Children, cooking, marriage, random stuff, funny stuff, photography, dogs, cats, depression... Whatever you're looking for, you might find it here! The modern 5 and dime.

Monday, April 10, 2006

I am the next Food Network Star... I wish

Since I am hold with the insurance company yet again, I thought I would take this down time as a chance to finally post about my recent cooking school experiences.

I have taken up cooking again in recent months because I love to cook and our bottom line in our checkbook was screaming at us to never, ever eat out again unless someone else was paying for it. Or we have a coupon.

The problem is, my cooking expertise is fairly limited. My daughter loves to cook, and while she is only 7, her favorite channel is The Food Network and I figure someday she will discover all of my delicious cooking techinques are right up Sandra Lee (of Semi Homemade). While I am totally OK with being Semi Homemade (yes, I am also a fan of Rachael Ray's 30 Minute Meals- I don't believe in spending a lot of time preparing a meal, who has that kind of time?), I feel like my repertoire of meals needed expanding.

First off, aren't you always impressed watching professional chefs with a knife? For me, the most time in the kitchen is spent on prep work. If I could shorten my prep time, I'd be a happy camper. So, the first class I took was a basic knife skills class. Now that I am back in my own kitchen, I am trying to practice the technique, which includes not chopping off any of your fingers. For some reason, my non-cutting hand does not want to follow instructions of hiding all of its appendages, and that has been the hardest part for me. Otherwise? I have cut in half (pun intended) the amount of time it takes for me to dice an onion, and therefore the class was worth every penny!

Secondly, my favorite food is sushi. I love to go out for sushi, I'm always so impressed by a good sushi chef. I took a sushi class this weekend, and I learned a lot. Did you know the word "sushi" does not refer to the fish but rather it refers to the rice? It refers to vinegared rice, and yes, my japanese teacher added Sake to her rice recipe. I learned just how important good sushi rice is in the whole process. I'd love to invest in a terrific foreign rice cooker, but they are terribly expensive (a good one will run you about $200). I learned about washing and soaking rice, which is something I have never done before.

I also learned a trick the japanese use in preparing their rice- they add seaweed to the pot to add flavor to the rice, called "Konbu". Also, never use long grain rice! I thought the short grain rice had more flavor than the medium grain, but either would work. My teacher has a vegetarian sushi class and she uses brown rice in one of her recipes, but in Japan the white rice is a symbol of wealth, and therefore they ALWAYS use white rice. Definitely not Jasmine and probably not Basmati unless you were doing fusion cuisine. Cooking technique is important here, or else you could end up with Risotto instead of sushi rice, we obviously spent a long time on the rice- again, I had no idea how important it was, but she was right, the sushi won't taste like sushi unless you have the rice down pat! Ha ha ha.

Once we had the rice part down, we moved on to the preparation of sushi. First, we prepapred Inari sushi, which is made using deep fried tofu and the specially prepared sushi rice. These are made by boiling the aburaage (deep fried tofu) and adding sugar and soy sauce and vinegar. Then you lightly squeeze dry and stuff with sushi rice. These are delicious and sweet, and look like this:

The best part of this class was eating what we made! Inari sushi was yummy, but then it was time to move on to the fish. The teacher first taught us how to use our sushi rolling mat, which was very cool and handy. The technique for making maki sushi (sushi rolls) involves laying out a piece of seaweed called "Nori" (use a nice, dark color), filling it with the vinegared rice and whatever else you desire, and using your sushi mat to roll into the appropriate shape.

First we made Kappa Maki, which was just filling the roll with cucumber. Very good, and I lived on these when I was pregnant since I avoided fish during the pregnancy. Then we moved on to my absolute favorite, Tekka Maki (which is Tuna).

The trick here was slicing the tuna into the appropriate shapes for the roll. Slice off against the grain a rectangular piece of the fish. Slice that piece in half. An 8 inch roll requires about 3 of these pieces, laid end to end.

Our final roll was the California Roll, which is usually used to introduce newcomers to the world of sushi. This has no raw fish, just cooked fish. We also made this one our inside-out roll, which means the rice is on the outside of the roll (see photos below). You place the rice on your Nori as usual (except snap the Nori down to 2/3 size), then you flip it upside down before adding the filling: for a california roll, you add avocado and crab (or imitation crab), then roll it up as usual. It is quite common to add toasted sesame seeds to the rice before flipping it over.

Here is a photo of Tekka Maki (on the left) and California Roll (on the right):

The tricks I learned during the day- it is easiest to put the sushi rice where you want it if you wet your hand in a bowl of vinegared water first (so the rice doesn't stick to you), and it is easy to manipulate the rice if you use just one hand. Also, the knife they gave me wasn't very sharp, and it made slicing my rolls into individiual pieces very difficult. I also recommend wetting the knife before every slice, to keep it from sticking to the Nori.

I had a really good time, and I loved all of my food- I ate just about everything, and was totally stuffed. The class even came with a glass of beer or wine! Really fun, I had a good time chatting with everyone at my table. I highly recommend these classes, they are not that expensive, and who knows, you could learn something new! My biggest problem now is deciding which class to take next.

Photos credit of Japan Guide


Blogger K said...

I'm absolutely addicted to the Food Network and wish the people on it were my friends.

10:36 AM


Post a Comment

<< Home