Ever wanted to take a culinary school class without actually going to culinary school?
Here’s your chance: The Inland Northwest Culinary Academy at Spokane Community College is launching a new series of classes this summer that will give community members access to the school kitchens and the chef instructors who teach there.
Called INCA After Dark, students can sign up online and head to class in the community college kitchens after the actual culinary school students have gone home for the day. Classes will be taught by the chef instructors at the school, as well as by other chefs and experts from the community.
“There are other cooking classes offered in the area, but nobody has a facility like we do,” said Patty Seebeck, an adjunct professor for the culinary program and a registered dietitian. Seebeck will coordinate INCA After Dark. “Even the local chefs I’ve talked to who teach those classes are excited to have the opportunity to use our kitchens. It is the ultimate playland.”
Seebeck said the culinary program began working on the idea to offer community classes in earnest three years ago when the program received a Welty Grant though the Community Colleges of Spokane Foundation. The grant – from an endowment established by community philanthropist and retired doctor Elizabeth Welty – is designed to help the departments research emerging industry trends and improve their curriculum.
INCA faculty has used the grant to update its curriculum for culinary students, incorporate efforts to promote sustainability and design, and offer the community classes.
Chef and INCA instructor Curtis Smith said in the six years he has been teaching at the community college, he has often been asked about his work, and inevitably the people he meets mention that they would like to take a class from him.
“I kind of had to develop a little spiel to explain that they couldn’t really come just take a class,” he said. “I always knew that there was an interest and a market for it, and I always wanted INCA to supply that need.”
The culinary program has been somewhat hidden, and both Seebeck and Smith see the cooking classes as a way to connect with the community.
Smith said that although the culinary program has a bakery and restaurant that are open to the public, the hours are designed more around student instruction than convenience for customers. Parking on campus is extremely difficult during the hours they are open.
“All of those things count against us. People don’t know we’re here. I want to get to the point where, when people think of culinary instruction, they think of us.”
The school has hosted a couple of pilot classes to work out any kinks, and now it’s set to offer the first set of public classes.
Full disclosure: I was invited to the first pilot class. We had a great time learning to make savory crepes from chef/instructor Peter Tobin, and a photographer captured our efforts to flip crepes without a spatula. You can see me in the background of the picture on the INCA After Dark page on Facebook as we are reaching “crepe zen.” Tobin describes it as the moment after the first failure (or two, or three) when the pan is at the perfect temperature and you’ve got the rhythm of crepe-making down so perfectly that you could make them all day.
At the class, we learned a recipe for savory crepes that are stuffed with lentils, basmati rice, vegetables and Indian-style curry spices. They’re topped with a cucumber raita. I’ve posted the recipe on my blog, www.spokesman.com/blogs/too-many-cooks.
Seebeck said they have the first three class offerings scheduled, and she’s excited to see how it develops. She’s recruiting local chefs and others to use the kitchen for classes and more.
“The only limit is our imagination,” she said.
Here are a few recipes from the pilot cooking classes:
Crock-Pot Chicken Stock
Adapted from INCA After Dark, Serious Soups cooking class by chef instructor Curtis Smith
1 rotisserie chicken carcass
1 stalk celery
1-2 pinches thyme
1-2 fresh garlic cloves
1-2 bay leaves
After your rotisserie chicken dinner is over, get out the slow cooker. A large, oval one is best. Dump all the chicken bones, skin, cartilage, “iffy” stuff and “liquid gold” from the chicken container into the slow cooker. Then add cold water within 1/4 inch of the top, about 1 gallon. Turn it on high, put the lid on and walk away.
Enjoy your family, read a book and relax for about 1 to 2 hours. Check the slow cooker later, and when you see it steaming pretty well, turn the heat to low and go to bed.
Optional: You can add things to the stock that you may already have lying around in your fridge. Here are some typical things chefs like to add to the stock. Any one or all can be used (no need to peel anything, just rinse well and break into pieces or cut into big chunks … nothing pretty.)
When you wake up, you will immediately notice the soul-satisfying aroma of chicken soup.
Set a large bowl next to the slow cooker and put a colander inside the bowl. Remove the lid from the slow cooker, and what you will see may look a little ugly, but just wait until you see the golden goodness underneath. Using a ladle or large coffee mug, begin to scoop out the contents into a colander. Be careful: It’s hot. Continue until all of the stock and bones have been strained. Drain colander and place it into the sink to cool. Let the stock cool at room temperature for about an hour, then transfer it into a pitcher or other container and refrigerate. If it looks like Jell-O after it cools, then good work. That’s the sign of a great stock.
Secret-Ingredient Chicken Noodle Soup
From INCA After Dark, Serious Soups, chef instructor Curtis Smith
1-2 tablespoons olive oil
1 cup mirepoix (carrots, celery and onions, chopped)
2 teaspoons dried thyme
1 bay leaf
2 quarts chicken broth or stock
2 cups dry egg noodles
2 cups cooked chicken, diced
1/2 cup frozen peas
2 tablespoons parsley, chopped
1/4 cup marsala wine (secret ingredient)
4 teaspoons brown sugar (other secret ingredient)
Sweat mirepoix in olive oil over medium heat. Add thyme and bay leaf and cook for 1-2 more minutes. Add broth and simmer for 30 minutes.
Add dry noodles and cook for 5 minutes. Add chicken and peas and cook for 2 more minutes.
Add parsley, marsala and brown sugar. Season with salt and pepper.
Yield: 8 to 10 servings
Thai Chicken and Coconut Milk Soup
From INCA After Dark, Serious Soups, chef instructor Curtis Smith
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 small onion, chopped
1/2 cup celery, chopped
2 tablespoons fresh ginger, peeled and minced
3 cloves fresh garlic, minced
1-inch piece fresh lemongrass, smashed
1 tablespoon Thai green or yellow curry paste
1 1/2 quarts chicken broth
2 (14 ounce) cans coconut milk
3-4 red potatoes, about 1/2-inch cubes
2 cups cooked chicken (12 ounces)
2 green onions, chopped
2 tablespoons soy sauce
1 tablespoon brown sugar
1/2 bunch cilantro, rough chop
1 tablespoon fresh lime juice
2 teaspoons Thai fish sauce
Sweat onion and celery in vegetable oil.
Add ginger, garlic, lemongrass and curry paste and cook for 2-3 more minutes.
Add broth and coconut milk. Simmer 30 minutes.
Add potatoes and simmer 10 to 15 minutes, until tender. Add chicken and green onions, simmer 5 more minutes.
Add soy sauce, brown sugar, cilantro, lime juice and fish sauce. Add salt and pepper to taste.
Yield: 8-10 servings