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My Master Class with Thomas Keller

Claire Stabbert - Columnist
Posted 5/21/20

We all are finding ways to stay busy during this time, whether it be taking your dog on 25 walks a day (my mom), gardening, reading more books, zoom chats, knitting facemasks, saving the world in the …

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My Master Class with Thomas Keller

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We all are finding ways to stay busy during this time, whether it be taking your dog on 25 walks a day (my mom), gardening, reading more books, zoom chats, knitting facemasks, saving the world in the healthcare industry, or whatever it may be.

My full time job is being a first grade classroom teacher, and when I am not creating virtual lessons, I am cooking and educating myself for all of you. I'm not sure if you have seen the advertisments lately, but there are now virtual “Master Classes”, created by 84 masters of their trade.

You can learn cooking from Thomas Keller, the most decorated American Michelin Star chef, learn leadership from Anna Wintour, fashion design by Marc Jacobs, or makeup tips by Bobbi Brown. There are around 35 (20 minute) lessons per teacher, and each night I am given “homework”. It's just like I rewound myself 10 years and I'm back in high school. It was not cheap, at $180 for my year's subscription, but the knowledge I am going to learn on so many various topics is invaluable in my book. If you have not yet purchased, I do greatly recommend. They are brilliantly done.

I began my first online cooking class learning about essential techniques from the one and only Thomas Keller. Keller was awarded best chef in America in 1997, has won multiple awards from the James Beard Foundation, and currently holds 7 Michelin stars for his restaurants around the country. I'm willing to take his advice.

Keller's first lesson begins by going through essential tools for the home kitchen, and what he uses in his restaurants. Keller will always place a damp kitchen towel under his cutting board so it does not slip. Many times we are on slippery metal or stone surfaces in our kitchens. The last thing you want is your knife slipping.

He urges home cooks to use scales rather than measuring cups, measuring in grams rather than oz. I am not ready to throw out my measuring cups just yet, but what I am willing to accept is his point that “your outcome will only ever be as good as the produce and tools that you use.” That means investing in great knives, cookware, having an efficient stove, and keeping up with your appliances. Keller mentions that keeping your knives in a wood block is fine, however, he prefers a knife drawer, since wood blocks can at times dull the blades.

My second lesson this week with Thomas Keller focused on his essential ingredients for the home kitchen. These included kosher salt, canola oil for sautéing and roasting due to its ability to withstand high temperatures, and white wine vinegar. He reiterated salt and vinegar are flavor enhancers. They will make the food taste more like “itself”. He often adds salt to solids, and vinegar to sauces and soups.

Finishing ingredients that he places at the end of cooking include finishing salt, pepper, and extra virgin olive oil. Pepper actually adds flavor to your food. It changes your foods flavor! His key point: don't add pepper unless you really like the flavor. It will be an added flavor, not enhancer.

Next week I will be learning and discussing Thomas Keller's take on pickling just in time for the season! If this is already what I have learned in my first two classes, I'd say my investment was worth it.

Claire Stabbert is an accomplished cook who loves to try new recipes. While she does enjoy eating at restaurants, she also loves to whip up a good meal at home. Claire gets some of her cooking inspiration from her grandfather and grandmother, Fred and Shirley Stabbert as well as Great Grandma Nellie.

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