Teaching people how to cook always amazes me because no two classes are ever the same: different menus, different ingredients, different tastes, different personalities, different skill levels, always interesting.
When people email me about what kind of classes I teach, I always respond that I teach whatever you want to cook and eat. Although I'm trained in classical French cuisine, my years as a recipe tester with both Cook's Illustrated and now with CHOW.com have given me the opportunity to explore all kinds of cuisines and recipes. The only thing people tend to forget is that these lessons have to be in San Francisco Bay Area, sorry Boston! (not unless you'd like to foot the bill for me to travel to where you are!)
Here are some menus from a few recent private cooking classes in people's homes, they were yummy and fun!
Braised Pork Chops and Fennel sweet onions, vermouth, crème fraîche, lemon, served with baguette
Sautéed Green Beans and Bacon shallots, parsley vinaigrette
Dark Chocolate Ganache Tart brandied whipped cream
Asparagus à la Vinaigrette lemon zest, toasted almonds, garlic
I forgot how much I like teaching...been teaching a few private classes this past month to a wide range of teens, adults, and non-cooks. It's always fun to see what people learn and their general enthusiasm for food, whether they just like to cook or they want to learn skills to cook for their children.
Tonight was fun, with two adults and three teens doing a Chinese wok class. Forgot to take photos, but here's what we made!
Manila Clams with Homemade Black Bean-Garlic Sauce
Stir Fried Beef with Snap Peas, Carrots, and Ginger
Cantonese Fried Rice with Chinese Sausage
Fresh Mango Pudding
Here's to more classes and more fun! I have some photos from a class earlier this month, hopefully will post along with menu soon.
In the name of wedding "research"...raspberry and caramel pecan. They don't have Ispahan, but I'll live.
These are gorgeous, and I keep hiding them so I won't eat them until after dinner. Yes, that is a Pierre Hermé bag in the background to help me pretend I'm in Paris. Funnily enough, these macarons are also sitting on Pierre Herme's Emotion glasses. Paulette Macarons San Francisco 437 Hayes Valley San Francisco, CA 94102
When working from home, lunch is usually small plates eaten throughout the day versus a regular meal. It all depends on how much energy I have, what recipes I may be testing, and just my general mood.
Faced with some gorgeous spring asparagus, I knew that simple would be best. I started by peeling my asparagus, the French training kicking in. To be honest, thick asparagus is usually juicier, and somehow peeled asparagus seems sweeter than thin ones. I like thin asparagus sautéed or stir fried with sauce, but when steaming, the bigger, the better.
Soft-boiled 6-minute eggs with runny yolks, some truffle salt, and tiny drizzles of lemon juice and olive oil completed the simple meal. Oh, and I did I mention the shavings of an amazing Belgian cheese we picked up at Formaggio Kitchen the last time we were in Boston? It's called Boerenkaas Alt, aged 30 months, and we were lucky to be in the shop when it first arrived and was tasted by the staff. When they tell you, "You gotta taste this," you listen. They couldn't sell it to us immediately because it hadn't been entered into their system yet, but we made sure we bought a big chunk to bring home. We still have a small chunk, but I'm tempted to go online to order more! Anyway, it's nutty, complex and a perfect foil to asparagus and creamy egg.
I'm pretty sure this meal clocked in under or close to 300 calories (150 if you had a half portion as a starter). Wouldn't you rather eat this for lunch than some frozen meal or fast food? If only I ate this well everyday...
Spring Asparagus with 6-Minute Eggs Serves 2 as a starter or 1 as a main course
8 spears of asparagus, the thicker the better 2 large eggs Parmesan, Gouda, Borenkaas Alt or other hard, nutty cheese Fleur de sel, truffle salt, or your favorite finishing salt Fresh lemon juice Extra-virgin olive oil
Trim and peel asparagus. Boil in salted water until just tender, 2 - 3 minutes. Place in an ice bath until cold, then drain and pat dry. Place on serving platter or plates.
Bring a small saucepan of water to a boil. Very carefully slip in eggs and cook for 6 minutes. Drain and place in an ice bath until cool enough to handle. Carefully peel eggs and place on top of asparagus, cutting in half if desired.
Shave cheese with a vegetable peeler over asparagus and eggs, sprinkle generously with salt, and drizzle with lemon juice and olive oil.
I collect cookbooks and worked as a cookbook buyer briefly, enjoying every moment. However, if you are wary about investing in them, have you ever tried your local library? My little library in Alameda has a surprising number of old and new cookbooks, including a few food literature books. My last haul included Ruth Riechl's Garlic & Sapphires, Marco Pierre White's The Devil in the Kitchen, and A16: Food & Wine.
