Saira

Think like a Chef –Setting Yourself Up For A Week Of Success

Once a week in my home, I would walk in to see my mother undertake what I would call the ‘onion marathon’. One counter hosted a super-sized sack of vidalia onions, a bucket filled with onions scraps, another containing peeled whole onions and a third containing fine-diced onions. These diced onions waited in line for their ultimate end – to be thrown in to a vat and sautéed until richly caramelized. They were cooled and then frozen.

Then there was the ginger and garlic. This is where my grandmother perched herself as she scraped away the skin of several pounds of ginger with a spoon – a peeler’s wasteful ways just would not do! These were then separately broken down in a food processor with some water and pressed down in to an ice-cube tray for freezing.

My child’s eyes saw these random ingredients as the ‘bad-guys’ of my Saturday morning – making me wait for mummy to finish. Years later, it now all makes sense. How else could mom make three dishes after work within minutes? It also lent itself to her spontaneous ways. If someone stopped by for a mid-week dinner, she was ready. In would go a heaped tablespoon of the pre-browned onions, along with the ginger and garlic and presto, the base of the dish was pretty much ready. Spending a few hours prepping at the weekend had a huge pay-off for the upcoming week.

A couple of years ago, at culinary school, we were taught with a similar discipline and gave it a fancy name ‘mis-en place’. When chefs put a meal together, that is not the time to start chopping and cooking an onion – that’s the time to assemble prepped ingredients and bring it together in a cohesive dish – and this includes even the illustrious of places.

It goes without saying that this was one of my mother’s ways I brought in to my own home. Open my freezer and there will be containers filled with home-made broth to add to meat sauces and pot roasts, cubes of garlic and ginger for my Asian and middle Eastern flavors and cubes of fresh pureed tomatoes for curries and soups.

Recipe For Caramelized onions – for pastas, soups, gravies, savory pie fillings, burger toppings

Ingredients For Caramelized Onions:

10 pounds brown onions (about 12 large yellow)

1 cup oil

½ a stick of butter

1 ½ TBSP. salt

Method for Caramelized Onions

1) Cut off top and tails, peel and finely slice onions (depending on the dish, you can always puree the caramelized onions as you need them)

2) Add oil and butter to the pan along with the onions. Cook until onions re tender and golden

Recipe For Grated Ginger – For noodles, pan fried chicken, sautéed veggies and curries

Ingredients For Grated Ginger

2lb ginger

2 TBSP. Water

Method For Grated Ginger

1) Wash the ginger to remove any soil (if you have a brush, even better)

2) Using the front of the front head of the spoon, scrape down the ginger (it’s ok to leave some skin on for extra flavor and goodness)

3) Cut in to 1” pieces. Work in half batches and pulse in food processor with ½ the water. Fill in ice cube trays, wrap well with plastic wrap and freeze. Once frozen, pop them out in to plastic freezer bags

*Note: Keeps for several months and in refrigerator for up to a week

Recipe For Grated Garlic – For Pasta sauces, savory pies, curries, soups and stews,

Ingredients For Grated garlic

1lb garlic

2 TBSP. Water

Method For Grated Ginger

1) Peel garlic

2) Work in half batches and pulse in food processor with ½ the water. Fill in ice cube trays, wrap well with plastic wrap and freeze. Once frozen, pop them out in to plastic freezer bags

*Note: Keeps for several months and in refrigerator for up to a week

Recipe For Crushed Tomato  – For Sauces, Soups and Casseroles, Sautéed Dishes

Ingredients For Crushed Tomato

12 red and ripe tomatoes Beef Steak Tomatoes

1 tsp. Salt

Method For Crushed Tomatoes

1) Set aside a large pot of salted water to boil

2) Core the Stem and make light incision half way down the side of the tomatoes. Plunge in boiling water for 10 seconds and refresh in iced water. Peel the skin from the incision down. Crush until pureed in a food processor

3) Fill them in ice cube trays and freeze. Pop tomato cubes out and place in plastic freezer bags

*Note: Keeps for several months and in refrigerator for up to a week

Saira Malhotra, is of British–Indian descent and is a chef, food writer and cooking instructor based in New York City. Raised in Hounslow, U.K, or rather ‘Little India’, where the air is aromatic with roasted spices, little did Saira know these moments would follow her from being a student in France and Italy to residing in NYC with her husband and kids and parlay themselves unexpectedly in to a culinary career. She is a graduate of the International Culinary Center in New York City. Come visit her at her food blog: www.passportpantry.com where she shares approachable and international recipes

2 Responses to “Think like a Chef –Setting Yourself Up For A Week Of Success”

  1. Zahina says:

    I am a full-time professional and have 2 kiddies. I am always rushing to Waitrose – a nice high-end supermarket for our supper – they do great cottage pie. I feel like I am too busy to put a meal together from scratch. Whilst this my be demanding on my saturday morning (BYE BYE LIE-INS) – it will get me ready for the week ahead. Thanks for saving me money whilst providing my family with a pretty fresh dinner. I feel organized already

  2. These are great tips! Persians do the same thing with caramelized onions, we make them ahead of time. Good trick.

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