Roasting and Baking were the topics du jour during class four at the 3015 Trinity Groves cooking school. I was looking forward to this one because we were going to roast a chicken and make penne al forno (ostentatious mac n’ cheese) and really, what more does an American need?
As usual, we started with a team huddle and group hug (not really) to talk about our action plan for the night. Dr. Mike, class instructor, talked a bit about how to use the convection oven. This was great, because I’m scared to death to use mine. He said when using the convection, simply assume the oven temperature is 20 degrees hotter than your recipe states and then shorten the cooking time by a third. So if the recipe says 350 degrees for 30 minutes, just assume it’s at 370 degrees and cook it for about 20 minutes. No sweat, I got this.
We learned the techniques for cooking a crispy-skinned roasted chicken, made a few sauces and gravies, roasted various vegetables and built that perfect mac n’ cheese. This is comfort food, but it certainly would be appropriate for company. Dr. Mike told us one of the most common mistakes people make when roasting vegetables is to cook all the veggies together. Don’t do this. Take your ‘hard’ vegetables; like sweet potatoes and carrots and roast them together. Cook your softer veggies separately for a much shorter time. This way you don’t turn one into charcoal while the other stays saddle-tough.
Mike taught us a nifty trick to help ensure the chicken roasts evenly. Cut holes in the skin on the opposite side of each drumstick and stick the nub through. You then tuck the wings under so they don’t splay out all needy-like. Now your chicken is compact and will cook evenly. It also looks all manner of proper with dainty, crossed legs.
The chicken was then rubbed with a few tablespoons of butter under the skin and topped with salt, pepper and paprika and placed breast side down in a pan full of carrots, celery and onion. The chicken was flipped 30 minutes into the roasting to make sure that the skin didn’t get soggy and frankly, disgusting.
Now to the “Best Ever Mac and Cheese”. It was an intimidating four-page recipe, but that was only because we kept building on the sauce we had just created. First we prepared white sauce (béchamel), and then added cream to make – wait for it – cream sauce. We then added Parmigiano-Reggiano and Gruyere to develop the Mornay (cheese sauce). We poured this over the penne, topped with Panko and baked for about 20 minutes to let the flavors consider themselves. I saved some for my husband and he said the only thing that could have made it better would have been to add smoked brisket.
Next week: beef short ribs. >Drops Mic<
3015 Trinity Groves Cooking Basics, Mondays 6-9 pm