Cooking School Journal: Week Two Continued

I guess you know how successful your day is going to be when your horoscope reads: “You will be completely lacking in social skills today, but those that matter will overlook your bad behavior.”

I fell asleep on the couch Monday afternoon studying  chicken. The art of trussing a dead bird does not make compelling reading.

But I did complete my other assignment, buying a boning knife (insert boning jokes here…except for Joe who has already exhausted all possibilities).

I ended up with the Whustof non-professional model. It had good hand-feel (alright, already) and was not 8 million dollars. Plus it was well-balanced and the steel ran from tip to end (yeah, I got it).

So I came to class completely a-social and only partially prepared.


Today there were two newbies. One was a guy named John. Boy, was not-gay-Lance stoked.He wasn’t going to be the only dude anymore.  Also there was a very tall woman in her late thirties (in my chair) who looked like she was crazy.

And, lucky for all of us, she was.

Her name is Linda, and she took this class sixteen years ago but didn’t finish. Yes, sixteen. For some lucky reason, every Monday night for the next nine months now works for her and she is going to finish in my class. Woo hoo.

Linda talks at odd times and often says very inappropriate things. Let’s sum it up by saying that she lives in Manhattan Beach.

Chef arrived 30 minutes late.

After a brief oral quiz…

“How many cups in a pint? Jules?”





“How cold should your refrigerator be? John?”

“41 degrees” (Sh*t! I knew that one.)

“How many pints in a quart? Jules?”




“No. Lance?”



Men 3 – Women 0.

“How many quarts in a gallon? Sabrina?”


“Are you sure?”




“Very good!”

Great start.

Then she showed us how to truss a whole chicken and bone it (I still get it).  Then she reviewed the basics of making a stock:

Chicken bones, all leftover parts into the pot (except the liver which is too bitter when boiled. She recommends frying it up and having it as a snack while the stock boils. I’m beginning to think she is a bit Hannibal Lechter-esque).  Add 50% onion (or 25% onion and 25% green parts of leek) 25% carrots 25% celery, cover completely with water and simmer for at least two hours, constantly skimming off the raft– the funky foam stuff. And don’t forget your bouquet garni: bundled herbs (your choice but generally thyme, parsley, bay leaves and marjoram tied together with twine and then tied to the stock pot handle for easy removal). Never add salt or pepper. That would make it a seasoned stock otherwise known as broth, which is a whole different ball game.

Then we all grabbed our new knives as the TA’s passed out a cutting board and whole chicken to each of us. It was now time to dismantle the bird. I slyly moved myself from my current position next to Crazy Linda and tucked myself next to Not Gay Lance. He has a lot of knives.

We started by cutting the legs off, then the wings and then the breasts. We went back and carefully dug out the oyster or nugget of prime meat which is located next to the thigh joint.

When it was time to hack off the tip of the drumstick bone, I turned to Lance and asked if I could borrow his cleaver.horror_showjpg I don’t have one nor have ever owned one. My mother has a distinct aversion to large knives (ask her one day and she’ll tell you why. It’s an inspired story that I have heard on average about two times per month for the last 30 years). The sharpest knife in my house as a kid was the butter knife.

He handed me his clever, and as I gripped the end of the chicken leg with one hand and raised the clever into the air with the other, everyone in the room screamed, “NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!”

I guess that wasn’t the safest way to do it. So then I became so nervous that I gingerly tapped at the end of the chicken bone with this giant blade doing absolutely no hacking but completely splintering the bone. Lance grabbed the knife, pushed me aside and hacked off the bone in one deft motion.

“Oh. Thanks.” I said.

It was time to go into groups. Sign-ups were on the fridge.

Lance’s group was full. Crazy Linda already had two partners (people who were seated very far away from her and did not yet know she was crazy).

I signed up with Sabrina who had the most recipes to cook… again the challenging menu.

Within the first two minutes I learned from Sabrina, whom already had everything mise en place, that she has devoted the last 18 years of her life to home-schooling her 8 children.