Last Thursday, I found myself in Memphis attending another class at the Viking Cooking School.
Originally, I signed up for a ‘Cooking Light’ class, but I apparently was the only one who registered for that one, so they moved me to a ‘Patio Party’ class. The menu sounded fairly healthful (except for the dessert), so I agreed.
This class was much more intimate and laid-back than the one I attended last year, which featured Italian cooking, two instructors and 15 participants. This time, I was in a classroom with just four other attendees, plus the instructor.
We all stood around a work table and took turns preparing different parts of the dishes. For instance, when it came time to zest a lime for a salad vinaigrette, one person took the grater and began the process and then passed the lime and grater on to the next person, so we could each get a chance to zest a lime properly.
Over the course of the three-hour class, we learned cooking on a cedar plank; making and cooking with a balsamic glaze; working with avocados; making a vinaigrette; slicing an onion properly; cooking in a water bath; and making a contemporary pastry dough.
We also conducted a couple of experiments. In one, we peeled and sliced an avocado and drizzled a citrus vinaigrette we’d made over half the slices. We submerged the remaining slices in the vinaigrette. Our mission was to see which method kept the avocados from turning. (Both methods worked equally well.)
Our second experiment came about because of a boo-boo. In making individual corn puddings, we accidentally put two cups of corn kernels into the skillet to cook, rather than reserving half of them to be pureed later. So we added an additional cup of corn for pureeing purposes, not knowing whether our puddings were going to be too thick to eat. Turns out they were perfect.
After working for almost three hours, we sat down for a lunch of Cedar Planked Salmon, Mixed Greens with Avocados, Blueberries and Radishes Dressed with Honey Lime Vinaigrette, Individual Corn Puddings with Sweet Bell Pepper, Coconut Buttermilk Pie with Macadamia Nut Crust and a taste of an English pea soup that was prepared for us before the class began.
Once again, I thoroughly enjoyed myself. The classes not only teach culinary techniques, but they also instill self-esteem. Never again shall I shirk from the responsibility of peeling and dicing an avocado. And I got the chance to meet people from all walks of life who share a common passion: cooking.
Ginna Parsons/NEMS Daily Journal