I have a conversation with nearly every
chef that comes to work with us as well
as the students who attend our cooking classes
here at NORMANS. It has to
do with a cooking term called "carmelization".
It is one of those skills that defy perfection
for quite some time. In fact, many people
think that they are caramelizing "just
fine, thank you", but they arent.
They are typically either cooking too fast
and burning or cooking too
slow and sweating.
Neither sounds tasty does it?
I was reading an article on the subject
of physics the other day and the gentleman
writing the piece was discussing the winter
sports of skiing, sledding and skating.
He illustrated that these three sports were
examples of a type of classic mechanics
that he reduced to what I found a unique
term for those activities. The term he used
was "friction". The way
to enjoy those sports was to control
the friction. You wanted to go fast,
but not too fast.
It is precisely the same in cooking with
the act of bringing food to a perfect degree
Lets get a pan, some fat and some
food and hit the slopes!
I have started a trillion recipes and zillion
dishes like this. Have some olive oil and
butter ready. Have some vegetables like
onions, leeks, carrots, celery and garlic
ready too. Now heat a heavy bottomed pan
and add the oil and butter. When the butter
begins to melt add the vegetables and stir
well to coat them. Now listen to them, watch
them and guide them occasionally by moving
them around the pan as the friction and
heat do a tango of hug and release.
Sounds simple, right? But it just isnt.
Did you ever see a trick and decided it
would be easy until you actually tried it
I remember a boyhood buddy being really
good with a bullwhip. He could make that
think crack! The day he showed me
his prowess he did about 20 times flawlessly.
CRACK! I was dying to try my hand at it!
Finally he handed the length of rawhide
over to me and stood back. I carefully lay
that whip back behind me, just like Id
seen him do, and then I flung my arm forward
with all my might. CRACK! Right across
my backside! Of course I just kept trying
and he kept laughing. I hadnt learned
yet how to control the friction.
Such is life, carmelization and bullwhipping.
© by Norman Van Aken, 2001