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Fine Cooking I, Day 1

November 23, 2010

First, I want to note that 11/23 marked 19 months. When I first started this, Twenty Months seemed like such a long time. But its not. Time is such a strange thing, simultaneously so long and so short, so endless and so fleeting. Here we are already in the teens, and surely the single digits before we know it.

In any event, the first day of the cooking class was excellent. Richard Ruben, our instructor, is a funny yet strict presence. He made the four hours fly, is very engaging, and obviously knows what he’s doing. After an introduction we talked about what we had in store for that class and got to it.

We would make a tomato soup, a simple salad with a vinaigrette, seared lamb chops with an herb butter, sauteed broccoli, sauteed potatoes, and a dessert of orange sections macerated in Grand Marnier. Certainly all things we could have made on our own, but again that wasn’t quite the point of the class. We definitely took away some useful pointers.

First, we spent a significant amount of time chopping, dicing, and bruoise-ing. This knife skills aspect was a huge help.We both thought we could chop just fine, and after watching a YouTube video of how to dice an onion we considered ourselves Oh so experienced. Learning and practicing the brunoise method has officially made us masters. Ha.

Moving on to sauteeing it was quite useful to learn to just get a dry pan good and hot before dumping your product in, then pouring the oil over. This helps with splash back, especially when using wetter foods. We also learned the, seemingly obvious, tip of when serving a number of pieces of meat to be sauteed, such as our lamb chops, just sear them all for a quick 30 seconds a side and then finish them in the oven at once to serve. On our lovely cubed potatoes, after you throw them in the hot pan and pour on your oil, just let them be – the constant stirring and messing around is what causes them to break down and turn to mush.

The butter was simple, chopped herbs, salt, pepper, mush around, roll into parchment paper, twist to squeeze out air and freeze briefly. For the vinaigrette it was important to emulsify while slowly whisking olive oil into an emulsification agent (creamy mustard) and the vinegar. Three parts oil to two parts vinegar to one part mustard.

Dessert was delicious. We skinned the orange with our knife and cut out all the segments, which was a nice technique to learn. Then added sugar and the alcohol to macerate them – the alcohol and sugar is drawn into the orange and the orange juices are drawn out to strike a delicious balance. It all takes about one hour.

That was that, we sat down to a nice dinner and some wine and off we went, finally not having to clean up after ourselves.

Looking forward to what class number two brings.

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