Wednesday, May 21, 2008

How to Cook Like A Chef?

Raw Beet Ravioli with Blue cheese & Onion Confit

picture photograph image raw beet ravioli 2008 copyright of malcolm via 2008 copyright of sam breach
I recently attended a cooking class at Tante Marie's entitled 'Cook Like a Chef'. The reason I was intrigued by this particular lesson was because of the assertion that there wouldn't be any recipes involved. And as anyone who has ever taken a class at this particular cooking school knows, no recipes is quite a departure from the norm.

For the first half of the one day class, our teacher Chef Malcolm Jessop walked us through the concept of taste and how achieving a balance of bitter, acid, salty and sweet will form the base of a successful recipe. He also outlined other flavour types; heat, astringency, tannin, aromatics, pungency, metallic, herbs, spices and umami which, when used wisely, can further enhance good results when cooking.

Laid out on the kitchen island was a vast array of fresh vegetables, meats and seafood. Malcolm walked us through every item, explaining each one's flavour profile along with preparation tips and pairing suggestions including things we already know without, perhaps, rationalizing why we know it: Duck goes well with cherries or orange, but not with banana, for example.

My favourite part of the day was when we were finally let loose on the ingredients to make whatever we wanted to. The first and most natural reaction might have been to play it safe, make something we were already familiar with and in doing so hopefully hoodwink our fellow pupils into believing we were some sort of genius in the kitchen.

But where would be the fun, or the challenge, in that?

After mulling around some possibilities in my own head, I finally settled on the idea of little raviolis made with raw beet instead of pasta. Before you think me too creative, I will admit that this has most certainly been done before. Somewhere in the back of my mind I remembered reading about this technique on a blog a long time ago. I also had a feeling that there was a recipe for something similar in one of my favourite recipe books. [Later, when I checked, it turned out I was right, although unlike my version, the one in The Cooks Book turns out to be both vegan and raw.]

So - how to make them? A mandolin is the key: A good, professional quality mandolin that can produce wafer-thin, even slices of a very hard, raw vegetable. Since the class I have tried, unsuccessfully, to make this same recipe at home using my hand held Kyocera mandolin which, although it usually fares me well, is unfortunately not quite up to this more demanding beet-slicing task. If the slices are too thick or uneven, the beet slices will lose their magical sticking qualities and the daintiness you are trying to achieve.

I decided to sandwich each of my ravioli slices together with not one, but two, complimentary fillings. First of all, in the interests of respecting the whole beet, I blanched a bunch of their leaves until tender, squeezed all the water out, finely minced them and mixed them with grated blue cheese, lemon zest, salt, pepper and a little heavy cream for a thick, smooth consistency. Secondly I slow cooked a yellow onion in a little oil and butter to make a confit.

To assemble the ravioli, spoon a little of the cream mixture into the centre of a beet slice, add a little dab of the confit and then carefully place a second beet slice on top, pressing down the edges only, to seal the little parcel. The thinness of the slices and the natural wetness of the beet will ensure that the whole thing comes together with little effort.

I served these ravioli dressed with a simple vinaigrette made with toasted walnuts, lemon and olive oil.

I think if I had a decent mandolin, I would probably even make it again...

* In the class I also learned to make a quick, simple tempura (artichoke and asparagus) using egg whites and corn flour for a batter. [picture courtesy of malcolm]

* Check out the amazing array of dishes made by fellow pupils in the class. [Malcolm, who I'd like to thank for letting me use one of his photographs in my post, was a fellow participant, not to be confused with Malcolm, the teaching Chef of the same name.]

*This class will be repeated later in the year and there are still a few spaces available. If you are uncomfortable being left to your own devices in the kitchen or are looking for a less casual, solid, technique-driven teaching class, this might not be the course for you.

QUESTION OF THE DAY graphic copyright sam breach
?What's your favourite Cooking Class in the Bay Area? I'd love, with your help, to be able to put a list of possibilities together?

