My brother in law got the coolest Christmas present for my sister this year: a series of cooking classes for the two of them at a local kitchen supply store. Since he was away on a business trip this week I got to take his spot at Monday night’s class.
The store is called Carlow Cookery and is named after the County in Ireland where the owner, Liam, and his wife originally came from. It’s one of those cool little shops stuffed with nifty kitchen tools, spices and beautiful bamboo cutting boards. The best part though is the teaching kitchen tucked back against one wall. It’s surrounded on three sides by a long bar where all the students sit to take notes, sip wine and taste what they’re being taught to make.
The chef was named David and has about thirty years experience, and boy howdy did he work fast. He schooled us on the importance of prepping in advance before you cook, and choosing extremely fresh, quality fish, cooked and treated gently. Basically, if you can smell it, don’t buy it.
I’ve always wanted to like fish, I know it’s healthy to eat and low in bad things like fat and calories, but I’ve always had a hard time really warming up to it unless it was fried – which is of course the least healthy way to prepare it. At the class I tried five different kinds: the notoriously “fishy” tasting salmon, cod, monkfish, sole, rockfish… the variety doesn’t matter – if it’s fresh from the water and cooked right it’s absolutely wonderful. I ate every bite of every tasting plate put in front of me and practically rolled out of there afterward, recipes in hand.
It also occurred to me that this type of thing would make a perfect venue for a date, particularly a first date. You can converse a bit, but there’s plenty of interesting stuff going on to occupy you. You’re learning useful skills, plus – there’s awesome food! I really want to bring my husband back there as a treat for the two of us sometime.
The most important thing I learned: fish is nothing to fear! Season gently, cook lightly, and dress with yummy sauce. You don’t have to fry or bake everything, you can pan sauté, braise or steam it to wonderful effect. Steamed, white flaky fish flavored with ginger and white wine tastes just like summer on the back porch – I am not kidding you. And it cooks FAST too.
As with everything, if you want it good it’s not cheap. Next time I buy fillets at a grocer I’m going to request to smell the product first, with fish – the nose really knows if it’s good to eat or not.
The store’s class schedule is on their website, I highly recommend checking it out!