It all started out pretty well. Chef Olive, our entertaining French instructor, gave a 90-minute lecture and demo on sautéing, stir frying, nutrition, selecting proper pots, salt, mushrooms, heat, proteins, meat/oxygen/fiber, shaving Brussels sprouts, re-hydrating dried out food, how to make homemade popcorn, perfecting ratatouille, and flambé technique. Whew! I guess I should have known that the last half of the class would be equally fast-paced. Our assignment? Make 7 recipes in 90 minutes.
Each row of students was thrown together into small groups; like baby birds being thrust out of the nest by the mama bird, the only way we knew how to proceed was to “wing it.” And we pretty much flew off a cliff.
We did know that the first thing to do was mis en plas, get everything into place. So all 20 students and 5 staff went running in all directions like chickens with their heads cut off grabbing bowls, spoons, condiments, eggs, herbs, etc. I don’t know how it was for the other groups, but we spent the first 5 minutes staring at our handouts wondering who should do what. So we just skipped that step and therefore never had everything in place because no one was assigned to get the cilantro, or the bowl, or the oil.
Our first recipe only had five ingredients. 5 people working with 5 ingredients sounds easy doesn’t it? Ever heard the phrase too many cooks in the kitchen?
And from there, it went downhill.
I threw in the towel after the shaved Brussels sprout fatless bacon disaster and started my own version of an Asparagus Mushroom & Leek Frittata. Having made a frittata from the Starving Students cookbook in college, I was somewhat familiar with the dish but needed coaching. No coaches were present so I gamely proceeded. When Chef showed up, I had already poured my eggs into a big, shallow sauté pan. I saw a flash of Gordon Ramsey in Chef Olive’s face before he barked, “that is NOT a frittata,that’s an omelet!” At that point, I burst out laughing and wished I had brought wine.
What I learned:
- The best non-stick pans are like Anolon, the non-sticky stuff is part of the pan, it will never burn off.
- Chef Olive says oil burning in a pan is as bad for you as a non-stick pan, and neither is a big threat if you eat a healthy diet and take care of yourself.
- If a pan has high sides, it is a frying pan, curved sides are sautépans. It you can’t flip food in it, it’s a frying pan.
- You must blanche or pre-cook fat veggies like thick green beans or they will burn before the inside cooks.
- Fresh veggies only need salt to taste good.
- Chef Olive doesn’t think there is any reason to buy fancy salt. I’ll have to do a blind taste test to see if he’s right.
- Blanche/pre-cook veggies until they are ready to eat, the sauté part is really fast.
- High water content veggies (like mushrooms) cook fast.
- What I learned about meat was worth the price of the class but it’s too complicated to write here. In a nutshell, tender meats are from animals or parts of animals that don’t move much, like a chicken breast.
- Marinade proteins so they aren’t so boring when you stir fry them.
- Heat pan over high heat and add fat before sautéing.
- See tips from knife class if you want everything to cook at the same time.
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