For my birthday this year, my wonderful husband got me a gift certificate for a class at L’Academie de Cuisine, a professional and recreational cooking school in the area. What a great gift! I had never taken a hands-on cooking class before and have been wanting to, but I couldn’t get my act together. Plus we have a new baby and it was time to do something that I really enjoyed. PLUS it would teach me to make delicious things that he could eat. #Winning
I’m sure it will come as no surprise that I chose an Asian cooking class. I am, after all, obsessed with Asian food. The class was called Advanced Asian Flavors… that’s right, advanced. You had to already know stuff about cooking. Pin a rose on my nose, I am advanced.
The course listing had the menu:
- Hot and sour soup with shrimp (Not Chinese hot and sour soup, as I thought… this was Tom Yum soup)
- Mussels in green curry
- Imperial summer roll
- lemongrass grilled pork with noodles, peanuts, and salad
- Duck kaprow with jasmine rice (one of my favorite Thai dishes)
- Mango sticky rice
The first thing the chef did was divide us into groups and give each group two recipes to prepare. I was kind of pissed. I wanted to cook ALL of the recipes! Stomps feet, sticks out bottom lip, and crosses arms. Whatever. He immediately points to three people in the front and said, “You mentioned duck before… how about you be the duck group?” But…but…but I wanna be in the duck group! Stomps feet, sticks out bottom lip, and crosses arms.
I was put in the mussels/mango sticky rice group. It actually turned out that my group’s dishes were heavily focused on proper knife skills which was good. (The chef totally had us do fancy knife cuts on the ingredients going into the curry just to teach us… the ingredients all went into a blender.) I can always use some more practice on technique. And as the other groups asked questions about their dishes, the chef made sure to let everyone in the class know that they could come listen. So I got to spend some time learning how to work with duck which is good… since the one time I tried to break down a duck I broke my knife. Oops.
Even though the class was recreational it was in the professional school so the kitchen was AWESOME. Big-ass super hot burners… stainless everything… heavy duty machinery… I felt like Tim “The Tool Man” Taylor in a hardware store. No joke I put my curry on to simmer and it came to a boil in under 2 minutes. I had some mushrooms to slice, so I thought I’d go ahead and get the curry on. Not so much.
So I’ve got to tell you about my group… damn, my group… I always hated group projects in school. Someone either did nothing and still got a good grade because everyone else did the work OR they totally screwed it up for everyone. My group members were NOT advanced. One lady didn’t know how to peel garlic without one of those silicone rolly things. Fine if you want to use those at home, but at least know how to do it with a knife! Then she goes, “Oh my gosh… I got the nicest new knives yesterday at Costco. They have all different color handles!” COME ON! We’re Advanced Asians here!
The chef came over to show us how to do the mango. He showed us how to peel it and slice it thinly and then to splay it out all pretty on the plate so the rice could sit in the center. These girls… (pause while I shake my head)… these girls were so bad at this. One girl dug her finger tips so hard into the top of the mango that she mangled it to the point that it was unusable.
SO THEN… I was over chatting with the duck group about how they made the duck kaprow and I see the chef go look at my pretty mango plates so I start heading back. He says to the mango-squisher, “Did you do this?” And she says…get this, “Yes! I used the techniques you showed me!” Uhhh… WHAAAT?! The nerve! I was too far away to do anything about it. I was PISSED. If this had been real school I totally would’ve said something to her or to the chef just to get some credit for my work, but I let it go (well, I let it go at that moment and have continued to bitch about it ever since… that’s “letting it go” right?).
All in all, the class was awesome. It was super cool to cook in a professional kitchen and it was cool to get tips from a chef. Plus, I learned that fancy mango trick which I am TOTALLY doing again to impress people. The sticky rice was good but too sweet (we all agreed). If I made it on my own, I would use way less sugar.
Oh, and the mussels… that was a super easy dish to make other than all the chopping. The chef said you can make a big batch of curry and freeze it in batches which I am definitely going to do. It was a delicious dish! I think it was my favorite out of all of them.
Mussels with Green Curry
Green curry paste:
- 2 stalks lemon grass cut finely
- 1 tablespoon galangal (ginger would work fine)
- 1 tsp cumin
- 1/2 cup chopped cilantro
- 8 cloves of garlic roughly chopped
- 10 green Thai chili peppers sliced
- 10 green Jalapeno peppers sliced
- 1 tsp shrimp paste
- 1 tbsp chopped shallot
- zest from 3 limes
- 2 cups coconut milk
- 3 lbs fresh mussels
- 1/4 cup fish sauce
- 3 tsp sugar
- 1 cup bamboo shoots
- 1/2 cup coconut cream
- 6 kaffir lime leaves
- 1/4 cup Thai basil
- red chili for garnish
Place all the green curry past ingredients in a blender or food processor and process until the mixture is smooth.
Pour the coconut milk and the green curry paste into a large sauce pan. Heat to boiling and add the bamboo shoots and any other vegetables (we used mushrooms) and simmer for an additional 2 minutes — not longer (the chef told us that the flavors in the curry will fade if you cook it too long).
Add the mussels, fish sauce, and sugar. Cook covered for 4 minutes over high heat.
Add the kaffir lime leaves and basil leaves and adjust the seasoning. Move to a serving bowl and garnish with slivers of red chili. Be sure to get that delicious broth when serving!
Coconut Milk Sticky Rice with Mango
- 3 cups sweet rice, soaked overnight in water or thin coconut milk and drained
- 2 cups canned or fresh coconut milk
- 3/4 cup palm sugar or substitute brown sugar (this made it very sweet… I would use less, maybe even half)
- 1 tsp salt
- 4 ripe mangoes or substitute sliced ripe peaches or papaya
- Mint or Thai basil
Steam the sticky rice until tender. Use a cous cousier or other steamer. It is convenient to place the uncooked rice in a layer of cheese cloth so that the rice and be turned and manipulated while hot. Depending on the technique, it may help to turn the rice midway through steaming to insure the rice cooks evening.
Just before the rice is cooked, begin heating the coconut milk in a heavy pot over medium heat. Do not boil. Add the sugar and salt and stir to dissolve completely.
Once cooked, turn the rice out into a large mixing bowl. Pour a cup of the hot coconut milk mixutre over the rice and reserve the rest. Stir the coconut milk mixture into the rice and allow the rice to stand for 20 minutes to allow the flavors to blend.
To serve, spoon a serving of rice into a shallow bowl. Drizzle with some of the remaining coconut milk mixture. Garnish with slice of mange and sprigs of the mint or Thai basil.