I walked into the fantastic facility at Viking not really knowing what to expect! What I found was a 10-person class where we all got to chop along with the chef and create our own lunch, basically.
Each station was set up with the ingredients for the day: tomato, onion, carrot, jalapeno, mushroom, garlic and … cilantro. I was NOT looking forward to chopping that vile weed, but I figure I need to be a grownup and just suck it up. We each had a cutting board, peeler, paring knife and chef’s knife (maybe 8-inch?).
Since the first class was all about knife skills, we made salsa fresca and fajitas. Lots of chopping, basically. First we learned how to peel and chop a tomato. This was something I did not know how to do. Turns out peeling a tomato is not necessary for salsas, but it showcases a certain amount of skill to take the skin off. That way, when you make a soup for example, there’s no skin found floating down around. How embarrassing.
So first we took out the spot on the bottom of the tomatoes that connects to the stem, and cut an “X” in the other end to start the peeling. Then we dropped our plum tomatoes, one at a time, into boiled-then-turned-down water for about 20 seconds. Then we shocked them in ice water and the skin came off pretty easily. I was feeling good.
Then came the chopping. For this the chef demonstrated a technique where you slice sections off vertically around the core, then scrape the seeds out of the core flesh and finish by chopping up the pieces. I personally still need to work on the whole “guarding the fingers” chopping technique, because to me it still feels pretty awkward. Like when you first learn to use chopsticks.
The onion was a bit of a revelation. We chopped off the end, and then on the root side we didn’t chop it deeply, so the online would hold together throughout the chopping process. We cut slices that didn’t go all the way through, and then a couple “lateral cuts” and then chopped vertically until we had tiny chopped pieces. Fancy. Pants.
The carrot (used in the salad we ate for lunch) was fun. We learned to julienne! We basically cut the long carrot into 2 inch long sections (after peeling) cut to create a flat side, laid it down, cut another flat side, and then make rectangles. Those rectangles were stacked 2 at a time and cut into 1/8 square by 2 inch long pieces. This was exciting.
I’ll skip to the most entertaining part: where I inevitably made a fool of myself. All the veggies were in the woks and the instructor was doing some great tossing work. He then offered to let me try. He should have known. I attempted to toss the veggies and instead slammed the top of the wok against the stove, spilling about a third of the veggies onto the floor and grill. Awesome. I’m glad I could take the pressure off anyone else being crowned the biggest eff up in class. You’re welcome, classmates!
Aside from that, the class was great! At about 12:15 we all got to eat our fajitas with the salsa fresca, some warmed tortillas and a green salad with some of our chopped veggies and a quick vinaigrette the chef whipped up from olive oil, fresh parsley and thyme, salt and pepper.
So you knew this was coming: Presenting what I now believe I need to buy for my own kitchen: a grill pan, a citrus juicer (pictured above) and possibly a wok. I also really need my knives sharpened. ASAP. We were lucky enough to score some nice Wusthof knives when we got married, but they have dulled in the past 3 years. Tomorrow I’m off to the Farmers Market to get them sharpened while I buy the ingredients I need to recreate the recipes from class. Yes, that is the plan. In order to make sure my husband sees a quick return on his investment, I have decided to purchase the ingredients Saturday afternoon or Sunday in order to attempt to recreate the dishes from class on Sunday night for dinner. I will try to post my recreation here…unless I totally bomb. 😉
I can’t wait for next week: Stocks, Soups and Sauces!!