Cheating... or chef's trick?

Discussion in 'Food & Cooking' started by chrisbelgium, Apr 4, 2011.

  1. chrisbelgium

    chrisbelgium

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    I'm a home cook, so I will call this cheating. If I were a pro, I would probably call it a chef's trick.

    I'm sure there are a lot of tips and tricks around to tweak dishes to another level with a minimal effort. This is an example.

    It's simply soup made from humble white mushrooms, in french called "champignons de Paris", but still plain white mushrooms, nothing wild, just cultivated ones, so underrated.

    The trick is simply... to add a few slices of dried porcini. Cheating or chef's trick? Be as it may, this takes the taste to a real waaaw-level!

    I've done it on other occasions with mushroom risotto too, with the same exciting result.

    [​IMG]

    For people used to eat canned mushroom soup, all nice and smooth and white and creamy, you really should try to make this genuine soup; tastes incredible for so little effort. Looks rustic, maybe a little too dirty and earthy for some.

    - 2 onions chopped, sweat in olive oil

    - 2 slices of dried porcini (I guess 10 grams or so) chopped, not even soaked first. Throw that in too.

    - 500 grams of sliced large white mushrooms, fry them a little before adding liquid.

    - 2 mediumsize potatoes peeled and cut in pieces to give the soup some thicker consistency

    - 1,5 liter chickenstock, s&p

    - cook 30-40 minutes

    - add 1/2 cup of cream and mix

    - fry some left-over white mushroom slices in a pan and throw in.

    Done.

    What's your opinion on these clever moves? Any other cheating/chef's tricks you like to share?  
     
    scarletswitchit likes this.
  2. koukouvagia

    koukouvagia

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    Why do you consider this a trick or cheating?  What are you cheating on?
     
  3. benway

    benway

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    I don't think this is cheating along the same lines as adding chicken base to bolster your chicken stock is.  Dried porcini mushrooms are pretty strong and a small amount of them is used to flavor things in other applications as well.

    Thanks for sharing the recipe.  That is a beautiful picture!
     
    Last edited: Apr 4, 2011
  4. ishbel

    ishbel

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    I can't remember the last time I ate tinned soups....  the ones I have always felt tasted chemically and manufactured were those Campbell's condensed stuff...  

    The addition of a few dried porcini mushrooms to a home-made soup is hardly 'cheating'. However, I'd use wild field mushrooms and then you wouldn't need to add the porcini!
     
  5. bishop

    bishop

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    Adding dried porcinis is not cheating. However adding soup base to your stock is. J/S
     
     
  6. mikez

    mikez

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    neither is cheating.. they are both enhancing and alone will not make a great stock or soup, but will help.
     
  7. kyheirloomer

    kyheirloomer

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    Bishop, could you expand on that? I really don't understand how any of it is cheating. And merely proclaiming that X is Y doesn't make it so.

    To me, all that counts is the end result. Have we produced a flavorsome dish that is appealing to the eye? If so, what does it matter how we got there?

    Let's look at that soup base. What it is is concentrated chicken flavor that somebody else prepared for you. It's an ingredient, no different than salt or pepper or any other seasoning or condiment. Do you grow your own vanilla beans and make your own extract? Grow your own wheat and grind the flour? If not, and if using soup base is cheating, then so, too, is using vanilla extract or flour. Indeed, if using soup base is cheating, then preparing a sauce using stock that another member of the staff made would also be cheating.

    Even trying to define cheating gets hairy. Initially, I don't think many would argue with a definition that says masquarading one thing as something else is cheating. But then, what about a steak that is quick-seared to provide  cosmetic grill marks, but is actually cooked in the oven. You are presenting a "grilled" steak that really isn't. Is that cheating? If so then virtually every steak house in the country cheats.

    As cooks we have only one goal: to please the people we are feeding. This applies to the home cook or the 3-Star chef. That is our only purpose in life. And I, for one, will do whatever it takes to achieve that goal. If, in the process, some of the ingredients I choose, or the methods and techniques I use are cheating, then I gladly accept the title cheat.
     
  8. bishop

    bishop

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    Really?

    I will start by saying this about cheating when concerning cooking. Much like the Supreme Court when discussing pornography, it is hard to define but I know it when I see it.

    Would you add broccoli soup base to your broccoli soup? The whole idea of making stock is to have control over every ingredient and aspect of the stock making. Adding 'base' to your unadulterated stock is whorish in my opinion.

    As to your last paragraph, another aspect of my cooking is integrity. Of course taste is of utmost importance but I am not going to stoop to cheats, shortcuts, or hacks to get there. I will take the extra steps and put in the hard work it takes to get there doing it correctly. Now I am sure this has come off as brash, but I am discussing my philosophy. Have I added the seasoning packets to ramen, of course. Would I add base to a stock I invested a day or two in making? I think you know the answer.

