I have to admit, I was a little bit intimidated when I walked into the huge, professional kitchen. We are also all required to have a chef's uniform, non-slip shoes, apron, towel, knife and tools. Putting on a chef's jacket for the first time was definitely cool and I had a little too much fun with it:
We didn't cook anything the first week, but instead got our uniforms and tools organized and watched the chef demo how to make basic stocks. He demonstrated chicken, beef and fish stocks. The most important thing I want to take away from the class is how to properly use a knife. The chef demonstrated how to properly cut onions, celery and carrots for the mirepoix (the vegetable flavour base for the stock). My knife skills have drastically improved in only a few weeks, granted I did invest in a fancy, new chef's knife.
(A bit of what the kitchen looks like. Photo by Nostrovia)
Last week was onto salads, and again more vegetable cutting practice. The Chef demoed a tuscan bean salad, cucumber and onion salad and a pacific rim beef salad. My favourite was the beef salad with the addition of oyster sauce, lime juice, water chestnuts and sesame seeds. Did I mention we also get to taste whatever the chef makes?
We then made our own bean salad. The recipe was pretty basic, but it was a chance for us to get comfortable in the kitchen and try our hand at cutting and dicing vegetables.
All of our portioned ingredients are laid out for us beforehand, which is nice, but we do have to do our own dishes (only fair!) We boiled the pre-soaked beans, then combined the ingredients for the salad: beans, vegetables, olive oil, red wine vinegar, lemon juice, salt and pepper, fresh herbs, asiago cheese and prosciutto. We also get to take home any leftover ingredients we don't use, so we each got a whole package of prosciutto and a wedge of cheese.
The recipe made enough salad for an army. I tried to pawn the salad off on other people during the week, but I still had way too much for one person.
This week was onto soup, which is one of my favourite things to make. Chef talked about basic sauces, like bechamel and rouxs, and demonstrated a chicken veloute. He then made a cream of mushroom soup using the veloute. Don't order cream soup at a restaurant if you're a health conscious eater, as the chef used 35% cream (yikes) and a ton of butter. He then toasted croutons in a pan of butter and sprinkled them on top of the soup.
I had a taste and yes, it was amazing, but not something I could handle regularly. He then demoed the piquant vegetable soup we would be making. We were supposed to start our soup base by sweating bacon, but I left mine out for a purely vegetarian soup (I don't know if my stomach can handle this class!)
The soup included cabbage, carrots, onions, spinach, chickpeas, tomato paste, chicken stock and fresh herbs, and was basically a minestrone-type soup. We all ended up going home with about four litres of soup each. The cool thing about the class is it's mostly working twenty-somethings like me who want to learn how to cook and have something fun to do on a weeknight. It is a lot different than cooking at home though and I definitely don't feel as relaxed, but it's nice to be able to chat and help each other out and to know we're all just learning.
The class so far has been a great introduction to basic skills and recipes. Being able to learn these things at a well-established culinary college like George Brown is pretty neat too. Next week we learn bolognese sauce, vinaigrettes and lasagna. I am scared to think how much lasagna we'll get to bring home...