Sunday, July 13, 2008

Try a Cooking Class!

As you’ve no doubt figured out, the Food Bully loves to cook! To be honest, this has evolved over time. Even as a kid attending college and grad school, I would always try and have a square meal (salad, meat or fish known as “protein” in today’s food world, vegetables), and would spend the time shopping and preparing decent (if not always very creative) meals.

In addition, as a student who loved to eat, had a limited budget, but with romantic aspirations, I invited dates over for home-cooked dinners. I still remember the time I spent many hours preparing a complicated Chinese meal (including a hand pulled shredded chicken moo shu’s), only to learn that my date was bulimic! My cooking talents, however, were key in helping to seduce my wife!

At this time, I was somewhat cooking challenged , with limited knowledge (unless you consider the high school “home ec” course-- also taken to meet girls). As I had never paid much attention to my Mom’s cooking, most of my cooking skills are self taught, driven by my desire to eat excellent food.

My food focus and cooking experimentation has grown over time, as:
1. I’ve realized that it’s not hard to cook, and I can actually cook very well. (I’m not being boastful, but I just don’t know many people who are better home cooks).
2. I’ve become increasingly disappointed at overpaying for relatively expensive mediocre meals (average ~$100 for two), that seem to be the norm around NYC, which are not as good as we eat at home.

Anyway, my wife and I spent Friday night taking a “Some Like It Hot” cooking course at the Institute of Culinary Education (“ICE”) in Manhattan, Our instructor Loren Banco was excellent, and a fun time was had by all.

If you haven’t taken a cooking course, I’d highly recommend giving it a try, for ~$100 a head, you get to prepare and eat a terrific meal, including homemade cocktails, wine and beer. We’ve taken several courses at ICE including a terrific Indian cooking course with James Oseland, now the editor-in-chief of Saveur Magazine, The courses make for a fun time as you meet some interesting people of all ages (couples and singles), learn new meal preparation tips (e.g. knife skills), and get to sample generous amounts of new foods.

On Friday, we prepared a primarily Pan Asian meal, as every dish included hot peppers of different varieties. I was excited to learn how to make a pork vindaloo (probably my favorite Indian entrée), and how to prepare fried calamari with a habanero mayonnaise (btw, I’m embarrassed to admit I had never worked with squid before, even though I love them!). Preparing the calamari was very easy, and it came out great.

In addition to the dishes above, my favorites were Kung Pao Chicken, and the Spicy Ginger Cookie and Vanilla Ice Cream Sandwiches (despite some technical difficulties with the freezer not being quite cold enough). And the Sangrita cocktail which accompanied the meal was hot!

All in all, it was a terrific night, although we did have to make one trade-off at the class.

The classes are about 15 people, we split into 3 groups. You choose which dishes to make from the pre-selected menu, and given my interest in the vindaloo and calamari, we went to that group. Of course, we probably should have been a bit wary of our co-chefs, as one of them came to class in their own apron, wielding a personal knife set and portable food thermometer. It worked out fine, and this co-chef was a nice guy who came to class with chili brownies for everyone—but there was a bit of early “cookmanship”, so just a word of caution. Most of the group was relatively inexperienced —so no need to be intimidated.

The Bully recommends: “Try a cooking class; you’ll have a great time!”

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