I recently embarked on a 6-week basic skills course at The Cambridge School of Culinary Arts. The first day of class was an introduction to knife skills. After discussing types of knives and how to properly hold one, we went to house on a crate of produce — which included leeks, bell peppers, carrots, zucchini, herbs, shallots, garlic, and of course, onions — and potatoes, since our instructor was keen on making some french fries. In the end, the sundry assemblage of vegetables of assorted shapes and sizes were tossed together with some tomato sauce and pasta for our group dinner.
Class #2, eggs began with a lecture that sort of devolved as everyone’s impatience filled the room. Or maybe just mine :). Soon enough, we divvied up the menu and got crackin’. I tackled a soufflé and a Basque dish of slow scrambled eggs, onions, bell peppers, and tomatoes. Among the other dishes: quiches, eggs benedict, deviled eggs, frittatas, and a chocolate custard for dessert. It’s impossible not to learn how to make classic egg dishes without making a mother sauce or two: here, we made hollandaise for the eggs benedict and a béchamel base for the soufflés. The students who drew the deviled eggs made mayo from scratch as well, even though Escoffier has deemed mayo’s maternal instincts lacking. Classroom instruction is pretty relaxed, a bit too breezy for my tastes. But the instructor excels at offering encouragement in the kitchen and positive feedback on our dishes, and he keeps everything light-hearted and enjoyable, which is probably more important for beginners than elaborating on an egg’s coagulating properties.
My soufflé poofeth!
A soufflé fresh out of the oven looks impressive. But I think the hardest part of making a soufflé is not getting the poof but getting the seasoning right with the béchamel; you have to account for the flavor of the cheese(s) that will be incorporated, and also the unseasoned egg whites that will be folded in right before it hits the oven. This straightforward cheese soufflé was made with a mixture of parmesan and gruyere.
Second soufflé by my classmates, with cheddar and herbs:
Eggs benedict setup and lovely final products:
Quiche by my classmates: they made one with sauteed mushroom and one with bacon, both topped with gruyere. They also made the pâte brisée crust from scratch.
I wanted to cook as much as I could, so I also volunteered to make the pipérade with eggs. I reckon there’s some variation of a tomatoes + eggs dish at the heart of many cuisines: Mexican, Spanish, Chinese, to name a few.
Next week: stocks and soups!