Tuesday, May 24, 2011

cooking and chemistry

I think it is more typical for people to garner an interest in chemistry from their interest in cooking. I, on the other hand can confidently say that I was never really interested in cooking before I studied chemistry. It is only since I got married and more interested in domestic matters that my interest in cooking has really piqued.

Today I made a french lamb stew that I found several weeks ago in the Wall Street Journal. Often on weekends WSJ has a food section- most notably I've seen this stew recipe as well as  whole section about how to cook artichokes. (Artichokes are hands down the best vegetable out there.)

After I browned the lamb in hot oil and then carmelized it with sugar followed by a heating in the oven I felt like I was in chem lab. Heating, cooling, thickening, wetting.......it took me all day to prepare the lamb to combine it with a few fresh veggies for a complete stew.

For the first time I used my joint frying pan/casserole pan to cook part of the stew on then burner and then bake it for a bit in the oven. The broth was made with whole garlic, chicken broth, flour, drippings from the lamb, fresh sage and, of course, salt and pepper.

All the vegetables were fresh except the peas and the pearl onions- I parboiled them in water and then plunged them into an ice bath. If that doesn't sound like something straight out of organic chem lab then I don't know what does! The "plunging" in the ice bath is supposed to prevent them from overcooking before they are neatly tucked with the lamb in the thick, bubbly, richly-smelling lamb base.

I love cooking and I love its relationship to science. I wish I realized this a long time ago.