I love the idea of a cookbook having a huge section on wine before you even get to the recipes. I like interesting, flavorful, and light recipes even more. Get this cookbook.
I've had two meals at A16 before, both good. The restaurant itself has a crazy controlled madness to it, not too different from Au Pied de Cochon in Montréal. An octopus recipe caught my eye - where can I find a whole octopus that's uncooked? It's proving surprisingly difficult to find here, maybe because they are quite large and I can see fishmongers not really wanting to carry an unpopular product that takes a lot of space. But I'm determined!
Last night, I made Short Ribs alla Genovese, which were a hit. Not only do you get tender meat and sauce, but plenty of sweet braised onions that will go into a French onion soup tonight. I loved the fact that even though the recipe didn't call for stock, it was flavorful and easy, especially served with creamy polenta and broccoli.
Get this cookbook!
After resisting Myspace and Facebook, I randomly find myself now on Twitter. Let's see where this goes!
A few weeks ago, I was treated to a great dinner at Gary Danko. It's an amazing place not only for its excellent service but because you can compose your 3-course meal in the order you want and the kitchen will tailor the portions accordingly.
I had their risotto as my main course, chock full of lobster and porcini mushrooms. It was hearty, creamy, and to top it off, a huge portion. Delicious.
Last week, I encountered boxes of arborio and carnaroli rice at the Berkeley Bowl, both on sale for the same price. I decided to pick up carnaroli rice, something I'd never cooked with, plus it had a more expensive original price than the arborio - more value for the money!
Deciding what to do with it was a little daunting, as I think I've only made risotto once before. Turns out carnaroli rice is a slightly longer grain than arborio and cooks up extremely creamy and beautiful. It's sometimes called the king of rice. As for what to do with it, I'm currently in the process of cataloguing the contents of the freezer and using up as much as I can, so I zoned in on some shrimp, bacon, and the rest of my homemade stash of chicken stock.
Patience is key to making this dish, as each component is cooked slowly to develop layers of flavor. You also need patience if you want the texture of the rice to be perfectly al dente but creamy at the same time, as you need to keep an eye on it to monitor the consistency. I loved seeing the rice go from a hard pearly grain to slowly breaking down and creating its own creamy sauce.
The crispy bacon I saved as a garnish really made the dish though. It added depth and a texture contrast, but then again, bacon is always a good idea! I love how risotto gets its creaminess naturally without any dairy, but I did add some butter at the end to produce a deeper, richer flavor. I refrained from adding any Parmesan though, as I'm still not certain that cheese and shrimp are a good combination.
We have some leftover risotto now in the fridge, which I can't wait to cover in panko and fry into risotto cakes for dinner tomorrow. There's also been an idea brewing in my head about using the rest of the carnaroli rice in a take on Chinese sticky rice. The possibilities are endless!
Shrimp and Bacon Risotto Serves 4 as a first course
Remember to season heavily as you add broth, tasting the cooking liquid as you go. Be careful of oversalting if using salted chicken broth.
4 slices of thick-cut bacon, diced into 1/4-inch pieces 1/2 onion, diced 1 1/4 cup arborio or carnaroli rice 1/2 cup white wine 5 - 6 cups of homemade or low-sodium chicken broth Kosher salt 1/3 pound raw shrimp, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch pieces 2 Tablespoons unsalted butter 1 Tablespoon chopped parsley
Place cold bacon in a medium saucepan and cook over low heat until all fat is rendered and bacon is crispy, about 10 minutes. Transfer bacon to a paper towel-lined plate and reserve.
Pour off extra fat but do not clean pan. Add onion, a pinch of salt, and cook over medium-low heat until onion is softened but not browned, about 8 minutes. Meanwhile, heat chicken broth in a separate pot to a simmer and keep at a simmer.
Add rice to onions and stir for 1 minute, until rice is coated with fat. Add wine and cook until it is absorbed into rice.
Add stock to just cover rice, stirring constantly and keeping heat at a low simmer. As stock is absorbed, add more a ladleful at a time, until the rice turns creamy and is suspended in its own starch, about 20 - 30 minutes total. Season generously with salt as you add broth, tasting the cooking liquid as you go. Rice is done when is it almost cooked through with just a bit of bite to be al dente. (If you run out of stock, use water.) About 2 minutes before rice is cooked, add shrimp and stir to combine and cook.
Adjust seasoning as needed and stir in butter.
To serve, divide risotto among bowls, sprinkle with reserved bacon and parsley.