Healthy Cooking Techniques Guide
Foods cooked en papillote are encased in parchment paper and baked. The foods are cooked by trapped steam.
Culinary Institute of America
Roasting and Baking
Roasting and baking are ideal techniques for the healthy kitchen. Foods emerge from the oven or rotisserie with flavors that cannot be duplicated by any other technique. They are surrounded by hot air, which cooks foods gently through indirect heat (air is less efficient at conducting heat than fats, liquids, or even steam). Although some foods are traditionally coated with fat or high-fat ingredients before roasting, foods do not require additional fat to be roasted or baked, and as long as foods are not overcooked, they remain moist and flavorful.
These techniques are basically the same procedure. In common parlance, large cuts of meat and whole poultry and fish are said to be roasted while smaller pieces are baked. (Conversely, vegetables that are cut into pieces are said to be roasted, whereas when left whole, they are baked.)
While most people associate roasting with meat or poultry, fruits and vegetables take beautifully to this technique. Their juices evaporate slowly, their flavors concentrate, and the heat caramelizes their natural sugars and leaves them soft and tender on the inside and crisply browned on the outside. Roasting is ideal for dense vegetables; root vegetables like potatoes, carrots, and Jerusalem artichokes are commonly roasted, as are squash, garlic, and even fennel. But experiment with less obvious vegetables, such as asparagus spears, broccoli, cauliflower florets, or tomatoes. Soups made from roasted vegetables are unusually delicious and definitely worth trying.
In the past, extremely lean meats and poultry were barded or basted before roasting to keep them from drying out. Adding fat before or during cooking, and serving meats and poultry with high-fat gravies, is not necessary. Properly cooked meats, poultry, and fish retain their moisture perfectly well. Care must be taken that foods are not overcooked, and that technique matches food. Some cuts of meat are simply too dry for roasting and are better braised; other cuts can be brined before roasting to add moisture. Poultry can be roasted with the skin on to retain moisture, but the skin should be removed before service.
Salt is an essential flavoring in roasted and baked foods, and it is critical to the proper execution of these techniques. A judicious seasoning before cooking allows the salt to draw out some moisture, which dissolves the salt and helps it to permeate the food. As the moisture on the surface of the food evaporates in the oven’s heat, the food develops the appealing color and crust that are the hallmarks of roasting and baking.
Flavor can also be added with stuffings and sauces, and they do not need to be complicated. Quartered onions or lemons and sprigs of herbs can infuse a roasted chicken with a lovely flavor. Try cutting thin slits or pockets into leg of lamb or pork loin and stuffing them with a paste of herbs or slivered garlic. Grain- and vegetable-based stuffings can take the place of fat-laden ones, and a jus lié or a contemporary accompaniment of puréed fruits or vegetables can take the place of gravy. Before deglazing the roasting pan, the drippings should be clarified; or heat them until the solids and juices drop to the bottom of the pan and the fat rises to the top. Pour or spoon off the fat before adding the deglazing liquid.
Portion-sized baked items are perfect candidates for a flavorful crust. Coating items with seasoned toppings protects them from drying out and creates a crispy coating. Try using dried potato flakes or rice flakes, bread crumbs or panko, cornflake or cracker crumbs, cornmeal, finely ground dried mushrooms, finely chopped nuts, or pastes.
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