Soooo… how’d it go?
I started the day at my favorite place: the farmer’s market.
I stopped by Wild Dog Farm’s tent and chatted with Julia and Mimi. I’d gotten some garlic from them during my more intense testing phase. We’d discussed the best variety to use with the stir fry. I explained that the Tso would be spicy and not that sweet, so I didn’t want a traditional ‘grocery’ garlic, as the heat is so intense and the singular flavor could overpower the dish. Ahhh! And this is where it gets interesting…
They grow several kinds, some more spicy than others, and suitable for different styles of cooking and dishes. The conclusion we reached was that the Lotus would be best for this dish. It certainly was. Once the sesame oil hits that searing hot wok, the aromas of the lotus garlic and ginger rise, and pure magic happens. I’ll have to take them some stir-fry to see the results! 🙂
So next I stopped by a few other tents and picked up more produce, some pictured here:
While there, I went back by Kitchenworks at University Mall in Chapel Hill. They are an independently owned local business and celebrating 33 years this year! They were the gracious providers of our FREE promotional prize, which I’ll discuss below. For this visit, we needed chopsticks for class! They had several kinds, but I got the bulk pack.
Kathy Gunn is the owner of Midway Community Kitchen, and she and her team of Jenna Mallet and Audrey Williams had the kitchen prepped and ready to go. We did a walk-through that left me buzzed and super-excited about the class that evening! It was such a great feeling to know all of that hard work getting things together was coming to fruition for everyone!
Checkout the kitchen and dining though! It is the neatest spot!
The group had a great time! We laughed a lot, danced around a little, and cooked a great deal of food. I already had a fair amount prepped on my own, as my assistant didn’t pan out. But there was still enough to get everyone’s feet wet a little.
We did the spring rolls first and let them chill, then the stir fry! All went great!
Special thanks to a local gardener and a few others for responding to my request for local sourcing info on a Triangle listserv! I got some great leads on affordable, responsible sourcing from several professionals in this class planning process. All of our basil for the spring rolls was voluntarily donated from a Triangle neighbor’s excess. Thanks to my good friends and neighbors for showing up when you were needed!
For this class, my main concern was with the basic tasks that people will use repeatedly if stir frying: mincing garlic, peeling and mincing ginger, chopping veggies and the actual stir-fry process itself.
I wanted to do a brief introduction to wok hei as well, for anyone who wasn’t familiar. I learned about stir fry by training under a mentor chef during my first major culinary job at another local school. But I recommended Grace Young’s Breath of a Wok, and Nancie McDermott’s Thai books like Everyday Thai for those wanting a deep-dive into the subject matter on their own. For this class, we kept it simple with mostly home cooks who had not stir fried a lot before. The gluten-free curve was going to be the main issue. For details, you’ll have to take a class! (*Wink*)
But the plates! Oh my gosh. The food we turned out was amazing! The aromas were soul-lifting!
This was Shiitake Mushroom General Tso-style for our vegetarian participant and this student had a very well-seasoned wok. Really great work here! (Suitable for vegans.)
For the more traditional side, several students got some practice in, and each one got to put together their dishes and sauces at their stations as we went along. One participant had crutches, and it is easy to move a wok around for everyone. I stopped what I was saying and ran to catch this one with the chilled spring rolls and General Tso’s Chicken on the same plate! Nice touch. They got plenty of pics though!
This was one of the most thrilling and growth-challenging experiences so far, but it turned out wonderfully, and it was great to step out of my kitchen zone to grow more. This was one of my main goals in going to school. I’ve always been a teacher, mentor, or leader in some form. This group of folks was great, very real, and each one had different skill or comfort levels. I love seeing people do well.
It’s especially super hard for introverted people to explore new tasks in a group setting, and I was double-proud of them for putting it out there and really landing it with their stir fry tossing technique! Nice going for bravery and determination!!! But all did absolutely great work!
Class cleanup is a group effort as well, and everything is put back in order before leaving. We had a fabulous time! They also had enough food to take home if they wanted, though I will not fudge, because a few folks cleaned their plates and took home some surplus. It was that good. Pretty sure those who did enjoyed a glass of Rosé wine during class as well!
Last, but not least, someone did win this beauty!
Special thanks to Kitchenworks again for their promotional contribution of a gorgeous 14 inch flat-bottomed, rustproof, carbon-steel wok. The winners won’t require a wok ring for this one, and it has dual bamboo handles for easy handling. As it turned out, they were winners of tickets to the class through another promotion, so that’s what can happen for reaching out and trying something new once in a while!
Now, they’re set up for a lifetime of exploring a great cuisine! I would encourage anyone in need of utensils or tools to head to Kitchenworks and check them out by all means! I got a few bamboo wok and rice paddles while I was there. Bamboo is more durable than wood.
There will be more developments on the horizon as I keep challenging myself and growing in my culinary path. Thanks for joining me on the road!
Maybe we’ll meet at a class soon!
Here are upcoming classes by great culinary neighbors of ours:
Happy Gluten-Free Living!