    I am not in anyway trying to start a tiff. The OP asked a valid question and I think she was just adding another ingredient to add depth of flavor to her soup. That is not cheating. Adding base to stock is just plain lazy.
     
  9. chrisbelgium

    chrisbelgium

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    When I used the word "cheating" I didn't mean it as a capital sin but in a sweet way to overcome having to pay too much on expensive ingredients or to save a lot of time or simply to produce a better endresult.

    In this case it's just adding a little porcini to average mushroom soup to give it another dimension. It's very minor cheating and.. I learned it from a pro!

    Another example is when making watercress soup to add some spinach at the very last moment, just to produce that green color. Also very minor cheating. And there are many of these little tricks that found their origin in pro kitchens.

    P.S.; Bishop; I'm a he, not a she.
     
    Last edited: Apr 5, 2011
  10. chefedb

    chefedb

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     Bishop.

    This is not cheating. This is enhanceing the flavor. The addition of a quality soup base is also an enhancement. The original concept of soup bases when they came out in the late 50s was to HELP a stock. They were NEVER meant to replace a stock. If th finished products flavor is good then heaven bless the addition of the base. It should also be noted that the salty bases available to you the home cook are quite different then the ones used in commercial applications. I have tasted a demi glace base that was as good as any  I have ever tasted but at $16.00 a pound it should be.  Cheating to me is when a place cuts pork and pounds it, breads it and passes it off as veal cutlet. Or when a place buys cooked processed turkey breast for turkey dinners or making a pesto with 3/4 spinach and walnuts instead of fresh basil.and pignoli nuts.

     As far as adding a broccoli base to a soup ? (they don't make a broccoli base) if one were made, and it made the eating experience better for the guest, I sure would use it.
     
  11. shroomgirl

    shroomgirl

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    what's wrong with adding pungent bold wild shrooms to cultivated bland ones? I've been teaching that for years......

    +1 do what you do to make tasty food
     
  12. leeniek

    leeniek

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    I don't see it as cheating, I see it as making a good soup even better.  When I make cauliflower and cheese soup I add a cheese sauce made from butter, flour, milk and grated cheese to it to give it that comforting taste.  My sister inlaw adds (eeww!) cheez wiz to hers and honestly it tastes like a bunch of chemicals.  There is nothing better than a good old fashioned made from scratch soup.
     
  13. kyheirloomer

    kyheirloomer

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    Thanks for those comments, Ed. It's getting scary how much we agree with each other lately. /img/vbsmilies/smilies/smoking.gif

    Have I added the seasoning packets to ramen, of course. Would I add base to a stock I invested a day or two in making? I think you know the answer.

    This is where you lose me, Bishop. Adding the seasoning packet to ramen v. adding a base to stock is a difference in degree, not in kind. If one is cheating than they both are. Or neither one is.

    What's important, I think, is to separate the things we do to satisfy our own sense of professionallism from what is required to produce the final, quality dish. You're reasoning isn't so much that base is cheating. What you're saying, to yourself, is, "if I'm going to produce the highest quality final product, then I have to start with the highest quality ingredients, as many of which as possible I've made myself."

    Maybe I can make it clearer with a similar syndrome from my own field. In printing there is a thing called a widow. That's when the first line of a column in a magazine or newspaper doesn't fill the line. The general rule is, if there are enough words to extend more than halfway, it's good enough.

    I worked on one magazine where we didn't allow even that. If the first line didn't fill the column we revised and edited until it did.

    Now, here's the point. If a line extends more than halfway, the reader doesn't even notice it. That's why the general rule applies. So, why did we insist that the column be filled? Because it satisfied our own sense of professionalism. A halfway plus line certainly left the reader satisfied. It just wasn't good enough for us.

    To me, you're saying the same thing. And that, perhaps, is where our difference of opinion lies. Ed's example of passing pork off as veal is cheating. Using or not using a particular ingredient to produce a final, honest product is a matter of cook's choice. It may or may not affect the quality of the dish. May or may not be laziness (where one says "lazy" another says "efficient"). May or may not impact your own sense of professionalism. But it isn't cheating IMO.
     
  14. scarletswitchit

    scarletswitchit

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    I concur.

    Building a good, strong soup is much like building a good, strong home in the sense that your foundation (in this case, homemade stock and aromatics) cannot be cut short.  For each palate there is a different complimenting soup, which is what it all really boils down to.  (No pun intended!)

    I bet some butter and dry white wine to the recipe above would add a whole-nother element to an already delicious-sounding soup.
     
  15. kyheirloomer

    kyheirloomer

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    I have tasted a demi glace base that was as good as any  I have ever tasted but at $16.00 a pound it should be. 

