Sunday, August 4, 2013

Out and About: INCA after Dark cooking classes

"Out and About" is an occasional feature showcasing some of the unique, quirky and/or totally fabulous aspects of living in the fair city of Bermtopia.

I could still catch magical whiffs of garlic and sweet briny scallop on my hands as I started this blog late Thursday night. This, and an epic to-go box of risotto, were just a few of the dividends of taking the class -- "Gordon Ramsay's Pet Peeves: Why Can't Anybody Cook Scallops or Risotto?" -- through INCA after Dark, one of Bermtopia's best culinary resources available to food nuts in our fair city. I also walked away with new knife skills, a better way to roast peppers, an awesome method of dicing onion where you end up with actual dice instead of small onion asteroids, four fabulous sauces and a new appreciation for fresh succotash (hint: everything goes better with bacon).

Offered through Spokane Community College's Inland Northwest Culinary Academy (I-N-C-A. Get it?), these are hands-on cooking classes that bring you into the behind-the-scenes world of a working culinary arts program. But it's just not a class, it's an experience -- working side-by-side with new food-lovin' BFFs, culinary students, INCA faculty and area chefs in a kitchen equipped with knives that are actually sharp.

Oh. And there are snacks and wine if you are so inclined. We were.

I love scallops. And I love risotto, but I have come late to the "Hell's Kitchen" game with Gordon Ramsay, king of the kitchen f-bomb. It's just been in the last month or so, that I've caught a couple of his rather rambunctious productions, including one where bad risotto actually literally went flying into the trash accompanied by some of the more innovative versions of "f**king unacceptable" that I've ever heard.

The combination was irresistible (minus the f-bombs maybe), so I gathered a couple friends, Mesdames les Artistes, and signed up for the class. After a quick introduction by Chef Curtis, an INCA instructor, we got to right to work. MLA Molly and I were assigned to fresh succotash -- and Apprentice Heather.
It's actually more like we were the apprentices. An INCA culinary student,
Heather helped us navigate recipes, sharp kitchen utensils and a
commercial gas stove the size of the Starship Enterprise, sharing her
 knowledge of all things food along the way.
So wise for one so young.
P.S. Heather, it was so sweet of you to muffle your gasps as I
practiced my new-found knife skills.
I had my doubts about succotash. Most versions I'm familiar with involve my arch enemy, the lima bean. Hate 'em. The succotashi that I've had are cooked -- double jeopardy in my books since I also hate mushy. But edemame replaced limas on the INCA menu (brilliant!) and the only thing cooked was a roasted red pepper, which MLA Molly totally crushed (in good way), and. . .

cue the angels' chorus. . .


Boom. Succotash.
Along the way, there were many "station breaks."
I could not,  for the life of me, get a picture of Chef Curtis
that did not look like he was on stage,
channeling Pavarotti,  at the Metropolitan Opera.
Wait. Better.
A TWO-knife chopping demo with Team Gremolata.
Note you-know-who's fresh succotash in the foreground.
During these breaks, Chef Curtis offered up dozens of handy cooking and kitchen management tips that even I could digest and apply. For example, keep your knife to the side of your chopping station instead of on it to avoid accidental knicks and cuts.

I did not share that, most of the time, the most severe home knife injury I might incur is a mild bruise.

(Note to self: Sharpen knives this week. So you can be a danger to yourself.)

And then we were onto risotto and scallops -- the stars of our show.
The demonstration screen is way cool. It zooms in and out so
you can see E.V.E.R.Y.T.H.I.N.G.
It also is a safeguard,
preventing the riff raff from sticking their fingers
in a perfectly delectable pan of risotto.

But it was okay because we had own.
No. We didn't stick our riff raff-y fingers it.
Apprentice Heather trained us too well.

Perfect scallops and risotto -- before we added the sauces we made.
The deglazed sauce from the scallop pan can go into
the risotto or on top of the scallops.
It will make you happy either way.
Don't even think about it.
It's mine. All mine.
I've taken my share of cooking classes -- presentation-style and hands-on -- and INCA after Dark hits all the high notes. 

It's been said, "We learn by doing." If you have the good fortune to be a son or daughter of the fair city of Bermtopia, slide on down to INCA after Dark if you've got the hankering to cook. You'll learn volumes -- thanks to the good company and great instruction you'll find there -- and eat well to boot. You may even come home with leftovers -- and the scent of garlic and sweet scallop on your hands.


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