learn

Culinary chaos

There are two kinds of people who go to cooking school: those who need to learn something and those who need to prove something. If we’ve ever met, you know where I stand on domestication and therefore, which I fall under.

My mom, who can masterfully cook any- and everything, gifted Joel and I a class at the Miette Culinary Studio for Christmas. We were encouraged when the classes were booked solid for months and thrilled to have an Italian course load offered by Saveur magazine. I was willing to consume pork and bacon for the first time in years just to conquer making gnocchi from scratch. (A bite, calm down)

A big part of my newfound openness to cooking comes from my enchantment with trying new things. My love for the thrill of first-time adventures began traveling abroad in Italy and was revived in my stint at Field & Stream. In a time when I hadn’t even attempted grilled cheese yet, I took a cooking class in Florence and couldn’t believe how enjoyable the endeavor could be. My team of four was completely lost and nearly ruined our meal, but we laughed the entire time and felt a sense of accomplishment when we sat down to enjoy our creation. Likewise I was challenged to try exotic wild dishes for FS and discovered food that gave me the chills could be delightfully good.

When we arrived a portly, messy Italian man peered over the staircase watching us the whole trip up. That could not have made me more nervous. I instantly assumed he was intimidatingly strict and Joel had to force me to ask where the bathroom was when I couldn’t get the courage. The moment I returned he proved otherwise, though. Not only was he Belgian, he was no more than sarcastic and optimally entertaining.

Chef Paul Vandewoude cut right to the chase and nudged us along to stay on schedule all night. He explained what we’d be making, divided us into groups, and demonstrated each group’s station before we got to work. All through what was so unmistakably an Italian accent it made me nostalgic…

No matter how much Joel and I love learning to cook, we could not find it in ourselves to argue with complete strangers over who was going to wilt the spinach. That’s how we ended up with the sole task of buttering bread. Italian bruschetta isn’t what we’ve made it, rather a mixture of olive oil, garlic, and sea salt is applied to both sides of bread slices before baking. The advantage of this job was the unlikelihood of screwing it up for everyone, which took the pressure off.

Most notable on our menu was spinach ricotta gnocchi, tomatoes stuffed with rice, and herb-stuffed pork loin. The chef has his own method for quickly producing 900 gnocchi that are splendid to make and taste, and a simple technique for stuffing pork loin with mixed berries before cooking. Besides the awkwardness of witnessing a grown woman compete with a 21-year-old guy on his birthday before they were stuck sitting next to each other for the feast, the experience was ideal and worth recommending.

The meal could be recreated with the enough time and effort, which is not always the case in cooking class, and the individual lessons can be applied to variations of the foods, like chicken! The class was a fun way to spend our Monday night and undoubtedly provided stories for the future–our favorite outcome.

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