The science and art of cooking may be divided into ten principal parts; the rest is all fancy. These ten parts are: Baking, Boiling, Broiling, Frying, Mixing, Roasting, Sautéing, Seasoning, Simmering, and Stewing.
Tasting is an adjunct to all.
Baking.—In baking, see that the furnace or oven be properly heated; some dishes require more heat than others. Look at the object in process of baking from time to time, and especially at the beginning, turn it round if necessary, in case it be heated more on one side than on the other, to prevent burning.
In baking meat and fish, besides keeping the bottom of the pan covered with broth or water, place a piece of buttered paper over the object in the pan; it not only prevents it from burning, but acts as a self-basting operation, and keeps the top moist and juicy.
If the top of cakes bake faster than the rest, place a piece of paper on it.
In most of our receipts, we give the degree of heat necessary to bake the different objects; it will, no doubt, be found valuable information.
Boiling.—This is the most abused branch in cooking; we know that many good-meaning housewives and professional cooks boil things that ought to be prepared otherwise, with a view to economy; but a great many do it through laziness. Boiling requires as much care as any other branch, but they do not think so, and therefore indulge in it.
Another abuse is to boil fast instead of slowly. Set a small ocean of water on a brisk fire and boil something in it as fast as you can, you make much steam but do not cook faster; the degree of heat being the same as if you were boiling slowly.
If the object you boil, and especially boil fast, contains any flavor, you evaporate it, and cannot bring it back.
Many things are spoiled or partly destroyed by boiling, such as meat, coffee, etc.
Water that has been boiled is inferior for cooking purposes, its gases and alkali being evaporated.
Broiling.—Whatever you broil, grease the bars of the gridiron first.
Broiling and roasting is the same thing; the object in process of cooking by either must be exposed to the heat on one side, and the other side to the air.
Bear in mind that no one can broil or roast in an oven, whatever be its construction, its process of heating, or its kind of heat. An object cooked in an oven is baked.
It is better to broil before than over the fire. In broiling before the fire, all the juice can be saved.
In broiling by gas, there is a great advantage. The meat is placed under the heat, and as the heat draws the juice of the meat, the consequence is, that the juice being attracted upward, it is retained in the meat.
A gas broiler is a square, flat drum, perforated on one side and placed over a frame.
Broiling on live coals or on cinders without a gridiron is certainly not better than with one, as believed by many; on the contrary, besides not being very clean, it burns or chars part of the meat.
That belief comes from the fact that when they partook of meat prepared that way, it was with a sauce that generally accompanies hunters, fishermen, etc.,—hunger—the most savory of all savory sauces.
Frying.—That part of cooking is not as difficult as it is generally believed, and properly fried objects are good and do not taste greasy.
To fry requires care, and nothing fried will taste greasy if it has been dropped in fat properly heated and in enough of it to immerse the object.
When an object tastes greasy, it is not because it has been fried in grease, but because there was not enough of it, or because it was not properly heated; for, if heated enough it closes the pores of the object and carbonizes the exterior, so that it cannot absorb any.
Directions for Frying.—Prepare what you intend to fry according to the directions given in the different receipts.
Have fat, lard, or oil in a pan, enough to immerse the object or objects intended to be fried.
When the fat is hot enough (see below), place the object in a kind of wire basket made for that purpose, which drop in the fat and take off when the object is fried. It is handy, and there is no danger of breaking the object in taking it off.
There are objects that require to be stirred or turned over while frying.
Every time you fry any thing, take the fat from the fire, let it stand in a cool place for about five minutes, then turn it gently into a stone jar or pot through a strainer; let cool and put away. In turning the fat, lard, or oil into the jar, pour so that the dregs will be kept in the pan.
To ascertain with accuracy when the fat, lard, or oil is hot enough to lay the things in the pan, dip a fork in cold water, the prongs only; so as to retain but one or two drops of water, which drops you let fall in the fat, and if it crackles, it is hot enough.
Another way is, when jets of smoke come out of the fat.
There are objects that require more heat than others, some that are more sightly when brown, and others when of a pale-yellow hue.
If the object is desired brown, leave the pan on a brisk fire while it is frying; if otherwise, remove it to a slow or less brisk fire.
