Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Clueless Dads Cooking Class

A while back, an e-mail came in from a friend:

"My husband has been asking me for cooking classes for Father's Day. I've been checking around, but haven't found anything that I think he would like. Which got me to thinking about you...Would you possibly be interested in doing a cooking class for a klutz in the kitchen, such as my husband, who just needs a good basic class? Salad, veggies, pasta, how to get it all out on the table at (or around) the same time, etc.. I was thinking that there might be several dads who would want to do this, and then they can make us all dinner, and the moms and kids could join afterward to eat! You could make a nice amount of money, too! Anyway, I know you're busy, but please think about it, and let me know your thoughts."

Here is what I should have replied:
"Wow! That is so sweet of you to think of me, but there is no way I could do that! I've never taught anybody anything before, much less several people at once. There are some amazing cooking schools around here...have you tried the New School of Cooking?"

Here is what I did reply:
"I love the idea of the clueless Dads' cooking class! It would be a ton of fun for me to work on, and the dinner party afterward is a great thought, too. I'd be glad to do it. "

Being asked, man. It's my downfall. I have some kind of ingrained need to say yes to people, especially if they ask nicely and butter me up first. Ah well. Too late now. Having committed myself to this little adventure, I set to work. The first step was to come up with a lesson plan and a menu. I e-mailed my future students:

Hi Dads!
Let me know which of the dates works best for both of you, and we will go from there. If you have anything you are dying to try, let me know, otherwise I think we will do one chicken dish and one fish dish, with several vegetarian side dishes and a dessert.

Dad #1:
Chicken and fish sounds good. Maybe some special kind of salad too, and/or a good soup -- I love chicken and beef based soups but since it's such a veggie-friendly home, maybe a vegetable soup? On the dessert front, I love simple cake -- spongecake, poundcake, coffeecake, cheesecake -- and fruit, especially citrus. If it's cool with [Dad#2] I'd like to make something that falls into one of those categories. If not, no sweat -- or maybe we could make more than one dessert?"

Whoa. Soup and multiple desserts? Must nip this in the bud. I attempt to simplify things:

Hi guys!
We will definitely be doing a salad and side dish to go with our main course, and of course, dessert. Here are two options for the menu:

Salmon Teriyaki
Steamed Jasmine Rice
Salad with berries, spiced pecans, blue cheese and champagne dressing


Lemon Herb Chicken
Pesto Risotto
Caprese Salad (tomatoes and mozzarella cheese)

Dessert for both: Cream Cheese Pound Cake

Dad #1:
If forced to choose I would pick the lemon herb chicken, but if possible I like your earlier idea of one chicken AND one fish. But if that's just unrealistic, then I vote for the lemon herb chicken with the Caprese salad -- and I love the cream cheese pound cake for dessert.

Damn. He saved the first e-mail.

Dad #2:
I agree . Must do one chicken and one fish. Don't want teriyaki salmon as my wife makes brilliant salmon. Prefer TUNA. Let's do the two proteins then the risotto and caprese with the cream cheese pound cake and some berries.

Dad #1:
No problem from me re: skipping salmon but I might prefer something other than tuna, a little different, like swordfish or snapper or something?

Dad #2:
Halibut or snapper.

Fine. I made my bed. Must lie in it.

Hi guys!
Our cooking adventure is scheduled for this coming Sunday. I just wanted to confirm the date with you guys, as well as our menu*:

Tomato and Mozzarella Salad
Pesto Risotto
Lemon-herb Chicken
Flash-roasted Snapper or Swordfish (we will see which looks better when we shop)
Cream Cheese Pound Cake

I'll be putting together an ingredient list tomorrow, along with a list of the things we will need as we cook. Let's plan to meet at Whole Foods at 2:30 pm. We will shop for about 30 minutes, then head back and start cooking. Assuming we start cooking at 3:30, I would estimate we'd be ready to serve dinner between 6:30 and 7.

Let me know if this plan suits you both, and I'll look forward to seeing you on Sunday!

Dad #2:
Sounds great. I'd rather a different salad. Also, we will still do vegetarian side dishes as you referenced? We will also need to make pasta with butter for the kids.

Note to self: Charge more.

I had the risotto and salad as sides. We can see what looks good for a different salad when we shop.

Dad #2:
I'd like a cooked vegetable as well.

Well I'd like to shoot myself. But I don't. Instead, I added grilled asparagus to the menu.

And you know what? It worked out unbelievably well. My students were fun, attentive and incredibly cooperative. They rolled up their sleeves, washed their hands, chopped onions, pounded chicken, cracked eggs, sliced tomatoes, measured herbs, buttered a bundt pan, grated cheese, zested oranges, preheated ovens, stirred in stock, drained mozzarella, garnished with basil, deglazed with wine, mounted with cream, drizzled olive oil, sprinkled salt, plated everything and had dinner ready right on time. They even made pasta for the kids. Way to go, clueless Dads!!!**

I ducked out just as dinner was served, exhausted but thrilled by the way the day had gone. I'm so glad I said yes.***

* I've posted the risotto recipe before. To get the others, you'll have to sign up for a class of your own. I'm a cooking teacher now, you know.
** As an added bonus, I got an e-mail the next day saying that everyone loved the food! Clueless Dads rule!
*** Turns out that most of the time I'm glad that I say yes to things. The recent exception is when I said yes to picking up my Dad in Beverly Hills and taking him home to Culver City at the same time as I had said yes to picking up my Mom from the grocery store in Encino. I may be a professional driver, but even I couldn't pull that one off.

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