Monday, March 31, 2008

Todd English's Class

Fresh mozzarella. 

Those two words sum up pretty much everything you need in order to imagine what went on at the class with Todd English on Saturday morning. 

First he made the cheese. He started with the curds, presumably for the sake of time, and proceeded to work them in the hot water until they started to melt and become stretchy. Unless you have no pain receptors in your hands, this requires a fair amount of "ow... ow... ow..." as you dunk your hands into the 130-135F water and keep them there while you work the curds. 

Once the cheese started to develop its characteristic strands and become stretchy, he broke it up into pieces that he made into little balls, turning the sides under to give a smooth top the way you might with bread dough. He kept these balls in the hot water until he was ready to use them, as he liked the almost-melty quality of the cheese when it was kept warm. Can't say I blame him!

After preparing the cheese, he moved on to demonstrating ways of serving it. He took a few raw baby artichokes, cut off the leaves to expose the heart, and then ran the heart over a mandoline (using the stem as a handle). He ended up with a small pile of thin artichoke shavings which he tossed into a bowl and drizzled with lemon juice, olive oil, and salt and pepper. And then he sprinkled that mixture over a ball of mozzarella that he had stretched out into a 6" disk and placed on a plate. Voilà! Antipasto is served. 

ETA: I forgot to include parmesan cheese and a bit of truffle vinaigrette in the ingredients for the artichoke dish. Yum.

Next up: tomatoes. He caramelized some thin garlic slices in olive oil, taking it off the heat and putting it back on so that the garlic would brown and caramelize without burning. In went some red onion, and he allowed that to sizzle a bit so that it would soften. Then some fresh tomato, in 1/2-3/4" dice, kept in the hot pan just long enough that it would warm up a bit. And instead of adding the traditional basil, English likes to add fresh mint. Interesting. He also likes to add sardine, but I bet it's great without it. 

And that was it! The whole process took about an hour, which seems rather long until you realize that he talked for most of that time, about anything and everything that came to mind. He also took questions, and was totally shown up by an audience member who asked him what his favorite comfort food was. He said a simple butter and cheese pasta with his kids, and when he asked the questioner what hers was, she said bone marrow on toast--with I forget what else, because at that point we were all laughing at the look on English's face. He was pretty entertaining, if a little full of himself, but maybe you have to be (to a certain extent) to be successful in food and the TV food world (he has a few cooking shows? I had no idea who he was).

That was the morning. In the afternoon was Charlie Trotter! Stay tuned...


Brave Sir Robin said...

But, but OLIVES????? I actually didn't know he had shows.

What did he serve the tomatoes on?

Anne said...

Whoops!! My bad. He served the tomatoes on top of a disk of mozzarella just like the artichokes. It looked... really good.

I'd never heard of Olives, actually. Does that make me a bad foodie? Perhaps.

Brave Sir Robin said...

Does that make me a bad foodie? Perhaps.

Of course not, it just reaffirms your West Coast bias!!
(That's a joke) - I wonder if Chefs and foodies have East Coast - West Coast wars likes rappers do?

hmmmm, I smell a Novel there. . . .