Saturday, December 17, 2011

Cooking class, Paul Wellstone, and Scarves

Eating:  Our cooking class was a lot of fun.  It was a class on the "mother sauces" - the five sauces that are the basis for all sauces.  We were at a table/cooking station with 2 other couples who we had not met before we got there.  Cooking by committee with 4 people you do not know is, well, interesting.  Anyway... We started with bechemel, a kind of basic cream sauce, the base for creamy soups, cheese fondue, anything creamy and saucy.  Secret tip I learned?  A dash of nutmeg.  Who knew?  We tried this sauce on a croque monsieur (fancy French ham and cheese sandwich). 
Next was a veloute, a stock based sauce, which we made into a pasta and prawns dish with coconut chili lime sauce - super tasty and flavorful. 
The "entree" portion of the meal used an espagnole sauce, which is a dark brown sauce (think brown gravy) using beef stock.  In the sauce, we cooked some little gnocchi, then once the sauce was nice and thick (and full of flavor from the "holy trinity" (aka mire poix, aka carrots, celery and onion), stock and a bit of wine), it was serve over beef for beef bourguinone.  This was our favorite dish of the evening.
We then made, with a bit of difficulty, a hollandaise type sauce.  I say a bit of difficulty because the cooking by committee was in full force here, and the chef/instructor had stated that we now knew all the science we needed to make this sauce on our own.  Not that I am blaming either the committee or the instructor but this is a difficult sauce on a good day and ours needed to be started over.  Once we finished, though, it was scallops with a bacon garlic aioli, and it was good. 
For dessert, we made a vinagrette.  Vinagrette is not actually one of mother sauces (per the internet, anyway) and I was a bit curious how a vinagrette becomes dessert but it was an excellent balance to the sweetness of the other parts of the sauce and to the vanilla custard.  We started with chopped apples and some sugar, caramelized a bit in the pan, then added balsamic vinegar and some macerated berries.  Yum, yum, yum.
It was fun and I would definitely take a class there again, especially with a groupon, and especially with my hubby by my side.  It would be fun to do with friends, too.

Reading:  I finished Paul Wellstone: The Life of a Passionate Progressive about a week ago.  I really really liked it, and realized that I am still sad about his death.  He was a voice for the people who rarely have a voice - children, the poor, the mentally ill.  He learned how to work well across party lines and was well-known for making sure his opinions and views were heard.  The book was well-written by a guy who had been part of Wellstone's campaign and a friend. He had access to Paul's unpublished autobiography and clearly a lot of insight into the life of the late senator. 
A couple of my favorite quotes from Wellstone: "The many should not have to suffer so that a few can prosper.  Some people are very generous with other people's suffering."  "A society that abandons its children with inadequate health care, child-care, education and nutrition is a society that has failed its mission." 

After I finished that book (and added another about Wellstone to my list to read someday), I picked up a new copy of an old favorite, The Borrowers by Mary Norton.  We read this together as a family when I was a kid.  If you have not read this, or have not read it in a long time, or have not read it to your children, I highly recommend checking it out.  The fascinating story of little people who live beneath the floor and "borrow" things from the "human beans" is clever and entertaining.  I found myself amazed by how the Borrowers used our everyday objects (this also explains where things like safety pins and postage stamps are always disappearing to), and caught up in the adventures of them, as they risk being "seen" when "borrowing".  Awesome book.  Now, I will need to read the continued adventures in The Borrowers Afield, The Borrowers Afloat, and more. 

Creating: Here is the picture of the scarf I made for my favorite 5 year old for her birthday.  When we arrived yesterday with a pink gift bag in hand, she asked me who it was for.  I asked her who she thought it was for.  She said, "Me!" to which I replied, "Why would it be for you?"  "Because you forgot to give me a birthday present!"  She's got me there.  It wasn't so much I forgot, more like I wasn't done with it yet.  The sooner she accepts that handmade gifts for me are going to be late, the less disappointed she will be in the future...
And as a bonus, a couple pictures of the scarf I made for her 5" tall stuffed penguin.
naked penguin
penguin with scarf
Penny joins the nuns' choir


Anonymous said...

You have learned well, Grasshopper, about hand made gifts. When you start giving yarn and needles as gifts, I will laugh at your ingenuity! Penny and the choir of nnuns is now one of my fave pictures!

Melanie said...

The closest I come to cooking is watching "Top Chef" and they just did a challenge with the mother sauces within the last couple of weeks. It's fun to read what you guys are cooking and eating (my favorite)! I too, should also re-read the "Borrowers", I forgot how much we liked that book. I think I'll have to add the Wellstone book to my list as well. Now, as far as the Penguin and the Nuns...I'm really disappointed I didn't have a chance to win those nuns back, because they ARE adorable and then stick a penguin in there too...YEAH!

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