A World Tour of Spicy Sauces
[This is one in a series of blog posts written by Charlotte the Intern. Tune in daily to find out about what she’s been up to, what she has been learning about, and all of the crazy things she does as part of the Manna from Devon team.]
My father has an incredible tolerance for spicy food. I remember, growing up, going to the pizza parlor in our little town and watching him shake the container of crushed red pepper all over his pizza. My parents would warn me not to touch the shaker, for fear that I would then touch my eyes and then they would have a screaming toddler on their hands in the middle of a busy restaurant with no clear escape route in sight. Since then, I’ve spent years building up my own spice tolerance, feeling somehow like I would earn a sort of culinary “badge of honor” by being able to stand up to hot chilis and emerge undefeated. Which is why I was so excited today that my first official class at Manna from Devon was to be none other than “Spicy Sauces”, one of the new series of Essentials courses that Holly and David are offering.
The Essentials courses are shorter, half-day courses that focus on kitchen basics that will, with minimal effort, vastly improve any home cook’s abilities in the kitchen. There are two Essential Sauce courses: basic and spicy, and today I was to sit in on the first ever session of that class. This was perfect. For me, sauces were always a particular challenge. Deceptively complex in their range of ingredients and need for balance, I often felt that I was too heavy-handed with one ingredient or another, leading to highly acidic dressings or taste bud-burning condiments. Furthermore, I’ve always felt limited in the range of my cooking knowledge: I’m quite comfortable with American cuisine, Italian cuisine, and other more standard Western European cooking techniques, but venturing further East in culinary terms has always eluded me. Luckily, David designed a class featuring a range of sauces derived from great cuisines of all over the world. They were: Moroccan harissa, Argentine chimichurri, Catalonian picada, Vietnamese nuoc cham, a standard salsa fresca, and two types of barbecue sauce: one Kansas City style, and one from the Pitt Cue cookbook of London’s so-named BBQ restaurant, for a sort of American vs. British BBQ sauce face-off. Since I hail from a particularly barbecue-centric part of the USA, I was very excited about this throwdown!
I learned a ton, and I’m really excited to incorporate these sauces into my mental culinary database. I feel like having my foot in the door with these sort of foundational elements of each cuisine will make learning and experimenting with ingredients even easier. Better yet, David teaches in such a way that encourages students to think creatively about how to adapt each dish to the place in which they are cooking: substituting some ingredients more easily found in your area for others, or creating a type of hybrid meal that incorporates elements from many types of cuisine. My favorite item that we cooked was a Welsh Rarebit with harissa, undoubtedly something never seen in Morocco, but a great example of using foreign cooking techniques to “spice up” (pardon the pun) your native cuisine. I highly recommend this class to anyone interested in learning about a few simple ways to keep their cooking repertoire fresh, fun, and creative. I’m already dreaming of all of the things I can dribble some homemade nuoc cham over!