So last time I had just gotten us to the cooking class at Sur La Table. I’ll pick up there now.
I glanced at the other students. It was all couples, of course. This was, after all, “a date night” event. Most of them were much younger than ourselves. I’m guessing the average age was 30-something. Though, there were few others who were in our neck of the woods. In fact, we ended up pairing with a couple that was almost exactly our age. They told us they were celebrating their anniversary. They’d been married 27 years. (We, by the way, are closing in on 40.)
The instructor got us started. First, we needed to make the Pupusas. These are, by the way, kind of like a little biscuit, or maybe a thick pancake. (Wikipedia calls them a “griddle cake.”) They are made out of corn flour and are filled with various good things--the things we used were cheese and chopped vegetables, including onions--and then they’re fried in a pan with a bit of oil.
Forming the cakes was a bit harder than you think it would have been. The dough kept cracking and it was hard to conceal all the fillings within the small amount of dough we had to work with. My one triumph of the evening? I’ve had years of experience with Play-Doh. My Pupusa was a perfect little discus of dough. The instructor was so impressed that he even borrowed it to show to the rest of the class so everyone would know what a Pupusa was supposed to look like.
Rest assured. It will be the only time in the history of the world that a professional chef regards my labors as perfection. Unless, of course, they’re looking for a perfect disaster. In which case, I’m there with bells on.
About the photo: again, I’m going deep into the files for this one. It is of Martha in a funky little shop just on the fringes of Old Town in Albuquerque, New Mexico. It must have been sometime around 2014-2015. Nothing to do with Sur La Table, but a nice photo. I hope the shop is still there.
We fried up the Pupusas and set them aside. Then it was time to make the Chimichurri sauce for the steak. We were doing a green sauce, which means that it contained parsley, minced garlic, olive oil, oregano, and (I think) vinegar. I got to do some of the chopping for the parsley. The other couple dealt with the garlic. Then everything went into a huge mortar and pestle. Because we were big, strong macho guys...and because the wives didn’t want to do it...the other husband and I ground the stuff up into a thin paste.
Again, it was way harder than you would think. Though, I suppose, it makes sense. Basically you’re taking a leaf...which is a pretty tough thing, all in all, lots of fiber...and trying to grind it down to mush. Martha later suggested that we should have used a blender. I agreed...or, failing a blender, maybe a wood chipper. Or a rock crusher. ‘Bout the same.
Anyway, once that was done, the mortar full of Chimichurri went under the table onto a shelf to wait. And it was then the steak’s turn. Each team got two flank steaks and you had to take your pick. We made our choice (they wanted the one that was small but thicker, we went with the one that was thinner but broader) and then both steaks went onto a grill over a heating unit.
One interesting thing. The grill was a metal plate with grooves in it. I assumed that we would oil the plate, but the instructor told us not to. If we did, he said, we end up doing two types of cooking at once. Where the meat touched the metal (the raised sections) we’d have grilling. Where the meat didn’t touch the metal, but did touch the hot oil (filling the grooves) we would have sautéing. The result, he suggested, was that we might all too easily combine the worst aspects of two different methods of preparation.
Anyway, after that, it was just a matter of waiting a few minutes while the steaks cooked.
It was then that Martha and I realized where we’d made our mistake. I glanced out over the classroom at the other students and saw that several of the couples had brought bottles of wine. And they were busily popping ‘em open and pouring them into the plastic glasses that Sur La Table had been kind enough to provide.
We looked at our iced coffees. “Phooey,” we said.
Well, next time, we’d bring wine.
A couple of Old Fashioneds. Say, with Makers Mark. Or Bulleit. In a thermos. With ice.
I mean, after all, those Lyft and Ubers apps are just sitting there on my phone.
And somebody’s got to be the designated drinker.
More to come.
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