Saturday, December 20, 2008
In which we expand our horizons
After enjoying our Sweet and Savory Baking class over the summer, Ms. Cake and I decided to sign up for another cooking class as soon as possible. This being NYC, land of a zillion activities and opportunities, a zillion people are having the same idea you are, so everything is oversubscribed immediately. We weren't able to sign up for another class until mid-December, but the wait was worth it. Last Saturday night we spent 4 1/2 extremely pleasant hours learning all about Thai cooking, preparing numerous dishes in teams, and then eating our feast with a selection of wines and Asian beers.
As an extra bonus, the instructor was Chef Jane, who had taught our baking class. Chef Jane is cheerful but firm, and really seems to love not just food and cooking but also teaching non-pros. The class was large, and everyone seemed happy to be there, unlike our last class when we had to share our workspace with a miserable couple who seemed to hate all of humanity, including each other.
After a discussion of Thai ingredients, flavors, and cooking techniques, we broke into groups to start cooking. Our team was assigned sticky rice with mango (unsweetened, and served as a side dish rather than as a dessert), tapioca with young coconut (over which was served another team's fried bananas with black and white sesame seeds), summer rolls, and whole steamed fish with tamarind sauce. Ms. Cake was in charge of preparing the fish, and I made the tamarind sauce, which is a thing of fabulousness. Really, that sauce would probably make artgum eraser taste delicious.
Other teams worked on Pad Thai, chicken with green curry, chicken satay with peanut sauce, hot and spicy shrimp soup, green papaya salad, cucumber salad, and grilled shrimp with cilantro and chiles. By the end of the cooking session, we had three cooking stations covered with dishes of food ready to eat.
My sticky rice got overcooked, and neither of the Pad Thai executions were terrific, but it didn't matter, because there was so much good food to eat. Idiotically, neither of us thought to take photos, but trust us, it was a beautiful spread, and delicious. I'm searching for a good place in my area to buy some of the necessary ingredients, but if need be I'll just make a pilgrimage to Queens and stock up on curry pastes, rice paper wrappers, and other necessaries.
Meanwhile, the top tip was to use a Japanese wasabi grater to grate ginger root. It won't nick your fingers, it's quick and easy to use, and it catches all the ginger flesh and juice while eliminating the stringy bits.