One of my two top tips to keep things interesting in the kitchen is simple: Try new things and learn new things. Many things have changed over the years I have been enjoying culinary arts. (Also known as cooking REAL. GOOD. FOOD.) One thing that hasn’t changed is my child like excitement when I discover new food or techniques. How many times have I thought I didn’t like something only to learn I LOVED it when I paired it or prepared it differently.
One really great opportunity to learn something new and also try something new are the local cooking classes at Sur La Table in the Village. This store in itself is a culinary inspiration to me. I recently took the Thai Restaurant Favorites and would definitely recommend the classes.
The menu and recipes are interesting, but there is so much more to the class. The Thai Restaurant Favorites menu included:
- Minced Chicken Lettuce Cups (Larb Gai)
- Perfect Pad Thai
- Panang Coconut Curry with Shrimp
- Coconut Lime Sorbet
Honestly, none of the recipes descriptions blew me away at first glance. I was most excited about learning more about Pad Thai. I love Pad Thai from a couple restaurants I have tried in other cities. Here in Boise Mai Thai is our favorite. At home I just can’t seem to get it right so I was excited to talk with the chef and learn more about what I might do better when making this seemingly simple recipe. All of the recipes sounded tasty and fun to prepare.
When I arrived at the class the chef and sous chefs were preparing and greeted me. I love the warm feeling like I am in a friends (very spacious and well stocked) kitchen. My husband and his parents came to the class with me, which made it a special time together. It is a fun scene with many of the ingredients are already prepared in small dishes ready for you to cook alongside cutting boards. After I put on my official Sur La Table cooking class apron the team asked if anyone would like coffee. The coffee they serve is good. 🙂 The chef who would be teaching then gave an overview. I listened with a warm mug in my hand and then the fun began.
Cooking with other people is important to me. It’s a special kind of bonding to make something and eat it together. It is exciting that my husband now likes Thai food and curry. Just a few years ago he thought he hated it. I would not have dreamed he would be at a Thai Cooking class with me ten years ago. But there we were.
As the cooking class got started the chef described techniques and tools. Some were very familiar. Some of the techniques, especially knife handling, were great reminders for me. Knowing how to hold a knife can make a big difference on how long it takes to make a quick meal if it includes a lot of fresh fruits and vegetables as our menu normally does. The class environment has enough of the ingredients prepared to really let you stop and take a moment to try a new tool or work on a technique. It’s very relaxing.
Next we began to prepare the Minced Chicken Lettuce Cups (Larb Gai). The ingredients smelled amazing as they came together. Nothing ground breaking, but a good opportunity to laugh about how much heat we can take from those Thai Chiles. I especially loved the shallots the recipe they shared called for. I had only used onion in the past and the shallot added a great flavor. I will be opting for shallots in the future when making this kind of dish.
The next recipe we began to work on was the Perfect Pad Thai. After scanning the recipe packet I was excited to see an ingredient new to me: preserved radish. After speaking with the chef about my past Pad Thai fails he was quick to point out that no two ingredients are exactly the same. I know this should be obvious to me, but after talking with him it dawned on me that the type of fish sauce I was using was more concentrated than others I had used in the past. It was a light bulb moment. The Pad Thai turned out very good and I fished the last bite I determined to go home and make really good Pad Thai. As it happened we had a pot luck with Asian theme the following weekend where I was able to test my new knowledge. Everyone said the Pad Thai was delicious.
Have I mentioned once or twice that I really LOVE curry? My friend first taught me a simple recipe not so long ago and since then I have been expanding my menu to include many different curries. The Panang Coconut Curry with Shrimp was recipe looked good. I found myself very excited as I read the recipe and realized that I had never made curry with shrimp. Never. Something new! I also love lemon grass, but I could not remember using it in curry. I thought I was looking forward to preparing this recipe, but it got even better when we got out the tagine to begin cooking. I have wanted to try one, but had not had the opportunity. It seems like I get to try some new tool each time I take a class.
The finale was the Coconut-Lime Sorbet. When I read the description I thought those were the flavors added. I didn’t realize it meant that it would be made with coconut milk. The preparation requires and ice cream machine and it was surprisingly quick. It made me reflect on the twenty year old ice cream maker we have and consider something new for this coming summer. It was really delicious and got me thinking of all the cold delicious things our family hopes to make once it gets hot outside.
Did you know you can save 20% Off local cooking classes with Sur La Table in the Village when you mention Brown Box Organics? Click here to learn more.