Today's Evil Beet Gossip

Vietnamese Chicken Salad

I know everyone eagerly checks this blog on Thursday mornings for an debriefing on my cooking class the night before, and I do not wish to disappoint.

Tonight was meats. We spent the first hour learning about chicken, beef and pork. I started making hash marks on my paper each time Miss May said “delicious,” and I got to 11 before I gave up. In the process, I learned a few things that had me, for about 30 seconds, thinking maybe the folks at PETA had the right idea. Not in a hurl-paint-at-Anna-Wintour sort of way, but it is kind of depressing how these animals exist before they’re slaughtered. For instance, did you know they don’t feed shrimp for a few days before they’re “harvested” so that there’s nothing visible in their intestines when they’re sold? The shrimp probably don’t mind, but it just seems mean. And when I’d heard the phrase “free-range chicken,” it always conjured this bucolic imagery for me, with happy, happy chickens skipping merrily along green fields out in wine country. It turns out that “free-range” means they are given approximately one square foot of space in which to “move.” The added muscle mass makes their corpses “much more delicious.” If these “free-range” chickens are given one square foot of space throughout the course of their lives, what on earth are they doing to the non-free-range chickens?

Although the truth is, when you step out of idealism and into reality, the economic feasibility of letting all animals be treated like house pets and still being able to provide meat for the entire country is dubious at best. When you attack the McDonalds and Burger Kings and Tysons of this world for perpetrating these crimes, you’re ignoring the giant mass of unskilled workers employed by these corporations and their relative gravity in the US economy. If there’s a happy medium, I don’t know where. But I’ll get off my soap box now. You came to hear about cooking school!

We learned that large chunks of meat will continue to cook for awhile after they’re out of the oven, getting up to 10 degrees hotter, so you should always remove them a little early. We also learned the exact internal temperatures of different “donenesses” (that’s a real cooking word) of steaks, but Nandita has my notes tonight so I can’t share them.

We chose Vietnamese Chicken Salad, which was relatively easy to make and tasted incredible. I made a bit of a faux-pas with the sauteed salad topping when I left it on the stove too long and it burned, but we quickly recovered (read: started over, because your sauce is pretty unrecoverable when it’s charred and smoking) and our dish was a hit. It was really, honestly, very, very good, and I plan to make it again someday. Maybe.

I think next week is pasta and desserts, so stay tuned!

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