Tuesday, 29 July 2008

Cooking class 2: Legendary simmered hamburg steak

As I mentioned before, I went to a complimentary cooking lesson at ABC Cooking Studio a couple of weeks ago courtesy of my dear friend Malaka over at Aloha Mahalo. I had so much fun I snapped up the opportunity of *another* free lesson, this time making what was billed (by her) as "legendary simmered hamburg steak". Legendary because several ABC devotees have apparently made a trip down the aisle after feeding their man this tasty recipe! With a write up like that, who could resist??

This time there were 2 other students in our class (the limit is 4-5 people per session), who were single, and seemed to be fairly new to cooking. I got the feeling they might be taking the lessons to prepare for marriage sometime in the future (hence the interest in this recipe??!). There is, afterall, a tradition in Japan of women taking special classes in various arts--including culinary arts--in preparation for getting married. I find this practice strangely endearing, but it's also a little worrying that prospective spouses (male and female) are not learning basic living skills at home from childhood. Then again, as someone who hogs the kitchen at home, I could also be accused of denying the Young Man the opportunity to learn important cooking skills...

But getting back to the class.

I was keen to take this session as theYoung Man is rather partial to Hamburg steaks (his favourite is here), so another choice is very welcome at this house. ABC's version is different in that it is not topped with "gravy" but a brown sauce. I'd never made such a sauce and was surprised that the colour derives from dry-frying flour for a not inconsiderable amount of time "until it is the colour of nuteg". The particular version we made in the class was a little salty for my liking, but with the proportions of liquid to flour, it should be easy enough to substitute yummier ingredients (like red wine (g)) to bring it more in line with my palate.

I also learned a new technique for chopping onions. Normally I cut the onions top to tail, then slice vertically almost all the way to the tail end of each half, then turn the knife to cut horizontally so that little cubes will form when I cut perpendicular across the original vertical cuts. This works pretty well for the most part, except if the onions are particularly large, when the edges of the onion tend to spread out and "escape" the knife's edge, leaving you with what looks like an onion cut in a bob.

With ABC's technique, you cut your onion top to tail into quarters, slice vertically down almost to the tail, turn the onion onto its other cut face and repeat the process (thereby neatly bypassing the need to turn the knife on the horizontal), then chopping diagonally across the corner of the quarter, alternating diagonal cuts to keep the outer edges from splaying out. Nice.

Another neat trick was to kneed the hamburg meat with your left (non-dominant) hand, while adding seasonings to the mixture with your right (dominant) hand so you don't have to keep washing hands between additions/mixing. Why didn't I think of that!

While ABC does offer some lessons in more exotic food, I reckon I have that side of things pretty much covered with the growing cookbook collection. Japanese food, on the other hand, can be pretty exacting and I thought it might be worth getting some professional advice on this. So I've signed up for 12 lessons and, with luck, maybe I'll be able to capture the heart of my (Young) Man with some exciting new Japanese dishes.

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