Culinary prowess: Students cook at Culinary Arts Weekend
BEMIDJI--The chopped onions crackled in their kiddie pool of butter, ready to be flipped. "Don't know if I'm ready for this," Daighton Ripp said and grimaced, grabbing the pan's handle with both hands. She made small, quick circles with rotating ...
BEMIDJI-The chopped onions crackled in their kiddie pool of butter, ready to be flipped.
"Don't know if I'm ready for this," Daighton Ripp said and grimaced, grabbing the pan's handle with both hands. She made small, quick circles with rotating shoulders, the onions barely budging.
Then, after a bit of advice from an instructor, she made one big, slow motion-and the white flecks climbed glistening through the air, hovering, landing back in the pan with a recurrent sizzle.
"Phew, that was nerve-wracking," Ripp said, facing her classmates in triumphant glory, as if she had just defused a bomb. "Who's next?"
About 20 students of culinary prowess crowded Saturday into the commercial kitchen at the Concordia Language Villages with various cuisines to prepare.
They came from Sauk Rapids-Rice High School and Indus High School in Birchdale to make dishes they couldn't hope to spell (lihapiirakka) and dishes with which they were more familiar (chocolate chip cookies).
"Whether they're sauteing onions for a Russian dish or an Argentinian dish, we want to show them that it's all the same method," said Mitch Eickman, who led and organized this inaugural Culinary Arts Weekend at the Villages. "Really," he said, the only thing that changes from a kitchen in Spain to a kitchen in the United States, "is the ingredients."
Staying the weekend in cabins clumped beside Turtle River Lake, the students learned how to knead dough without overworking the gluten, how to wield a knife without losing their fingertips.
They buttoned into white chef coats and wore assorted hats to keep their hairs from escaping, baking baguettes and their own bodies in this steamy kitchen.
In the dining room, where it felt 20 degrees cooler, students made paneer, a mild Indian cheese.
"When it comes to cheese," said Arryn Swartz of Indus, the pot bubbling beside him, "I'm picky.
"It's all about the texture, the harder cheeses: muenster, pepper jack." He once made goat cheese at his school as part of a fancy-sounding dish that he fancily pronounced. "It was good."
At their schools, the students cook in home economics classes. They compete every year in the National ProStart Invitational culinary contest, some presenting business proposals to start new and pretend restaurants, others pulling together a three-course dinner in 60 minutes, with two butane burners and no electricity.
"New things," that's my favorite thing to cook, said Ripp of Sauk Rapids-Rice, the onion-tosser with the deft touch. "I don't like doing the same thing."
Emma Ditlevson of Sauk Rapids-Rice wants to one day open her own French bakery.
Patricia Handorgan of Indus wants to be a chef.
Blazen Whitfield of Indus wants cooking to stay a hobby.
At the baguette station, Eickman, the organizer, watched as students spun dough-filled mixers. Flour clouds jumped out and snowed onto the countertop, the students cupping their hands around their bowls to stop the flying powder.
"I'd rather you lose a little flour," Eickman said, "than a finger."
Eickman said it wasn't important the students memorized recipes, how many spoons of salt they need to make 12 baguettes. "We want them to remember the techniques," he said, because the same technique with different ingredients can give you a calzone or an empanada.
In the dining room, at the cheese station, students dusted spice over their warm white blocks.
Swartz, the cheese bon vivant, shook fajita seasoning and white pepper.
His block was wrapped in cheesecloth, the excess fabric spun into a twist, knotted with string so that he could take this little package when he goes back home.