Thursday, March 11, 2010

Cooking Class At The North Carolina Aquarium!

I can safely say that today's cooking class at the Roanoke Island North Carolina Aquarium was one of the most enjoyable and, certainly, the most fun one I've been to. Today's demonstration was presented by Chef Andy Montero of Montero's in Elizabeth City, North Carolina.
I always love it when the chefs offer up their printed recipes for their various preparations. I get a starting point, from which I can do what I want. And this is what I loved about the engaging Chef Montero. He cooks from his heart. And it is obvious. As he said, he doesn't have "recipes." He just does it. He knows. Then, when he had to sit down yesterday morning and actually write down everything, he had to mentally go through what he normally does automatically. I understood exactly what he was saying, since I try very hard to give out actual measurements for my readers when there are none. But as Chef Montero said, it's all about making do with what you have. If you need to make substitutions, then you go with what you have. You taste, smell, and adjust. It's what I've been saying all along in this blog. It's called cooking.
The first preparation was skewered shrimp and cantaloupe.
One of the reasons today's class was so much fun was that it was "hands-on." We all came up, donned gloves, and skewered two skewers with 2 pieces each shrimp and cantaloupe.
I love this photo of the skewering.
All the skewers were placed on a baking sheet, WITHOUT FOIL, Chef Montero lamented.
When you skewer shrimp, go in right above the top of the tail, curl the head in, and skewer right through the bottom of the head. Then put the cantaloupe slice on. And alternate. Or you could also put the cantaloupe in between the shrimp body - the tail and the head.
Chef Montero then poured a Garlic Chili Sauce over the shrimp. Chef Montero talked about making substitutions. One he suggested for this would be the shrimp with pineapple and perhaps a Teriyaki sauce. He made all the points I try to do in my blog about how to cook. Get a basic idea and expand upon it. The shrimp skewers went into a 375 degree oven for 15 minutes. I would have broiled them and turned them halfway through. That's me. That's also Chef Montero having to be professional and give a presentation in an unfamiliar "kitchen" (Not. It's just 4 gas burners.), and explain his method of preparation, field questions, and make four different dishes, one of which he couldn't do since he he'd forgotten a main ingredient. And he had to SUBSTITUTE. We all got 3 printed recipes. And the one for Monkfish Miso Soup, Chef Montero couldn't do. He had forgotten the Miso. And he's from Elizabeth City and he's driven all the way to Manteo - about 70 miles. And I don't think the local Food-a-Rama carries Miso. The interesting thing about his presentation was he was all about having a basic idea - the Non-Recipe and doing with it with what you have. Make substitutions. That's what Mr. Hawthorne and I do all the time. Here are my shrimp skewers. I would've loved this except for one thing. My shrimp was undercooked. The flavors are all there. I love the flavors. And despite the fact that if I eat more than 1 slice of cantaloupe I get gastrointestinal morphings of Gargantuan proportions, I liked this. Except for the shrimp. Next, Chef Montero started on his sauce for his Mirin Lacquered Tuna.
Here's the recipe: 1 pound tuna, small dice or thinly sliced 1/2 tsp sesame oil 1 tsp olive oil 1 cup Mirin 1 cup White Zinfandel or Chardonnay 3 TB soy sauce pinch red pepper flakes 1 tsp ginger, minced 1 tsp garlic, minced 1/2 tsp each white and black sesame seeds 1/4 cup green onion, sliced on bias 1/8 cup rice wine vinegar 1 TB oyster sauce In a small sauce pan, heat the two oils and add the pepper flakes, garlic, and ginger. Saute for a minute or two, being careful not to burn the garlic. Add in the mirin, white wine, and soy sauce and reduce by at least half. In case you're wondering about Mirin, it's a rice-based wine often used in Japanese cuisine. It is similar to but has a lower alcoholic content than Sake. (14% as opposed to 20%) Add in rice wine vinegar and oyster sauce. Add the sesame seeds and green onions and pour over the tuna. Serve immediately.
Chef Montero lovingly handles his tuna. Heh. 12.
His sauce has come to a boil and is being reduced.
Wait just a daggone minute! What? We're having RAW tuna today?!!!? But! But! A hand count is made of who wants their tuna more "cooked." Five hands go up. Mr. Hawthorne's and mine on the front row and three people behind us. So, if you look at the monitor above, there are all these little ramekins for the tuna. When we went up to get our tuna, we were asked for thin or thick. It's still RAW. Yes, I have a problem with raw fish. I'm trying to deal. Bear with me. I asked for thin. Since you're pouring a hot sauce over top and it's going to "cook" it some. Ehnnnn ...
Chef Montero showed us his diagonally chopped scallions.
Chef is pouring the hot sauce over the RAW tuna.
