For my birthday, my husband booked us for a Couple’s Cooking Class at Cambridge Culinary (because no one likes birthday alliteration more than I). Because I used to work nearby, I’ve passed the glass-front classrooms of The Cambridge School of Culinary Arts (fixed link I think) before and spied inward on all those white-jacketed students, but I’d never been inside. Though the school does full-time culinary programs, they also do one-night culinary stands, which my friend Katie had just been praising to me when I received my surprise class from Tim!
Our course was called “Cooking Couples Cook Tapas” (probably Tim is hoping he can stop taking me to Dali if we can replicate the cuisine at home… not a chance). I first discovered tapas circa 2004 in Oxford, UK, when a local recommended to a friend and me the “tapas bar down the road” and having never heard the term, I was completely affronted. Is England known for tapas? Umm… I don’t think so, but the ‘small plates’ concept is perfect for me because I don’t eat a lot volume-wise and I like to try multiple dishes if I’m going out to eat. Plus, usually the cuisine is Spanish or Mediterranean, and often sangria is involved. Say no more.
Our cooking class was taught by a friendly chef named Elise, and we were one couple of four. She told us it was a small class, so not sure how big they usually run. When we walked in we received a packet of eight recipes, and Elise began to talk us through them, and all 8 of us were thinking, how long IS this class? As a rampant unrealistic multitasker I was getting excited about making all of the dishes when the chef explained that we would each (couple) pick one to start on. Tim and I were the last to speak up and due to our politeness, both of the dishes we had been interested in (Tacos of Flank Steak with Red Onion Jam and Horseradish Creme Fraiche; and Braised Chicken Thighs with Garlic and White Wine) were claimed by other couples. Among the remaining choices was Saffron Risotto Cakes with Shrimp, Chile and Chive Oils, which Elise had mentioned was the most time-consuming dish in the packet but very worthwhile. Being the overachievers that we are, we decided to do the risotto cakes.
The way it worked once everyone had chosen their dishes was that each couple got a workstation around the giant kitchen, and we had access to the pantry, fridge, freezers, and equipment, including the mother of all stoves. Elise roamed around answering our questions or tasting things to help us, but didn’t babysit or interfere if we didn’t ask for help. It was less interactive with the other couples than I’d thought–maybe that was just our group–but we had a good time with each other, dividing the tasks and trying to get this whole thing going. Because of the different recipe lengths, each couple finished at different times and we all tasted all the dishes, plus one Elise had prepared ahead.
It was fun watching Tim cook. He does it with a scientist’s precision, which I think makes him quite successful, but also makes his skin crawl a little when the chef says things like “Just eyeball it!” or “Add to taste.” Of the two of us, he’s the better chopper, and also the family sommelier. At the class, Tim got to learn about cleaning and butterflying shrimp, and he also made the chile and chive oils in a food processor. I think he was inspired by his success (and rightly so) because since that night he’s already made bread at home and also a roasted sweet onion topping to eat off of said bread.
I spent most of the class stirring the risotto, which was fun though not new because I’ve made risottos at home. Elise commended my patience with getting the risotto to the right consistency, which was like getting praise from my kindergarten teacher because I am not sure I have ever been complimented on PATIENCE.
Tim and I don’t cook together much at home. Partly this is because our kitchen is not physically large enough for two people, so as soon as he walks in I am saying, “Out, out, out,” partly because we are both a little type A and it’s hard for us to take direction from one another or refrain from suggesting “Why don’t you try that like this?”, and partly because I like cooking so many nights I just do it before Tim gets home. Cooking together in a class setting was a lot of fun. It was a great birthday present, and a great date night.