5.01.2008

Knife Skills class and Ham, Asparagus, and Pecan Salad

I had the best time last night - the best! I took the Knife Skills 1 class at the Institute of Culinary Education, the first culinary class I've ever taken. Naturally, I was intimidated as hell walking up to the building but, as you can guess, my worries were completely unfounded. The school was gorgeous: shiny stainless steel countertops, intoxicating smells wafting around every corner, everyone wearing aprons... It was love at first sight, I tell you.

The professor was Norman Weinstein, which was hilarious because he is the author of the knife skills book (Mastering Knife Skills) I was eyeing in Barnes and Noble last weekend. I had no idea when I was browsing through the book he'd be the instructor. It was a small class, and there wasn't a single person over 35. Coincidence? Or is culinary passion becoming a generational thing?

On a side note, a former colleague told me that "knife skills" sounds an awful lot like "life skills". So true. Two important things to remember when using your knives? No pressure and follow-through. Indeed, those are life lessons. Not to mention that Norman Weinstein said these two principles apply to golf and tennis - he has had students come back to the class to thank him for helping them improve their game.

We worked with W├╝sthof knives and they were so beautiful. Chills. Chills. The instructor complimented my form during carrots and celery...but I really struggled with onions. It was a whole new experience to cut vegetables with a perfect knife, using little to no effort in my arm. I had to concentrate, I had to remember not to tense my shoulders, I had to remember to breathe. A few people in the class, after three hours of being told that how they did it before was wrong, were mildly irritated by the end. But I could have stood there for hours longer, chanting "ohm" and "teach me, Obi-Wan." If you have a culinary school nearby, I highly recommend indulging in a class. Needless to say, I also walked out of class with two new knives, purchased at 50% off from the school - a steal.

So I get out of class at 9:00 pm, and the school is at W. 23rd St. So it's going to take me almost an hour to get home. I hadn't had dinner yet and forgot that I was going to finally make a fellow blogger's recipe (being a relatively new blogger, I haven't tried anyone else's recipe yet). So I call up Adam and told him I needed him to get started on For the Love of Food's Ham, Asparagus, and Pecan Salad. With his newfound confidence lately, he readily agreed. By the time I got home, he was finished and this is what he created:


Here is the recipe per FTLOF:

Ingredients:

200 grams (I used 1/2 lb.) deli-sliced Ham, cut into think strips and chopped
250 grams Asparagus (I used 1/2 lb.), dry ends removed
2 Cups Pecans
3 Tablespoons Olive Oil
1/4 teaspoon Chicken BullionSaltPepper

Directions:
Preheat oven to broil/grill.
In a medium-sized casserole dish, lay the asparagus out in a single layer. Pour olive oil over them and sprinkle with chicken bullion, and salt and pepper to taste. Place them in the oven and broil for 5 minutes, mix them with a fork, and broil for another 5 minutes. If the spears are really really thick, you may need to broil them longer. Just remember you want them roasted and not burnt!

In the mean time, place the pecans on a baking sheet and place them in the oven under the rack with the asparagus on them to warm them up. Once you pull out the asparagus, move the pecan baking sheet up to the top and toast for 1 minute.

Place ham pieces in a large salad bowl; add the pecans. Once asparagus are done, carefully move them to a cutting board and cut the spears into pieces. Place the pieces in the salad bowl. Then, drizzle the oil mixture from the roasted asparagus over the salad.*

Makes 3-4 main dish servings.

Oh, you have to try this! It is the ideal late spring dinner (or lunch) - salty, sweet, green, substantial, flavorful. You might not normally think of these three things going together (I didn't) but the combination is surprising and interesting. And, yes, we ate this as our main dish...in fact, our only dish. It was the perfect light dinner at 10-friggin-o'clock at night, and the leftovers made a wonderful lunch for me at work today (even if the pecans had softened a bit...). Not to mention that it was one more dish Adam made that satisfied his debt to me. Thanks to For the Love of Food for the lovely dish.

Note: we also drank a luscious Pinot Blanc that paired well with this, and it's not always easy to find something that'll pair with asparagus. Unfortunately, I don't have the name available to me now - I'll edit this post later with the name. (Edit: it was the 2005 Leon Beyer Pinot Blanc from Alsace, which I bought from my local wine shop for $12. It was fruity, but crisp with a dry finish. It'll be a go-to wine for me this summer.)

*2nd Note: Adam didn't broil the asparagus, per the recipe. He grilled it on our stovetop grill instead and drizzled fresh olive oil at the end.

Eat, drink, and learn how to use your knives

1 comment:

Nicole said...

Oh your class sounds amazing! Lucky girl. And your husband sound so sweet. It is so cool he is getting into it with the food. Fun.

I am in a mad frenzy prepping to go to NY! I leave in less than 2 weeks. Do you have any restaurant/foodie suggestions? We will be doing the show all day but will be able to go out to dinner at night. It is just my mom and I going.

Thanks.