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Cooking lessons

When I was growing up, I learned much of my basic cooking skills from my mom and brother. I also learned a lot on my own when I was diagnosed with high cholesterol at the age of 20, and began diving into healthy eating books and cookbooks–hence I had to learn how to make myself healthy lunches and such. I continued learning by reading and then by watching Food Network as that evolved. But I never took a formal cooking class until this past summer, when I enrolled in a 3-session course at Madison Area Technical College (MATC) on Thai cooking. I love Thai food, but it’s not easy to learn how to make real curry without having an instructor show you how it’s made from scratch, rather than by opening a jar of curry paste. I also learned how to make a real spring roll, and also pad thai, among other things.

I liked the course and instructor so much, that I took another course recently through MATC–same instructor, different location, and this time it was a 2-session course on making soup from scratch. I already knew how to do this, but the course taught me things I did not know, and it also was great to see how you make amazing chicken stock from scratch to start out. From there you can make, as we did, chicken noodle soup and wonton soup. The second session, we made chili and cream of mushroom soup. The latter is something I’ve never made, but it was phenomenal and I can’t wait to make it at home.

Then last week I received a James Beard cookbook and will be covering that in the Bullz-Eye.com Holiday Gift Guide. But this past weekend, I had to sample some of the recipes, which meant actually following the recipes of a master, and I learned so much in making just a couple of recipes from that book–gruyere soup; and beef Bourguignon saute. The latter involved making a sauce from scratch and making that the base–and learning how to do that was worth the price of the book, even though I didn’t technically pay for the book. That sauce was amazing and my mouth is watering just thinking about it. And it was SO easy. Of course, these recipes use crazy amounts of butter, but that’s why they taste so good, and because they are so rich, you can’t overeat. I also learned that by mixing flour and butter together, you can use that to thicken a sauce (cornstarch what?).

What’s my point? You can always learn more, especially with cooking, in which there are so many cuisines, methods and different foods out there in 2012. And I can’t wait to dive into that James Beard book some more.

  

Cheez-It chicken

Like most guys, I have an affinity for cheese crackers, and in particular I’ve always been partial to Cheez-It brand crackers. And for some reason, I haven’t been able to look at a box of them lately without thinking that I need to use them in recipes. So I just figured this past weekend that I was going to do it. So I made fried chicken breast cutlets with crushed Cheez-Its as the breading. Do you think that sounds good? Yeah, me too, but they came out even better than I had anticipated. Here is how to do it…..

Gather a pound or two of boneless, skinless chicken breasts, and flatten them slightly with a mallet unless they are already on the thin side. Put a couple of tablespoons of vegetable or olive oil in a nonstick pan and set over low heat. Meanwhile, set up a station of plate-shallow bowl-plate leading up to the pan. Take about 2 cups of Cheez-Its and run them through a food processor until you have the consistency of bread crumbs. Put some flour on the first plate, crack two eggs in the shallow bowl and whisk together, and put the Cheez-It crumbs on the other plate. Season each station with salt and pepper. Then dip each chicken breast into the flour, egg and then crumbs before placing in the heated pan. Raise heat to medium and cook chicken about five minutes per side or until crispy on the outside and cooked through and no longer pink in the middle. Depending on how many you are making, it might be better to cook them in batches. Serve as is or with ranch dressing for dipping.

  

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