Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Garde Manger Lesson 1: Chicken Salad

My favorite class in Culinary School was called Garde Manger. The most useful thing I learned in that class was how to make salad dressing. Nearly all cold sauces (i.e. salad dressing for green, pasta and potato salads, dips for chips, veggies or fruit, and even marinades) are composed of three basic things:

  • A fat (most often oil or mayo, more creative examples are sour cream, cream cheese, or yogurt)
  • An acid (commonly vinegar, sometimes lemon or other fruit juice or wine)
  • Seasonings (salt, pepper, sugar, herbs, vegetables, etc.)

The secret to a good cold sauce is a balance of fat and acid-- this combination was something our ancestors brought from the old world and we can't get enough of it. Stop and consider some of your favorite foods. I'm willing to bet if you pull apart the ingredients you'll find a fat and acid at the bottom of the flavor.

Some of my personal favorites: Fries and Ketchup(fries= potatoes and frying oil, ketchup= tomatoes(highly acidic) sugar (seasoning) and vinegar(classic acid). Even PBandJ gives you the fairly fatty peanut butter and the tangy tart juicy jam.

So about Chicken Salad, here are the guidelines:

  • Chicken (you can boil uncooked chicken, I like using canned chicken because it make it so fast)
  • Some crunchy things for texture (Waldorf Version --celery, apples, and cashews, as seen above. Also consider taking a southwestern approach using onions, corn and peppers or oriental with toasted almonds, chow mien noodles and grapes.)
  • The Basic Sauce--mayo, a little bit of vinegar, sugar, salt, pepper. (Now try to add in something that will pair well with your crunchy things. I added celery salt, a bit of mustard and a little bit more sugar to match with my celery and apples. If you do southwestern maybe add some cumin or chill pepper. If you are doing oriental use sesame oil or curry to make it Asian fusion.