#24: Take a Cooking Class
Sheer panic. That's how I'd describe the first 10 minutes of this experience.
As two single, busy, culinarily-deficient New Yorkers, Tamra Paselk and I thought a cooking class was a grand idea. Domestic goddesses, we would be! Magicians in the kitchen! We'd learn the tricks of the trade and come away with a few extra knife skills that would make Tom Colicchio proud!
With delusions of grander, we took our seats at the Institute of Culinary Education. The course outline was handed out. And that's when our excitement became utter terror. We were deer facing headlights. This wasn't a "basics" cooking class at all!
This was a five-course French meal!
This was a vegetable, a spice, a term, a food I've never heard of.
This was...wait...a chocolate soufflé?!
I may have uttered a few expletives.
There was no turning back. So, after failing to find an escape route, we put on our aprons, picked up our knives, and prepared for disaster.
We were paired with a newlywed med-school couple, henceforth known as "Team 3" . Our team was responsible for:
1: Vegetarian Bouillabaisse with made-from-scratch stock
2: Gruyère Gougères
3: Asparagus with Poached Eggs and Hollandaise Sauce
4: Salad (yes, ok!) and the dreaded..
5: Chocolate Soufflé
I took no photos of the nearly-three hour odyssey. Sorry. My hands were too covered in god-knows-what. The amount of veggie-chopping that ensued was intense. There was an unfortunate egg-poaching incident. The sticky goo of roasted garlic cloves went everywhere. Hot potatoes were dropped. Cold milk was spilled. Too much sugar was added. But you know what? Nobody lost a finger, so I consider that a notable success!
And I did learn that a red pepper could be cooked like THIS:
And I learned that a chocolate soufflé base included separating 10 egg whites from yolks...my job. Turns out, I'm a whiz at egg separation and Tamra channeled Julia Child in her expert mixing of chocolate and eggs and butter. Lots and LOTS of butter!
Med-school wifey Jessica took on the daunting task of whipping my egg whites into "peaks". We watched in hypnotic amazement.
A brief pause in freaked-out cooking for a Team 3 selfie!!!
A set table served as a reminder that we will, in fact, be eating what we create. And there will be WINE! Empty plates and glasses = motivation.
The team next to us were tasked with making Cauliflower Gratin which was basically heaven in a pan. Good thing it wasn't on our list...it wouldn't have made it to the plates.
Course One complete: the fancy French veggie soup that Tam and I spend 2 hours of our lives making. It looks simple in the bowels but it was, in reality, an endeavor that required all our mental and emotional strength. There are veggies in there we couldn't identify. "Is this a turnip??" and "does anyone know what a fennel bulb is??" were phrases tossed around during our scramble toward culinary greatness.
But those soufflés..ohhhhhhhh, the soufflés!!! They were delicious beyond words! Now, in full disclosure, this photo wasn't our soufflés. Ours was in the oven. Ours was a bit crunchier and deflated on top but it was still yummy! This one was created by Team 2 and was as close to perfect as any of us got!
After a job well done, 12 students and 1 chef toasted our success and sat down to a decent French meal. We'd done it!! And nobody bled!!
Special thanks to Chef Sandy Murzin for your patience, your humor, and your ability to keep us from running out of the room.
I tip my hat to all you cooks out there who endure this level of intensity every day! And cheers to the people who invented food delivery services to ensure I NEVER have to do this again!