Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Cooking Class

Talking about making Thai red curry

Karen's recent post is a perfect segue to this one about the cooking class that takes place once or twice a week at Clearwater. A core group of students is involved in every class, and others come and go as their other interests and activities allow. The class is headed up by staff member Mat Riggle, a skilled chef who has worked in and managed a number of restaurants.

Demonstrating how to cut an onion

Chopping mango

Mat demonstrating how to roll a tamale in a banana leaf

Students involved in class range in age from 8 to 17. Early in the year I became a fly on the wall, watching Mat demonstrate knife skills, make a quick stock from vegetable peels and meat trimmings, put ingredients together using his vast experience, playfulness and curiosity instead of using exact measurements, encourage creativity and experimentation, effortlessly assign different people to specific tasks, and engage everyone in the fun of preparing food from scratch and then cleaning up afterward.

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Oiling a banana leaf

Placing masa on a banana leaf

One 11-year-old student explained that she especially liked the chicken curry dish and thought the number of spices for the dish was interesting. She also felt proud that she was able to stay engaged and focused for the 3-1/2 to 4 hours the class lasts from beginning to end.

Masa dough on oiled banana leaf

Rolling tamale in banana leaf

Early on in the class 17-year-old Braden (who along with 15-year-old Robert will be attending a Sudbury school in Denmark this April and May) talked about learning to cut onions and garlic to release their flavors and was interested to discover that some Asian foods use different flavors such as fermented shrimp paste that one wouldn't expect based on the taste of the finished dish. He especially enjoyed the flavor of the Indian dish, saag paneer. Robert said he's enjoying learning how to cook everything and chop fast and efficiently.

Building a tamale

A 9-year-old enjoyed learning how to cut things and peel potatoes so the potato itself doesn't end up in the trash can. She especially enjoyed the tamales, spicy chicken sandwich, corned beef and teriyaki dishes they made.

Making fresh rolls

I enjoyed watching Mat moving around the kitchen, efficiency personified, freely offering his encyclopedic knowledge of food preparation and the many different ways to combine ingredients and flavors, even as he kept an eye on at least two pots on the stove top, whatever was cooking in the oven, corrected someone's hand position while chopping, talked about the "why" of what he was doing, AND laughed and joked with everyone.

Making stock

The cooking class is a delightful place to hang out not only to pick up tips and try to pick up some of Mat's efficiency and knowledge by osmosis, but also to enjoy the camaraderie between everyone whether they're in the middle of chopping, mixing or cooking or waiting for their turn to try out the next step.

Making Thai fresh rolls

A short list of things that have been prepared this year include: Thai fresh rolls, creme brulee, Djawa (Java) curry, chicken masala, Thai red curry, Gado sauce, Jamaican jerk chicken, roast beef sandwiches au jus, tamales wrapped in banana leaves, macaroons, macaroni and cheese from scratch using aged cheddar and gouda cheese, crepes and saag paneer. Students also have at their disposal approximately 50 spices and spice combinations.

Some Asian food ingredients and condiments

End of post.

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