    I reckon you've put your finger on the nub right there, Ed.

    If I'm reading them right, what some are saying is that if they spent hours cooking down a stock to produce that demi glace it's a sign of professionalism and integrity. But to use that same demi glace out of a jar is cheating. And my basic question remains: Why?

    Let's say I'm the guy who makes stocks and such in your restaurant, and I make a batch of demi glace, which you then use in a recipe. What they seem to be saying is that you are cheating because I made the stuff. If that's not what they're saying, then I'm really confused because there should be no difference between me making it and Wyler's making it. The only criterium should be its quality.

    I'm thinking, too, that there might be an element of snobbery in some of the opinions. You know, "my stuff is automatically better because I made it all from scratch." To which I reply in the words of Carl Sagen: "If you want to make an apple pie from scratch, first create the universe." Otherwise, the only person you're kidding is yourself.

    As an interesting aside, soup bases go back in this country at least 300 years. They used to first make a rich broth, then boil it down until it was a thick sludge. This was then dried and broken in pieces. Travelers carried this "soup glue" with them, either to make a soup when there was nothing else available, or to improve and intensify the flavor of a soup or stew they were served.
     
  16. mezzaluna

    mezzaluna

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    Yes- I read a recipe for this in a reproduction Williamsburg cookbook I have. IT was also called "Pocket soup". And by the way, I think the porcini trick is a very good one.
     
    Last edited: Apr 6, 2011
  17. mikez

    mikez

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    You can argue on what cheating really is but what it really comes down to is how it is used. If you substitute chicken bouillon or a box of chicken broth instead of using homemade that is taking a short cut and will result in a lesser quality product... Of you use a stock base for example instead of salt while making your stock which you took two days making, IMHO that is a whole different story. Like scarletswitchit says you can't take shortcuts when it comes to soups and stocks and still end up with the same flavor \ texture as the longer method. Adding spinach to make it green is not the same either I think. How is that cheating? Are you cheating because you are trying to give it a different color by using a natural ingredient?

    You can argue on what cheating really is but what it really comes down to is how it is used. If you substitute chicken bouillon or a box of chicken broth instead of using homemade that is taking a short cut and will result in a lesser quality product... Of you use a stock base for example instead of salt while making your stock which you took two days making, IMHO that is a whole different story. Like scarletswitchit says you can't take shortcuts when it comes to soups and stocks and still end up with the same flavor \ texture as the longer method. Adding spinach to make it green is not the same either I think. How is that cheating? Are you cheating because you are trying to give it a different color by using a natural ingredient?
     
  18. koukouvagia

    koukouvagia

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    Chris I think your use of the word "cheating" is what is making everyone here argue.  I don't think what you did is cheating, it's just a trick of the trade.  Cheating means that you are trying to be deceitful or breaking the rules.  Adding mushrooms to a mushroom soup does not break any rules.

    Cheating at a restaurant means you go and order lasagna and they serve you frozen Stouffers that you can buy at the super market.

    But cheating at home means something different to everybody.  We all have our own standards in our own cooking.  For example, my friend likes to buy a frozen cheese pizza, take it home, top it with fresh green peppers and other fresh toppings and she calls that "cooking."  To me that's cheating, but only to my own philosophy, I don't think SHE is actually a cheater, but according to my standards she's not really cooking.  Does that make sense?  Unless a restaurant is serving you frozen pre-prepared food I don't call anything cheating.

    And I must get this off my chest.... white button mushroom soups are the worst excuse for a mushroom.  It's impossible to get any good flavor out of a soup made entirely of these, the porcinis may just save the soup, maybe.  In my house, if I use white button mushrooms to cook with I consider it cheating lol, so you see we are all different.
     
  19. chrisbelgium

    chrisbelgium

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    I would estimate that a lot of passionate homecooks -every now and then- ask themselves if they are doing the right thing. That's why we have a forum like euh.. Cheftalk. Passion seems to induce perfectionism. Someone used the word "integrity" and I fully understand that. On the other hand, I would no longer call myself a true perfectionist, I'm over that. I'm older and wiser and nowadays I'm much happier with working within a range of acceptable results rather than going for black or white choises.

    But, still questions pop up like this cheating or trick question; shouldn't I have left the porcini out and try to make a perfect white mushroom soup? Not really, it's perfectly acceptable... all the more since others over here seemed to really enjoy the result, and so did I.
     
    Last edited: Apr 6, 2011
  20. chefedb

    chefedb

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    This was known or IU should say I learned it as  "Glace D Viand" Or a 20 Gal. stockpot reduced to a cup of really hard gel flavor over 2 or 3 days.  Consistancy.  Like a Hockey Puck