2006 | Farmers Market Finds
2005 | Nosheteria who is recently celebrating a book deal. Way to go Adrienne!
2004 | Woodside High Cheese Club

© 2008 Sam Breach
How to Cook Like A Chef?


  • At 21/5/08 22:14, Blogger Anita (Married... with dinner) said…

    tied for my favorite:

    Kasma Loha-unchit's Thai cooking series

    Shuna Lydon's pastry workshops

  • At 22/5/08 00:56, Blogger ChrisB said…

    They all look pretty good to me. Did the chef give you feedback on your dish?

  • At 22/5/08 00:59, Blogger Nina Timm said…

    I LOVE beetroot and this will be on my plate soon. Thanks for sharing with me.

  • At 22/5/08 09:01, Blogger BB said…

    Beautiful dish, Sam, wow. A really solid mandoline is missing from my kitchen as well. Luckily, somebody has a birthday coming up.

    I've never actually taken a cooking class! It would be terrific fun, I bet. A little e-mail bird did reveal that Avedano's butcher shop in Bernal Heights might be offering butchery and carving classes later this summer, which I will probably attend and thoroughly blog out.

    Thanks, yeah, for sharing. One for the steal file.

  • At 22/5/08 10:59, Blogger cookiecrumb said…

    Excellent! Brava! How did they taste? (Sounds like you landed squarely on all four: salty, sweet, bitter, sour.)

    Uh, cooking class. I took a great class on fish from Ron Siegel a few years ago, but I doubt he's teaching it now (he was still at Masa's then).

  • At 22/5/08 11:17, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    I've taken some Saturday classes at the California Cooking Academy. I loved being able to cook in their monster kitchens.

  • At 22/5/08 20:19, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    I'm in the middle of and enjoying immensely an Advanced class Thai cooking class
    and also have loved a baking class focusing on strawberries and rhubarb with
    Shuna Lydon
    I'd be happy to give anyone more detail if they wished.

  • At 23/5/08 06:24, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    All dishes look very delicious! I am interested in the food culture of your country. And I support your site. If there is time, please come in my site. From Japan

  • At 23/5/08 22:10, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    My favorite is Cooking with Rosetta ( Rosetta is from the Southern Italian region of Calabria, and she prepares amazing dishes!! Don't miss the ricotta making class... yummy!

  • At 24/5/08 01:16, Blogger Mallika said…

    Looks like something out of a chef's kitchen - fabulous!

  • At 24/5/08 21:32, Blogger さくら said…

    Nice to meet you,
    I'm from Japan.
    It became reference very much!!
    Thank you  (^o^)/

    Indeed I am sorry,
    Please link to this site.

  • At 25/5/08 04:46, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Hi Sam,

    It was a post about the ravioli typology. If I were you I wouldn't invest in an expensive mandolin when a 30 euro one will do just fine. The trick is afterwards to marinate the too-crunchy beets. Zucchini and carrots work well too.

    Perfect summer recipe - they keep for a few days and are handy to add to salads and tables filled with antipesti. ; )

    Warm regards,

    Debra van Culiblog

  • At 27/5/08 18:24, Blogger Almost Vegetarian said…

    So many classes, so little time. I'm signed up for a knife skills class, but it is looking like I may have to cancel (I have a class of my own, alas, not cooking however, to teach). And a class on vegetables. And there is this French pastry class that looks lovely. And ...

    Sleep? Who needs sleep?


  • At 29/5/08 10:15, Blogger Scott at Real Epicurean said…

    I'm a big big fan of beetroot. This looks fantastic.

  • At 1/6/08 19:12, Blogger Catherine said…

    Delightful! I had quite a difficult time with my beet carpaccio too. I don't own a mandoline so cut them with a sharp knive. The pics of it were outstandingly pretty though. I showed my Italian chef boss and his comment was: too thick!

    You're ravioli look wonderful!

  • At 21/6/08 00:12, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    this looks good have a look at my page

  • At 10/7/08 07:14, Blogger enidd said…

    that sounds like enidd and the man's type of course. perhaps an early christmas present?

    ravioli look yummy.


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