Thursday, July 14, 2011


Last night I took a leap of faith in my cooking. As a rule, I don't cook very well. I can whip up some awesome Mac 'n Cheese (from the box), my microwaved baked potatoes are the best in town, and I've even attempted to make Yucatan chicken (kind of like taco salad, but with a tomato-ey chicken sauce instead of beef). But other than that, cooking stuff takes me forever. I'm a perfectionist, and I take a long time trying to make the food right. It's mightily discouraging when I spend all that time working and only come off with a mediocre dish. My husband is incredibly supportive and joyfully eats anything I make, but it's still disheartening to spend so long and have it taste so bland.

A couple of months ago, I realized that one of my problems was that I didn't know much about cooking principles. Things like, "If you boil chicken too long, it gets all tough and chewy," or "You're not supposed to hold the knife like your going to hack at something. Hold the blade itself." or "Margarine doesn't always work in place of butter... even though it's cheap." So I began to look for some help. I found it in two places: my good friend, Lee Spindler, and

Lee has his own catering company and studied at Le Cordon Bleu (I think he studied at both the Paris and the Oregon campuses). He's a good friend of ours, and Chris and I decided to invite him over for dinner one day to help me us learn (Chris is really good at cooking, so he doesn't really need the help, but he still likes learning and we both like Lee). While making the meal he taught me us about the 5 french mother sauces: bechamel, veloute, espagnole, tomat, and hollandaise. He also explained about the different kinds of roux and how to make them, and made a veloute for our dinner. Since we were working with a master, it was divine.

A few weeks later I came across the Stella Culinary site and fell in love. Here. Finally were all of those cooking principles I wanted to learn. Podcasts, blog posts, vlog posts chock full of tips that I needed to know. As the owner of Stella Culinary says himself,

Before I started culinary school, I realized there were many books, websites and shows devoted to cooking, but very few ever teach you how to cook. Every one of them was “a pinch of this, a teaspoon of that, simmer for 20 minutes and it will be the best (fill in the blank) you’ve ever tasted. ”

For me, that just wasn’t enough. I had to know the whys and hows of cooking, and if it meant dropping $60,000 on culinary school so be it.

Wow. This was the site for me. The site is still growing, and the owner loves getting questions and ideas for what to teach. I'm in love.

So with these tools in hand and much encouragement from my hubby, I made a veloute yesterday. And you know what? It was pretty good. A veloute is made from a blonde roux (equal parts fat and flour) and then some kind of stock, and then you add what ever spices or things you want to finish off the sauce. Mine was made with chicken stock and then I added sun-dried tomatoes, some spices and a dash of lemon juice, and let it cook for a long time. I cooked some pasta and poured the sauce over the top.

Chris liked it. A lot. He even licked his bowl clean.

I think there's hope for me yet.


  1. You go girl! That is super exciting and sounds fun. Maybe you will have to teach the rest of the family (me :D) what you learn. Love you!

  2. Mmm. That does sound good. I'm going to have to check that site out.

    Back when we had cable, I got semi addicted to "good eats" on the food network. It was a similar idea - really detailed on the little things. He'll do an entire episode on pepper corns, or peas, or potatoes, or garlic. How it's grown, how to pick it out, how to cut/stew/press/chop whatever, down to the molecular level often.

    Now there are a few episodes you can watch on I LOVE it!

  3. Laree- I've seen a few clips from that show. It was really helpful. I wish I could stream it on Hulu or something :)

  4. I just installed firefox and I think I can comment now!!!

    Here's goes nothing!

  5. Well, I've very proud that you made a veloute on your own. That is definitely a fun site. We should do a dinner again sometimes, and try out some new techniques!