ICC Recreational Classes: Japanese-American Kitchen Review – Compliments to the Chef (Shefu ni Sanji)

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International Culinary Center, ICC, located on Broadway and Grand Street in Manhattan’s SoHo neighborhood is the home to one of the most prestigious culinary programs in the world and occasionally offers recreational classes to home cooks.

Having enjoyed occasional offerings in the past when the opportunity to participate in a recreational class come around it was too good to turn down.

Preparation Practical

Recreational classes are theory and demonstration and practical. In theory the student/guest participant efforts will yield the same results as the Chef demonstrates.

Chef Hiroko Shimbo, the ICC’s resident Japanese Cuisine expert, would be teaching our small class of six participants the art of creating delicious   Japanese meals in an American Kitchen. We were paired in teams and worked together in the industrial kitchen sharing ingredient essentially we would be preparing dinner for two.

Our menu for the evening consisted of Cauliflower and Leek Soup, (whole and pureed), Crispy Salmon, Brussels Sprouts, Purple Potato and Kale in Dill Daikon Dashi Broth and for dessert, Mochi with duki and Nutella.

The menu, for the evening, consisted of understanding the two standard stocks: Kelp and Dashi which are the foundations for almost all Japanese soups. The interesting element in the Kelp stock preparation is one serving of Kelp (which is a sea plant dried) can be used three different times, two stock perpetrations and one dessert, a crispy fried sweet dessert like a funnel cake.

Watching the preparation student/guests are encouraged to jump in, following the recipe and match the exact action of the chef.

Beginning with the Stocks which became the foundation for the Cauliflower and Leek soup and the base for the broth in the Crispy Salmon, we matched her action step and step and soon we were sampling our own soups which were as delicious as the chef’s. After learning to create Cauliflower and Leek Soup

Next it was onto the preparation for the Crispy Salmon. Given a Salmon steak, not a horseshoe cut, we were taught to de-skin, filet and butterfly, which elongates or creates square flaps. Each salmon steak will then serve two individuals. The steaks are marinated in soy for 20minutes, brushed with a cornstarch and rolled with a nori sheet on the inside.

The steak is tooth-picked, rolled in dill and deep fried. The potatoes is boiled during the marinating process, Brussel sprouts are halved and all the vegetables are rolled in cornstarch for deep frying. Kale is also served and blanched in the hot water used to boil the potatoes.

To serve the salmon steak is cut Shushi style placed in the bowl with potatoes, Brussel sprouts and kale and the dashi broth added. Just enough so the salmon rests in the broth. 

Interesting Japanese Food Culture Facts

Chef Hiroko Shimbo was fascinating and while the Salmon was marinating, I enjoyed a conversation with her regarding the use of Chop Sticks and there relevance in Japanese culture which is different than most would know.

“Chops Sticks are very personal, they are like a tooth brush,” Chef Hiroko explained. Relating to American culture, they are not to be shared and it would be in very bad form to ask to use any persons chop sticks. Good information to have.

Also, most Japanese only have one set of Chop Sticks which they use for all meals. If a lunch is taken the same chop sticks are taken with a carried lunch.

We also discussed the presentation of food and the customary consumption ritual which is dictated based on the five distinctive food tastes, bitter, sweet, savory, salty and sour and how the next food choice depends on the taste of the last. Rice cleanses the palette, it would follow a strong flavor, which would precede a flavor that enhances the next. Almost as if the ingredients in Japanese cooking are based on intertwining flavor enhancement, food pairings for ultimate flavor.

The Final Act

Participating in the final course, the making of the Japanese Desert Mochi with Aduki and Nutella was, unfortunately, cut short as a severe oil burn, sustained during the frying of the main course, Crispy Salmon, derailed the evening.

Having asked the student chef for instruction and being given the affirmation to proceed while handling the salmon steak the result ended with a burn.

Having attended several recreational classes in the past and therefore have some experience to compare. It was a disappointment the student chef that I and my student partner worked with was not as attentive as those in the past, in fact she seemed somewhat disinterested and temperamental.

Of course, burns and cuts are possible in any kitchen from home to industrial and coupled with my own quick thinking (get ice), which took a few minutes as I didn’t know the location and was left to depending on another, and ran my hand under cold water first, and then finally what seemed like an eternity and in actuality a few, at least five minutes, when in an emergency situation can make all the difference between management and disaster. 

The student chef got the ice and unfortunately dumped it when she felt my pain was sufficiently managed. I was left to scoop up the leftover ice in the sink and continue to soak the fingers in cold ice water.

The evening pleasure was dimmed by the burn and honestly the student chef was not, at all, interested in assisting the injury. Her level of concern was really null as she stated she was a doctor, a surgeon in her home country, I expected a greater level of compassion. 

Of the three student chefs only one seemed genuinely to adhere to the safety rules of any normal kitchen, don’t walk with blades facing forward rushing in aisles where others are walking and of course burn safety which ended the recreational study for the evening early.

Chef Hiroko Takes Over

It wasn’t until Chef Hiroko was notified that the industrial strength burn ointment surfaced. Chef Hiroko explained to the coordinator the need for burn gel which turned out to be a blister saver.

By nights end, the blister had released on its own and coupled with the suave was basically healed without pain or discoloration in 48 hours.

I so much enjoy the opportunity to be a part of the recreational class offerings the burn and the overshadow It reminded me of the time I attended a remote studio junket and was told mid-day nearing the end of the event that I would be responsible for my transportation back to the airport even as they had others leaving at the same time which of course was handled as this was when I took over.

So while fate attempted to punctuate the evening with injury the class offering and the instruction and quite honestly the level of compassion from Chef Hiroko who knew exactly what suave would cool, medicate and heal the burn and made sure that I received multiple packets of the suave, pain medication, although (no wine) which as a non-physician I thought would have helped, the evening was still very enjoyable.

I do very much recommend Japanese-American Kitchen with Chef Hiroko Shimbo.

Her level of skill and talent coupled with the innate knowledge of Japanese culture, which is freely shared, was very interesting. And by nights end, even those who walked in without any knowledge of Japanese cooking can walk out with one three course meal and confidence to prepare.

I’m confident, even with the bumps, bruises of the evening, in my preparation skills for the first and second courses and like anyone who participates can do the same.

Arigato Chef Hiroko. It was interesting, fun and a great learning experience.

For more information: www.internationalculinarycenter.com

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