Recently, I taught my first class for the deaf. I was persuaded to teach this group of hearing impaired students by a friend, Joanna Preuss, director of the Cookingstudio at Kings Supermarket in Short Hills, N.J.
I was uncertain at the start of class because there were two instructors facing the crowd: myself, at the stove, and several feet away, a woman who as signer was to interpret everything I said and did.
The oddest thing about teaching those who cannot hear is the lack of immediate response. Quips fall like leaden souffles and the group's collective attention span seems non-existent. No matter what technique I demonstrated or which gem of culinary wisdom I imparted, all eyes were riveted in one direction: toward my silent collaborator.
After a half-hour of this back-handed curriculum (and what seemed an eternity of frustration) I had a brilliant idea. Reaching down the counter, I encircled the signer's waist--so she was forced to my side during the rest of the class.
All the students applauded this gesture with unrestrained good humor. What followed was a close watch of every move I made.
For years I have been telling students to use their senses in the kitchen. But this was the first time I was actually able to put it into practice, making them taste, smell and take a hard look at every dish in all stages of its preparation.
One of the dishes I taught the hearing-impaired was a lunch-brunch dish (sometimes cocktail snack) known as gougere . This French provincial dish comes in many variations. The following, dappled with shrimp and chutney, makes a fine assault on the senses.
1 cup milk
1/4 cup plus 6 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 cup plus 3 tablespoons sifted flour
1 cup diced sharp Cheddar cheese
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1 egg white, lightly beaten
1 quart water
1 cup dry white wine
1 small onion, cut into quarters
1/2 stalk celery
1 bay leaf
1 whole clove
1/2 cup minced onion
1/4 cup mango chutney
2 pounds shelled, deveined, cooked shrimp
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
Heat milk and 1/4 cup butter in medium saucepan to boiling. Remove from heat. Stir in 1 cup flour until smooth and mixture cleans side of pan, about 2 minutes.
Beat in eggs, 1 at a time, beating well after each addition. Stir in Cheddar cheese, mustard, 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper. Cook over low heat until cheese melts.
Shape dough into ring to fit sides of buttered 10-inch pie plate. Stuff center with plastic wrap to retain ring shape. Brush dough with egg white. Refrigerate, covered, 5 to 6 hours.
Combine water with wine, quartered onion, celery, bay leaf, lemon, peppercorns, clove and 1 teaspoon salt in large saucepan. Heat to boiling, then reduce heat. Simmer, uncovered, until reduced to 1 1/2 cups, 15 to 20 minutes. Strain.
Melt remaining 6 tablespoons butter in large saucepan over medium-low heat. Add minced onion and saute until tender, 3 to 5 minutes. Reduce heat. Stir in remaining 3 tablespoons flour and cook 2 minutes.
Stir in strained bouillon. Heat to boiling. Reduce heat and simmer, stirring constantly, until smooth and thick, about 5 minutes. Remove from heat. Stir in chutney and 1/4 teaspoon pepper. Stir in shrimp.
Remove plastic from center of pie plate. Fill with shrimp mixture. Sprinkle with Parmesan cheese. Bake at 400 degrees until puffed and brown, 40 to 45 minutes. Makes 8 to 10 servings.
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A quick broccoli salad demonstrates the idea that fast food is not necessarily bad for one's palate or diet. The following takes less than half an hour of preparation time.
SPANISH BROCCOLI SALAD
1 1/2 to 2 pounds broccoli
2 large shallots, minced
1 small red onion, thinly sliced
1 teaspoon finely slivered orange peel
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
3 tablespoons tarragon vinegar
1 tablespoon dry Sherry
3/4 cup olive oil
1/4 cup toasted slivered almonds
Cut broccoli tops into florets. Cut off top 3 inches of stems, peel and cut into thin strips, about 1 1/2 inches long. Cook florets and stems, covered, in 3 inches boiling, salted water until just barely tender, 4 to 5 minutes. Rinse under cold running water. Drain.
Transfer drained broccoli to large bowl. Add shallots, onion and orange peel. Toss lightly.
Combine mustard with vinegar, Sherry and oil in medium bowl. Pour dressing over broccoli and season to taste with salt and pepper. Chill thoroughly before serving sprinkled with almonds. Makes 4 to 6 servings.