Cooking School Journal: Baltimore

Last week was so great. I’m so tired, but since Joe’s laptop is available, I’m going to pound out as much as I can.

More meat, which I think should replace “Go Jules” as my license plate, was the theme of the class last Monday.

Even after being tardy, and cooking the worst dish, my veal curry, I was ready to cook.

The best dish, by the way, was made by Not-Gay-Lance (NGL) and his sidekick, John. They made Pork Loin chops stuffed with fruit and bread served in brown sauce.

I came home with Wellington, steak au poivre, and creme brulee…but Joe’s favorite was NGL’s pork chops. Surprised?

This week Chef was on a high. She had just come back from Baltimore. It was the IACP convention. She was nominated, and made the cut to be one of 8 contenders for best culinary teacher in the world. She was then surprised to find herself among the top three finalists.

She was up against on star of the Food Network and a world-renowned Chef/prolific cookbook author. Chef did not win, but was still glowing at competing amongst their ranks.

BALTIMORE! Here’s my “in”.

“Where did you dine there?” I asked like an over-eager freshman.

She rattled off ten names that I didn’t even recognize.

Having been born there, and visited many times since, I love Baltimore.  My favorite place to eat is a small family restaurant called Perring Place. It serves the best Maryland crab cake on the planet, but it’s tucked in a suburb and a different time-space continuum than the places Chef was reminiscing about.  My “in” was gone.wolfgang_puckjpg-wolfgang-upchuck-image-by-nipplequeen

Her favorite place in Baltimore is “THE BICYCLE”.

Totally off my radar.

And let’s not forget that she is from Puck-Land.

Her idea of a crab cake, I’m sure, will have panko and a roasted red pepper coulis.

A true Maryland crab cake has six ingredients:

Wonder bread, Old Bay Seasoning, Lump Blue Crab, Hellman’s Mayonnaise, Egg (to hold it together) and lard to fry it in until its golden and glistening.

The end result is a brackish and sweet two-scoop mound of crab, perfectly crunchy on its exterior and creamy and decadent until the last bite… plated perfectly with a side of sloppy cole slaw, over-cooked green beans or ancillary french fries.

It’s the best meal you will ever have.


When the lecture ended I was fabricating a rack of pork (again, vegetarians, log out immediately). I was trying to separate the treasured center pork loin from the ribs.

As expected, I was struggling. I was so nervous about not cutting close enough to the bone and wasting any precious meat that I was gingerly chopping at the loin like a bad masseuse.

Chef came over. “See all of these chopping marks in the meat? You see them?”

“Uhh. Yeah”

“That is not what we want.”

“Oh yeah. Umm, Okay?”

“I think you need to be less, well, how do I say… afraid’?”


“Just do it. Cut the meat from the bone like this.”

And after one deft swing of the boning knife sat before us a perfect pork loin.

I was in awe. To punctuate how impressed I was, I graced her with my praise, “Ummm. Uh-uh. Yeah.”

Time to cook.

Again I paired with Alice, and also, this time, an outcast of the home-schooling  group– Ashley.

Alice is cool. We work well together. She can stand me! She’s in marketing and lives in Malibu. She has a husband she met in college (JUST LIKE ME!).

Ashley has two young boys. She stays at home while her husband runs his own production company.

While Alice donned her cooking cap with the embroidered logo “Got Wine?”, and Ashley and I compared notes on living with a producer who is a car enthusiast on the side, I thought…

It’s Kismet!

They put me in charge of carving up the meat (3 bandaids, two tablespoons of antiseptic and an rubber glove later), Alice diced the veggies, and Ashley concocted a fabulous stuffing for the pork tenderloin which we served with a roasted tomato chipotle sauce.

We also made center-cut boneless pork loin chops in a red wine sauce (which broke-or separated) with roasted endive and sauteed apples. Not memorable.

But the best part of this class was learning to plate.

Usually, we all plate our dishes to platter, family-style, for an informal tasting. This time we all were seated,  while each group plated 14 individual plates for us to enjoy.

Every plate must look exactly the same. The plate must be warm. Traditionally, meat sits at 3 o’clock, veggie at 6 o’clock and potato at 9, and optional garnish at 12. Each portion must be exactly the same size as everyone else’s.

(Apparently there are a lot of sideways glances in restaurants, and disgruntled diners checking out the size of each others portions. So to speak.)

Finally, at 11:40pm, we sat at a long table with two giant jugs of cheap wine that called to our plastic cups. Never before have I been so happy to see the word “Woodbridge” in front of me.

We all drank and ate until we were too full to speak. The best meal again came from NGL. Rack of lamb served over a tian (layered sauteed vegetables) with gorgonzola sauce. In other words… heaven.

It was so great that when I came home in the middle of the night, my mom (who was sleeping over) and Joe devoured the last of it whilst in their pajamas. Apparently, Joe had coached her. He explained that if she stayed up until I got home, she would get leftovers!

Little did we know that this meal would quickly be eclipsed.

My class was going to take a field trip.

More tomorrow.