Homesteader classes offer basic tips for every level |

Homesteader classes offer basic tips for every level

Cooking 101

Margaret Hair

— It is not that hard to cook rice.

There are, however, a multitude of things that can go wrong: you could undercook it, overcook it, add too much liquid, make it too sticky or too lumpy, or fail to season it in any way.

Chef Dave Nelson would like to save you from this granular peril, and other common cooking mishaps, by offering simple tips and creative recipes in a series of cooking classes at The Homesteader, at 817 Lincoln Ave.

For rice, Nelson offers up a simple ratio: 1 cup dry, 1 1/2 cup wet. When a class member asks whether that works in all altitudes, Nelson is more than happy to answer:

“I’ve been making this recipe for 35 years, and it doesn’t make a difference. I could make a gallon of rice with a gallon and a half of liquid, and it wouldn’t make a difference,” he said.

That recipe was part of a Thursday evening “Mexican Favorites” class at The Homesteader, one of many themed options on the monthly schedule. The store has hosted 20 classes in its custom kitchen since late May, and each 12-person enrollment has sold out, store owner Steve Kennedy said. Topics include pastries with co-owner and chef Daniela Kennedy; tapas or sauces 101 with Nelson; a girls-night-in appetizers class; and an “Even Steve Can Cook” lesson in basic recipes.

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“It’s great because it allows the customer to see the product being used and understand form and function,” Kennedy said. Less confident cooks don’t need to be intimidated because the class is mostly demonstration-oriented – Nelson invites class members to come to the stove and watch, but he does all of the preparation and cooking. The idea is to give people tips they can use to broaden their knowledge of food.

“I don’t really do a lot of really complicated stuff here, because we’re not teaching chefs. We’re trying to give people tools they can use,” Nelson said.

“I think people get into a food rut, and they have the same six to 10 dishes – like you have a best friend and every time she comes over she brings the same bean dip,” Nelson said, adding that if that friend came to his appetizers class, she would have considerably more to offer at a potluck.

“Most everybody is here to pick up some tips and some pointers,” Nelson said.

“It’s fun, it’s entertaining and it’s sure not being done anywhere else in town. And it certainly beats going over to Bob’s house and watching ‘Emeril Live.'”

Selma Mann, who attended Thursday’s class with a group of friends, said she had gone to one of The Homesteader classes before and decided it was worth it to come back.

“It’s not only great to get taught how to make this stuff, but you get a bunch of recipes and dinner out of it,” Mann said. Each class typically includes four or five dishes, all of which the chef serves up in appetizer portions for class attendees.

Keri Couchoud, who came to the “Mexican Favorites” class with her mother-in-law, said she decided to attend after talking with some girlfriends about learning how to cook healthier meals. Although Thursday’s class might necessarily not fit that bill – a Jack-cheese-loaded quesadilla, pork tostada and shrimp ladled in cream sauce anchored the menu – Couchoud said she did get some recipes out of the experience.

The Homesteader plans to continue offering classes every month of the year, though the schedule could vary, with one to three classes each week. Kennedy said he hopes to have a liquor license for the store by November, so class members can bring and drink wine while they learn. Class schedules usually are available at the store a month in advance.

Get cookin’

For more information about cooking classes at The Homesteader, stop by the store at 817 Lincoln Ave., or call 879-5880. Class schedules usually are set one month in advance. Advance registration is recommended, as the classes usually sell out.

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