Monday, May 3, 2010

Teaching An Old Cook New Tricks

< One of the things I love so much about cooking is the ongoing education. There is always a new ingredient to investigate, a new technique to explore, a new publication to absorb and new flavors to savor.
So when I was recently invited to attend a cooking class at the Clarke Culinary Center in South Norwalk, CT, I jumped at the chance. Clarke is the exclusive New England wholesale distributor of Sub-Zero and Wolf appliances. Their Culinary Center is a glorious gallery where you can view stunning examples of luxury kitchens, test drive the appliances and take cooking classes with really talented chefs.
Wandering through the showroom is an absolute droolfest, it takes your breath away as you look at all the incredible examples of epicurean elegance.
Does cooking in a gorgeous, luxurious kitchen make you gorgeous and luxurious? Absolutely!!
One spectacular kitchen features icy white, almost glittery countertops composed of quartz embedded in resin, looking like something straight out of a winter palace. Duel refrigerators encased in handtooled Douglas Fir, inlaid with leather and copper details...Luscious.
The classroom kitchen is awesome. The hood over the cooktop really impressed me. Even on it's most powerful setting, sucking up the smoke from searing New Zealand loin lambchops, there was never a noise problem. Oh, the bliss of silence. Fire up my hood and you will experience the noise factor of an XF-84H Thunderjet.
The celebrity chef for the evening was Matt Storch, who reigns over the kitchen at a sexy spot in SoNo known as MATCH. Matt is engaging, lively, joyful and a passionate chef whose talents have garnered him a throng of loyal fans.
Not only does he prepare food to perfection, he cares about where the food originates and honors it's integrity by using high quality, organic ingredients.
Spring produce was the focus for this class, featuring ingredients such as fresh asparagus, peas, fava beans, beets, ramps (spring onions) and fiddleheads.
I like a guy who can coax a crowd into eating fiddleheads. I must confess, I've never been much of a fan. Matt melded them into a bright Spring hash along with potatoes, ramps, mushrooms, asparagus, pea tendrils, thyme and mint and presented fiddleheads that were crisp, super light and very tasty. I'd definitely eat them again...if Matt were cooking them.
I've never been much of a mushroom enthusiast either. In fact, I have had a life long aversion to them. Matt served a variety known as "hen of the woods" that actually blew my tastebuds away. No frilly gills tormenting my tongue, just a lovely, slightly meaty texture with a mild, woodsy flavor. Saute them in a hot pan with just a little fat, DON'T CROWD THE PAN, drain them on a paper towel when browned and voila, fungi fabulousness.
Matt prepared a raw asparagus salad by simply shaving the fat stalks with a vegetable peeler and tossing them right before serving with lemon, olive oil, parmesan cheese and truffle oil.
I am really turned on by truffle oil. Such a sensual flavor, like a kiss that lingers long after the lips have parted. Mmmmmm.
Matt served his asparagus salad with a warm truffle polenta ( again with the truffle oil...oh God!) which has a soft, custard like texture, the perfect pillow for the lightly crunchy asparagus. A bit of saltiness from the parmesan, a spark of lemon and that lavish layer of truffle oil...this was GOOD, GOOD, GOOD!
In fact, a woman sitting next to me had the widest grin on her face, her smile spreading from cheek to cheek, despite having her mouth full. She paused chewing long enough to dreamily say, "I can't talk-it's that good!"
There are more details about this extraordinary evening and you shall have them soon.
Right now I have made myself quite hungry with all this reminiscing.
I'm heading out to the garden to pick some fresh asparagus.
I've just purchased truffle oil and I need some kitchen time.

Clarke Culinary Center 64 South Main Street, South Norwalk, CT 203-838-9385
MATCH 98 Washington Street, South Norwalk, CT 203-852-1088

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