Sep 27 2010

New, Delicious Beginnings

Published by at 8:27 pm under Cooking Classes

Today was my first day as a full-time culinary student at Tante Marie’s Cooking School. I even have the checkered pants and monogrammed chef’s jacket to show for it.

I arrived at 9:15 to open doors, where my instructor was arranging fresh produce for the day’s lesson. I sipped a cup of coffee, slipped into my shiny new jacket (yes, I feel very professional) and skimmed over the course materials while more people in unflattering checkered pants trickled in.

After seeing classes like”Dessert Souffles,” “Antipasti & Stuffed Pasta” and “Chinese Braising” listed, my excitement only grew. As did my nerves, of course, but they were overshadowed by the anticipation.

But let’s get back to basics. After a brief orientation, my classmates and I were instructed on the foundation of all cooking: knife skills. There is a proper way to chop vegetables (and everything else), and it’s not savagely, using the first knife you find. Here’s the trick: Get a big chef’s knife (around 8 to 10 inches), and pinch the base of the blade between your thumb and forefinger. Wrap the rest of your fingers around the handle, and use your left hand like a claw to hold whatever you’re chopping in place. Now chop, but move in a nice fluid motion instead of straight up and down, keeping the tip of the blade on the counter and rocking the length of it back and forth.

You may have known that already, but I didn’t. Nor did I know that pesto is best made in a mortar, because you can perfectly bruise the basil leaves, releasing the flavors. Or that a bouquet garni (made of thyme, parsley and bay leaves wrapped up in a leek leaf) belongs in every homemade stock.

After a lunch of a light salad and Soupe au Pistou, which we made from all our chopped vegetables, we sat down for a demonstration on two basic stocks: Light Chicken Stock and Dark Veal Stock. For the record, I’ve never made a stock from scratch but have bought boxes of it in the supermarket more times than I can count. And I am officially ashamed, because I’ve apparently just been purchasing sodium juice.

Weekend plan: Make at least a gallon of veal stock to freeze for the winter. I’ll need it, because traditional French Onion Soup GratinĂ©e is on the menu for tomorrow’s lesson plan.

Just wanted to give everyone a taste of what my first day included, since there was more learning involved right from the beginning than I’d dared hope. I’m not allowed to post any school recipes on the blog — that’s what I’m paying them for, right? — but I will keep updating it with details about what I’m learning. Questions and comments encouraged!

Apparently Friday’s school schedule involves a field trip to Sonoma for wine tasting and a picnic. These studies are grueling, indeed.

3 responses so far

3 Responses to “New, Delicious Beginnings”

  1. SHon 28 Sep 2010 at 6:50 am

    So exciting! I can’t wait to hear all about it!

  2. Christion 03 Oct 2010 at 1:12 pm

    I am so excited for you!!!

  3. Katieon 09 Oct 2010 at 10:58 am

    Olivia, this is so fun! As i read i remember how much i used to love to cook, and how sad my 3x a week frozen lasagnas now appear! Continue the updates, as i will be living vicariously through you!