Cover or wrap and use quickly to prevent spoilage. Potatoes and eggplant and other vegetables that brown easily should be treated with an acid or antioxidant. As an alternative, they may be blanched to destroy the enzymes that cause browning.
4. Store all fresh vegetables for as short a time as possible. They lose quality rapidly. Peas and corn lose their sweetness and freshness even after just a few hours in storage.
1. Store at 0°F (-18°C) or colder
2. Do not refreeze thawed vegetables. Quality will be greatly reduced.
YIELD OF SOME COMMON VEGETABLES
Most vegetables will require some sort of prepreparation before the are ready fore cooking. These include peeling, de seeding etc. Below is a rough guide to the yields to be expected.
Beans (dried) 88%
Beans (French/runner/cluster) 88%
Cabbage (green/white/red) 80%
Eggplant (Brinjal) 90%
Okra (lady fingers) 82%
Onions (dry) 88%
Onions (green/spring) 70%
Peppers (capsicum: red/green) 82%
Potatoes 9Sweet) 80%
Radish (mooli) 90%
Spinach (and other greens) 50-75%
COLOR PIGMENT CHART
Pigment Color Effect of Effect of Overcooking Examples
Assignment: Visit the local market and list the seasonal vegetables available.
Find out their local and English names and the price/unit as well.
Understanding vegetables (contd.) POTATO
Understanding vegetables (contd.) POTATO
For some strange reason, the potato is considered to be a humble vegetable. In fact, almost like adding insult to injury, there is also a comic connotation added to it. Take for example the synonym `spud’. It immediately conjures up an image of a fat old idiot. Or the term `couch potato’. Again the word is comically derogatory! And this. Whenever the price of potato goes up, there is almost comic disbelief about it. `Can you believe it, the potato too? They have raised the price of the potato as well!!’ Like as if the potato has no moral right to have its price increased!
But for all its comic insinuations, the potato remains a popular and universal food. What is rather surprising, the universal part that is, considering the fact that the tuber was unknown in
The potato was originally grown in the
In case you are interested, the American Indian word for the tuber is patata, from which is derived the Spanish word batata. So now you know where the Indian word comes from. The same word was corrupted to potato in English.
By the end of the 16th century, the potato was being grown in
In 1772, a French organization announced a prize for suggesting a plant that could be used to tide over any future famine. Parmentier recommended the potato , for which he won the prize. In 1778, he wrote a book describing the nutritional value of the vegetable. The book won the support of the aristocracy and the rulers like Voltaire and King Louis XVI. The king in fact encouraged Parmentier’s efforts. The potato was on its way to stardom!
Louis XVI also wore the potato flower in his buttonhole, as a result, other aristocracy followed suit. Several noblemen planted potatoes on their estates. But, even this was not enough to win over all the people of
But any prejudice against the potato vanished when during a banquet in honor of Benjamin Franklin in
CHAPTER 3 : STAFFING IN THE KITCHEN
The organization of the hotel and restaurant kitchen will depend upon the size of the operation as well as the type of service and the menu. As mentioned in the previous chapter, the classical kitchen brigade was devised by Escoffier, but was designed for a large operation utilizing complex menus.
This classical brigade included a Chef (executive chef) who was responsible for all the activities in the kitchen. The second in command in the kitchen was the sous-chef (second chef/understudy chef) who was directly in charge of production. Production in the kitchen was divided into stations which were over seen by chefs de partie (section heads). These included:
1. The saucier was responsible for the sauces, stocks and stews.
2. The Garde Manger was responsible for all the cold foods including the cold meats, salads and buffet items including the non edible displays.
3. The Potager was responsible for all types of soups.
4. The Poissoner was responsible for all the fish dishes.
5. The Entremetier prepared all the vegetables, pastas and egg dishes.
6. The Rotisseur was responsible for cooking large joints of meats, poultry and roast items.
7. The Grillardin prepared the broiled items and possibly the deep fried meats and fish.
8. The Patissier would prepare the pastry and desserts.
9. The Boulanger baked all types of breads and bread rolls.
10. The Tournant acted as swing or the relief cook.
The various chefs de partie were assigned helpers, trainees or apprentices who helped carry out the work in the department. These were referred to as Commis
Larger modern kitchens still use a version of the classical brigade organization. The major change is the collapsing of positions, merging of duties and multi - skilling. In Indian set ups, there would be an Indian section which would be broken up into the Tandoor section, the Handi section and the Tava section. You will also find a Chinese section as this cuisine is very popular in
The complexities involved in the staffing of a property would be in proportion to the complexity of the property itself. The number of the staff does not necessarily reflect the quality of the food served by the establishment. The one item that remains constant from the classical brigade to the modern versions is the importance of the position of the chef, whether he is a working chef or an executive chef.
The Executive Chef sets the tone and tempo of the kitchen. This individual is the administrative head of the entire kitchen. The responsibilities of the executive chef include planning, purchasing, supervision, training, preparation and service. There is truth in the statement `a well organized executive chef means a well organized kitchen’. The Executive Chef delegates responsibility and authority to subordinates, but the overall responsibility remains with him. As the technology of the 20th Century evolves into the technocracy of the 21st Century demand will become even greater for chefs who can function not only as skilled craftsmen but as efficient managers and administrators as well.
