Wednesday, March 2, 2011
The Cooking Class
One of the prizes at Write On Maz, the library fundraiser, was a cooking class for six, donated by Hector, the very talented owner of Molika Bakery. Hector is a world class chef and his restaurant and classes are very popular.
A group of us decided that we really wanted this one, so we pooled our resources and lucked in. On Tuesday, we attended our two hour class, to learn how to cook fish, ala Hector. And what an adventure it was.
Hector is passionate about food, and is a wonderful teacher. We really didn't learn how to follow any particular recipes, rather we were instructed on how to create a recipe. We were enthralled, and his staff were obviously equally so.
We started with Red Snapper, whole, cooked in parchment paper. As well as showing us how to prepare the fish, Hector gave a mini lesson on how to properly prepare julienned vegetables! The Snapper was stuffed with celery, garlic and lemon zest, and then covered with the veggies (nothing fancy, just carrots and celery) and then anointed with white wine. Perfection, absolute culinary bliss!
Next was a salad, with scallops, greens, sun dried tomatoes, and pineapple bits which had been enfused with lemon grass, coriander and chiles. The dressing was a truly simple, wonderful, lemon vinagrette.
We were a bit greedy sharing the Red Snapper, I thought we were going to come to blows over this one.
Next we were treated to swordfish, cut in 1 inch pieces, sauteed and tossed with a mixture of fresh basil leaves, tomatoes, olives, capers, and lemon pieces. There was something else, but darned if I can remember. At this point in the evening my brain was on overload. I'll have to check back in with Hector, because this I want to make again. The dish was served over a bed of Hector's wonderful bread, to soak up all the juices. There was another battle over this one! Unfortunately I was so busy rushing in with my fork, I forgot to take a picture. A friend, however, emailed me hers but I cannot, for some reason, make it bigger. I have tried and tried and give up. So, here is a teeny tiny picture of the finished swordfish - you might want to consider a magnifying glass for this one!
Personally, I did not think the next round was as successful - Spaghetti with Calimari, Garlic and Chiles (but I did figure out how to say it en espanol: Espaguetis con calimari, ajo y chiles).
The pasta was perfect, with lots of the aforementioned garlic, and chilies. We learned that in a great restaurant, the pasta is divided into individual portions so that there are no mistakes in portion sizes on busy nights. We also learned that Hector knows exactly how much salt to put into the pot so that the water is perfectly seasoned every time, and he gave us that trick as well. And then he talked about calimari. And cooked it, and served it. I tried it, twice, and then graciously stood back and let my fellow classmates enjoy. Not as much passing of the dish that time - I am not a big fan of calimari. I think Hector rather enjoyed explaining calimari to us!
And I did try it!
We then moved on to the Sea Bass. I have never, ever, tasted fish that was as good as this was. It was so simple, Sea Bass quickly sauteed til it was golden and crip on the exterior, served over a bed of spinach and butter, accompanied by small roasted onions, drizzled with reduced balsamic vinegar and sprinkled with sesame seeds. We were just about licking the plate on this one!!
To finish off the evening Hector taught us something amazingly simple - he tossed smoked marlin (readily available at the market) into a blender with a good chuck of cream cheese, whipped it all up, drizzled it with anchovy oil, and then served it spread of toasted bread. Instant appetizer and delicious.
My girlfriend and I went for a massage the next day and stopped afterwards at the Mercado to check out the fish. No Sea Bass (darn) but we really didn't expect to find any, as Hector said it is hard to find. We did see some lovely Red Snapper, however. Hector taught us to look for bright perky eyes, and also suggested a good healthy sniff - you're supposed to smell the ocean, not the fish. I also spotted a piece of tuna that I very much wanted to buy and bring home. Hector said that the sword fish he served would also work with tuna. However, we'd been invited out for the evening, so the tuna will have to wait for another day. Janice did pick up some smoked marlin however, and headed home to experiment.
What else did we learn? To mix olive oil and canola oil, half and half, and use that to saute with - that way you don't waste your precious olive oil. Use the good olive oil to drizzle over your food after it's cooked.
Hector, by the way, also reminded us that the three main ingredients in French cuisine were butter, butter and butter!