Cooking Class

May 10, 2013

12 secrets to planning a menu

By Raleigh-Elizabeth. Image by Lindsey Johnson for Design Mom.

Falling in love with cooking is easy. Learning to cook is not.

Yesterday, Lindsey shared incredibly helpful cooking shortcuts, but what if you don’t know how to cook at all? It was years before I knew how to make pasta correctly. Even longer before I learned not to be afraid of risotto. And it’s only in the last few years that I learned what combination cooking is — and how it’s the absolute best way to make mouth-watering short-ribs, which I also learned I love.

And that’s all thanks to Rouxbe, our online cooking school.

As you know, I read cookbooks at bedtime and consider food memoirs the best fairytales out there. But no matter how delicious the story or salivating the food porn, none of these things taught me to cook. That’s a hands-on skill… one you’ll only perfect by watching someone else do it. For many people, that’s watching mom or dad. For others, it’s fond memories of a flour-dusted grandmother who executed baking prowess in the kitchen the likes of which the rest of us can only dream about.

For me, it’s paying a video-based cooking program out of Vancouver to school me in knife skills, frying, mastering homemade baguettes, and — life-changingly — how to poach an egg. Without the little poaching pods. (I’ll admit: Bill is the official egg poacher in our house. I make the hollandaise. Left to my own devices, I actually make ruffled eggs, which are the poor man’s saran-wrapped version of poaching pod eggs. It turns out that we all have skills, and poaching eggs is not one of mine. Eating them, yes.)

The videos are extremely clear, the directions helpful, and the fact that I can email and ask for help whenever something stumps me makes it the next-best-thing to canning my career as an almost-foodie and going to culinary school. (Actually, I can’t do that because I just don’t want to stand up that long every day. Sorry, food. I guess I’m more sloth than chef.) Thanks to Rouxbe, we now have the building block skills to carry us through even the most complex recipes I come across in my bedtime reading and — more importantly — the courage to give anything a try.

While we are Rouxbe loyalists because of their incredibly vast library of foolproof recipes (my favorites are the Ancho Chili Shortribs, Moroccan Lamb Tagine, and the Sausage Ragu with Soft Polenta), competitors abound, all with their own awesome selling points. America’s Test Kitchen offers an online cooking school that’s pretty affordable (less than twenty dollars a month with great classes like classic cakes and a whole course devoted just to chili!) as does Epicurious, which teamed up with the Culinary Institute of America for their pay-by-class program. Doesn’t the Mexican Classics class look amazing? Olé!

For those of you who don’t live in the middle of nowhere like we do (living at the beach has its perks, proximity to major food hubs is not one of them), both Williams-Sonoma and Sur La Table offer cooking classes in store. In fact, my best friend just finished a macaron making class at Sur La Table in Chicago that had me drooling hundreds of miles away.

And then there are always the dream classes: cooking vacations in authentic Italian kitchens where we wander the streets of Rome on our way to our lesson in a master chef’s home in the Piazza Venezia, or homestays in Chiang Mai, Thailand while learning the ropes for gourmet curry at the source. My dreams are filled with the day we will finally be able to board a Silversea cruise and enjoy a Market to Plate program where we tour some fabulous foreign market, pick up ingredients, and return to the ship to put our ingredients to use. (They even have cooking competitions on board, which I’m pretty sure my husband would sell everything we own to get the chance to do.)

Back here in reality, though, it’s me, my trusty computer, the Internet connection, and Rouxbe. It’s opened up doors for food experiences I could never have imagined and, blessedly, it finally taught me how to cook.

Tell me: Who taught you to cook? Would you ever sign up for a cooking school or class?

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Just Moms » Blog Archive » Cooking Class
May 10, 2013 at 5:00 pm

{ 11 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Sharon @ Discovering Blog May 10, 2013 at 9:32 am

It’s funny, my mom cooked and baked ALL THE TIME when I was growing up and I had no interest. Now, I would sell my soul to figure out how to be a personal chef, so that I could get paid to cook for a living.
No one specifically taught me, but when I started to be interested in it and call my mom to tell her what I made, she’d be encouraging and tell me that if I can read, I can follow a recipe.
Now, most of the purchases that I make on Amazon are cooking – related books. I spend a good portion of my Sunday cooking and baking, so that we can just heat up leftovers during the week. And have lots of cookies, to eat, too.


2 Raleigh-Elizabeth May 10, 2013 at 11:04 am

I think cooking on the day of rest is one of the most relaxing things to do. Granted, I usually just EAT that day, but Bill does our Sunday cooking. And there’s nothing more fun than a day spent crafting in the kitchen!

I love your mom’s advice – and isn’t it true? If you can read, you can follow a recipe. Amen to that!


3 Chase @ The Smell of Summer May 10, 2013 at 10:40 am

Great post! I definitely love to eat, and think learning how to cook is often a combination of taking lessons from others–like Mom or Food Network–and plain old trial and error. After all, doesn’t practice make perfect? :)

Chase @ The Smell of Summer


4 Raleigh-Elizabeth May 10, 2013 at 11:05 am

Practice DOES make perfect… and if nothing else, it certainly makes tasty treats :)


5 julia-lifeonchurchill May 10, 2013 at 10:48 am

I enjoy cooking but don’t know how to schedule it in my day or plan for it with groceries. I’d enjoy a class about that!


6 Raleigh-Elizabeth May 10, 2013 at 11:06 am

If you find one, let us know. I need that too. This vaguely reminds me of the Anne Marie Slaughter conversation — y’all, I can’t even find the time to READ about women having it all!


7 Miggy May 10, 2013 at 1:27 pm

While I grew up a latch key kid and had plenty of opportunity to cook for myself growing up, I didn’t really learn to cook there. It’s been a slowly-but surely process learning from anyone whose given me the opportunity to learn. I remember my uncle telling me how to make pasta with chicken when I was a freshman in college–I basically lived off that recipe that first year. A best friend in college taught us her famous Banana Cream Pie recipe which we have sworn to secrecy, yet remains the number one recipe I’m most asked for. In college I worked at a fancy (well, for Provo) restaurant that was usually pretty slow and the chef taught me how to make a killer “cream of” soups including butternut squash and mushroom (the key: butter and cream). Being married I’ve learned to branch out more and try more recipes and trust my instinct. Friends, blogs and cook books all contribute to my repertoire. A little here and a little there. I’m no chef, but I’m pretty comfortable in the kitchen and always enjoy learning something new.

And yes, an online class like you described sounds dreamy.


8 Raleigh-Elizabeth May 10, 2013 at 1:40 pm

Miggy, you can’t just leave us hanging like that! Where’s this pie recipe!!!


9 JoAnn May 10, 2013 at 1:32 pm

I totally credit Rouxbe with transforming the way I now cook. I used to just follow recipes but didn’t recognize the simple techniques that were common to all. Once I started to figure out basic cooking techniques I started to read recipes completely differently. Now I look at the flavor profile and I’ll follow my own method because I recognize the techniques required to make any dish. New dishes always turn out the first time because I don’t blindly follow a recipe method that could inherently have flaws like different sizes of ingredients or stove temp. If there is one thing I don’t do it’s follow “Cook for X minutes”, now I know to cook till it’s done and I know how to determine that on my own.


10 Raleigh-Elizabeth May 10, 2013 at 1:40 pm

Hurrah! Another Rouxbe Foodie!


11 Jet Pabst May 22, 2013 at 3:12 pm

Also make sure, if you aren’t in the country, that you check with your locally owned culinary shops. I own one and we have chefs, cookbook authors and restaurantuers from around the community come in and teach classes. They are wonderful!


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