More than cooking classes
My cooking classes will have you whipping up dishes like a pro, and you won’t have to put out a dime. Search the internet all you want, but you won’t find what I’m offering for FREE anywhere. Sure, you can find free stuff a bunch, but only if you know what you’re looking for. That’s where I come in.
Very much like what prompted me to write, my culinary journey started with a wild hair. My wife and I went to a Greek restaurant and had lamb. I believe it was my first time. We enjoyed it, and I wondered if I could make a lamb dish myself. It was a hit, and the rest is now history. Come. Step inside my kitchen to see what I have cooked up.
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A little history lesson
First, a little backstory. In May 2021, I started the process of setting up a website and YouTube channel to teach cooking step-by-step. I called it the Eclectic Cooking Academy. To make a long story short, I bit off more than I could chew. I saw it becoming a full-time job, and it prevented me from doing what I like most: writing and cooking. And since I needed an author website to promote my new book, I decided to include a blog that features my two passions. But this time around, no videos except for those I’ve already made. Instead, I’ll be using internet content that already exists.
Nowadays, you can find anything on the internet if you know what you’re looking for, and this certainly holds true for the culinary arts. Piece by piece, the information you need is already out there. It’s just not organized in a way to teach someone how to cook. That’s where I come in.
You may be wondering what makes me qualified to offer cooking classes? I sent myself to school—of sorts. For over two years, I immersed myself in the subject, making something new nearly every day. I made dishes from all over the world. Made my own pasta, my own tortillas, bread, rolls, you name it. It’s why I know the content is out there. Finally, you’ll learn what’s really going on inside those recipes you follow, and no longer will you have to blindly abide by them. I’ll instill in you the confidence of making substitutions. I’ll also provide you the knowledge to create your own dishes.
I cooked all of my adult years. In my first marriage, I was the dinner maker. Of course, cooking in those days was something I could throw into the deep fryer, mix up from a box, or pull prepared from the freezer. You could hardly call it cooking. Today, the number of things I deep fry can probably be counted on one hand, nothing comes from a box, and little comes already prepared from the freezer. I’ve never eaten healthier. I control the salt, fat, and sugars in my diet. And the thing is, you can too, and I’m going to show you how. If you want to learn to cook while at the same time transforming your cooking from ho-hum to wow, I invite you to follow along. If you would like to be notified when I add a new lesson, please use the form below.
Each lesson will focus on a specific technique, principle, or method. I’ll offer my own insights when needed, and then I’ll provide you with links to content that covers my subject matter. It will save me the time to pursue my other interests. Here’s a summary of what to expect.
Cooking Classes – Unit 1 – Savory Cooking
Introductory lessons discussing essential kitchen equipment. Trust me, it’s not likely you’ll need much. State of the art cookware is not required to make good food. Knife skills. Knowing how to cut safely and consistently is an essential skill for any home cook. Mise en place, a French term for putting in place, we’ll take a look at the pros and cons and you can decide how far you want to take it in your kitchen. Then a look at recipes, what’s important and what’s not. Making adjustments and portion control. And since aromatics, spices and herbs are such an essential part of cooking most anything, we’ll be taking a look at what you might want in your kitchen.
Cooking classes on Methods:
Before we heat up our first pan, I’ll give an overview of the different methods of cooking as well as the importance of properly matching the food type with a method. This will also be a good opportunity to discuss the different cuts of meat and where they are located on the animal.
First the dry methods. Sautéing and pan-frying, closely related but not quite the same thing. Broiling and grilling, both using intense dry heat. Smoking, a slow indirect heat method. Roasting and baking, also closely related, we’ll discuss the nuances. And finally, deep frying, surprisingly, it’s considered a dry method. With each lesson, not only do I use and demonstrate the method, but I also make a complete and ready to eat dish.
Next, we cover the moist methods. Blanching is a par-cooking method, used mostly for preps for freezing. It can also be used for reducing cooking time. Boiling, seldom used, or should be, is a violent cooking method. Braising, one of my favorites, typically used for tougher cuts of meat, poaching for tender food types, and steaming for retention of color and nutrition. We cover them all. Oh, and with boiling, I show you how to make an easy-peal hard boiled egg.
Lastly on methods, we take a look at combination methods. Braising is a good example of a combination method. I make my ribs using a combination method. Thick products like a double cut pork chop or a thick steak are also prime candidates for a combination method. My french fries use a combination method.
