I know that I’m never going to be a chef, but after taking Chef Charles Missick’s Simply Better Gourmet Institute’s six-week Gourmet Cooking 1 class, I’ve become a much better cook having learnt and developed an appreciation for the preparation and presentation of gourmet foods through his hands-on interactive sessions which provided me with a basic understanding of various soups, vegetables, poultry, seafood, meats, sauces and garnishes, as well as the ability to identify food quality. I was able to take what I learnt and actually incorporate it into my kitchen. So, it was with this knowledge that I signed on for Gourmet Cooking II.
At the end of the six-week course, Missick assured that I – and the other students in the six-person maximum, three hour, once per week class – would understand salad and dressings; a la carte dishes; various cold, warm and hot sauces; as well as compound butter, and have a better working knowledge of seafood and their qualities along with preparation and cooking methods.
The course outline showed that we would address cold salads and dressings in week one, poached salmon in week two, roast duck in week three, beef wellington in week four, rack of lamb in week five and surf and turf in week six.
While most of us are accustomed to just picking up a bottle of salad dressing at the grocery store, when you make your own, you realize how easy it is to do and how much better it actually tastes.
In the first class we made a vinaigrette as well as a basic French dressing consisting of three parts oil and one part vinegar. For this easy dressing, place vinegar into a stainless steel mixing bowl and whisk before adding salt and pepper to taste, whisking to dissolve, then adding oil and whisking rapidly.
We compared that basic dressing with an emulsified French dressing which had a few more ingredients involved: eggs, which we again placed into a stainless steel mixing bowl and whisked, then blended in mustard, paprika, salt and white pepper and eggs then whisking again. Whisking rapidly, we added the oil in a very thin stream, increasing the thickness of the stream slightly once the emulsion begins to form. As the sauce thickened, we added the vinegar in small amounts to thin it out, alternating the addition of vinegar and oil until all were used. An emulsified French dressing should be of a pourable consistency when finished; if the sauce is too thick, it can be thinned out with vinegar – as long as it does not already taste too tart – or water, if the flavor is of a desired tartness.
He also showed us the ease of drying out canned fruit stovetop, and adding the fruit to the dressing or vinegar for those that like a fruit-flavored dressing.
We also made a hollandaise sauce, something I’ve tried to do in the past and have had trouble with, but under Missick’s guidance was able to reproduce quite easily.
We also made mayonnaise two ways – whisking by hand and then again in the food processor – just to see which we would preferred. Even though the hand-whisked mayonnaise took more time and effort, the taste to me was so much better than the mayo made in the processor. It’s a little more effort on the muscles, but so worth it.
All you need to make mayo at home are egg yolks, sugar, salt, dry mustard, salad oil and vinegar. And it’s as simple as whisking the yolks in a stainless steel mixing bowl then blending in sugar, salt and dry mustard, and putting those arm muscles to use whisking away until well blended.
Now while I’ll admit that I wasn’t totally excited during this particular class, it’s very necessary in the process and you appreciate it after the fact when you take the time to make your dressings at home.
And after Cooking I, everyone was excited to know what I would be making in class and bringing home, so it became standard to receive random calls on cooking class day to see if I would be going to class.
They were also appreciative of the lessons I learnt which could be seen in my cooking at home, and were all eager when I told them that I was going to take the second course. Because, to be honest, cooking classes really do improve culinary skills, and these are one of the most valuable skills you’ll ever acquire because you increase your confidence.
Shavaughn was appointed as the Lifestyles Editor a few years later.
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