I’m an intermediate cook who has been cooking for a long time and thought I knew my way around the kitchen. I decided to take a six-week Basics of Culinary course at the Publix Apron’s Cooking
School in Tampa. I’d like to share some of what I learned with you if you’ll bear with me. I should have done a short blog after each class instead of just one long one, so I hope you make it to the end.
Publix is a large supermarket chain in the South which has six cooking schools in Florida and one in Georgia. Apron’s has hands-on classes and demonstration classes; Basics of Culinary is hands-on. My class was small, 3 guys
and 5 women, and I think everybody was pretty close on skill level. No novice cooks and no expert cooks which made for a relaxing learning environment. The two chef-instructors were professional, knowledgeable, personable, and willing to answer questions
on any cooking topic. They represented Publix well!
My primary reason for taking this course was to learn cooking techniques and skills, so I could be less dependent on recipes. We all throw things together in the kitchen, sometimes they turn out great and other times, not so
much. And I wanted to have a better understanding of why certain things work and others don’t.
Now, let me tell you “I NEVER KNEW HOW LITTLE I KNEW” until I took this course. First class focused on knife skills and safety in the kitchen. I wasn’t even holding my knife correctly. I find that I’m
now slicing, dicing, and chopping much more productively, and my husband has less fear that one day he’ll be driving me to the emergency room with a severed finger. Big message here for all of us is keep your knives “SHARP.”
We learned how to cut up a whole chicken and then turn it into flavorful stock. Don’t throw away any veggies or bones (even from rotisserie chickens). Put them in a zip-lock bag, and pop them in the freezer for use later when
you need to make stock, and just let it simmer all day (if you have time).
I think all of us were surprised at how much flavor came from cooking shrimp shells (which in my house would have gone down the disposal) into a flavorful broth which was used in shrimp etouffe. Again, making use of something
that previously would have gone out to the curb on garbage day.
We learned about emulsions, and the successful ratio of 3 parts oil to 1 part emulsifier for successful dressings and vinaigrettes. We made Hollandaise sauce, lemon curd, and mayonnaise. Not long ago I made the Deeeelicious
Vidalia Dressing recipe on the All Recipes site which turned out totally runny, but oh so tasty. I now have been able to get it to the right consistency by using that 3/1 ratio in the recipe, it just never fails:
How really simple it is to make a tomato-based “mother sauce” which then can be turned into other sauces like marinara and enchilada just by the addition of herbs and spices. You don’t really need a recipe to do that. And
how about brandy cream sauce for steak au poivre or a pecan brown butter sauce over tilapia that was so easy and so delicious...yes, we made them.
Another class focused on dough. That day, we made pizza, focaccia, flatbread, and turned home made pasta into fettuccine for Grilled Chicken Alfredo Fettuccine. The rind end of a chunk of Parmigiano-Reggiano (in my house, unfortunately,
it probably would have been more affordable Romano) which I normally would have thrown away was added to the simmering cream which then released its flavor into the alfredo sauce...fantastic! That fresh fettuccine that was made in the food processor and then
rolled out and cut with the Kitchen Aid pasta attachment was so easy and delicious that I’m trying to justify that I really NEED that pasta attachment. Maybe for my next birthday??
We quickly “roasted” garlic cloves just by adding them to olive oil and cooking on the stove until soft. We removed the garlic cloves from the oil, mashed them, and added back some of the olive oil (saving the rest of the garlic-infused
oil for use later) to make a paste which then was spread on the pizza crust for our Margherita Pizza. No tomato sauce used here, just freshly-sliced tomatoes, basil and cheeses.
We learned braising techniques, tips for home made ice cream, cooking fresh veggies in light tempura batter, cleaning and cooking fresh mussels with different broths/sauces, 2/1 ratio for cooking rice, correctly mashing potatoes,
quick & easy strudels using phyllo dough, etc., etc. Enough said...learned a lot!
Today was the last class. We learned how to french a rack of lamb, a work of art. Our final meal was poblano corn chowder, spiced lamb chops (coated with a dry spice rub) with red wine reduction, ancho-cocoa rubbed pork tenderloin,
3-cheese macaroni with caramelized onions (m-m-m-m, what those onions did for that mac & cheese), and for dessert, white chocolate bread pudding with whiskey caramel sauce. Wow, what a meal to end the course.
We cooked a lot of food in these six classes which was enjoyed by all of us at the end of each class. My head is filled with lots of new cooking knowledge, and I’m inspired and motivated to get into the kitchen and start cooking. I’ll
never give up on Allrecipes, it’ll always be my go-to source for recipes and cooking info, but I’m now ready to start generating more recipes of my own.
The point of these classes was to leave with a better understanding of some basic culinary skills and techniques to make us better cooks. And also, to be able to take a recipe and successfully “make it your own.” Great fun
and very worthwhile experience...BON APPETIT!
am an Allrecipes Allstar Brand Ambassador (a voluntary position), and I'm not compensated for my work with Allrecipes.com. Products received from advertisers are only used for experienced-based reviews on New Horizons in the Kitchen. The reviews, content
and opinions expressed in this blog are purely the sole opinions of lutzflcat.