Dispensing Happiness

A good cook is like a sorceress who dispenses happiness.-Elsa Schiapirelli

That's me, the magical good cook.

Borrowing from my friend Dexygus, I've created my own food blog.

Read of my exploits in the kitchen! Salivate over the descriptions of fabulous desserts and savory meals I've concocted!

No, seriously...go ahead. It'll make my day.

Thursday, February 17, 2005

The secret is out!


Ok, I do own the 7th edition of the CIA'a The Professional Chef. But this is still good to have around:

From the Chicago Tribune
Secret agents
* Mirepoix recipes from the CIA declassified for home cooks

By Leah Eskin, Chicago Tribune

Mirepoix may sound like a malady. It involves tedious dicing of onion and carrot and celery stalk. And raises certain suspicions. The lowly vegetable chop, sources claim, is essential to highbrow stock or soup or sauce.

Which is why mirepoix is a secret guarded by the CIA -- the Culinary Institute of America. Officials at the CIA believe in mirepoix. They subscribe to the theory of vegetable-enhanced stock, through thick and thin. CIA recruits commit to memory its core tenet: two parts onion to one part carrot and celery. As well as its variations, white mirepoix (with leeks), matignon (with ham), battuto (with garlic) and the exalted Cajun trinity (onion, celery and green pepper). Every station of the kitchen brigade can recite these convictions, on command.

And yet, by relying on humble ingredients, mirepoix carries out its mission undercover. This is why it needs its curious code name, derived, according to "The Penguin Companion to Food," from hapless husband Charles-Pierre-Gaston-Francois de Levis, onetime Duke of Mirepoix. And why, conspiracy theorists note, CIA recipes declassified on the Internet omit reference to mirepoix.

Whitewashed recipes may call for onions and carrot and celery, but unless the home cook has access to a hardbound copy of "The Professional Chef," 7th edition, the word mirepoix (and the detailed photo illustrations of its construction) will be missing. She may, in ignorance, fail to chop the components into fine (for fumet), medium (for white stock) or large (for brown stock). She may skip celery altogether. And why not? The celery stick, after-school staple, fails to inspire.

In the interest of transparency (of both stock and recipe), know this: Mirepoix is nothing more than chopped vegetables. And nothing less than the soul of the stock. Sweated and slow-simmered, skimmed and strained, it is rendered invisible. Its contributions are strictly on deep background. And yet, indispensable.

Such intelligence, frozen into quart or cube, is vital to the campaign against carryout. The stock-stocked freezer is always on high alert, capable of chicken noodle or veloute on demand. Admire its foresight, which adheres to the motto of the CIA itself: Preparation is everything. the following recipes are all adapted from the Culinary Institute of America.

Top-secret chicken stock

Yield: 2 quarts

4 pounds chicken parts
4 quarts cold water

Mirepoix ingredients:
1 each, diced: large onion, carrot, celery stalk
5 or 6 whole black peppercorns
3 or 4 parsley stems
1 bay leaf
1 sprig fresh thyme
1 1/2 tsps. salt

1. Settle the chicken in a large stock pot. Pour in water. It should cover the chicken by at least 2 inches; add more if necessary. Slowly bring to a boil over medium-high heat, skimming any foam that rises.

2. Adjust heat to establish a slow, lazy simmer. Cover partially and simmer for 2 hours, skimming as necessary.

3. Add mirepoix along with the remaining ingredients and continue to simmer, skimming as necessary, until the stock is fully flavored, about 1 hour.

4. Remove chicken parts and cool. Save the meat for another use. Discard the skin and bones.

5. Pour the stock through a cheesecloth-lined colander into a large metal container. Discard the solids.

6. Place the metal container in a sink filled with ice cold water to cool. Pour into labeled storage containers. Quarts are handy for soups. Ice cube-sized portions offer sauce assistance. Store in the freezer for up to three months.

Top-secret beef stock

Yield: 2 quarts

4 pounds beef (chuck, ribs, shank or neck)
4 quarts water

Mirepoix ingredients
1 1/2 medium onions, coarsely chopped
1 each, coarsely chopped: leek, carrot, celery stalk
1/4 cup celery leaves
3 or 4 parsley stems
3 or 4 black peppercorns
1 bay leaf
2 tsps. salt, or to taste
1 sprig fresh thyme

1. Settle the beef in a roasting pan and place in a 400-degree oven. Roast until deep brown, about 45 minutes.

2. Transfer the beef to a soup pot. Pour 1 cup water into hot roasting pan and scrape bottom to loosen any drippings; pour over beef. Add remaining water (there should be enough to cover beef by 2 inches; add more water if necessary) and bring to a simmer. Cover partially and simmer gently for 2 hours. Frequently skim away any foam that rises to the surface.

3. Add mirepoix and remaining ingredients. Continue to simmer gently until stock has developed a full, rich flavor, about 2 hours. Remove meat and reserve for another use.

4. Pour stock through a cheesecloth-lined colander into a large metal container. Discard solids.

5. Place container in a sink filled with ice cold water to cool. Transfer it to labeled storage containers. Store in the freezer for up to three months. Remove any fat from the surface before reheating.

Top-secret vegetable stock

Yield: 2 quarts

2 tsps. olive oil or corn oil
1 or 2 garlic cloves, finely minced
2 tsps. minced shallots
3 quarts water Mirepoix

Mirepoix ingredients:
1 large onion, thinly sliced
1 each, thinly sliced: leek, celery stalk, carrot
3 cups thinly sliced vegetables; consider parsnip, fennel, broccoli and whatever else appeals
1/2 cup dry white wine (optional)
1 Tbsp. salt, or to taste
4 or 5 whole black peppercorns
1/2 tsp. juniper berries
1 bay leaf
1 sprig fresh thyme

1. Heat oil in a soup pot over low heat. Add garlic and shallots and cook, stirring frequently, until they are translucent, 3 to 4 minutes.

2. Add mirepoix and remaining ingredients. Slowly bring up to a simmer. Cook until flavorful, about 1 hour.

3. Pour stock through a cheesecloth-lined colander and then allow it to cool completely before freezing in airtight labeled containers.

Copyright 2005 Los Angeles Times

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