R is for Rest
No, that does not mean a nap from all your hard work cooking! That’s the thing with these polysemous words. You can be led astray.
No, today’s rest is what happens to food at a specific point in the process where you walk away and let it be by itself for a while. And this is not just so you get a break. A rest for food is timed as to start and finish.
There are two situations I know of for letting food rest. If you know of others, please inform all of us in the comments section below.
We’ve talked about gluten in bread baking in an earlier post. If bread isn’t kneaded enough, the gluten won’t form. And bread needs gluten to rise. Another piece of the equation is letting the dough rest for at least 30-60 minutes (this really depends on environmental factors) until doubled in size.
With pastry dough, to reduce shrinkage, let the dough rest at least 30 minutes before rolling out. With both bread dough and pastry dough, resting allows the elasticity in the dough to relax.
Set that dough aside and let it rest. Of course, you can, too!
The other cooking situation requiring resting is even more frequently violated than allowing dough to rest.
NEVER cut your meat as soon as you remove it from the heat. Meat has to rest to keep the juices from leaking out resulting in dry meat. Resting allows the juices to re-absorb into the meat.
As a rule of thumb, allow meat to rest one-fourth of the total cooking time. If your chicken roasted for one hour, let it rest 15 minutes before carving. If your pork chops were on for 10 minutes per side, let the meat rest 5 minutes (1/4 of the total 20 minutes).
In one experiment, a roast lost 10 tablespoons of liquid with no resting time. When the same size roast rested 40 minutes, 2 1/2 teaspoons of juice was lost. BIG difference when it comes to eating!
Meat with the most retained juice is more tender and easier to chew and digest.
So, ladies and gentlemen, step away from the meat!
R is for Roux (ROO)
I love the word roux. I am using it in the title of one of my upcoming culinary mysteries. Wouldn’t you want to read a book called, Roux the Day?
A roux is a standard feature in classical French cooking. Roux is a base for thickening sauces, stews, and soups created by skillet cooking slowly over low heat equal amounts of fat and flour. Any fat can be used, but most of us like butter best.
BUT--big warning here--do not measure that fat and flour. Weigh it. Roux are created with equal amounts of fat and flour by weight not volume.
Melt the butter, then add the flour. Cook the mixture for about 15-30 minutes, stirring constantly. The actual time depends upon how thick you want the roux and how dark. A dark roux will thicken less than a lighter one. I’ve never read why that is so, but it has to be a chemical change in the flour.
There are four shades for roux: white, blond, brown, and dark brown. Each shade has a purpose in cooking different dishes. The darker roux are used more for flavor enhancement, with thickening a secondary concern.
Some of you have made thickening sauce like this but without the cooking step. You just whisked the fat and flour together and it thickened your stew just fine. The problem with that is the raw taste of the uncooked flour. In a roux, you get a nice nutty aroma and flavor. And cooking is all about layering flavors.