Starting the day with eggs from Martha Stewart’s Bedford, N.Y., farm? Now that’s a good thing. To preview her upcoming Cooking School, the domestic mogul hosted an intimate demonstration at her New York City HQ today.
Entering the event, I must admit that I feared even putting myself in the sightline of La Stewart would send me into a tizzy akin to Ellen DeGeneres in her hilariously chaotic 1995 Thanksgiving episode of Ellen. Then came the aforementioned eggs, the homemade jams (blueberry, raspberry, and cherry), and the caramelized grapefruit (with a candied blood orange garnish – obviously)… and let’s just say Martha knows that the way to ease the nerves is through a glorious food coma.
By the time Martha glided into the room, beaming and stopping to chat (as any consummate host should), I was ready to get my hands dirty. Cooking School is mainly targeted at novice cooks in need of multiply entryways into basic preparations like steaming, poaching, and so forth. Still, Martha wisely kept the few dozen guests in attendance (including food editors and entertainment folks like myself) away from any open flames as she demonstrated how to make a Béchamel sauce for an oven-less macaroni and cheese.
While heating up a creamy mixture of cheeses, butter, milk, and just about everything else bad for you, she chatted easily about the sophisticated palate of her 18-month-old granddaughter Jude, her own habit of peeking in the refrigerators of her hosts at parties, and the diet of her posh Bedford chickens. (Apparently delicious eggs come from a mix of test-kitchen scraps, egg shells, and homegrown pumpkins and squash – but no meat or bones; a cannibal chicken is not a good thing.) Stewart paused only briefly amid this patter to tut-tut at her sous-chef (a food editor), who was adding the mix of parmesan, sharp cheddar, gruyere, and fontina to the Béchamel’s base: “Don’t waste any cheese. This is very expensive.” Martha may be in the 1 percent, but she’s looking out for us 99-ers.
That same economical, user-friendly approach will be on display in Cooking School (and its companion series, likely titled Martha Stewart’s Baking School, that should launch in 2013). Martha said her School will focus on “techniques seen in good home kitchens,” such as the DIY vinaigrette I brought back to the office from today’s demo. In the 26 episodes she’s filmed so far, Martha starts with the easy stuff before advancing to intermediate maneuvers like simple butchering (“People don’t know how to spatchcock for heaven’s sake!”). Eventually, she’ll segue to more complicated techniques, with lessons on how to prepare Peking duck or hand-pulled noodles like she’s seen in Shanghai.
One thing Martha hasn’t completely mastered? Twitter. “I’m up to 2.6 million followers – not all of them my favorite people. Late at night, I get some real weirdos,” she laughed, adding, “especially if I’m tweeting at night and make a mistake, then they think I’m drunk.” But there’s need to become atwitter, she explained of her typos – she’s probably just in a darkened car on her way back to Bedford to see her chickens. “They miss me when I’m gone.”
Martha Stewart’s Cooking School premieres Oct. 6 on PBS.
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