Thursday, February 19, 2009

Culinary Epiphanies 101

So I'm taking this cooking class - well, cooking course to be more accurate, seeing as it's every Thursday night for the next 6 months. And come every Thursday, I'm tired, crabby, and don't really feel like hauling myself out to Gaithersburg for 3+ hours of social interaction after a long day at work. But I still go, begrudging my decision and my husband's support of me having an "activity."

And you know what? As soon as I get there, I remember why I decided I needed this activity to begin with. It's not your average sit-and-watch-the-chef-cook demo, or even one of those themed classes with three courses and a bunch of wine (though the wine would be nice). Instead, each week is focused on the techniques around approaching a particular type of food (i.e., stocks, soups, vegetables, grains, poultry). No detailed recipes are shared, and we only get mere tastes of each dish the chef demos before we have a go at them ourselves, but that's the whole point - to try in class, then to go really internalize these techniques by practicing on our own back at home. And the stuff we learn is amazing! Hey, it may not be the sexiest cooking class around, but having weekly culinary epiphanies is pretty darn cool.

Take last week for example: I always wondered why mushrooms at good restaurants always have such a firm, delicious, mushroomy flavor and texture, and why the mushrooms I cook never measure up. And now I know!

1. Clean off your mushrooms with a damp towel to remove any dirt.
2. Chop your mushrooms to the desired size.
3. Heat a saute pan over high heat - DO NOT ADD FAT.
4. When the pan is hot, add your mushrooms; sear for about 5 minutes, until they take on color.
5. Add a few tablespoons of water or wine to the pan - this will help soak up all the browned bits that have stuck to the bottom (called deglazing). You can also just add a few pinches of salt to the mushrooms - the salt leeches out the water in the mushrooms and they deglaze the pan all by themselves.
6. Ta-da! Gorgeous, firm, mushroomy mushrooms.

So, tired and crabby though I am, I'll go tonight, donning my little chef jacket and the knife set they made me buy, looking every bit the Top Chef wannabe I am, and looking forward to more little epiphanies to share.

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