Cooking School Week 1

view from sf

I survived the Tough Mudder run on 9/28 in Lake Tahoe, which was a blast, then I started cooking school 2 days later.  Surprisingly, I was able to stand without pain. šŸ™‚  I’ve decided to chronicle my 6 months of cooking school on a weekly basis.  I just can’t go through this experience without sharing it.  Maybe it will bore you to tears, or you may find some useful information.  Take from it what you wish…or take a nap. šŸ™‚   The truth is, the week was packed full of recipes, demos, and even wine tasting.  My instructor is a wealth of information, and she really is a fabulous teacher.  I’m very lucky to have only 7 other students in my class, and we’re already having a lot of fun while we learn.

The photo above is the view from my 20 minute walk to school from the train.  I never get tired of the beautiful San Francisco views. My school is Tante Marie Cooking School.  It’s small and quaint, but that’s what I love about it.  We’re learning classic French cooking as well as bread baking, etc.  The hardest thing for me so far?  Learning to chop a new way with a new, incredibly sharp knife.  Practice, practice, practice, and hopefully I won’t lose a finger. šŸ™‚

On Day 1, our instructor showed us how to make our own beef and chicken stock, since stock is the building block for the soups we were preparing in class during the week.  Making homemade stock can be time consuming, yes, but when the flavor is there, it’s worth it.  Why make your own when you can buy it?  When it comes to meat stock, you need the gelatin that comes from the bones, and homemade gives you the best results.  I do plan to make some in the near future, but since I’m short on time this weekend, I’ll be using store bought stock for my soups.  Sacrilege!

The first few days we made soups, which I was so excited about.  On the first day we made Soupe au Pistou, or soup with pesto.  It’s basically a French minestrone, and it was packed with veggies and white beans, so it was very hearty.  The pesto brightened it up and made it even better.  We also made (4) other soups, with each person assigned to make one.  I got one of my favorites, French Onion.  Be on the lookout for a post on French Onion soup VERY soon.  We also made butternut squash soup with ginger, potato soup with croutons, and cream of lettuce soup, which I loved!  Here are some photos of our soups:

soup collage week 1

One day we made stuffed mushrooms, Steak au Poivre with peppercorns and a cognac and cream sauce, Parisian potatoes, and lemon mousse with fresh berries for dessert.  That meal was my favorite.  The potatoes were unlike any I’ve ever had before.  A melon baller was used to scoop out balls of potato, then they were boiled and fried with butter, shallots, and thyme.  I was in charge of the lemon mousse.  I haven’t made mousse in a very long time, and it turned out quite well, but I folded the egg whites in a little too much, so it deflated a bit.  It tasted nice and lemony, however, so I was happy.

lemon mousse

On Friday, we actually went to the Blue Victorian Vineyard in Fairfield, CA and toured the winery, tasted wine, and ate a picnic lunch of fresh baked breads, cheeses, salami, and so many other wonderful dishes.  What a way to end the week! šŸ™‚  We were able to eat bunches of the red zinfandel grapes, which were so fruity and robust I could barely stop eating them.  We also witnessed these grapes going through a machine to remove the stems and seeds from the grapes, and saw the vats full of these grapes soaking, getting ready to become wine soon.  Amazing visit, and amazing wine.

wine tasting collage

Here are some useful tips I learned this week for every day cooking:

  • When washing mushrooms, it’s ok to place them in a colander and run them under the water.  I heard years ago that mushrooms would absorb water that way and get soggy, so I’ve used the time consuming process of wiping them one by one with a damp paper towel ever since.  My instructor said as long as you don’t let them soak in water, they’ll be fine.  This is a handy time saver for a mushroom lover like me.
  • When chopping garlic, if you’re using it raw in salad dressing, etc., always remove the green center as it will be bitter.
  • Salting the skin on meat like poultry the night before and leaving it in the fridge overnight will result in a more flavorful meat with a crispier skin after cooking.
  • Always let meat come to room temperature before cooking so that it cooks more evenly.  Always let it rest 5-10 minutes after cooking under a loose tent of foil.  Don’t crimp the foil around it, or the meat will steam.
  • Eggs separate better when they’re cold, and egg whites should be beaten when they’re room temp.
  • Lemons should be room temperature before juicing to get the maximum amount of juice from them.  Rolling them on the counter helps, as well.

I hope you’ve found this a even little interesting!  As I go on, I hope it will be less like rambling and more informative. Happy weekend everybody! šŸ™‚

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