Contributor: Robert Farrell
I had been promising myself that I’d do it…I had been promising it to myself for a couple of years. Finally, over the Cinco de Mayo weekend, I fulfilled that promise: I took one of Chef Mickey’s cooking classes to expand my kitchen skills.
Chef Mickey (Chef Mickey’s Place, Blvd. Fremont at Plaza del Sol, 638-388-9500) has been conducting classes on Saturday mornings for several years, and I’ve been hearing about them from friends and acquaintances for a very long time. This past weekend, I got a chance to experience one of these classes for myself and had a great time doing it!
The routine to take a class from Chef Mickey is very easy. First, call or visit the restaurant to find out what dish is being taught on what Saturday. Mickey keeps a list plainly posted at the restaurant showing what dishes have been and will be taught. You need to sign up for the class at least by the day before and make your payment of US$20. Then, just show up on Saturday at 10am for a couple of hours of fun and food.
According to the schedule, I missed a good class that would have interested me very much (Macadamia nut-crusted flounder.) Still, I was happy to see that on the May 4th date I had chosen we would be learning to make traditional chiles rellenos, another personal favorite.
Mickey conducted our class in a very friendly, informal, and entertaining manner. While he showed us how to roast chiles and make batter, he kept the group entertained by answering questions about becoming a chef and operating a restaurant, sharing some touching personal moments from his childhood. With the aroma of roasting chiles and fresh pico de gallo filling the air of the dining area, the hour or so of food prep simply flew by.
Following the food prep, Mickey invited our group of nine students into the kitchen where he and two assistants guided us through the steps to mixing the batter, dipping the chiles, and gently frying them to a light golden brown. No toothpicks to hold them together; each one emerging from the pan of hot oil looking perfectly beautiful.
However, you cannot serve chiles rellenos without a great sauce, and this is one of Chef Mickey’s greatest strengths: tasty sauces! He showed us how to prepare two sauces that day. The first was a tangy guajillo chile sauce, rich, dark red, and earthy. The second was a lighter, brighter sauce made from simmering pico de gallo in chicken stock. Simply delicious!
The key word of the day was “simply”. Chef Mickey made the entire process of prep, cooking, and saucing seem very simple and easy to accomplish for almost anybody. Yes, there were several steps required to create the final product, but Chef Mickey explained each of these in simple terms, used easily acquired ingredients, and brought nine eager students from prep to serving in just over an hour.
Perhaps the best part of the class was that we all were invited to dine on the chiles rellenos that had just been prepared right before our eyes. For me, this was the “clincher” as those golden-coated chiles stuffed with queso fresco and topped with two different salsas tasted so delicious that I wanted to rush home and make them for myself, my wife, and any lucky friends who might be willing to try out my new knowledge.
If you like to cook, or even if you just like to eat and are curious about what happens behind the scenes in a successfully operated restaurant, you need to take a cooking class from Chef Mickey. It’s an inexpensive, very educational, absolutely delicious way to pass a couple of hours on a Saturday morning. And, don’t be like me. Don’t wait two years to do it. Do it now!