Two weeks back in school and we have already covered a great deal. Last week, we conquered flaky pastry. This amazing little player can do nearly anything: base for tarts, lids for pies, rolled up into sugary palmiers. And it is a fun little math and physics puzzle: every time the pastry is rolled and folded, the number of layers triple. By the end, the pastry comprises 729 layers of pastry interspersed with 244 layers of butter and lard. You knew it wasn’t puffy and delicious for free, right? In class we used our pastry to top a chicken pot pie. It got rave reviews at home that night – the husband is already brainstorming more fillings to put under that delicious lid. Lobster pot pie, anyone? Stick around and I promise to share once we have this one worked out.
Week 2 highlights included a visit from Adam Whittle from the Billingsgate Seafood School. To say he brought props would be an understatement. We examined dozens of different types of fish and seafood, discussing the differences, how to recognize them, what to do with them. In a few weeks, we’re going to the market at the crack of dawn (it opens at 4am!) to buy our own and get more in-depth practice.
Friday brought more show-and-tell, this time offal. This fantastic demonstration included tastings of liver, kidney, sweetbreads (pancreas) and brains. On display were samples of everything from oxtail (huge!) to bull testicles (also, um, not small). This is adventurous eating at its best. It is easy to give lip service to using the whole animal and the tragedy of food waste, but a lot of people balk at eating the innards. Yes, some of the textures and tastes are strange, but they are also really nice when cooked well. Maybe an acquired taste, but one that I would like to see more people acquire if we are serious about treating animals with respect.
In our kitchen sessions, there was also more meat pie, but the ante was upped a bit:
This, dear American friends, is a hand-raised veal and ham pie. Growing up I enjoyed the occasional Swanson chicken pot pie from Safeway’s freezer section but I hadn’t seen anything like this until I moved to London. You may become more familiar with them soon. Husband is convinced that we are going to make a small fortune bringing these treats back to DC and selling them to twenty-something single men living on government salaries and saving their money for happy hour. In other words, him circa 1996. To hear him tell it, he could have eaten these every single day. He seems to have a pie thing, no? Luckily, according to Grub Street, savory pies are the next big thing.
Friday also brought snow, and a front row seat for London’s notorious overreaction to the white stuff. We spent most of the weekend cooking and eating, including testing a chocolate chip cookie recipe (to be shared when I have it heart-achingly perfect), and reading all of the new cookbooks I picked up at Books for Cooks. Devilled kidneys on toast anyone? I promise it is actually really delicious. But I will forgive you if you are really just waiting around for heart-aching cookies.