February 20th, 2008
Cooking Class: Potato, Pasta and Rice

I honestly didn’t think I was going to care for this class. In the first place, I’d forgotten that the class included rice and potatoes. Secondly, I’m not a big pasta fan. Used to love it, but my tastes run more along the sushi route now. So it was a nice surprise to see a variety of items on the menu.

Last night’s class included: Wild Rice and Chanterelle Salad with Dried Fruit, Goat Cheese and Walnuts, Risotto with Spinach, Mozzarella and Parmesan Cheese, Homemade Flat Pasta with Shrimp and Zucchini, Goat Cheese Ravioli with Creamy Walnut Sauce, Potato Gnocchi with Gorgonzola Sauce, Mushroom, Asparagus and Potato Cake, and Portuguese Rice Pudding.

Now onto the tips/tricks: Fresh pasta can be frozen. Lay the pasta flat and freeze on a pan. Once it’s frozen you can take it out and put it in a baggie. If you try to freeze it in a baggie first, then it’ll stick together. The same goes for fresh gnocchi. When using fresh (frozen) pasta, don’t bother to thaw it. Just throw it into the pot of boiling water and cook normally. Gnocchi float when they’re done. Always salt your pasta water AFTER it’s boiling. Also save a half a cup or so of the pasta water (after you’ve cooked your pasta) to add to whatever sauce you’re making. It adds to the flavor. One bag of pasta is normally for four people if you’re serving it as a meal. If you’re making homemade pasta (like we did last night) always fold it like a book (or flyer) before feeding it through the pasta machine. In this instance, we used a manual machine. Semolina makes the best pasta. Always buy Italian or Chinese pasta because they make the best. If you’re cooking pasta long before serving time, cook it and leave it a little raw. That way later you can stick it back into boiling water to finish cooking it before serving.

There are many different types of rice you can cook with: Brown, White, Converted, Basmati, Wild, Glutinous, Arborio/Vialone, Black, and Sushi. Converted rice is best when you’re trying to stuff things like cabbage or grape leaves. Arborio rice is great for risotto and paella. Sushi rice has a lot of starch, that’s why it sticks together. The sticker the rice, the more starch it has. You can saute your rice in olive oil or butter before boiling it. It adds to the flavor. When cooking rice, always use one cup of rice to two cups of water. (ie two cups of rice=four cups of water, etc.) When making risotto, the base is always the same (ie olive oil, butter and chicken broth with Arborio rice). Add whatever else you want to the risotto toward the end of cooking. So if you want meat in your risotto, cook your meat first, dice it, then cook your risotto. When the risotto is almost done, add the meat. Same goes for veggies. The only things that get added after the extras (ie veggies and meat) are butter and cheese. ALWAYS add them last when making risotto because it makes the risotto shiny and sets it.

And finally potatoes: Bigger potatoes have more starch than the littler ones. New potatoes, Bliss, and Fingerlings have the least amount of starch. Red potatoes are good for salads, puree, soups and oven roasting. Russet/Idaho are good for baking and frying. Yukon gold/Yellow Finn are good for baked, mashed casseroles and salads. New potatoes/Bliss are good for steaming and oven-roasting with herbs. Sweet/Yam are good for roasting, boiling, mashed, casseroles and soups. Always cook your potatoes in cold water because if you cook them in warm, the outside will cook and the inside won’t. When making gnocchi (ie potato dumblings), score the edges with a fork to help them absorb more sauce.

I think that about covers everything. For a quick basic pasta dough mix 3 eggs with 1 1/4 cups flour, 1 cup of semolina, 3/4 tsp. salt and 1 TBSP of olive oil. Put it all in a food processor to mix. While you’re mixing add 2 to 3 TBSP of water. Once the mixture forms a ball, remove dough from food processor and knead it slightly until the dough is smooth. Cover with plastic wrap and allow the dough to rest for 5 to 10 minutes. That’s it. You can use the dough in a pasta machine or roll it out by hand. Happy eating. 🙂

16 comments to “Cooking Class: Potato, Pasta and Rice”

  1. Thanks for the detailed tips. I see a bunch I’ve never considered. Amazon e-mailed saying ‘Off Limits’ is shipping now.

  2. Bernard, I hope they help. YAY, on OFF LIMITS shipping. I hadn’t heard that. 😀

  3. Why is my stomach growling now? Pasta, potato and rice class sounds delicious.

    YAY for Off Limits! I’ll look for it.

  4. Your class sounds awesome. I don’t cook too often and don’t think I’m brave enough to try paella yet. Though I’d love to learn how to make stuffed grape leaves. Haven’t had them in forever.

  5. Ooh. Carbs ‘n starch night. That would have to be one of my favorites, I think. Thanks, again, for the tips! The salted water one is especially good. See, I thought you were supposed to salt the water *before* it boiled, but I have no idea where I even got that notion, so it’s not exactly reliable.

  6. What great info. Thanks for sharing this, Jordan.

    I admit, I am an Asian food addict and I love rice. I fire up the rice cooker at least three times a week, but I’d have rice every night if I could get away with it. Jasmine is my favorite, but I like to experiment so I try new brands and varieties when possible.

    My family, otoh, loves pasta, and last year we switched from semolina to whole grain for the health benefits. It was definitely an adjustment. WG pasta is much more filling, so I’ve learned to make smaller portions. It also has a heavier texture and taste that took some getting used to, but you can counteract it by using bold sauces or being a bit more aggressive with your seasonings.

    I don’t know if they’re available outside Florida, but we buy SunLite fresh potatoes, as they have 30% less carbs. They cook up and taste just like the regular variety.

  7. Charli, It was delicious. 🙂 Thanks!

  8. Emma, I didn’t really ‘cook’ cook until I started taking this class. I must say that I’m enjoying it for the first time in my life. I highly recommend taking a beginning cooking class.

  9. Caryn, I always thought the same thing. That’s just one of the many things this class is teaching me. 🙂

  10. Lynn, I love rice too, especially sticky rice. We have a terrific rice cooker from Japan. LOVE IT! Pasta, I like, but just not often. I hear you on switching. The chef did say for a healthier option you could make whole wheat pasta. I imagine it would take some getting used to and that it would be more filling. The sauces are a good idea. They can ‘mask’ a lot. 😉 I haven’t ever heard of SunLite, but I will look for them. I’d pretty much decided that unless I’m making gnocchi that I was sticking with Fingerlings, new potatoes or yams.

  11. Ooh, love rice, and pasta, and potatoes (and paella *g*). I’ve tried the whole grain spaghetti and actually like it (quite good with homemade spaghetti sauce). I’ll have to look for the low carb potatoes, sounds like a healthy alternative.

  12. Ann, Sigh, yes, rice and potatoes are two of my downfalls. *ggg*

  13. I wonder how buckwheat pasta compares? It tastes almost like spaghetti but I think buckwheat is supposed to be better for you in the carbs/health dept?! I can’t remember….LOL but I find it in the oriental food at Whole FOods and it’s pretty good.

    You make me want a pasta maker (and Chinese food for dinner)

  14. Amie, I’m not sure. The chef really didn’t talk from a health benefit prospective. She mainly went for taste.

  15. I cook a lot with potatoes and like me some pasta, but no rice. I’m allergic to the stuff.

    Which puts Japan off the list of countries to visit, I suppose. 🙂

  16. Gabriele, Yep, that would probably leave you out. 😉