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.
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.
Next we learned how to use a knife like the professionals. We were taught to chop, slice, julienne and dice vegetables quickly and without losing any fingers. For those of you who want to learn some of those skills, here are some great videos on You Tube. For those who would prefer to cheat, I suggest buying this amazing tool called the Vidalia Chop Wizard. (Because sometimes you don’t have time to be a professional, you just want to look like one.)
The rewards of our labor came at the end of the evening when we were served grilled chicken with caramelized “julienne” not “sliced” onions and orange segments. Roasted diced potatoes and a refreshing Thai style shredded cabbage salad nicely rounded out the meal. The food was cooked for us this time, but next week we will be getting our hands in the mix.
Today’s Featured Recipe:
I thought this salad made the perfect accompaniment for grilled shrimp so I added that recipe as well.
- 3 T lemon juice
- 1 T. brown sugar or palm sugar
- 2 tsp. Thai fish sauce
- 1 medium to small green cabbage, finely shredded
- 1 small red onion, sliced thin
- 3 peeled and grated carrots
- ½ c. chopped mint leaves
- ½ c. chopped cilantro leaves
- 1 T peanut oil (I used olive oil and worked fine)
- lb fresh shrimp (30-40) peeled and deveined
- ½ c. cilantro, finely chopped
- 1-2 limes, juiced (lemon works as well)
- 4 T olive oil
- In a large mixing bowl, stir together the lemon juice, sugar and fish sauce until the sugar is dissolved. Add the cabbage, onion, carrot, mint, cilantro and oil. Toss the salad well.
- Marinate the shrimp with cilantro, lime juice and olive oil for no more than 30 minutes. Grill shrimp one minute per side or until pink and the shrimp have curled. Serve with cabbage salad.
Quote of the Day
“Learn to cook – try new recipes, learn from your mistakes, be fearless, and above all have fun!” - Julia Child
…and then, she paused for thought.
Hope you have enjoyed our adventure in the culinary classroom. Join us each week as we continue learning new culinary skills.