Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Culinary Classes @ICE

In a burst of inspiration, I decided to sign up for a Chinese cooking class at the Institute of Culinary Education (ICE). A short background - though I have been cooking for years now, I felt that I am a hit-or-miss kind of a cook. There have been moments of culinary brilliance and then there have been moments when most of what I've made end up in the trash. Trashy moments usually happen when I decide to veer off the recipe or the tried-and-true method.

So I thought to sign up for Chinese cooking to get myself some good basic skills. I knew about ICE from a friend who works there and another friend who have taken classes there. Both have raving reviews. So I tried it.

I loved it. It was great. Under the tutelage of Chef Lillian Chou (former food editor at Gourmet Magazine), I learned to fold a dumpling (I know that I must be the only Chinese woman who doesn't know how to fold one properly), stir fry and steam. A small chunk of the class was about seasoning a wok. Though I have read about this before, I have never done it. Seasoning not only embeds flavor into the wok but makes the cooking surface pretty non-stick. I haven't tried this out yet, but stay tuned.

The recipes were good. We were taught to make a basic chicken stock, rice balls (meatballs with rice around it), velvet scallops with snap peas, soy sauce chicken, wontons, potstickers, steamed sea bass and more. The ingredients are top notch. The scallops were huge as were the shrimp and sea bass. The chef did a great job showing us the basics from washing rice, checking freshness of fish, etc. These are the few things I actually know but it would be a great class for beginners.

I loved that the recipes were of things that I would actually make. There is another Chinese cooking class in the roster that was more for Chinese take out. How many ways can I say "bleh" to that?

A new discovery for me was water chestnuts. I thought I hated water chestnuts. It always seemed to taste bland and metallic. Whenever I see it in a dish, I would do my best to steer clear of it. She brought in fresh water chestnuts which we peeled and ate raw. It was actually good, sort of stronger tasting pear. Wow. So wow that I snuck one out to give to the kids. They loved it and wanted more.

After the flurry of cooking, everyone assembles for the meal that we prepared with bottles of wine. What a way to spend a weekend.

Postscript - It has been 2 weeks since the class and I think my kids are enjoying the results. I have been making my own stock, working on the perfect slurry, using different combinations. Cooking is a work in progress but I am enjoying it more now than I did before. I am now on the hunt for the next class. Maybe Korean or Indian. Anyone interested?

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