Chef Paula Storch (headset) teaches a French-inspired seafood class at Sur La Table at Hilldale.
Cathy Durham loves trying something new in the kitchen and says cooking classes often come through on that score.
“My favorite classes are the ones that tackle something I’m totally clueless about, like cooking with a pressure cooker, or the ones centered around an entire meal,” Durham says, noting that she uses those complete menus when she invites guests for dinner.
Durham regularly attends classes at Orange Tree Imports on Monroe Street and at All Through the House in Stoughton.
Other regulars at cooking classes say they love getting new recipes and learning new techniques like making perfect sauces or wielding a knife like an Iron Chef.
I sat in on a class at Orange Tree on Indian cuisine where the instructor, Neeta Saluja, revealed the secrets of making perfect saffron rice.
“You need to wash and soak the rice first. And some people say you must not take the lid off the pot while it’s cooking,” Saluja says, as she adds cardamom, cumin seeds and other spices to sizzling ghee (clarified butter) without measuring anything. “But you really have to check to see if you need to add more water to get just the perfect fluffy consistency you want.”
Good tips. Now I know why my rice is gelatinous. I haven’t been washing it to remove the extra starch or checking the texture as it simmers.
Saluja, who learned how to cook from her mother, also demonstrated how to make a pungent chicken curry and a spicy potato dish. Then we opened a bottle of wine and feasted.
Another cooking instructor, Susie Feest (who teaches at Orange Tree and All Through the House and is a pastry chef at Bunky’s Cafe), specializes in baking and sweets, and says she especially enjoys teaching hands-on classes. “It’s more fun, and they get to take home something that they made themselves,” Feest says. “I love seeing the look of pride on their faces as they walk away with a beautiful assortment of treats. It is a look that says ‘I can’t believe I made these!’”
Most classes run from $40 to $60, although some, like the classes offered by Madison School & Community Recreation and Madison College, are less expensive.
Cooking classes are popular, and, since class sizes are limited, most fill up just a few days after the schedules are announced. Keep track of new offerings at these cooking schools:
All Through the House, 160 E. Main St., Stoughton, 608-877-9403
Several classes each month during winter.
Flambé Gourmet, 1 Sherman Terrace, Ste. 102, 608-320-2556
Hands-on classes weekends.
Fresh Madison Market, 703 University Ave., 608-287-0000
Classes once or twice a month.
Madison School & Community Recreation, 608-245-3669
Topics are wide-ranging and are held at various locations such as Hy-Vee East.
Orange Tree Imports, 1721 Monroe St., 608-255-8211
Classes three or four times a week.
Sur la Table, 712 N. Midvale Blvd., 608-236-4857
Classes nearly every day in the spacious new Hilldale kitchen.
Vom Fass, 3248 University Ave, 608- 204-0300
Classes are held in the kitchen at Whole Foods, 3313 University Ave.
The next one on Nov. 12 will center on Thanksgiving.
White Jasmine Everyday Cooking, 608-437-1250
Focuses primarily on private lessons.
Willy Street Co-op, 1221 Williamson St., 608-251-6776, and 6825 University Ave., 608-284-7800
A couple of classes a week is the norm, some tailored to kids.