On the journey to host a dinner party for myself and 7 mates, I thought it would be wise to actually learn to cook a full meal from scratch. Scratch meaning, not opening a bag of Trader Joes, frozen prepared pasta or meal and throwing it in the oven/microwave depending on my classiness level of the day. Lets be honest, we all know how delicious the frozen meals at Trader Joes are and as a young-twenty-something living in Los Angeles, who has time to cook?
A mate of mine put me onto Hip Cooks. It is this wicked business that teaches people like me, who have not the slightest idea of where to start in a kitchen, how to cook a bomb meal from scratch. There are two locations in Los Angeles, and a few others through the West Coast. Classes are held 5 or 6 nights a week and for a sweet $55-$65 they will teach you how to cook a three course meal with up to 12 other people. Wine is paired and served with each course, unless it’s the cocktail workshop, at which appetizers are paired with each drink instead.
Seeing as I am supposed to be learning Italian this year (I have the books and the online course, that’s a start right?!) I thought an Italian cooking class seemed fitting. We made a seared squid salad for antipasto/primo, polenta two ways (wet and dry), risotto Milanese and Osso Bucco for secondo (main meal) and a deconstructed tiramisu for dessert. All the food was delicious and the casual way in which we cooked definitely makes me want to take another class.
Apparently I am an absolute novice at cooking as I learnt heaps at this class. Did you know that you should “waft” the aromas of the food towards you? 90% of the time that will tell you how well the food is cooking, or how the favours are changing as you are cooking them. Nor did I know the 3 staples in a kitchen are olive oil, sea salt and lemon. Don’t get me wrong I knew about all these things individually, I just did not realize how much pulling power they had. These three items can turn a novice dish into a delicious falvourful meal. A word on them though: don’t be a cheapskate. Olive Oil can be likened to wine, in the way that you might want to find out where your wine is made, how its made and what type of grapes are used. The best Olive Oil you can nab is generally Cold Pressed Extra Virgin, it basically means it is the first time the olives have been touched. Further more you want to make sure that all your olives are accounted for – don’t be getting wine with second-hand olives from some rinky dink place. My preference is a good Italian Cold Pressed Extra Virgin Olive Oil. Where the olives come from will have an effect on what it tastes like, due to the different climates and growing conditions.
Wine? Yes please! All the courses were paired with a delicious glass of Italian wine. Seriously is there a better way to cook? The second best thing to having wine with the meal was the deconstructed tiramisu for dessert. It was a sensationally balanced recipe (for those who followed it and didn’t go overboard with the chocolate as I did) and I’m uber excited to make it again. Whilst making the tiramisu I learnt why my pavlovas keep collapsing, I wasn’t beating the egg whites properly. Making a good pavlova is an essential skill for all Aussies to master.
The cooking class was a success – I came, I saw, I conquered! Now my dinner party has a date, the first weekend in May. I have finalised my guest list, all I need to do now is decide on the menu and cook it. My biggest concern (other than actually cooking) is the secondo, the veal osso bucco was delicious but I’m not totally sold on it. To prevent poising any of my guests, I will be doing a few test runs, so it could still be an option depending on how well I make it alone.