City Pulse: Cooking up childhood memories
Feb. 5, 2014 at 3:01 p.m.
Updated Feb. 4, 2014 at 8:05 p.m.
When I was a little girl, I told my mother I wanted an Easy-Bake Oven. My best friend, Katherine, had one, and after making a small chocolate cake in it, I was ready to steal that magic little contraption and become a pastry chef - hey, a girl can dream right?
My hardcore Italian - not to mention Montessori school teaching - mother laughed about the possibility of buying some little plastic oven, and instead, she marched me into the kitchen, grabbed two metal pans from the cupboard and told me to start mixing.
At first, I was devastated, but as we dusted chopped nuts onto a two-layer carrot cake with cream cheese frosting, I knew nothing that beautiful would ever come out of a toy oven.
I fell in love with cooking that day.
I felt that same joy when I attended my first cooking class at The Cooking Depot in Cuero. The classes, which have been around almost 14 years, are hands-on, laid-back fun in the kitchen.
Walking into the depot, the smell of fresh ginger sizzling inside a wok greeted me, and immediately, I knew that, if anything, I was going to have a good meal that night. Chef Dorothy Huang, who has been teaching with the depot for 10 years and cooking for more than 30, was laying the groundwork for a night full of dishes to celebrate Chinese New Year.
Our meal began by rolling shredded roasted duck mixed with carrots and onions into a spring roll wrapper. Chef Dorothy worked side-by-side with us, giving tips on how to fold the wrapper and how much filling to put inside. Afterward, we dipped the rolls into an egg wash and coated them with panko bread crumbs before frying them.
It was amazing.
Also on the menu, we cooked Good Luck shrimp, fried rice, Chinese-style filet mignon, sesame seed balls and Good Fortune fish - my personal favorite, a steamed piece of salmon atop a thick slice of peppered ham and a bright red bell pepper and then neatly presented with a green onion tied around.
While the cooking definitely has inspired a road trip to Houston to stock up on Chinese ingredients such as sweet bean paste, what I really enjoyed about the class was my classmates.
Sitting at a table with six strangers with a couple bottles of beer and some wine - the classes are BYOB - was a perfect way to get out of the noisy bars and into something a little more interesting.