Holiday Cooky

I don't cook. As a typical Gen X-er, my three meals a day consist of takeout, takeout and more takeout. So when I heard about Cook Street School of Fine Cooking's class How to Boil Water, I knew it was for me.

Cook Street offers a series of recreational cooking classes such as Classic Techniques, Bread Techniques and Knife Skills 101. "We try to take the intimidation out of cooking," says Chef Instructor Allen Burton. "Everything we do here is hands-on. Learning is doing."

What, then, is Chef Allen's advice to new chefs? "Keep it simple," he says. "Don't try to cook outside your boundaries."

Still, How to Boil Water is definitely not Cooking for Dummies. The class explores such tricky skills as blanching and sautéing. "We teach how to not lean on a recipe too much, because if it's a bad recipe, you're doomed from the start," says Chef Allen, who has twenty years of kitchen experience. "You learn a lot more by making mistakes with the food than by just standing there and watching me make it perfect."

Cook Street's menu-based curriculum is definitely worth the cost (tuition averages $70 per single class and $360 for a four-class series), because not only do students get to eat their creations, but they have plenty to digest afterward. "They give a lot of good advice," agrees student Dick Treich of Denver as he chops celery for a standing rib roast with an onion panade. "I never would have thought that I could make puff pastries from scratch, but now I can."

With holiday entertaining looming, the school is hosting a special series of classes, including Gingerbread Houses, Holiday Hors d'Oeuvres and Holiday Pastries. "When I ask people what their holiday kitchen demons are, most people say quantity and timing," says Chef Allen.

So when hungry in-laws are sitting in your living room, eagerly awaiting Thanksgiving dinner, lessons learned in a Cook Street class just might help you avoid a frequent beginner's mistake: overcooking. "It's one of the most common problems," says Chef Allen. "And you really don't want to overcook the bird, because nobody likes dry turkey."

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Julie Dunn
Contact: Julie Dunn