Saturday, February 21, 2009

Food, Glorious Food!

I’m sitting here, in the back of the “classroom”, on an uncomfortable stool. A raggedy old off-white apron protects my clothes, a hand towel rests in the customary place over my left shoulder. The room has mirrors over the main counter so you can get a good view of the chef’s hands at work chopping an onion or deboning a chicken, but her head is covering her labor and I’m stuck guessing what the hell she meant about sticking the knife inside the ball and socket joint of the chicken thigh.

The class started at 10:30 and it’s slated to end at 2:30. That’s four hours of culinary education for me to absorb. Imagine my surprise at finding out they hold four-hour classes in the middle of a Friday, but I guess that’s probably why there’s only five people here, (sometimes it’s nice to be unemployed. Actually, it’s always nice to be unemployed). There’s enough counter space for four more people, but who would show up late to a class they voluntarily signed up and paid for? Besides, she’s already shown us how to debone a chicken, anybody who shows up now is only going to make it worse for themselves.

It looks like I spoke too soon. The class started 20 minutes ago and people are still wandering in. Amazing. Whoever ends up being my partner better not slow me down. I may not be a professional chef, but I know my way around a kitchen and I don’t need somebody who doesn’t know the difference between a stock and a broth messing up my dishes!

As the assistants place the whole chicken on my board I’m a bit hesitant. The Chef made it look so easy. A few quick slices and her yard bird was in pieces faster than you can say “Sir Digby Chicken Caesar”. Sadly, my own bird won’t fare as well, between my hesitant, sloppy cuts and my partner’s choppy hacking at the meat, the chicken ends up looking like it was attacked by a blind butcher during an earthquake. I hope the teacher doesn’t notice. Or, if she does, I hope she knows that it’s my partner’s fault and not mine. Hell, the half of the chicken I deboned looks like an effing Rembrandt painting compared to my partner’s half. It looks like she watched Hostel before coming to class today. Maybe that’s why she’s late.

They threw us in deep during the class. I guess you have to have basic knife knowledge before attending a class at L’Academie De Cuisine, because the teachers pretty much take it for granted that I know how to julienne these sundried tomatoes. Of course if you put a knife in my hand I can chop, slice, dice and stab, so there’s no problem.

Coq au vin, chicken scaloppini with sundried tomatoes, lemon and watercress, curried chicken salad with walnuts and pears and Thai-style barbecued chicken with cilantro and lime. All of these dishes I prepared with finesse and skill. My knife was a blur of chopping and slicing. My wooden spoon was in constant motion, stirring my many dishes simultaneously. My cutting board was my painter’s palate, upon which I used the various ingredients as tools to create culinary works of art. My pots and pans were the canvases that housed my dishes.

Wait a minute, did she just use the same hand to touch raw chicken and then touch her food? Oh well, too late to warn her. Guess my partner will just have to learn the hard way about food contamination. As she becomes intimately acquainted with her toilet tonight, she might regret her absent-minded hand gestures during our Chicken Techniques class. Silly woman!

It’s 1:45 now. Class ends early, since there are only 9 people in attendance. Our dishes turned out pretty well, considering my partner wanted to add a ridiculous amount of spices to everything we were making, (she’s Indian, so as far as she’s concerned, if it doesn’t have cumin and coriander in it, it’s not worth eating). I’m not entirely sure what capers are, and I think I reduced my sauce for the chicken scaloppini too much, leaving it as just a bunch of sundried tomatoes, but otherwise, this has been a productive class. I’ve got a bunch of new recipes to try out and I’m more comfortable cooking poultry. My belly is full from four different chicken dishes and I’m ready for my afternoon nap.

I wonder what class I should take next. “Basic knife skills”? “Sauces and gravies”? “Liver and Brussels Sprouts for tots”? “Cannibalism for Beginners”? “Chilled Monkey Brains and Snake Surprise: Indy’s favorite dishes”? Guess, I’ll just have to study the brochure a little more.

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