Monday, August 31, 2009

Cooking Lessons

At various points, a few people in my class have asked me to teach them how to cook something. To some degree, there's not too many things that I cook that are really interesting at all for people to learn, or that they couldn't just figure out from reading some recipe instructions, but gnocchi is something that may be useful to have someone show you how to do the first time. So, I gathered a few of the people who have asked for cooking "lessons" at my place.

Of course, wine and antipasti are the most important part of cooking any meal:

Then it was on to making the dough. The basic recipe I used goes a little something like this:

For 4 people:
1 lb. starchier potatoes (King Edwards are great, russets if you can't get those)
1 egg yolk
Roughly 1 cup 00 flour (AP is fine if you don't have 00)

Cover the potatoes in their skins with water in a pot, put it on the flame and bring to a boil. Simmer until cooked. For faster cooking, peel and cut potatoes first then boil, but you have to dry them out over a low flame or in a low oven after that. Peel each potato (try to do this before people arrive or they'll be really bored and start taking pictures of you peeling potatoes).

Mash 'em (ricer is cool, food mill would be best if you're lucky enough to own one of those) then stir in the egg and about half the flour. Then flour a board and gently incorporate more flour (try not to knead too hard so as not to develop gluten) until a workable dough forms. I had each person add a different ingredient, roasted garlic, basil, cheese, and spinach. In the end the additions didn't make a huge difference in flavor.

Roll it out into a rope and cut it up.

Optionally, you can roll each one off the tines of a fork to create grooves.

Boil 'em until they float then give them another minute or so, drain, sauce, enjoy.
Everyone did a phenomenal job.

Denise made a design for aprons for all future students to wear...which is a great idea...and I love the 'stache.

You may have noticed that there were no men in this class (there almost was when Amanda pretended to have a headache and was going to send her boyfriend over instead, then pretended to miraculously recover just in time when she couldn't get a hold of him...women). I assure you this is not in an attempt to emulate other TV chefs who give cooking "lessons" as a veiled excuse to flirt with bored housewives (bonus points if the chef himself is married and/or has a foreign accent...see Tyler Florence in Food 911, Danny Boome in Rescue Chef, or the absolute winner, Curtis Strong in Take Home Chef). It's actually because dudes never ask me to teach them HOW to cook, but rather ask me WHAT to cook in order to impress the ladies, and would likely find it a bit awkward to have a private lesson on "romantic dinners." It seems like a bit of a bad strategy to ask a single dude how to woo the ladies, but we're not that smart.

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