Week four of my cooking class focused on those techniques I’m most likely to use: sauteing, frying and stir-frying. Well, at least I assume those are the most likely candidates seeing as how one of my biggest weaknesses is fried pickles. Followed by onion rings. Followed by…you get the idea.
Anyway, I nearly arrived late for this class due to the length of time it took me to bathe my greyhounds before I left. As you can probably imagine, trying to clean strong, lanky dogs against their will is no easy task.
I breezed into class and my hero Robin had already saved me a station, nabbed me the handouts, an apron and a name tag. She rocks, no? First up was to talk about how to set up a breading station and then we started trimming up chicken for our first dish – Chicken Parmesan. Another member of my group took care of de-fatting the chicken breasts (though he neglected to disinfect before chopping veggies next….tsk tsk….) while Robin and I took care of chopping up some herbs to be included in our breading mixture. Three steps to a good breading station – seasoned flour, egg wash, breadcrumbs (or more flour or whatever floats your boat).
Once everything gets breaded, we pan fry the chicken just long enough to get a golden brown color on each side, then into baking dishes with tomato sauce (pre-made, canned stuff. Easy!), fresh mozzarella, and Parmesan cheese. Bake and that’s it. Garnish with a little extra Parm and basil. No wonder the folks at Olive Garden can make this stuff. It’s crazy simple! And the technique is the same regardless of what you use. So, yes mom and dad, I can make a vegetarian version when you visit next.
Next we prepped to make a shrimp and veggie stir fry with jasmine rice. I’m generally rice-impaired but I think I may be on the path to recovery. Fortunately for me and the rest of the class, this was the teacher demo. The highlight of the stir fry? The sauce. Let’s be honest…you can throw pretty much whatever you want into a stir fry dish. It’s really about how everything comes together that determines success or failure. With that – here is the recipe for a sauce that will make everything taste delicious.
STIR FRY SAUCE
1 tbs cornstarch
2 tbs water
2 tbs dry sherry
1 1/2 tbs unseasoned rice vinegar
1/4 c soy sauce
1 1/2 tbs toasted sesame oil
1 tsp sugar
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 1/2 tbs peeled and finely grated fresh ginger
1/2 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
In a bowl, mix together the cornstarch and water. Add the remaining ingredients and whisk to combine. Really. That’s all. Trust me, you’ll want to slather everything in this stuff.
The remainder of the menu included veal piccata – thin slices of sauteed veal topped with a pan sauce made from the drippings, lemon juice, capers and parsley. This dish comes together super quickly (assuming you already have clarified butter on hand) and could even be made on a weeknight after a long day at the office. It’s a deceptively fancy dish. Would easily impress guests and only you’d have to know that you spent most of your prep time drinking wine, not slaving over the cooking. Sort of like that old commercial for Rice Krispies treats. You know – the one where the mom throws flour on herself to look like she’s been working really hard when making the treats took no time at all? It’s like that, but tastier.
Finally – crispy sauteed fish with beurre blanc. Beurre blanc translates to ‘white butter’ and is precisely that. It is a classic sauce made with butter and heavy cream. Not for those on a diet, but a most for anyone who appreciates indulgent flavor. Chef Andre suggested I not add butter to my bread for a week to make up for the calories. That is – until I asked him how long I’d have to give that up if I just downed a glass of the sauce. The notion seemed to perplex him. Good thing I didn’t go so far as to ask what would happen if I wanted to take a swim in it.
Again, this one is super easy and it just sounds fancy to say…beurre blanc.
CLASSIC BEURRE BLANC
2 tbs minced shallots
1/4 c dry white wine
1 tbs white wine vinegar
3 tbs fresh squeezed lemon juice
6 whole black peppercorns
2 sprigs fresh thyme
3/4 c heavy cream
1 1/2 sticks unsalted butter (12 tbs) – cut into pieces and chilled
salt and white pepper, to taste
Combine shallots, wine, vinegar, lemon juice, peppercorns and thyme in a small sauce pan over medium-high heat. Cook until the sauce has reduced and the pan is nearly dry. Add the heavy cream and continue cooking (reduce) until the cream has thickened and coats the back of a spoon (nappe). TAKE PAN OFF HEAT. (this is important) Whisk in the cold butter, one piece at a time, until all is incorporated. Strain the sauce through a fine mesh strainer and season to taste. Serve immediately or hold in a warm water bath (or thermos) until ready to use.
Yep. I just realized that the only thing that makes this class different from an episode of Paula Deen’s show is the lack of mayonnaise. That aside, I’m pretty sure the quantities of butter and oil that were used – and subsequently consumed – would warm her Southern heart. And probably help her husband add to his belly, making him look more and more like Santa Claus. For real. Check it out.
Just two more weeks of class. Next week is all about grilling. Finally – I’m going to get my hands on a grill, because you know that no man in my life has allowed it thus far. Watch out boys…I’m gunning for ya. Buen provecho!