Saturday, February 7, 2009

My Filipino Kitchen Cooking Class: Ethnic Stews

Last month I created a new cooking class series for my group, What's Cooking Chicago. The monthly cooking class I teach is called, My Filipino Kitchen. But first, some background...

As much as I love Chicago's cultural diversity, Filipino cuisine is poorly represented here. There are a small handful of Filipino businesses that cater or have small neighborhood restaurants, but none that I feel really highlight the beauty of Filipino cuisine very well. In an effort to help demystify Filipino cuisine, I decided to teach folks the ins and outs of the food that I grew up on and enjoy preparing. Students learn hands on in the kitchen, get an a bit about the history, culture and imported ingredients used as well as enjoy Filipino cuisine unlike any restaurant experience in the city.

The first class I taught focused on Filipino favorites including Pancit, Chicken Adobo, Lumpia and Turon. I didn't blog about it since I didn't feel it would be much interest to readers since it wasn't a mainstream cuisine. But after the feedback I got on my 1000th blog post, it appears that many enjoy reading and learning about the ethnic dishes I prepare. With that said, I'll be sharing the details of My Filipino Kitchen classes to come.

So today I hosted my second class in which we focused on Filipino stews and soups. Our menu (with links to the recipes) for the class included:

Lumpiang Shanghai
Cornik Snacks
This is a popular snack in the Philippines and is the Filipino cousin to American CornNuts.
Kare Kare (Oxtail & Peanut stew)
Sinigang Ng Baboy (Tamarind Pork stew)
Kanin (Steamed white rice)

Calamansi Punch
Calamansi is Philippine lime which tastes like
a cross between lemon, lime and tangerines.
Langka (Jackfruit) Ice Cream

Because of the hands on cooking involved, I prefer no more than 5 students for these events. Here's how I prepared for my class...


Preparing a day or two before:
  • I use my dining room as the workplace for my cooking classes. The tricky part about this is that I have to ensure a smooth transition of using the dining table both as a place for everyone to prep ingredients and also a place for us to have a sit down meal when our dishes are done cooking. To accomplish this, I put on a clean and fresh white tablecloth on my dining table along with a colorful runner and topped it with a white disposable tablecloth. This way, when we're done prepping ingredients and clearing the table, the table is ready to be set for dining.

  • With my table lined with both tablecloths, I placed all the serving ware & utensils, dinnerware, appropriate flatware, and napkins on my buffet table the night before. Having everything ready next to the dining table will make it easy for me to set the table after removing the disposable tablecloth.
  • Because the main dishes we will be serving a stews, I'm using the above soup tureens as servingware. I placed these on my buffet as well so they are ready to use once the dishes are done cooking.

  • Because there will be a total of 6 of us attending for the class, I have 2 water carafes set aside on my buffet. I've found having a carafe for every three people to share works out perfectly and prevents having folks to get up for drinks.

  • I also set up a folding table on one side of my dining room for a punch bowl, glasses and a few snacks for folks to munch on before the class starts. I put a tablecloth on the folding table as well for a consistent look and positioned it where it was the first thing they would see when they came into the dining room. I find that it's important to have snacks, appetizers and drinks placed where folks can easily get to them and feel comfortable standing by.

Preparing the day of:
  • With the tableware part set aside the night before, I also needed to prepare the ingredients and 'flow' of how the cooking instruction would be done. To help organize what could potentially be a chaotic situation, I used bamboo trays to clearly place the specific, (some) pre-measured ingredients that will be used for the recipe we'll be making and a printed copy of the recipe. These bamboo trays were set on the table, on top of the disposable tablecloth. It's important for me to have all the ingredients set and ready so that while we're in our cooking mode, there isn't a need to look for anything. It's all ready and out for use. So I prepare each individual 'recipe tray' with what's needed.
  • In the kitchen, I have the various cookware pieces and cooking utensils we will be using ready.

  • Along with the bamboo trays of ingredients, I also placed the tools and supplies needed - knives, cutting boards, bowls for discarded waste. And under the dining table I have a paper bag handy for any additional garbage/waste.

Preparing 1 hour before guests arrive:
  • Regardless of whenever my event is scheduled, I finish preparing and setting out the ingredients we'll be using about 30 minutes to 1 hour (depending on what the ingredient is) before my guests arrive.

  • An hour before guests arrive, aside from having the ingredients, I prep and clean my kitchen and workspace:
    -- No dirty dishes, pots, and pans are allowed in my sink when they arrive - friends can wash up and do some last minute prep without having obstacles in the way in the sink. I also make sure soap and paper towels are refilled if needed.
    -- My stove, oven and microwave are clear of any pots, pans, bakingware and are wiped down clean soif needed, we can use my stove and ovens for the class.
    -- The garbage has been taken out and a fresh empty garbage can is nearby - so folks can discard foil, plastic wrap, packaging, etc without asking where the garbage can is and from having the garbage can getting too full.
    -- Counterspace is all wiped down and is ready for friends to use.

Preparing 15 minutes before guests arrive:
  • About 15 minutes before my guests arrived, I filled my water carafes with ice and water, fill up my punch bowl with punch and ice, put out the appetizers and snacks and have some Filipino inspired music playing.

  • I also check the bathroom to ensure there is enough toilet paper available, the hand soap is refilled and clean hand towels are ready.

  • Lastly, I do one more walk through of the places where my guests will be going through to check for cleanliness - second bedroom (where guests will place their coats, bags, etc), bathroom, dining room & and kitchen.

Event start time/as guests arrive:
  • As guests arrive and settle in, I have them place their coats/jackets/belongings aside.

  • I also have drinks and appetizers ready for folks to nosh on in the dining room while we await for all my guests to arrive.

  • For my events, I generally allow a 30 minute cushion to allow for traffic, parking, and public transportation timing. I tend to start teaching the class 30 minutes after the set time I indicate in my invitations. This is communicated to my guests and I also welcome them to arrive early if needed.

About 30 minutes after our event time/as guests arrive:
  • We all gather at the table and do a round of introductions and I provide a run through of what we will be preparing for the class. Everyone receives an apron to use and take home after the class.

  • Then we cook! I absolutely love sharing the history of Filipino cuisine, my experiences in the kitchen growing up surrounded by a catering event every week and information about the ingredients and cooking methods/techniques used. I teach each dish one by one and have folks get hands on in the full preparation of the dishes.

After cooking our menu:
  • When planning my menu, I choose dishes that can be completed within the same amount of time so that once done, we can move all the finished dishes on the table for lunch.

  • Once the last dish has been prepped, I remove the disposable tablecloth and begin setting the table while friends are in the kitchen cooking. By the time dishes are done and plated, the table is ready for them... and ready for us to eat lunch!

After our lunch:
  • Each of my students also received a cooking class gift. For this class, I provided everyone with an apron, folder with printed recipes and information on Filipino cuisine, a packet of seasoning mix for Filipino stews and a kawali, which is a Tagalog for wok. It's specifically made in Philippines and I'm a firm believer that every kitchen would benefit from a good wok. You'd be surprise at what you can do and make in it and it definitely goes far beyond your typical stir fry!