How to Cook 101 Class

On Saturday morning, I attended my first “How to Cook” class at the Institute of Culinary Education – there will be two more classes the next couple Saturdays.

To sum up, the class helped me realize I already know how to cook.

There are about 12 of us in the class and we began by sitting at a long table. We introduced ourselves and shared why we’re taking the class; out of the whole class, I believe there were only 1 or 2 other people, in addition to myself, who ‘fessed up to already knowing how to cook. Otherwise, most people said some variation of “I’m sick of takeout.” Chef Melanie Underwood talked with us for a bit and then we broke up into three groups and made different dishes. My group made a mixed Mediterranean platter, melon and prosciutto, and “chocolate-dipped morsels.” Group 1 made shrimp cocktail, a smoked salmon platter, and “chocolate-dipped morsels.” Group 2 made tomato and mozzarella, guacamole and chips, and “chocolate-dipped morsels.” After we made all our dishes and presented them, we sat down to the table again (which had been set up with full place settings and wine) and enjoyed each other’s food. Good conversation about food ensued.

So, those of you foodies who read my blog, you can guess how under-challenged I felt. However, part of the reason I took the basic class was because I wanted to really master the basics. I wanted to start at the beginning. In that spirit, here are the things I learned from Chef Melanie in our first class that I did not previously know:

1. If an avocado is underripe, sprinkle lime juice and salt on it to make it edible.

2. As a rule, when you taste for seasoning, eat it how you’ll be eating it later. For example, don’t taste the guacamole on a spoon – use a chip. Totally obvious, right? Well, I’ll confess that this never occurred to me.

3. The folks who made the shrimp cocktail poached the shrimp in a court bouillon, which I had never heard of. Here is the recipe given to us:

2 qt water
Freshly squeezed juice of 2 lemons
1 bay leaf
8 black peppercorns (whole)
2 tbsp salt

We were also told that we could use this recipe to poach mushrooms and veggies.

4. If you’re cooking shrimp that haven’t been shelled and deveined, do so after they’re cooked. Cooking the shrimp in the shell gives them more flavor.

5. Don’t refrigerate corn. But refrigerate mushrooms.

6. Domestic prosciutto tastes different than imported because domestic doesn’t have to be aged as long.

7. Belgian endive is pronounced “en-dive” or “ahn-deev” – both pronunciations are correct.

8. Got some old spices that have lost their oomph? Put them in a small skillet on medium heat for 30 seconds before using. BAM!

9. Bibb lettuce? Boston lettuce? Butter lettuce? Yep, all the same thing.

10. Better quality chocolate is less likely to burn. I’ve always used good quality chocolate…but for flavor. Now there’s an additional reason!

And last but not least, I learned that chocolate-dipped potato chips kick ass. Truly. Don’t knock it until you’ve tried it!

Eat, drink, and learn something(s) new every day

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