I arrived through stinging icy snow to a kind of warehouse-y looking part of south Brooklyn near the Gowanus Canal, and walked into a stunningly clean, warm and friendly environment. I watched as the rest of the class came in, mostly young women, like myself, either alone or in groups of 2 or 3. I believe there was one couple in attendance, and one very brave lone lad!
As the class was called to order, we all went to pre set
stations where we all had a glass for water (oh would I need that later) a clean wooden cutting board and a small but very handy knife in a sheath as well as our recipe list. Our instructor that night would be walking us through 4 out of the 5 recipes provided to us that night.
First off was the Malay Chicken (pictured at right). He explained the basics of the correct way to segment an onion, julienne ginger, mince garlic and chop cilantro, and we all took a bit of a different ingredient to practice. I worked on julienne-ing the ginger, as I can't say I've ever done anything with fresh ginger except maybe grate it a little. He also took time to explain ingredients that might
be exotic to us, like fermented black beans, their importance in
Southeast Asian cooking, and the proper way to use them in this dish. It was exceedingly spicy to me (did contain Thai chilies), and
more than a few of my classmates got a laugh as I did a mad dash for more and more water. Delicious, but if I remake it, we'll skip the chilies.
Second was the Laotian Spring Rolls (pictured left). These were a lot of
fun and I look forward to making them at home! (Small note, the one recipe we did not actually try out of the 5 was a recipe for Laotian Summer Rolls, so I'm figuring that would have just been too repetitive to do both.) Again, we all took some of the base ingredients and practiced breaking them down for the filling. This time I got the mushrooms, and since it didn't say what kind of mushroom, I basically grabbed one of every type! (I love mushrooms!) The thing I found a little surprising was, that in addition to the carrots and mushrooms, onion, garlic, and cellophane noodles was ground beef. I don't think I've ever had a spring roll with meat in it - but I love meat too, so why not! Probably the part that was the most fun was after we had the filling in a giant bowl, we all got to take spring roll wrappers and wrap our own. I did have a mini-flashback to my time in northern China, visiting a woman named Nicole and her trying to teach us how to make gyoza, and all the while we were trying to pleat and crease them, her fussing, "Make more beautiful!" and clumsy Americans, yeah. . . . my spring rolls weren't necessarily too pretty either. But once they were fried up, they were delicious!
Laotian Beef Salad, was the final savory dish of the evening. It was explained that traditionally, the meat would be served raw, "cooked" only by its exposure to copious amounts of lime juice. Obviously, that wouldn't be legally responsible for Ger-Nis to
teach, so they showed us a step around, how to cook the ground beef on low heat, without frying or browning, but making it completely safe to eat, before combining it with the other ingredients. The dull grey of the meat made it a little less pretty
and appetizing than some of the other dishes, but it's a cooking
class, you've got to try everything, right? It was actually much tastier than I could have guessed.
Lots of garlic, lime juice, and the cilantro wasn't too overpowering, nor were the Thai chilies this time, all wrapped up in a nice leaf of lettuce. I'm still not sure if I'll ever recreate this one, but I'm glad I tried it!
And lastly, of course, is dessert. Granted, the first thing we started with that night was technically the dessert, but it had to be done in
small sessions throughout the class. Sweet Coconut Sticky Rice with Mango (pictured at left). And it was explained that the rice had to be soaked at least 10 hours overnight before you could start, and then we steamed it for another 20-3o minutes while we did recipe 1, then took a break and drained it and soaked the rice in the coconut milk and sugar solution, then went and completed
recipe 2, and by the time we'd finished the Beef Salad, the dessert was just about ready to eat!
The entire experience was fun, entertaining, educational, social and I can't wait to get to go to another class!
Now, how do I follow that with an etsy plug? Not like you can get cooking lessons on etsy, I don't think. However, there was something nice about the Ger-Nis teaching kitchen that I thought was a nice little touch that will also work for my etsy browsing; they had the most adorable array of aprons. Yes, they had plain black for the men, but they had some great prints, colors, patterns and even ruffles on some of their aprons for those who wanted them.
Now, there's a bevy or aprons on etsy in a lot of styles. Some people like clean and functional, some like screen printed quips or simple designs, and some like to go fancy for something almost dress-like. I will say that I'm only looking at whole aprons, not half aprons, because when I'm
baking/cooking, I'm much more likely to get things on myself from the waist up rather than just the waist down.
Handmade Cottage was the first to jump out at me. And I admit, her shop isn't all aprons, and she doesn't have many, and they're not super fancy or anything, but I love her
kitschy retro fabric choices for clean, simple lined aprons. For me, I think the neck is a little high, but I honestly adore both her bright vintage red cherry print on a crisp white
background, and the pictured red roses are also just an adorable fabric choice! (Those who've followed me much, though, know I'm a sucker for roses. My Mom even calls me "her rose.")
For a shop that focuses only on aprons and has 4 pages of apron-based stock, it's hard not to mention Dianne Designer Aprons. Whether you want something more simple, more elaborate, ruffles, plain, mixed patterns, some of her aprons even look like nice dresses and are shaped to give that more hourglass look! I highly suggest just looking through all the pages to see the variety yourself. Here, I've picked my favorite at left (though the "dragon lady" and "nature" designs are close runner-ups.)
And for those of you who just want a little simple screen printing? Sweet Harvey is what you're looking for. Screen printing her own original illustrations on nearly everything you can think of, she has a small but adorable selection of very clean and simple aprons decorated with her own art. I kinda like the little robot guy myself.
So, hopefully I've given you a good selection of ideas of what can be found on etsy for your apron tastes, and have fun browsing!