Fat is not like water, which, no matter how fast you boil it, you cannot augment the degree of heat, while you can that of fat. If water, by boiling it fast, could be heated as much as fat, it would be used to fry in its stead, being cheaper.
Mixing.—In mixing, pay due attention to the quantities we give in the receipts; but as everybody has not the same taste, it is very easy to augment or diminish the quantity of salt, pepper, sugar, butter, etc., so as to suit one's own taste.
When the quantity is left to the judgment or taste of the cook, that is, when the expression about so much is made use of, it is not necessary then to have the exact quantity; a little more or a little less cannot spoil or partly destroy the dish.
Roasting.—When an object is placed on the spit according to directions, remember that it cannot be basted too often.
The time necessary for roasting a piece of meat or any thing else, depends as much upon the fire as upon the nature of the meat. Meat especially requires to be placed very near the fire at first, and then put back by degrees.
There is nearly as much difference between roasted and baked meat as there is between broiled and fried meat.
It is generally admitted here, that English roast-beef is so superior to American roast-beef that it cannot be compared to it. It is not in the quality of the meat that the difference lies, but in the process of cooking.
Meat cannot be roasted in an oven, be it in an ordinary or in a patented one.
That peculiar flavor in roasted meat is produced by the air coming constantly in contact with the heated meat while revolving on the spit.
Cold roasted meat, when desired to be served warm, is enveloped in buttered paper and placed on the spit just long enough to warm it.
Sautéing.—There is no word, that we know, in the English language, corresponding to the French word sauté. It differs from frying in this: that to fry any object requires fat enough to immerse that object; while to sauté it, requires just enough to prevent it from scorching.
Vegetables, omelets, etc., are sautéd, and not fried.
Meat or fish cooked in a frying-pan with a little butter or fat, is sautéd, and not fried; but the term fried is most generally used, the other being only known to practitioners.
To sauté requires a brisk fire; the quicker an object is cooked by sautéing the better.
Seasoning.—This is the most difficult part in the science of cooking. To season is not difficult, but to season properly is quite another thing.
It is not only necessary to know well how to stew or roast a peace of meat or any thing else, but to know how to season it, to be able to judge what quantity and what kind of spices can be used to season such or such a dish, to what extent all the spices used agree together, and what taste and flavor they will give to the object with which they are cooked; for, if not properly used, they may just as likely destroy the taste and flavor of the object as improve it.
Some dishes require high and much seasoning, others just the contrary. With a good fire and a good spit, it is not necessary to be a thorough cook to roast a piece well, but the cook is indispensable to mix the gravy or sauce with the proper seasonings.
Simmering.—Simmering differs from boiling only in the amount of heat allowed under the boiler, kettle, or pan. To simmer, is to boil as gently and slowly as possible.
Stewing.—To stew properly it is necessary to have a moderate fire and as even as possible. A brisk fire would cause much steam to evaporate, which steam is the flavor of the object stewed.
Tasting.—This is the most difficult, and at the same time the most delicate, part of seasoning; it is by tasting that we ascertain if we have seasoned properly.
In this only two of the senses are engaged, and one of those much more than the other.
A person may have good feeling, hearing, and sight, and for all that would not be fit for preparing the simplest dish; the senses of smelling and tasting are the ones most required, and without which no one can cook properly.
For these reasons we will take the liberty to recommend to housekeepers, when they have new cooks, to instruct them on their taste, and always let them know when they have seasoned too much or too little. To the cooks we will say, do not season according to your own taste, if the persons for whom you cook do not like it.
If the housekeeper would give his or her candid and frank opinion of the dishes to the cook, and if the latter be not stubborn, the best results might be obtained and both would be benefited by it. That ought to be done every day while making the bill of fare.
To taste a sauce, as well as to know if a thing is good to eat, we cannot trust either our eyes, fingers, or ears; we then have recourse, first to our smelling, and then to our tasting: so do most animals.
We always commence by smelling, and when that sense is satisfied as far as it is concerned, we then apply our tasting qualities; and if that last one is, in its turn, satisfied also, we proceed, that is, we masticate, if mastication is necessary, and then swallow.