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methods & madness… 
recipes & ramblings from the culinary classroom

Thai Style Cabbage Salad with Grilled Shrimp

In the beginning…

As a child growing up on the farm, I remember loving to help my mother in the kitchen. At the wee age of one I was allowed to watch… and learn.  As mom kneaded bread, I played with the dough.  Soon I was baking mud pies in the sun, eventually graduating to edible cakes. My favorite part was food coloring and the creative license that came with it. Purple cake with green frosting, blue cake with magenta frosting…I mean really, why did they print color combinations on the back of the box if I wasn’t supposed to use them?

It has been many years since my cow pie inspired baking days. My inspiration these days come from culinary classrooms. “Hi, my name is Cathy and I am a cooking class junkie.”

Tiring of recreational classes, I recently upped the ante with a 20-week professional chef course at The New School of Cooking.  If you have ever dreamed of taking chef courses, or if you are a closet Food Network fan, I invite you to join my journey.  I will be sharing the adventure with my friend Rona Lewis who has penned two cookbooks.

Class One

I was already stressed after dealing with LA traffic, but quickly relaxed after meeting my fellow chefs in the making. First, we received our white chef coats, along with an explanation of how they worked and why.  I didn’t realize there was so much to this simple garment.  The double-breasted jacket can be buttoned both ways… In case you spill, you can simply cover it up by switching sides… clever! The second order of business, was receiving handouts of rules, regulations and other pertinent, but boring stuff. The real prize was an encyclopedia looking book called The Professional Chef from the Culinary Institute of America. Score!

Parlez vous francais?

I was thrilled to discover a bonus – not only was this a cooking class, but I would be learning French as well since so many cooking terms are taken from the language.  I couldn’t remember them all, let alone spell them.  I am still regretting taking German in college.  Our first term was Mise En Place (meez ahn plahs) “everything in its place”.  It aptly describes the preparation and assembly of all ingredients and equipment prior to cooking.  We learned that a well-organized cook is the basis for a great chef.  Oh dear…I could be in trouble. Continue Reading →

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in praise of perfect popovers…

BLT Steak, LA - Popovers

PHOTOGRAPHY BY: CATHY NELSON ARKLE

I am a cooking class junkie.  There… I said it. Whew.  Cooking is my newest obsession.  I have traded in my paints, brushes and canvases for food, utensils, and pans.  Instead of mixing watercolors, I mix herbs, oils and strange vegetables that I hated as a child.  I find the smells coming from my oven to be more intoxicating that those old oil paints that could send your head spinning.

 BLT Steak, LA Restaurant             BLT Steak, LA Restaurant - drinks

I recently took an “Easter Dishes” class at one of my favorite L.A. restaurants… BLT.  For the locals, it is in the old Le Dome building on Sunset Blvd.  In the class we actually got to learn about and experience mouth watering food in the kitchen of a legendary restaurant in LA. Chef Brian Moyers started with their famous popovers.  Now if you haven’t had a good popover…it is worthy of a trip to BLT, or at least trying to make your own at home.  These culinary wonders are a distant cousin to England’s pride and joy – Yorkshire Pudding.

Funny thing about popovers…they are visually challenged and full of hot air. I know many people like this, but I am not singing their praises. What qualities popovers lack, they make up for in depth & richness.  Just goes to show you that there are redeeming values in everyone.

BLT gives you the recipe for popovers if you eat at their establishment, but Chef Brian revealed the secrets to us and that is what I want to share with you….but you didn’t hear this from me!  I rushed out to Bed Bath & Beyond to buy my popover pan as I knew that I was about to be promoted from “fakes her way in the kitchen” to “food goddess” with this new recipe.

              

There are three secrets to great popovers;
a) pre-heat the pan
b) the temperature of the milk when you add it to the mix
b) straining the batter

Straining the batter?  What a strange concept to me, but I guess it gets those micro lumps out.  A chinois works best, but I used a regular metal strainer and it worked just fine.  I have to say…my popovers turned out every bit as good as Chef Brian’s…to his credit.  Thanks Brian!

            

Perfect Popovers

Yields 6 amazing popovers.
Double the recipe if you are lucky enough to have 2 popover pans.

Ingredients

  • 2 cups whole milk warmed – almost to a boil and pull it off 
  • 4 eggs
  • 2 cups flour (let the flour rest after measuring it)
  • 3/4 tablespoon salt
  • 1 cup grated Gruyere

Preparation

  1. Place the popover pan in the oven.  Heat the oven and pan to 350 degrees.
  2. Gently warm the milk over low heat until it almost boils and the pull it off and set aside.
  3. Whisk the eggs until frothy in your mixer and then slowly whisk in the milk (so as not to cook the eggs) Set the mixture aside.
  4. Sift the flour with the salt.  Slowly add this dry mixture to the egg mixture and gently combine until mostly smooth.
  5. Strain batter through a chinois or any metal strainer. Rest batter between 10-50 minutes.
  6. After resting period, remove popover pan from the oven and spray with non-stick vegetable spray.  While the batter is still slightly warm or room temperature (definitely not cool) fill each popover 3/4 full
  7. Sprinkle each popover with grated Gruyere.
  8. Bake at 350 degrees for 50 minutes, until golden brown, rotating pan half a turn after 25 minutes of baking.
  9. Remove from the oven & pan and serve immediately.

To reheat popovers put them in a hot oven for 5 minutes.

I hope you praise these perfect popovers as much as I do.
…and then she paused for thought 

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