Wash Your Hands, Not Your Poultry.

A very interesting practice came up in this week’s Foundations Series class about how we handle raw chicken and meat.  Before I tell you what sparked the debate, take a moment and ask yourself the question; “Do I wash raw chicken or meat under the tap when I remove it from the package?”

In studying cooking methods and the theory behind roasting and browning meat and poultry,  one of the first principles we discussed is that food must be dry before cooking.  If not, an adequate seal or brown sear does not form.  

To illustrate this and other lessons, we prepared a delicious beef braise or stew, Boeuf bourguignonne and a classic Roast Chicken.

As I was demonstrating how to prepare the whole chicken for stuffing, a few jaws dropped when I took the chicken out of the package, patted it dry and proceeded.  “How could you not wash it?”  “It’s dirty!” and “Who knows what it’s come in contact with?” the students exclaimed.

I was taken aback.  I knew from a culinary perspective, meat and poultry should not be washed, but from a food safety standpoint I was unsure.  After class I did some research.

According to the Government of Canada, 4 quick tips to Food Safety are; Cook, Clean, Chill and Separate.  But under clean they only talk about washing hands and surfaces with warm, soapy water.  They don`t mention washing the food at all.

The USDA is more direct.  Under their Food Safety and Inspection Service, it states that “washing raw poultry, beef, lamb, or veal before cooking is not recommended. Bacteria in raw meat and poultry juices can be spread to other foods, utensils, and surfaces. We call this cross-contamination. Cooking (baking, broiling, boiling, and grilling) to the right temperature kills the bacteria, so washing food is not necessary.”

So if you answered yes to the above question, think again.  The next time you feel the urge to wash raw meat, remember that not only is it not good cooking practice, it is irrational because it doesn`t accomplish what you think it will and can actually spread harmful bacteria to your sink and other kitchen surfaces.

It turns out that in this case the delicious lesson agrees with the science lesson.  

Shabbat Shalom from My Kosher Kitchen,

Nancy Weisbrod, Director of Culinary Education, Kashruth Council of Canada

PS  Click on Beef Bourguignonne above to go to the recipe.

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Bugchecking: a few thoughts

 

In this week’s Foundation Series cooking class we explored the world of “Root, Shoot, Flower and Fruit” and the category of vegetables referred to as greens. 

When I first koshered my kitchen, over 20 years ago, I was asked by an Orthodox girls high school if I would like to do a cooking demonstration for mothers and daughters.  “Sure” I replied.  To make life easy, I thought I would show some recipes that I considered super simple and easy to execute.  (At this point, I was brand new to the world of keeping kosher and didn’t realize how much time and effort it took to check vegetables.)  Among the recipes I offered to show was a dish involving leeks-super easy, with just a few ingredients, but we would need several bunches to serve the large group expected.  After I told the kind lady who was planning the program what I wanted to do, I thought I heard a gulp on the other end of the phone, but “no problem” was all she cheerfully responded.

When I arrived to give the class, they had prepared all the vegetables requested for the recipes including the big, big, biggest bowl of leeks I had ever seen.   Washed and separated, leaf by leaf into a shimmering, dewy bowl of bug-free fronds.  Never had leeks been treated with such respect!  Each leaf touched, rinsed and inspected by hand.  The process must have taken forever.  The ladies who prepared the vegetables were supremely good natured about it and thoroughly enjoyed watching how the dishes were prepared and sampling them.

What I learned that day was echoed many years later when I heard a Rabbi say, that there is an unseen ingredient in each dish prepared in a kosher kitchen, and that ingredient is supervision.

Through the many years since, I have checked my fair share of vegetables.  Thrilling as it is to actually find a bug every once in a while, (I have a pretty unusual idea of fun) it can be a very daunting task.

What I want to share with you is the emotional mindset recommended for the task of checking vegetables.

(Lest we think this is a lowly job, rest assured that the finest restaurants in the world assign their apprentice chefs to the salad stations who spend years ensuring that each leaf of green put on a diner’s plate is sparkling clean and bug free.  They only have to answer to their head chef.  We have to answer to a much higher Supervisor!)

First, be patient.  In your cooking timeplan, allow yourself a sufficient amount of time to do the job properly and in an unhurried manner.

Second, relax.  Either sit at the table or on a stool at your counter, in a well lit area, with lots of space for the tools of our trade, either a lightbox or sunny window, salad spinner, sink and room to work.

Third, be joyful.  Be secure in the knowledge that just like Jewish women throughout the centuries, we are guarding this important mitzvah of keeping kosher, for those whom we love.

Lastly, before you begin this sublime occupation, always consult the COR website’s produce inspection guide at;

http://www.cor.ca/list/257/produce_inspection_guide.html

When you have a chance, you may want to try this delicious Greens, Oriental recipe that is a staple in my kitchen and I hope will become one in yours.

Shabbat shalom from My Kosher Kitchen

Nancy Weisbrod, Director of Culinary Education, Kashruth Council of Canada