Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Recipe Testing for Indianapolis DINE

Ten years ago here at the CIA, the students were in an uproar because there were dozens of kitchens on campus, but none that students had access to outside of class. They were complaining that they did not have anywhere to practice and study if they did not live on campus. While, the college remedied that by installing kitchens in each of the dorms and having them staffed by work study students for several hours each day.

I had the opportunity to use those kitchens this weekend. I was recipe testing for Indianapolis DINE. It's a gig that I have been doing for several years. Indianapolis DINE receives recipes from different chefs and then makes them usable in the home kitchen. Sounds easy, but it isn't. There are two big problems: one, most restaurants don't use cups and tablespoons, we use scales. The second problem is that a lot of places don't use recipes. Ask a chef how to make something and they will most likely rattle off a list of ingredients, the rest is left implied.

So, step 1, Casey at DINE get the recipes and will write in a lot of things that seem to be left out. She then sends them to me where I actually cook everything. In the process I try to convert the weights to measures and the temperature levels to be compatible with a home stove. And, frequently, rewrite the text, add little ingredients, etc.

So I spent about 4 hours hunting down all of the ingredients (this is normal when trying to find some obscure ingredients). Then I rolled into the dorm kitchen loaded down. The kitchen was also loaded down, with 18 - 21-year-old students. What I quickly realized was that this is where the students went if they did not look 21. They were all cooking in little groups, talking about different foods and experimenting. This is the first time since I have been here that I think the younger students are getting a better education. They were learning from each other.

When they found out I was stocked with a plethora of Cuban recipes and ingredients, they dove in. In no time, with the promise being able to eat what they made, the CIA youth were cooking Cuban. We cooked and edited 24 recipes. I loved seeing these kids cooking and critically evaluating the foods. We used techniques that were new to me, such as escabeche and played with ingredients such as malanga. You will have to look for the next issue of Indianapolis DINE to see the wonderful foods you can create from these Cuban recipes.


braingirl said...

Thom! What a fantastic experience! And a perfect marriage of teaching and learning.

Anonymous said...

I can just see all of those little chef wannabe's running around when you were pulling out all of your ingredients.....that kind of enthusiasm and curiosity makes me long for a forty person kitchen staff.