Pots, Stock, and 6 Roasting Chickens


Chef Kevin demos preparation of mirepoix

With nothing but more snow on the horizon, Brainfood did not meet this Monday or Tuesday.  The plating and presentation workshop has been put on hold, and we’re crossing our fingers and hoping the Valentines Day class doesn’t get snowed out as well.  As we take our brief snow intermission, however, it seems like an appropriate time to recount a recent kitchen adventure from the Chinatown Monday/Wednesday class.  Just before DC got snowed-in, Brainfood students were treated to the return of a much anticipated, seasonal favorite: the guest chef.  

Stephanie’s previous post featured fish tales and adventures in frying from Teddy Folkman’s most recent visit to Chinatown’s Tuesday/Thursday class.  In addition to welcoming Teddy back to Brainfood, we were also lucky enough to have Chef Kevin Villalovos from Cure in DC teach his first Brainfood workshop for Chinatown’s Monday/Wednesday class.  Kevin was kind enough to bring all the ingredients for his chicken pot pie class, but when I went to meet him, I wasn’t prepared for his veritable entourage of awesome product.  Organic whole chickens, creamy Yukon potatoes, a big old box of puff pastry, pounds of sweet smelling herbs, and enough cream and butter to make a stop sign palatable.  [Side note: Just in case you’re wondering if a pound of herbs is really worth getting excited about, it is.  If you’re like me, you get stuck buying the annoying plastic cartons of unenthused tarragon and blemished basil at the grocery store while internally cursing the cost of packaging.  Having a whole pound of fresh rosemary in the Brainfood fridge added a certain intangible sense of luxury to our usually spare drawers.] 

Learning how to piece a chicken 

For his first time at Brainfood, Chef Kevin seemed completely comfortable with the flow of class and with our students.  The first task, and certainly the most challenging, was breaking down a whole chicken.  Kevin did a quick demo first, expertly dispatching a chicken in a few minutes while calmly giving verbal instructions to punctuate his actions.  I spied a little cringing at the “remove the innards from the cavity” directive, and a few raised eyebrows when the thigh bone neatly popped out to reveal a natural seam to remove the leg quarter from the chicken back.  Later, as each student tried her hand (we had a class of all young women on this particular day) at chicken butchery, initial trepidation led to some interesting reflections on cooking.  Is it easier to cook chicken if it already looks like meat (ie, skinless chicken breasts) as opposed to an animal (a whole chicken)?  How much money can you save by buying a whole chicken and breaking it down yourself as opposed to buying pre-cut chicken pieces?  One common comment was that many students had never seen anyone cook a whole chicken before.  

Bit by bit, the pot pies started to come together.  The chicken carcasses went into a pot to make chicken stock along with the wings.  The chicken breasts got a coating of olive oil, salt, and pepper before being roasted up in the oven.  Onions, celery, and carrots got diced for a mirepoix, and herbs were picked to flavor the sauce for the pot pie.  All the while, Chef Kevin made the rounds, dispensing advice on dicing onions at one table, then patiently offering encouragement to a student who balked at picking up a whole raw bird.  Before we knew it, the vegetables were simmering away in a creamy herb sauce, and the diced chicken was added just in time to get topped off with a round of puff pastry.  When our mini pot pies came out of the oven, puffed golden, and smelling fabulous, the students were completely smitten.  It was a great treat and a fitting reward for a truly challenging and exciting day of class. 


- Carina



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