Here's Xmaskatie's tuna. She chose thick cut.
Here's my thin cut. All but the top right is kinda cooked. The sauce is good. In fact, I'll be using the sauce recipe. It would be good on shrimp or cooked tuna. And I like my tuna medium rare. I added the Sriracha sauce for a bit more bite. That's the red in the picture. Did I mention my tuna is RAW?
I'm sorry if my tastes are plebeian. I have a problem with RAW FISH. Even though I love my steaks BLOODY RARE. Go figure. Now, because an ingredient - the miso- was missing, we weren't having the Monkfish Miso. But I'll give you the recipe since you may want to try this. Monkfish Miso 2 qts. Miso, prepared according to package + 1 cup water 1/2 lb. monkfish or other firm fish, diced 1 cup mushrooms, wild or exotic blend, thinly sliced 1/2 cup green onion, sliced on bias 1 tsp ginger, minced 1 TB cilantro, fresh chopped 1 clove garlic, minced Bring the packaged miso to a gentle simmer. Add ginger and diced monkfish and allow to poach until done (about 5 minutes), skimming any solids that come to the top. While the miso is still hot, but not simmering, add the mushrooms and garlic. Remove from heat and add cilantro just before serving. You can also use soy sauce or red pepper flakes to season the soup. So, Chef Montero has all this monkfish, but no Miso and had to substitute.
He added monkfish to sesame/olive oil.
Then he put in extremely thin slices of carrot and celery. Mushrooms went in. And some cilantro.
I added a few drops of Sriracha sauce.
This was my favorite dish. And it's the one that Chef Montero had to do on the fly, so to speak. He'd brought the monkfish for the miso soup and left the miso, 70 miles away. So he had to come up with something to do with the monkfish which he normally wouldn't have done. And he had to do it WITH WHAT HE HAD. Monkfish is a very delicate fish. It's actually called the "poor man's lobster." It's like crab meat. And lobster. You really don't need anything else but melted butter. And lemon for me. I don't think Chef Montero would have normally used monkfish for this dish, because monkfish is so delicate. The monkfish was intended for a light soup and the soup just.wasn' Chef Montero had to come up with an entirely new use of monkfish with the ingredients he'd brought. And it was the best I'd tasted today. That's a chef. Next up: Rockfish Spring Rolls. 1/2 lb. rockfish, cooked and flaked or diced 1 small package cellophane noodles, prepared according to package 1/4 cilantro 1/8 cup basil 1 stick celery, thinly sliced into sticks 1 stick carrot, julienned 1 TB soy sauce Dipping Sauce ingredients: soy sauce oyster sauce honey red pepper flakes sesame seeds brown sugar ginger, minced garlic, minced lime juice Sriracha sauce To prepare the rice sheets, just soak in warm water for about 30 seconds, or until they're pliable. Lay a prepared rice paper sheet in front of you and place a small amount of noodles, rockfish, cilantro, basil, celery, and carrots on the bottom middle section. Roll the bottom up one rotation and then fold the sides over to create an envelope. Continue to roll forward until the spring roll is complete. To prepare the dipping sauce, combine all ingredients together and mix well.
Making the sauce for the spring rolls.
Anne Marie, efficient and pleasant aquarium employee, as sous chef to Chef Montero.
Overhead monitor. Ann Marie has her first try at rice sheets.
It's HAND'S ON! Everyone goes up, gets a rice circle, and makes their own spring rolls. We had rockfish, carrot, celery, basil, cilantro, scallions, and cellophane noodles to build with.
We're all piling all sorts of stuff on our rice circle.
That's the Wonderful Beth in the back behind camera.
Overhead cam. We pile on the sheet, we go back to our seats, and we roll up. I get back to our table:
Woodja jes look at that bitch Xmaskatie's plate? She's got a freakin' perfect roll. Rosie bows to Xmaskatie. And the single scallion, carrot, celery? Very nice touch.
Here are the additions to my spring roll. I'm ready to roll.
My spring roll with sauce. Thankfully, I'm not wound up as tight as Niece Xmaskatie. And ... we have GLOWRIA'S spring roll to go. DRUM ROLL, PLEASE.
It's Glowria's Spring Roll! She made it herself.
Glowria, it looks like you might not have done this before.
GLOW? My gut hurts because I've been laughing so hard. I thank you.
On Colington Road on the way home, Mr. Hawthorne pulled out a purloined glove from today's cooking class. He wants to play Doctor when we get home. Stay tuned for more food fun this weekend as I attend a few events at the annual Outer Banks Taste of the Beach.


Marilyn said...

Naughty Mr. H.

dle said...

...looks like it was a great class, I am going to have to try to make all the dishes!!!

Anonymous said...

I agree, it was a FUN class. The sauces were great, and I got some good ideas for future dishes. And thanks for your kind (?) words about my spring roll, the trick is not to overstuff, (Glo, I'm looking at you!). This was the first class that I had tears in my eyes (Glo, looking at you again!).