June 27, 2010

Culinary School - Your Way

This newfound interest of mine, in food and cooking, has brought me up short on a couple of occasions. The more I learn, it seems, the more I realize I have to learn. I thought I'd learned most of the basics from my mom, my friends, and in school, but with the preponderance of cooking shows and websites, I realize that, although I know a good deal more than some people, I know a good deal less than I'd like to.

This video, for instance - Gordon Ramsay making perfect scrambled eggs - was an absolute revelation.

I've made those scrambled eggs on several occasions now, for different people, and they get rave reviews every time. Who knew it could be so easy? I'd been doing pretty much everything wrong up to that point: blending the eggs, adding milk and salt and pepper and cheese and goodness knows what else before cooking, using too-high heat, cooking the eggs too fast... you name it, I did it wrong. And I was never happy with my scrammelacks, as my dad calls them.

I have good quality knives, cutting boards, appliances, and cookware, but without the knowledge and skills to back it up, it all feels like so much window dressing, akin to having good quality skis and poles and boots and a matching ski suit, before you've even taken a lesson: unnecessary and possibly a bit pretentious. I don't want to be a professional chef, but I sure would like to know what they know, cook like they cook, with confidence and creativity. I don't have the time, the money, the passion, to go to culinary school, so some other strategy is clearly required.

Reading cooking and foodie blogs has taught me a bit. (Serious Eats has a series of how-to's and knife skills that have helped.) Cooking shows help, too, though some of them are more focused on what not to do than what to do. The How to Cook Everything app for iPhone is also wicked cool.

But the most helpful thing I've found thus far? Rouxbe.com Online Video Cooking School. I found a link and a video on one of the blogs I read included a reference and a link to Rouxbe.com's lesson on how to heat a stainless steel pan properly to ensure the food doesn't stick, and a commenter mentioned that the whole (subscription only) site is amazing useful and worth the subscription fee, so I had a look. And then I signed up for the 14-day free trial. And I've been absorbing the lessons - on eggs, on bread, on equipment - all weekend. The bread one was so inspiring I actually bought yeast and bread flour today, with the intention of trying my hand at baguettes. There are more than 60 lessons, plus practice recipes and video recipes. The videos are compatible with iPad and iPhone, which is nice for those of us who commute from time to time.

I'm quite impressed, and considering buying a subscription when my free trial expires in 12 more days.


  1. There's more than one way to skin a cat -- or scramble an egg, too: http://www.break.com/usercontent/2009/7/mark-peel-on-julia-child-and-how-to-scramble-eggs-822819.html

    Bon appetit! :)

  2. Ah, well there you go. Contradictory information is perhaps inevitable in cooking; if there's one thing I've learned, it's that there's more than one school of thought about pretty much everything. Thanks for the link; those eggs look delish!

  3. I think what's key with cooking -- well, with anything, really, but since this is a cooking blog, we'll stick to that -- is to play around, have fun, and figure out what works for you. (And have the courage of your convictions when flipping that omelette, too. Or not. Heh.) That's exactly what you seem to be doing right now, so go you. =D

  4. I loved that video. I must move the movie up my Zip list!

    Having fun with cooking... well, I'm starting to. Might do a blog post about that at some point, too.