Sunday, June 04, 2006
Nothing New at the New School of Cooking
$75, and one so-called Chicken Fundamentals class at the New School of Cooking in Culver City, and I can't tell ya much I didn't already know about cooking said bird. Sure, now I know the difference between a poussin (baby) and a capon (old rooster), but I did not "learn how to cut up a whole bird and how to debone breasts" as the class description promised. I got to watch our instructor do it once, quickly, but there was no actual practice. Instead, our class of 14 got paired up, each pair was assigned one of a handful of different recipes, handed a tray with our ingredients, and told to go to it. We did get a brief description of each cooking technique before starting (grilling, frying, sauteing, roasting and braising), but only the most basic gloss. The two instructors walked around the kitchen area as we cooked, ready to give advice, but seemed most interested in making sure we all finished our recipes in the time allotted for class.
Needless to say, I was disappointed. This was the most expensive of the cooking classes I've taken in LA (I've also taken classes at Be Gourmet and HipCooks), and ostensibly one of the most professional schools, yet it was the worst "class" I've had. Really, it was just cooking in a nice kitchen with nifty equipment, not learning. The recipes were all decent, and I actually really liked what I made (sauteed chicken with snowpeas and shitakes), but nothing I couldn't have picked up from a cookbook or magazine.
In an attempt to feel I'd gotten my money's worth, tonight I used a recipe from the class at home: Grilled Chicken with Mediterranean Herb Paste. Verdict? Lots o' work for not much reward. The recipe will work best if your grill isn't too hot, and if you have a long-handled basting brush (otherwise you risk your arm hair). Personally, I'd prefer a marinade with these flavors for the grill, otherwise I'd use the paste as an under-skin rub when roasting a chicken, substituting butter for the olive oil.
Mediterranean Herb Paste
enough for 8-10 pieces of chicken (mix of thighs, legs, breasts)
4 cloves garlic, peeled and trimmed
handful of sage leaves
2 tsp. fresh rosemary
2 tsp. fresh thyme leaves
1 small bunch parsley, trimmed
zest of two lemons
1/2 c. olive oil
salt and pepper
Whir all ingredients in food processor or blender. According to class instructions, baste onto chicken 5 minutes before chicken is ready to come off the grill, so the paste doesn't burn (hence lower temp and long brush). According to me, add some lemon juice to the mixture and turn it into a marinade, brushing the larger pieces of herbs off the chicken before putting it on the grill. Or, sub butter for the olive oil and use as an under-skin rub for a roasted bird.