Culinary Iditarod v2

I’ve just finished a culinary Iditarod. No sled dogs were involved, and I was nowhere near Alaska.  And there was definitely no mush.   But I cooked for something like 11 out of 13 days.  It was a blast, and now I need a nap.

It started with another Rays of Hope cooking class.  But this time, thanks to Chris, the Coordinator of all Things Rays, I got off my lazy butt and came up with a new (and seasonal!) menu: roasted butternut squash soup (yes, I posted the recipe in my recipe section) and fast-and-easy pickled beets.  It was a big hit.

This was followed the next night with a dinner for 14 in a brand new kitchen, complete with two convection ovens, a six burner gas stove, and a built-in Miele coffee maker that makes espresso, cappuccino, and tea.  If Joe DiMaggio were still with us, he’d abandon Mr. Coffee in a heartbeat.  The menu was great, too.  It included a seafood and vegetarian paella, plus my world famous (well, maybe quite) pots de crème, France’s answer to Shake-a-Pudding.  Unfortunately, the evening ended with my backing the ChefBillmobile over a box containing 15 ceramic custard/pots de crème cups.  No, I didn’t put them there.  But seven of them did survie their ordeal.

The next night, I did the food, with four assistants, for the 15th anniversary party for the Karuna Center for Peacebuilding, at the Amherst Women’s Club.  It was the same place where Karen and I were married almost one million years ago.  I didn’t do the food that time, though.  The entertainment for the night was Peter Buffet.  No, not the Margariteville Guy.  That’s Jimmy.  Peter is the son of Warren (Buffet, not Harding or Beatty), an Emmy award winning musician, and a nice guy.  There were over 100 attendees who dined on my (drum roll for modesty here) pretty nifty vegetarian appetizers.  Some of the highlights:  Organic medjool dates stuffed with gorgonzola and goat cheeses, and phyllo cups filled with mushrooms sautéed in sherry, with feta cheese.  The evening was a big hit, and I slept the next morning until 10:00.  Oh, to be young again…

I’ll get to the rest of the Iditarod soon…

Mixing up a Cake

At this very moment, the flourless chocolate cake that’s posted in my recipe section is in the oven.  It’s much easier to make than it looks.  The technique takes a lot of describing, but it’s nothing exotic.  It’s a great cake, and it’s perfect for Passover.  But I also had a revelation while I was making it.

Last week, when I did my class at Different Drummer’s Kitchen, I had to whip 3 cups (3/4 of a quart!) of heavy cream, to make whipped cream.  Up to that point, my gold standard for electric stand mixers was the Kitchen Aid.  It’s a great mixer, and I’ve had mine for 16+ years.  It’s a beast, and is almost bullet proof.  Not that I’ve actually tried to shoot it…

So, I was at Different Drummers, and asked for their Kitchen Aid to whip the cream.  Instead, they brought out a Viking stand mixer, which I’ve never used.  So I added the cream, and started the mixer.  I noticed immediately that it was quieter than the Kitchen Aid, which made it easier for me to talk to the 24 people in the class.

As I was talking, I looked over at the mixer.  I was shocked.  The cream was whipped already.  It was noticeably faster than the Kitchen Aid.  It also seemed a bit lighter in weight, and a bit more balanced while moving it around.

So would I buy one?  Three things:
1. The knob for lifting the beaters was a bit awkward.  Not a show-stopper, but noticeable
2. The model I was using costs $550.  That’s $250-$300 more than the Kitchen Aid
3. My Kitchen Aid still works well.  When/if it croaks, I’ll have to think about this.  It really is a great mixer

Finally, sadly, I receive no money, electric mixers, or any other kind of kickback from the Viking people.  If they’d like to change that, I’m all ears…

Pad Thai and Sweet Sloops?

On Saturday, Nov 7, from noon to 2:00, I’ll be teaching a really different class in  a really different place.  I’ll be at Harbor Sweets, right on the waterfront in Salem, MA.  But wait.  It gets better.

In case you don’t know Harbor Sweets, they make some of the best chocolate in the world.  And I’m not saying that just because I worked there for five years.  Actually, I went to work there because they make some of the best chocolate in the world.  And if you’ve had one of their candies, from their signature Sweet Sloops to the Sand Dollars to, well, everything else they make by hand, then you know what I mean.

So, what’s this class all about?  I’m going to cook with crushed Sweet Sloops.  And not just great cookies, either.  I’ll be doing a number of recipes.  But I think the biggest seller (and surprise) will be Pad Thai.  Yeah, I know what you’re thinking.  Pad Thai with crushed Sweet Sloops?  Trust me.  You’ll want to be there, to see it made, and to taste it.

Seating is limited, so you’ll need to make a reservation.  And we’ll be cooking where they make the Sweet Sloops, so the class is appropriate for Foodies over the age of 12 years old

To reserve your seat, please call Harbor Sweets directly at 978-745-7648, or visit them in their retail store in Salem.  There is no charge for the class, so make sure to reserve so you can get a seat.

There’s no better way to spend a Saturday afternoon.  Chef Bill and Harbor Sweet chocolates, right by the ocean.  How great is that?

Last Night’s Cooking Class

Had a fun (and full!) class tonight at Different Drummer’s Kitchen in Northampton (yeah, the locals call it NoHo.  Gee, is there another NoHo somewhere…?).  It was a lively class, so lively that when I was showing how to make a traditional risotto (as the foundation of my world-famous lemon risotto cakes), I got some comments that another instructor had just made a risotto that needed no stirring (unlike mine) and was easily made in the oven.  No muss.  No fuss.  No stirring.  Ziiiiiiiiiing!  That’s when I mentioned that another friend was telling me about making risotto in a rice cooker.  Also no muss.  No fuss.  And no stirring.  So I gave everyone some samples of the almost-finished risotto, before I formed the cakes.  In all modesty (watch for my Snoopy dance shortly), they liked mine, because it had the classic risotto taste and texture.

And while the whole menu was good, everyone was pleased with the flank steak.  Other than fajitas, people don’t always do a lot with flank steak.  It’s not as crazy-expensive as beef tenderloin.  Of course, it’s also nowhere near as tender.  But it’s flavorful, especially with the marinade.  And it takes less than 10 minutes to throw together the marinade.  Then, let the steak marinate for two-eight hours, throw it on the grill (or pan-fry it, or even broil it).  In less than ten minutes, it’s cooked.

Does it get any easier?