I’m a dreamer of culinary school. Cooking. Pastry. Baking. It doesn’t even matter. I just want to go to culinary school. Unfortunately, the keyword is “dream.” Now, I know some of you out there are saying, “It wasn’t what I thought it would be,” or “I went and I feel like it was a waste of time.” I’ve read the posts. I still want to go. I teach myself a ton about cooking. I read books about food. I watch shows, movies and videos about food. I grow vegetables and herbs. I practice cooking and baking on a daily basis (sometimes ALL day.) I BLOG about food, for goodness sakes.
I do all things food.
It’s not the same.
It’s not the same as getting formal training. I kind of look at schooling like buying a gym membership. Yeah, you can lift weights or run a treadmill at your own home, but when you join a gym, you now have an obligation. Cooking, for me, is the same way. Without accountability, some days it’s difficult to dedicate yourself to the learning you know you need to accomplish.
With that being said, I find other ways to teach myself new things about food. One of my favorite ways is through chef demonstrations. Whether it’s a celebrity chef or not, watching other people cook is one of the best ways to learn. (How else did we learn how to do all of those cool things from our grandmas?) The National Restaurant Show, in Chicago, is a fabulous place to watch chef demo’s. On a huge culinary stage, celebrity chefs do their thing and make cooking look simple. If they can pull together delicious dishes in a makeshift kitchen, we can all EASILY do it at home…at least, we like to think we can. Err…I mean…I KNOW we can.
Last year, at the 2012 NRA show, one of the chefs presenting was Chef Mike Isabella. Isabella is the chef/owner of Graffiato and Bandolero, both in Washington D.C. He competed on Top Chef Las Vegas (Season 6) and was runner-up on Top Chef All-Stars. Chef Mike is a hard-edged, Jersey type of guy, specializing in Greek-Mediterranean types of food. With a cookbook focusing on Italian and his latest restaurant, focusing on Modern Mexican, Isabella’s specialties seem to be growing.
From his Italian cookbook, Chef Mike demonstrated how to make a simple gnocchi. Gnocchi are thick, soft potato dumplings, typically served as a primi piatto or first course (instead of a soup.) They can be coated with butter, pesto or various sauces. Because of health safety reasons, no one is allowed to taste the stage offerings. Although, after watching the gnocchi demonstration, I knew I could do this at home. Who would have thought something like this could be so simple? High impression value, little work…that’s what I like. I don’t have his cookbook, but fortunately, he handed out his gnocchi recipe. I put a bit of a spin on the recipe only because I had certain ingredients on hand. I topped mine with a simple tomato fennel sauce, but next time, I’m thinking black truffle butter. It must have been good. My 13 year old son ate three plates. So much for a first course. Give a try and let me know what you think!
- 4 Idaho potatoes (washed) (I used organic Japanese sweet potatoes)
- 2 egg yolks
- 4 TB parmigiano (I used Drunken Goat cheese)
- 1½ c. unbleached all-purpose flour
- 1 tsp sea salt
- (I also added 2 TB chopped, fresh fennel fronds)
- Preheat oven to 425 degrees.
- Prick each potato several times with a fork. Place on a baking sheet. Cook for about 1 hour.
- remove from oven, let cool for 6-10 minutes. Just cool enough so you can handle them.
- cut each potato lengthwise and scoop out the flesh. Place through a ricer into a bowl. (I don't have a ricer so I just mashed through a fine sieve. Be sure to rinse the sieve quickly after using or you'll never get the potato out of it.)
- Stir in salt, parmigiano, yolks and 1 c. of flour. Stir enough just to combine or you will overwork the dough and it will become tough.
- Roll out into 12" x ¾" snake, sprinkle with flour so it doesn't stick.
- Cut into gnocchi-size pieces. Give each a little press with the tines of a fork. This is so the sauce has something to stick to. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil.
- Add gnocchi and let cook for 1-2 minutes, until they float.