I love to eat. I also happen to enjoy eating what I cook. However, 4 years of city living has rendered any techniques I used to possess lost. Shamefully I admit I now cook only about once a week, and that meal typically consists of Shin ramen or fried eggs. So a cooking class is long overdue, and I can only say that the intensive week of training at ICE, for its most popular Techniques of Fine Cooking 1 class under the watchful eye of my instructors was comprehensive and illuminating, the $600 upfront fee well spent.
I consider myself a proficient, or at least confident cook, but I do not possess any culinary skills to speak of, and my knowledge of the western larder rather lacking. So over the course of the week, I learnt to identify herbs, dice mire poix into perfectly uniform cubes, strussed chickens, whipped fluffy souffles, braised, roasted, baked and grilled. I made made sure my mayonnaise was emulsified by painstakingly stirring oil, drip by drip, into the egg and mustard base, and rolled chocolate truffles that were laced with rum and kahlua. My instructors, Chef Richard the avowed food snob and locavore and Chef Dan, the bubbly and enthusiastic man honest enough to confess a weakness for Hamburger Helper were patient, helpful and knowledgeable, teaching not just the dishes of the day but the underlying techniques and science behind cooking. Hopefully those theories would stick and translate into my future culinary trials.
The best part of class was perhaps dinner as the class sat down to eat what we made every day, me gaining about 5 pounds over the course of the week as a result of the rich diet. Another unintended consequence of cooking with fellow enthusiasts was making new friends out of classmates as we shared culinary ideas, fooding experiences and shopping tips in the city. As we celebrated the end of the intensive week by knocking back a few pints at the local pub across the school, we made plans to form a class again for Techniques of Fine Cooking 2 and 3. Learning can be addictive, especially amongst great friends.
Day 1 – Knife skills, sautes, vinaigrettes. (Gazpacho, Lamb chops, Sauteed vegetables, Frisee aux lardon, Orange Supreme in Grand Marnier)
Day 2 – Roasts and Bakes (Roast chicken, chicken broth, Italian chicken rice soup, rice pilaf, clafouti)
Day 3 – Braise, Boils and Chocolate (Braised lamb shanks, braised vegetables, endive salad, mussels in wine sauce, chocolate mousse, chocolate truffles)
Day 4 – Eggs, eggs, eggs (Scrambled with caviar, French rolled omelettes, Eggs Benedict, Salad Nicoise, Souffles)
Day 5 – Grills and composed salads (Slaws, Salads, Guacamole, Grilled Flank Steak)