Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Techniques of Fine Cooking: Entry 5 (The Last Supper)

Our original (and superior) instructor returned for the last class (*sniff*) and with him came recipe variations, exasperated sighing and cooking everything on our own (yeah!) but first he was subject to much eye rolling during the discussion of last week's debacle (Only $115! Now with eggs!). He started the class by reviewing what we (supposedly) learned last week by going over the key questions from the course book. It went like this:

Instructor: What is blah blah eggs blah blah?
Class: *chirp* *eye roll* *shrug*
Instructor: Didn't you do blahblah last week?
Class: *shakehead* *stifflegiggle*

I haven't tattled on a substitute teacher in years -- I suddenly feel like sneaking out of class early to get a cactus cooler from the vending machine and moan about the injustices of required PE credits.

The last class provided what was probably the healthiest meal -- we had at leas 11 vegetable side dishes and the london broil was grilled with very little added fat. We did devote a considerable amount of time to making multiple versions of mayonnaise but those calories don't count because they're just in a condiment, condiments are free.

The Menu

French Crudites

As our instructor said, "The French are better than us. Americans would just throw some cut up vegetables on a plate and call it a day but the French are much fancier." Too true (to both fancier and better than us). We had quite a spread of vegetables from this exercise, my team made fennel with a toasted fennel seed vinaigrette and cucumbers with creme fresh and fines herbs neither of which were particularly memorable tasting but they looked pretty and got eaten.

This exercise also had us making mayonnaise which I was looking forward to because I thought it highly likely that homemade mayonnaise was about 8000 time more yummy than store bought. Turns out they taste pretty much the same -- though we did add some toasted curry to one version and grated apple and horseradish to another to create some fancy variations (the curry version was particularly good on the steak). Making the mayo was fun as you go from "man this is a lot of fucking whisking, I'm tired" to "oh my god it's mayonnaise!" in roughly 3 minutes which feels a whole lot like magic. (I'm really just guessing on the feeling here, we made our hot little Broadway actor friend do most of the manual labor but watching his muscles flex certainly *looked* like magic -- magic plus a fattening condiment = heaven).

Vegetables a la Grecque

I know this just looks like a boring bowl of cauliflower with parsley sprinkled on it (I learned a lot about sprinkling parsley in the last few weeks) but really it's an awesome taste explosion. Grecque vegetables (which, like everything else are really French not Greek) are cooked in a court bouillon (see? French. That means short boiling) which is basically wine, olive oil, herbs and a dash of yum. As with the crudites there were multiple versions of this delicacy but the cauliflower was by far my favorite.

London Broil or Flank Steak with Spice Rub

Action shot! it was just ask good as it looks and has me contemplating a cast iron grill pan (not one of those little ones but a big old daddy of pan that would span two burners and have a smooth side (pancakes!) and a grill side -- apparently they're only like $40). The official recipe in the course book was for a traditional london broil but because our instructor is awesome he let us choose either the traditional version or a latin spice rub version. My team did the rub and this is a huge improvement on my typical flank steak for fajitas recipe -- I'll be excited to try this out when there are grilled peppers and onions, fresh guacamole and warm corn tortillas available.

Grilled Vegetables

This was yummy but seemed like a silly thing to teach in a class -- you slice veggies and throw them on the grill -- ta-da! This recipe did give me a chance to play around with a mandolin which I have been coveting for some time now because I am very impressed by the satisfyingly thin and symmetrical slices. The device does put the fear of cutting off my fingers in the forefront but I like to be perceived as a bit of a bad ass and this might be my only chance.

Flambed Fruit

Ok so I realize that I look like a complete freak in this picture but that is just evidence of how fun playing with fire is. Not only does it make me look like a freak (normally I'm quite beautiful and photogenic) but it makes me willing to share this look with the internet. Flambe: the cause of and cure for all self esteem problems. That's instructor Lorne looking on disapprovingly -- see why I was so happy to have him back?

This dessert was more showy than tastey -- we served the flambed peaches and apricots over vanilla ice cream so I obviously ate all of it but I didn't swoon like I had with the souffles or the mouse. Because we got a bit screwed with the souffle making
last week Lorne had one of the teams make a fat free banana souffle which was really quiet yummy -- I'll have to request the recipe.


  1. I am a huge dork (official evidence item #70009): I initiated a 5 minute discussion with the class about the angle we should turn the meat to get perfect grill marks. The course book said to turn the meat 45 degrees and the instructor said to visualize moving the meat from 10 to 2 on a clock. I voiced a concern about the fact that this would be a 120 degree angle, not a 45 degree angle. I began explaining how to calculate the degrees and my little math class was going swimmingly until Kajal snickered "Brianna was a mathlete." Then everyone else looked at me in shock, thinking (I assume) "but you seem *SO* cool and hot! I would never have pegged you as a competitive mathematician."
  2. An awesome side benefit to this cooking class has that I am finally being recognized as a food photographer protege. Seriously, my photography skillz when it comes to edible products are amazing. A couple of my classmates even commented that I make food look better in pictures than in real life. This is quite shocking since all of my photographs of people imply that pretty much everyone I know is blurry and badly lit.
  3. Techniques of Fine Cooking 1: Totally worth $575 (seriously). Now I'm just biding time until I can come up with an excuse to sign up for Techniques of fine Cooking 2.


Lisa said...

1. I like your new banner!
2. Were you actually a mathlete! I didn't know mathletics actually existed- I thought that was just from mean girls! In high school we had math club (founded and presidented by yours truly) but thats about it! Nice!
3. I enjoyed your fine cooking class updates!

themikestand said...

And I thought Mathletes were only from the show Freaks & Geeks (by the way, which are you?).

I shall have to wait to see both your banner and your edible pictures, but I'm sure they both rock indeed.

alia said...


because it will give you more fascinating fuel for your highly amusing blog

because i can then continue to live vicariously through you

because then you can feed us new and exciting things

(i am so generous, to allow you this opportunity to feed us... snerk...)