A Legendary Affair

A Legendary Affair
A Legendary Affair Invitation BLOG - by appt at Magical Blooms - 1417 S. Pacific Coast Hwy - Redondo Beach, CA

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Notes from a Cooking Class - Great tips for Nearly, Newly, and Already-Weds!

As some of you remember from a previous post, I met Chef Mary Ellen at an event and signed up for one of her cooking classes. Those who know me were a little surprised ... not because I am a domestic goddess and don't need any pointers - quite the opposite! I have never shown much interest in this subject, until lately. Maybe my wine tasting business has expanded my horizon in the whole arena of food and wine - or maybe I have been enjoying more wine and realize it might be a good idea to add a little food to the equation. In any case, I went, I cooked, and I loved it! 10 of us gathered in a catering kitchen in Manhattan Beach and after 2 hours of slicing, chopping, combining, stirring, mincing, grilling (yes, we covered it all), we ended up with Stuffed Pasta Shells, Halibut Fish Tacos, Wok-fried Chicken, Chicken Cilantro Soup --- and Dark Chocolate Cookies with Hazelnuts and Dried Cherries. Here are a few of Mary Ellen's tips that might help you "Nearly, Newly and Already Weds" ---- as well as the "Single Chefs" out there:

Supplies to keep in your pantry:
Chicken Broth
Kosher Salt
Olive Oil
Canola Oil
Black Pepper
Unbleached All-Purpose Flour

Dry Goods to keep on hand:

Things in the Fridge:
Mustard & Mayo
Parmesan Cheese

With these items available, all you need is a quick trip to the store for fresh items, and creating a meal (should be) easy.

Here are some interesting tips we learned:

SALT: The standard salt that most of us have in our cabinet can taste metallic and should be replaced with Kosher Salt for everyday cooking (Smart & Final), Fine Sea Salt for baking (Trader Joes), and Maldon Salt as a finishing touch. This salt has a very heavy grain and you just need a pinch.

SPICES: Usually need to be replaced after they have been opened for 6 months to a year. To test, rub the spice in your fingers. If the color is off and/or you can't really smell it --- toss it! (Seems obvious, but if you're like me, you probably have a cabinet filled with spices - that are "scary" old!)

KNIVES: You only really need a couple in the kitchen. It's better to invest in just the few you need rather than the whole blocked set ... something to keep in mind when you are registering for your wedding gifts! She suggested a large chef knife, a santoku knife (serrated), a large bread knife and a paring knife. Depending on how often you use them, you should get them sharpened professionally every 6 months to a year. Local readers might want to visit a vendor in the Manhattan Village Mall who sharpens knives and charges by the inch.

Now for a recipe....My cooking partner and I made the soup, and it was absolutely delicious. If I can do it ---- anyone can do it. Of course, Mary Ellen was on-hand to answer questions, but it was actually pretty easy and is a great item to make in bulk and freeze...

Chicken, Cilantro and Rice Soup (Serves 4-6)

2 tablespoons canola oil
1 1/2 cups diced yellow onion, about 1 medium
1 tablespoon minced garlic cloves (available already peeled in a container at Maraki Market)
1/4 cup seeded and diced jalapeno
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
3 piquillo peppers, pat dry and diced (available in a jar at Trader Joes)
1 (14.5 ounce) can fire-roasted diced tomatoes
2 (24 ounce) containers chicken broth (free range, organic)
3 cups shredded cooked chicken (easily made from pre-roasted chicken)
1 cup long grain rice
1 cup chopped cilantro leaves
Kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper

Garnish with: diced avocado, shredded jack cheese or cheddar cheese, sliced green onions and tortilla chips

Heat canola oil in a large saucepan. Add onions and saute over medium heat until soft, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic, jalapeno and cumin, cook until fragrant, 1-2 minutes. Stir in the piquillo peppers, tomatoes, and chicken broth and bring to a boil. Turn down heat and add shredded chicken and rice, gently simmer for 15 minutes or until rice is tender. Stir in cilantro leaves and season to taste with salt and freshly ground pepper. Serve immediately with garnishes.

I hope you enjoyed a glimpse of my experience.
Bon Appetit!

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