To qualify as an executive chef, a cook must have many talents and years of experience in food preparation and service. The chef is in effect a food production manager and purchasing agent as well as a skilled cook. To operate their kitchen at a profit, they must be well versed in the varied and detailed functions of each position and station. Few people outside the profession are fully aware of the responsibility of the executive chef. He is one of the most important administrators in the establishment with several other chefs, cooks, trainees, apprentices, commis and helpers on his team.
Here is detailed description of the Executive Chef, his duties and responsibilities:
Executive Chef, Chef de Cuisine, Head Chef and Manager of Food production are all nomenclatures of the position. He supervises and coordinates of the chefs and other members of his team, engaged in preparing and cooking foods to ensure efficient and profitable food service. He plans or participates in menu planning and utilization of food surpluses and leftovers, taking into account probable number of requests, marketing conditions, popularity of various dishes and recency of menus. He would estimate food consumption and purchases. He will requisition food ingredients and kitchen supplies. He will review menus, analyzes recipes, determines food and labor policy to control costs. He must supervise the cooking and other kitchen personnel and coordinates their assignments to insure economical and timely food production. He is also in charge of portion control, garnishing, standardising and dispensing of food orders. He hires, trains and fires employees. He will coordinate with other departments who interact with the kitchen, for example, the stores, food and beverage outlets, housekeeping and maintenance departments. In short…he is the Boss Attached is a short note that I want you to remember always….especially points number 1 & 2. Read carefully and keep it in mind…..especially if you are thinking of arguing with or crossing swords (or knives) with THE CHEF
CHAPTER 5 : STANDARDS OF PROFESSIONALISM
What does it take to be a good chef?
Three aspects are important to survive being a Chef. One is Knowledge, the second is skill, but most importantly one needs a correct Attitude. The first two are easily achieveable but the emphasis of food service education is on learning, attitudes which are more important because a good attitude will help you not only to learn skills but to also persevere and to overcome various hurdles you will face in your careers. Gaining Knowledge is an ongoing process which never ends.
A good chef follows an unwritten code of behavior and set of attitudes we call professionalism. Let us now examine some of the qualities a good chef must possess.
Positive attitude towards the job
In order to be a professional chef, you must like your job and want to do it well. Being serious about your job does not mean you can’t enjoy it. But the enjoyment comes from the satisfaction of doing a job well and making everything run smoothly.
Every experienced chef knows the stimulation of the rush, when the adrenaline starts to flow! When it gets to the busiest part of the evening and the orders come rushing in and you can hardly keep track and when every second counts, then there is real excitement in the air. But this excitement comes only when you work for it.
A cook with a positive attitude works quickly, efficiently, neatly and safely. Professionals have pride in their work and want to make sure that the work is something to be proud of.
Work in the kitchen requires physical and mental stamina, good health and a willingness to work hard. Undoubtedly, it is hard work. The pressure can be intense, the hours long and the work grueling. The hours of work are anti social. You may be working evenings and weekends when everyone else is relaxing and enjoying him or herself. And the work can be monotonous. You might think it real drudgery when you have to hand shape three dozen dinner rolls for your
class, but wait till you get to the industry and you are required to clean 60 kgs ofshrimp or to peel 50 kgs of potatoes!
Ability to work with people
Few of you will work in an establishment that is so small that you are the only person on the staff! Kitchen work requires teamwork and it is essential to be able to work well as part of a team and to cooperate with your fellow workers. You can’t afford to let ego problems and petty jealousy as well as departmental rivalries and personal problems get in the way of doing a good job. In earlier days, many chefs were known for their temper tantrums. Fortunately, self control is more valued these days.
Eagerness to Learn
There is more to learn about cooking than you will learn in a lifetime. The greatest chefs in the world are the first to admit that they have more to learn, and they keep working, experimenting and studying.
Our industry is changing so rapidly that we must be open to new ideas. No matter how good your techniques are, you may always learn an even better way.
There is no substitute for years of experience. Studying theoretic inputs from books in the college is essential to start you off. But if you want to be an accomplished chef, you need practice, practice and more practice.
Dedication to Quality
There is good food and there is bad food and very often we end up paying more for the bad food! Whether you work in a fancy restaurant, a 5 star hotel or an industrial canteen, you can do your job well or you can do it not so well. It is up to you. The choice is yours. High quality doesn’t necessarily mean high price. It costs less to cook French beans properly than to overcook them! In order to produce quality food, you must want to. It is not enough merely to know how.
Good Understanding of the Basics
Experimentation and innovation in cooking are the order of the day. Brilliant chefs breaking boundaries, utilizing unheard of before ingredients, inventing dishes that would be unique and strange of a couple of years ago. There seems to be no limit to what can be tried.
However, the same chefs who are so revolutionary, are the first to insist that a proper understanding of the basics is very essential. In order to innovate, you must know where to start.