Eggciting Times with Cookology Essentials

The egg is an unsung hero, working backstage to give you some of your favourite foods – whisking into your cookie doughs, folding into cake batters, binding flour together for a developed pasta dough. By itself, it does some pretty amazing things, too – fluffing up into pillowy scrambled eggs; setting into firm hardboiled eggs; transforming into the iconic sunny side up eggs, winking on a plate of toast and bacon. But what other magic can it do? A few weeks ago, we gathered in Parkes Hall’s kitchen for the second Cookology-run Food Essentials class of the quarter to find out by learning to make simple dishes.

We first learned to make eggs Benedict, the reigning king of brunch dishes. We learned how to not only poach the perfect egg (pssst: stirring the water helps wrap the egg whites around the yolk) but also make the accompanying Hollandaise sauce, one of the five “mother sauces” in French cuisine. We whisked egg yolks and butter together over a double-boiler into a warm, rich emulsion and spooned it over a toasted English muffin stacked with bacon and poached egg for the finished dish.

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We then ate our delicious creations…with gusto.

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Once we finished eating, we moved on to another way to make eggs: Japanese steamed eggs. We mixed eggs, water, and salt in ramekins and steamed the eggs to a delicate tofu-like consistency. They were finished with a splash of soy sauce and a sprinkle of chopped scallions.

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Its lightness made for a refreshing contrast to the luxurious eggs Benedict and a pleasant end to the class.

The following week, we returned to the kitchen for a second class in eggs, this time not as the star of the dish but as a crucial building block of two desserts, creme brûlée and coconut macaroons. For the creme brûlée, we tempered a blend of egg yolks and sugar into scalded heavy cream and had fun choosing what flavoured extracts to include – classic vanilla, almond, or a combination of both! The mixture was poured into ramekins sitting in a hot water bath.

As the creme brûlée was cooking in the oven, we turned our attention to the leftover egg whites. We whisked them with a pinch of salt and a spoonful of sugar into a thick foam, added lemon zest for a touch of extra flavour, and folded in shredded coconut. We then shaped the moistened coconut into balls on baking sheets and baked them until the edges were toasted a golden-brown.

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The lemon subtly brightened the macaroons’ flavour…and paired nicely with melted chocolate.

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The creme brûlées weren’t forgotten! (How could anyone forget?) Once we’d eaten our fill of macaroons, we waited for the creme brûlées to cool before spreading an even layer of sugar on top. We proceeded to learn to wield blowtorches to put the “brûlée” in “creme brûlée” – caramelizing the sugar into the amber-coloured goodness that’s essential to any good creme brulee. We were delighted to break into the desserts with their spoons, first cracking the caramelized tops and then scooping into the creamy custard.

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Poached eggs, sauce, custard, foam – we learned in these two Essentials classes that there’s much more to eggs than just sunny side up and cookies. (And with this new knowledge in hand, we now know how to impress people. A fancy brunch dish or a classic French dessert? No problem.)

Modern is ‘In’ with the New Year

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Last quarter’s Basics left Cookology members with a desire to discover the present culinary world―rife with techniques pioneered by beloved chefs like Thomas Keller and the molecular gastronomical gurus of our day such as Heston Blumenthal and Grant Achatz.

Inspired by the chefs’ modern signature dishes, the Cookology members put together a sous-vide and basic spherification food lab this past Thursday.

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The night started off with a short introduction about the wonders of sous-vide cooking. We then split up our group into different teams, each team packing their salmon fillets and chicken breasts with a variety of ingredient and sear conditions. Taste and texture tests later determined our preferred goodies to bag with the fish and chicken.

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To explore basic spherification, the members created cucumber mint caviar and butternut squash soup one-biters. The faces of our tasters betrayed their surprise at the literal explosion of flavors in their mouths. (Not to mention the direct spherification process brought uncanny visual satisfaction to everyone in the room.)

Amusement aside, our Modernist Food Labs will continue the rest of this quarter, and the Essentials classes will begin this coming Monday. Stay tuned, folks!

Scallops and Chocolate with Oceanique

Last Thursday, Chef Mark Grosz from Oceanique taught our members and guests from Northwestern’s French department how to prepare scallops with watercress, fruit marmalade and saffron beurre blanc, as well as a simple yet elegant chocolate pot de crème.

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During the demonstration, Chef Mark allowed us to pick his brain about recent trends in food, what it takes to run a restaurant, how to draw inspiration from different cuisines, and the importance of cooking from the soul. His stories from his travels in Hong Kong and France were particularly insightful; it was easy for us to see how his French and Asian background continues to influence Oceanique’s inventive fusion cuisine.

Finished Scallops Pot de Creme

All in all, it was another highly successful evening with another prolific Evanston chef! Thank you again to Chef Mark, the Northwestern Cercle Francophone and Whole Foods for making this incredible evening happen!

Meal Madness: Round 1—Go!

Cookology has sent two representatives to participate in Meal Madness, Northwestern Dining’s student cooking competition! Our entry into the first round was a beet salad: a strudel inspired by Chef Bruno Albouze with a beet puree and greens. (This dish will also be included on our vegetarian menu for our pop-up restaurant during the beginning of December!)

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From our plating practice the night before the first round.

Despite some logistical hiccups with setting up our booth in Sargent dining hall, we were able to get our dish together in time for the judges. The competition itself was extremely fun, and we were pumped to finally show NU students, staff, and faculty both the vision of our group and the growing skills of our members!

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We’re pleased to announce that Cookology will be moving onto the next round tomorrow! Stay tuned for what we have in store!

Cookology’s first-ever event!

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Our first up-and-running club event! Today we cooked spinach and ramp risotto, yuzu quinoa salad, and chocolate-covered strawberries with Chef Station’s Executive Chef Romero. Special thanks to both Chef Romero and Whole Foods for making this fun learning experience possible! We catered the food we made to two Northwestern residential halls as some small munchies. Hope everyone enjoyed the class and the tasty dishes!