A couple of cooking classes

A couple of weeks ago, I took a class on Sauces at the Castro Valley Adult School. We learned how to make 3 sauces, a strawberry sauce (which was just a matter of putting fresh strawberries and a bit of water in a blender and adding a little bit of sugar – what I don’t remember is if we cooked the strawberries first), a white sauce and a brown sauce. None of them were particularly difficult to make. I’d never made a brown sauce before, but I think I’d be able to do it again – if I had a recipe. I’ve made bechamel sauces in the past, and the one here – which we turned into a cheese sauce – wasn’t that different from the ones I made. In all, it was an interesting class but I don’t feel it expanded my culinary horizons too much. That said, it’d be particularly useful for beginning cooks. Personally, I’d prefer to learn how to make more complicated sauces, like aiolis, hollandaise and bearnaise. Perhaps in the next class.
Just yesterday, I took a class on South East Asian cuisine at the San Leandro Adult School. This is the third such class I take, I took a class on Malaysian cooking and another one on Southeast Asian cooking with the same teacher before.
This time we cooked Beef Kurmah from Malaysia, Singaporean Fried Noodles and Bamboo shoots with chicken from Thailand. In addition to the dishes, I also learned a couple of techniques.
One is that chopsticks are very useful for turning meat when you are browning it. It’s always a bit clumsy to do it with tongs or a fork, so I will try this method. Another hint is that the pan/oil needs to be *very* hot when you add the meat, let this cook through.
Malaysian food is often based on a paste of shallots, garlic, ginger, lemon grass and chilis. One thing I learned (that is often not in the recipes) is to add a little bit of water when you make the paste in a blender of food processor. I usually use the latter, but the teacher used the former and I wonder if it’s better. I’ll try it.
I had a pretty unsuccessful experience cooking with lemongrass a week or two ago, so now I learned to take out the tough layers of the lemongrass and then slice the rest horizontally before processing.
Finally, the teacher used a knife that looked like a cleaver. I’m thinking of looking for one to see if it works better than the knives I have (which, after a year, seem to be getting dull).

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