Wednesday, December 4, 2013
I've never cooked a scallop. And I sure haven't cooked 175 scallops in 15 minutes.
But Heather Milliman has.
Milliman is one of the instructors at Stonewall Kitchen's Cooking School in York. Last Friday, her culinary tutorial focused on exploding citrus (exploding with flavor, not violently detonating. Though I have seen citrus explode before, back when my brother and I used to play a few innings of Orange Baseball in the downstairs hallway when the parents weren't looking).
The Citrus Explosion menu:
Salad of Cucumber, Golden Cherry Tomatoes and Watercress with a Lemon-Balsamic Dressing
Seared Scallops with Fennel and Lemon Relish
Orange and Cardamom-Infused Couscous Broccoli Rabe with Lemon Zest and Olive Butter
Frozen White Chocolate and Key Lime Mousse Cake
The cooking school is located on the same property as the Stonewall Kitchen store and boasts a brightly lit kitchen with cabinets too high to hold anything that gets used with any regularity. I imagine they're filled with Christmas cookie cutters and a crock pot.
The classroom seats 36 and was packed on Friday. Front-row sitters surely get the best view in the house, but the two flat screens overhead make sure that everyone can see the action.
Also nice: The option of enjoying a beer or glass of wine during class. My college professors weren't so accommodating.
But back to the cooking. Milliman chatted us up while she cooked, having mastered the ability to prepare food and hold a conversation at the same time. "The good news is," she said, "no one will be going home with scurvy today."
The recipes for each dish were already printed for us, which meant less note scribbling and more attention paying. The great thing about a cooking demo is the chance to pick up on those nuances of cooking that you'd never get out of a recipe.
For example: Milliman prepared the salad in a wooden bowl as opposed to a metal one because the nicks and divots in the well-used bowl serve as reservoirs for the garlic that's rubbed into the bowl - the recipe's first step.
The lemon-balsamic dressing was prepared in the bowl, and the greens were added on top. A few simple turns with a pair of tongs (with only one or two errant leaves of lettuce that chose to fling themselves onto the counter) and the dressing was evenly spread. Interesting.
And as Milliman took on the challenge of cooking 175 scallops for her oh-so-hungry class of 36, she taught us a few things.
Some scallops have a slightly pinkish hue. Others don't. The pinks ones are females.
Scallops should be washed and dried before going into the pan. They can be salted and peppered on one side, and they shouldn't be crowded.
"Scallops pretty much cook as soon as you look at them," Milliman said. Aim for "a little undercooked." When scallops are overcooked, she added, it's like eating a rubberband.
Scallops have a lot of sugar in them, which is what creates that super pretty browning. Just a few minutes on each side will do it. When you see foaming in the pan, the scallops are done. That foaming indicates that the scallops are releasing their juices.
If they look slightly undercooked in the middle, they're perfect.
I haven't set out to try cooking my own scallops yet. But I will. Soon. Until then, I appreciate Friday's scallops as the best scallops I ever watched get cooked.
Stonewall Kitchen Cooking School classes are offered throughout the week, at lunchtime and in the evening. Some are even hosted by cookbook authors or TV personalities.
Most classes run for an hour and a half and cost about $55. And you will be fed. Well. These aren't sample sizes.
For a full list of upcoming classes, check out the schedule on www.stonewallkitchen.com.Tweet
Shannon Bryan is a feature writer for the Portland Press Herald and content producer for MaineToday Media's entertainment website, www.mainetoday.com.
And here's a well-known truth: Shannon can't cook. She's also ostroconophobic (in Maine?!?), but in a foodie place like southern Maine, she's determined to learn how to cook, eat, and order with the best of them. Read about her culinary crusade:
Pans on fire
She's also an investigator into all that's strange and entertaining to do around here. Those findings are gathered here:
Out Going: Things to do in southern Maine