Update: March 23, 2012
March 23, 2012 § 1 Comment
So, I haven’t been posting nearly as much as I would have liked. A million excuses. But the best one is that I’ve done a couple of cooking lessons recently. I think they both went really well, and I’m excited to continue on this path. I figured that before I get back into the serious business of explaining techniques and tips for working in the kitchen, I’d share a bit about these first two lessons.
First, I had a coworker request lessons in cooking Japanese food. I decided on doing salmon shioyaki (salt-broiled salmon), a cucumber & seaweed salad with sweet vinegar dressing, a chunky pork stew, and the classic staple, short grain rice. We went to the store together so that I could show him where to find some specialized ingredients that might otherwise be difficult to track down. Some of the staples of Japanese cooking – short grain rice, mirin, rice wine vinegar.
At the store, we ran into a bit of a snag: I was hoping to find instant dashi at New Seasons, but was unable to do so. (Dashi is a mild broth made from dried fish flakes and seaweed. It has a subtle smokey fish flavor.) Thinking on my feet, I grabbed a couple tins of canned salmon, and was able to simmer that to get a similar smokey and fishy broth for the pork stew. Not ideal, but it was the best substitution I could come up with in a pinch.
Back at the client’s home, I showed him how to make a basic broth from the canned salmon, and then strain this and use it as the basis for a soup. I also showed him how to make short grain rice – rinsing it thoroughly, allowing it to cook without removing the lid, letting it stand before fluffing it. The salmon shioyaki is one of my favorites – so simple, yet completely delicious. Simply sprinkle the salmon with salt – heavy on the skin side, and lighter on the flesh – and place under the broiler skin side up until the skin is crispy and the salmon is cooked through.
The next lesson was with a different group of people, and the menu was chicken thigh with crispy skin, sauteed kale, and a quinoa pilaf with candied pecans and golden raisins. [An aside: the question came up of what exactly a pilaf was. I said I was using it generically to mean, "stuff added in." Katie and Bryan - if you are reading this, "pilaf" is rice cooked in a seasoned broth.] We started by making a basic stock with the bones from the chicken thighs and a basic mirepoix (carrots, celery and onion) which we would use for making the quinoa, as well as making a sauce for the chicken.
I also went over two ways of cutting an onion – a small dice (1/4″ X 1/4″ X 1/4″, in a perfect world) and a brunoise (1/8″ X 1/8″ X 1/8″). The small diced onions got sauteed with the kale stems, before adding the leafy greens, and the brunoised onions were added to the quinoa. The candied pecans were first coated in egg white, then tossed in a mixture of sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg, and a bit of salt. The golden raisins were reconstituted briefly in some white wine with bay leaf and cinnamon.
The chicken was done on high heat – smoking oil whenever you do meat in a pan – with the skin side down first. Once it got golden brown and crisp, I flipped the chicken and added some sherry wine and chicken stock to the pan, which reduced as the chicken cooked. By the time the chicken was done, there was a tasty sauce to go with the rest of the meal.
All in all, I had a great time doing both these lessons, and can’t wait to get another group together. There were discussions of doing Chinese or Indian cooking on the next outing with my second group, so I may be working on a primer lesson for one of these cuisines. I’m also working on making fliers to take around town, and I should have some business cards printed up in the coming weeks. Exciting times. It’s hard to believe that it’s only been four months since I started this blog and I’ve already got a couple lessons under my belt. Thank you all for supporting the Evolution of Eating!