Cooking School Begins

Posted by Brette in Books | Food

Martha is plugging her new cooking school book in a hot and heavy way. The magazine has a lesson from it and each week on her show there is going to be an on-air lesson. Being a good little disciple, I have gone out and captured a copy (oddly enough in my local B&N it wasn’t in the cookbook section, but on a separate table in the middle of the store, which struck me as very odd). My plan is to follow along with the lessons on the show and post here each week so you can see how it goes.

Do I Need Cooking School?

Am I a little resentful that Martha thinks we all need to go to cooking school? Yes, maybe a little. After all, as she has admitted, she’s never gone. I think most of us who do cook have learned it on our own, or from our mothers. I’m lucky in that I had two grandmothers who loved to cook, as well as two parents who participated in a monthly “gourmet club” (if that sounds totally 70s, it’s because it was) and threw a Martha style Christmas party every year. So I’m not too shabby in the kitchen.

What I’m learning from Martha though is that there are so many things I really don’t know about cooking. While it totally ticked me off to have to have Martha and Sarah Carey (editor of Everyday Food and clearly the one who wrote most of this Cooking School tome) lecture me on how to chop an onion, I must admit I’ve already picked up some things.

The Knives

My knife collection

My knife collection

Martha and Sarah, in the first cooking school on-air lesson, went over the kinds of knives we should have.  Here is a photo of my entire knife collection, next to the photo in the book of what you should have. The first knife on the left on the book is serrated and I bought this knife before Mr. MarthaandMe got married – almost 20 years ago – and it’s still great. The next one is a chef’s knife I bought after seeing Rachel Ray use it! The rest are a hodgepodge that have landed in my knife block over the year. The one with the white handle was bought from a cousin who was selling Cutco knives. I don’t have a cleaver, but other than that, I think I can say I pass this cooking school lesson with a good grade.


Also in the first tv lesson, Sarah Carey showed how to cut an onion  – sliced, diced, finely chopped and minced. I used to always dump my onions in my small food processor to chop, but (and this is the height of laziness) I hate how the stupid bowl never seems to fit in the dishwasher and it just seemed easier to hack it up myself. I knew what slicing meant. Diced, minced and chopped all sort of meant the same thing to me. So here is where Martha has taught me something.

My onion lesson

My onion lesson

Here’s the results of the lesson. From left to right you can see minced, finely chopped, diced and sliced and up at the top is the page in the book with the same thing. Once I learned which was what, this was easy.

I also must admit I did not know the correct way to hold a chef’s knife until Sarah Carey showed me on the show. I have always held on to the handle and sometimes put the other palm on top of it for added pressure. Sarah explained how to hold the knife so your finger and thumb are touching the blade and this really gave me more control. Wow! I didn’t know Martha had so many things to teach me about the basics!

Making Stock

The other segment of the on-air lesson was chicken stock. Martha says we should all make our own. I do make my own when I am making soup or something like chicken and biscuits or chicken and dumplings. Other than that, I buy the cartons of stock and use that. I’m going to make stock when I do the next lesson, which will require me to hack up a chicken.

An Everyday Food Note

Although I know Martha is not knee-deep and hands-on (that’s an image isn’t it?) in the production of Everyday Food magazine, I have been turning to it often. The recipes in Living are great, but on a weekday when I’ve got hockey or lessons to drive kids around to in the afternoon, I just don’t have time to say, braise a pork shoulder for approximately half a day.

Finding myself in a bind one night this week, I turned to Everyday Food’s November issue for inspiration and made Rigatoni with Spiced Meat Sauce (p. 92). Holy cow guys – this was gross. Really, really yucky. Who makes a pasta sauce out of tomato paste, vinegar, cinnamon, and cayenne??? This was so bad I could not serve it as it was. I had to do some serious doctoring of this recipe to be able to put it on my table. First of all, I used ground turkey instead of ground lamb (I like ground lamb when I make Greek food but really no other time) or ground beef. I have been substituting this a lot – in meatballs, meatloaf, tacos, etc and am loving it.

To do something with the nasty sauce, I dumped in a can of stewed tomatoes and ton of Italian herb mix. I added more garlic (the recipe did call for some as well as onion). I also added some parmesan cheese. By the time I did all of that and cooked it for about half an hour, it was edible and the MarthaandMe family ate it happily.

Martha – please do something about Everyday Food. I absolutely know this recipe is not something you would put on your table! NOT a good thing!

Sneak Peek

I’ve got plans afoot for upcoming posts. I’m going to tackle more crafts from the November issue of Living. I’m going to make the big cake from the issue also. We’re going to do a Martha Thanksgiving here. And Martha is going to help me do some organizational things around the house. Currently she is very displeased about the state of my closet and is itching to get her hands on it.

I’m also continuing my search for ways to bring “good things” into my life. This week, I folded the fitted sheet to the bed and instead of just balling it up, I made an effort to fold it nicely (not easy to do at all) and place it on the shelf. It took more time, but I’m finding that if I tell myself I deserve to be surrounded by good things, I feel privileged and pampered somehow. Taking the time to fold something so that it looked nice did give me some satisfaction. I also reminded myself I was “homekeeping” and not just doing the laundry which made the whole experience much more pleasant!

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