I’ve been cooking for years. And I mean years, as in the exquisite mud pies I made starting at the tender culinary age of 4. Even though I know how to cook a lot of things, and enjoy doing so most of the time, I know there’s always a lot more I can learn. And that goes for you too! We can all learn to be better cooks. Sure, we can watch all of those cooking shows on TV but there’s something about being with a real, live chef who will guide you, correct you, answer your questions on the spot and then feed you a good meal. You can’t beat that!
That’s why I jumped at the chance to take in a class at Cook Street School of Culinary Arts. Of all of their many choices for topics, including “Italian Classics,” “Pasta! Pasta! Pasta!,” “Steak and Spirits” and “Everybody Loves Bacon” (HELLO!), I chose “A World of Taste – Thai” because I love Thai cuisine but am pretty intimidated by it. Every cookbook I’ve seen has so many ingredients and really bizarre ones that I’d probably only use once and never again. But the Cook Street class looked like it was going to be more doable and approachable and so I went.
The facility at Cook Street is great – spacious, with a large surround-seating area where you sit to get your instructions and eat what you’ve made. Some of the instruction is done for the whole group but then you break off into smaller groups in one of the three kitchens to put your learning to the test. Chef Erin and Chef Adam were our guides. They were patient, funny as all get out and very knowledgeable.
For this particular class, we were slated to learn to make (and then eat) Tom Yum soup (with shrimp and mussels), Crab Rangoon, Pad Thai and a delicate cookie called Khanom Kleeb Lamduan. After nibbling on a lovely cheese and meat platter to tide us over, we started in with our instruction. As an added bonus, Chef Adam took a few minutes to teach us some knife skills that included the proper way to hold a knife (I’d been doing it wrong all my life), how to maneuver it and some wonderful tips for how to break open, peel and chop garlic (I’d been doing that wrong all my life too). (See the tips below).
Besides finding out that the ingredients weren’t weird, that we regular folks really could turn out a delicious and impressive meal, we had fun. A bunch of strangers came together, bonded over preparing food and got to know each other, laughing a lot. On this particular night, there were couples, friends, parents with their adult kids and people going solo, like me. I was perfectly comfortable being there on my own but it would be a very fun thing to do for a date or with friends. In fact, Cook Street offers bachelorette and even wedding reception gatherings.
Cooking classes are a great deal when you think about it. For the price of $89 for my class, we ate, we drank, we laughed, we learned a heck of a lot and we walked away with the recipes and ability to replicate it all at home. I left feeling much more capable in the kitchen and with renewed interest in cooking. And the Pad Thai I can now make is so much better than my mud pie with pebble and grass frosting! I’ve come a long way.
1. To smash open a whole head of garlic into individual cloves, hold the garlic head with the bottom end in your palm and the pointy tips up. Turn your hand over, hitting the head into the counter. All of the individual cloves will come loose.
2. To get the peels off, gently twist each clove, releasing the skins.
3. Slice the clove down the middle lengthwise first. If it has a green center, peel that out because it’s going to be bitter.
4. Don’t use a garlic press because you lose a lot of the wonderful essences of the garlic. Instead, slice it in multiple directions to get smaller pieces.
5. To get rid of the garlic smell, just rub your hands on something made of stainless steel and it will remove the odors. Maybe not your refrigerator. A spoon would be good…
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