Stocks are flavorful liquids derived from meat, seafood, and vegetables. Knowing how to make stocks is an essential part of making certain types of sauces, soups, and stews. It’s also a prerequisite to taking your cooking to another level. I show you how to make the four basic stocks.
Since many sauces start with a roux (a starch and a fat), pronounced roo, I go over the basic mechanics of making a hot roux, a cold roux, why the difference, and a guide for how much is needed for varying amounts of a sauce.
Then we cover the five mother sauces; bechamel, velouté, hollandaise, espagnole, and classic tomato. These are all hot or cooked sauces. We also cover many of their derivatives, perhaps about twenty sauces in all. And we’ll make something yummy from each. By the time we’re done, you will have transformed your cooking. You’ll also have the knowledge and skills to make up your own derivatives for truly unique dishes.
Cold sauces are up next where we explore things such as dressings, aioli, BBQ sauces, cocktail and steak sauce. Then we take a look at compotes, chutneys, relishes, and salsas. Ever heard of a coulis? We make one or two of those, a classic pesto, and finally a dip or two. I’ll show you how I make my guacamole and pica de gallo.
More ways to add flavor to your cooking. We look at marinades, macerated liquids, and compound butters.
We know how to make a roux to thicken, but that’s not the only way. In this section, we take a look at how to use cornstarch, purees, cooked grains, potatoes, and reduction to thicken our soups, stews and sauces.
Cooking with vegetables:
Here we take a look at the various types of vegetables: Root and tuberous, bulb and stem, leafy, podded, vegetables that are fruit, edible flowers, fungi, and from the sea. We examine which vegetable is which type as well as making something for the table using our newly acquired skills.
Soups are now a snap. You can make any kind of soup with the skills and knowledge you’ve gained. Still, we’ll make a soup from stock, probably my chicken noodle. A creamed soup, when you make one, you can make them all. Cream of asparagus is my favorite. We’ll also make a gazpacho. As of this writing, I’ve yet to make one, so we’ll this will be my first time.
Who doesn’t like a good stew for beating back the winter cold? Here, we’ll whip up two or three from around the world to expand our culinary horizons.
Cooking savory with dough:
Chances are when you think of dough, you think of bread or pie dough. Actually, there are many types of food that utilize a dough, and we’ll examine each of them. First, there are the many types of noodles, and man are there a lot. We won’t be making any noodles, but we will cook with them. We will be making pasta, however, but not for any of the noodle types like spaghetti or linguini. Why? I’ll go into that when we get there. But we will take a shot at making some ravioli because there is so much we can do with them.
Dumplings are another dough product we’ll take a shot at. There are a number of them. Chinese dumplings, the Japanese gyoza, the Italian gnocchi, German Spätzle, and of course, good old American dumplings … chicken and dumplings style.
And lastly, we will delve into stuffed and wrapped dough dishes. This would include tacos, enchiladas, empanadas, tamales, Filipino pork steam buns (siopao asado), lumpia, pot pies, German/ Russian bierocks, Lebanese sfeeha, and many others. We’ll make a few of these and then experiment with what we can make from puff pastry and phyllo dough.
Cooking with rice:
It’s time to cook with rice. If you’re one of those who hate rice, it just might be time to take another look. Rice is used pretty much universally around the world and a staple with many cuisines. We eat a lot of rice around here, in part, because my wife is a Filipina. Mom was a rice hater, so we ate very little while growing up. It wasn’t until I was stationed in Hawaii that I discovered what plain steamed white rice was like.
Rice varieties are many, but we’ll take a closer look at the popular ones and how they are best used. Then it will be off to the races as we make traditional steamed white rice, a pilaf, paella, sushi rice, compressed rice (Nasi Impit), risotto, and using it as a filler in meatloaf, stuffed peppers, soups, and casseroles.
One dish meals:
Everyone is familiar with one dish meals. I imagine each of you has a favorite recipe for one, so I don’t expect to spend much time here. However, with your skills, you can make any kind of one dish meal you want without any kind of recipe. You’ll just need to remember a few things to bring it all together. I’ll be honest, however. I rarely make one simply because it’s difficult to make one while keeping the portions in mind. Stir fries are about as close as I come, and I still have difficulty minimizing leftovers.
And there you go. That’s it. Unit one is complete.
Cook Classes – Unit 2 – Breads
Cooking Classes – Unit 3 – Sweets: The world of the pastry chef
And finally, here is a short video I made for my nearly-defunct site. I tried making this without a script, but that didn’t work out well. Of course, reading a script was annoying as well. I apologize in advance.
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