Have you ever wondered how professional chefs are able to prepare multicourse meals that are not only delicious, but consistent and all prepared to the perfect time and temperature? Or how they pair items and create plates that are beautiful as well as tasty? It turns out it is easier than you might think, once you have learned the right tools and techniques. Presented in partnership with The Culinary Institute of America and filmed at the CIA’s flagship facility in Hyde Park, New York, Cooking Basics: What Everyone Should Know provides the step-by-step instructions you need to become a confident, productive cook in your own home. Whether you’re brand-new to cooking or want to up your game after years in the kitchen, these 24 easy-to-follow lessons demonstrate everything you’ll need to create a wide variety of exciting, flavorful dishes.
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Your instructor, Chef Sean Kahlenberg, brings his experience as both a culinary educator and professional chef to every lesson. Having mastered food science in the professional kitchen, he will show you what it means for your cooking at home as he carefully walks you through the dozens of original recipes in this course. You won’t find these specific recipes anywhere else and Chef Kahlenberg’s step-by-step demonstrations—filled with stories and invaluable tips and tricks—will let you learn as if you are right there in the kitchen with him.
Prep for Success
Your potential for success in the kitchen begins before you’ve even turned on your stove or oven. How do chefs produce a full meal that comes to the table all at the same time, perfectly seasoned and just the right temperature? The answer is mise en place. Never heard of it? Don’t worry—you’ll soon wonder how you ever survived in the kitchen without it.
Mise en place is the French term often translated as “everything in its place.” In the kitchen, this refers to having all your ingredients together before you start cooking—each item measured, peeled, or sliced exactly as you’ll need it for your specific recipe. Your ingredients, tools, mixing bowls, pots, and pans should all be within easy reach, allowing you to move forward in a logical and calm manner once you begin cooking. If you’ve ever heard the butter sizzling in the pan while you run around your kitchen throwing open each cabinet to look for a particular spice, you probably want to improve your mise en place.
In Cooking Basics, you’ll learn not only how to organize your mise en place, but also the best way to prepare each of your ingredients, including how to:
Cut vegetables into the appropriate dimensions required by your recipe—julienne, brunoise, small dice, large dice, or slice;
Create the mirepoix for your recipe—the onions, carrots, and celery that form the flavor base for most Western dishes;
Assess, clean, skin, and fillet round and flat fish, including bottom-feeders;
Appraise, break down, and brine chicken and turkey;
Evaluate and clean clams, mussels, and shrimp; and
Trim and portion beef.
The Importance of Fats
You will learn (and disprove) many misconceptions surrounding food as you progress through this course, but one of the most prevalent ideas that can hold home cooks back from success is the idea that “fat is bad.” Actually, when it comes to cooking, fats are your friends. They perform a variety of crucial functions in the cooking process, as well as impacting the look and feel of the final product. Depending on your goal, fats can add flavor of their own or serve as a neutral medium in which to circulate the flavors of other ingredients, coating the tongue to improve your ability to experience those tastes. In fact, some food compounds responsible for flavor and nutrition only become soluble and accessible in the presence of fats.
But perhaps most important, fats offer one of the most effective ways to transfer heat during cooking and produce the Maillard reaction. This is the chemical reaction between amino acids and reducing sugars that forms the hundreds of complex molecules we love to smell and taste in our food. Whether or not you’re familiar with its formal name, chances are you’ve always loved the browning that results from the Maillard reaction. In Cooking Basics, you’ll watch the Maillard reaction occur in real time as you learn to fry arancini, baste scallops, sear beef, and much more.
But how to choose which fats to use in which recipes? Chef Kahlenberg explains the benefits of a variety of fats, including:
Grapeseed Oil. This oil’s high smoke point makes it a kitchen favorite, allowing foods to cook comfortably at high temperatures without risking the bitterness of burned oil. In addition, grapeseed oil adds very little taste of its own, while nicely carrying other flavors. You’ll learn how to use it in cooking coq au vin, monkfish, asparagus, and many other foods.
Butter. While learning to cook cioppino, pasta, lamb, and a variety of vegetables, you’ll come to agree with Chef Kahlenberg when he says, “Too much butter is barely enough.” You’ll explore what can be learned from the sound of butter sizzling—and not sizzling: It’s all about the interplay of fat; water; milk solids; and, of course, heat.
Rendered Fat. Learn how to render fat—how to melt and clarify hard animal fat—and use it as the primary cooking medium for paella and a variety of vegetables.
Explore the Wide World in Your Kitchen
No matter how wide and varied your personal cooking repertoire is, Cooking Basics provides a great opportunity to sear, roast, boil, pan fry, grill, and sauté foods in ways you may never have considered before. You’ll learn how and when to cook with a sachet d’epices, how to create a cartouche (and why it works better than a pot lid in some circumstances), how to harvest vanilla caviar, the difference between a roux and a gravy, when to use ras el hanout, and much more.
As you follow Chef Kahlenberg’s step-by-step directions, you’ll learn to prepare many classics with a new twist, including crispy fried chicken, sautéed scallops, grilled salmon, braised short ribs, roast beef, and Thanksgiving turkey along with traditional side dishes of coleslaw, pickles, asparagus, carrots, pilaf, and more. But you’ll also have the opportunity to branch out and create:
Argentinian bright green chimichurri sauce
French Béarnaise sauce
French coq au vin
French Provençal ratatouille
Italian cheesy polenta,
Italian potato gnocchi
Italian risi e bisi, traditional northern Italian rice with peas
Mexican grilled corn salad
San Francisco classic cioppino
With Chef Kahlensberg’s guidance, you will be able to make meals that are as beautiful as they are delicious, with each component timed perfectly to be served together. Whether you are hosting a party or making a family dinner, every meal will feel like an amazing accomplishment—and, with a little help from an expert chef, it’s much easier than you think.