College Cooking 101

Remember “cooking” in college? It likely consisted of heating up Ramen noodles, making a box of macaroni and cheese or defrosting a pizza. Wouldn’t life have been better back then  if you knew the basics in the kitchen?

Little Nell Banquet Chef Nick Fine took a few college students under his wing recently to teach them some simple tips/recipes to prepare them for life back at school this fall. Well, two of them didn’t quite fit “under his wing” since they are around 7 feet tall… Nick taught Marshall and Mason Plumlee (of Duke basketball fame) and their roommate how to cook in his College Cooking 101 course.

Little Nell Chef Nick Fine

Little Nell Chef Nick Fine (second from left) gives these Duke students some tips in the kitchen.

Can’t come to Aspen for Nick to teach you or your kids the basics? Here are Nick’s tips to get you started.

Get the equipment. March yourself to a store and get an inexpensive, standard 8 piece cookware set (big/small pot; big/small saute pan; non-stick frying pan; assorted tools like a spatula and spoon). Also, get yourself a good chef’s knife.

Know your equipment. For my cooking class with the Duke students, we started with identifying the basics. Just knowing the difference between a pot and a pan is important, and when you’ve never cooked before or have limited experience in the kitchen, it’s a good place to start.

Start with simple recipes. With this class, we stuck with a few basic dishes as a jumping-off point. I taught them how to make chicken, fish, Beef Bolognese (see recipe below), eggs/hash browns and chicken noodle soup (it’s good to know how to make comfort food when away from home, and it’s great to make when you or someone you care about is sick). I also taught them how to make macaroni and cheese — not from a box. It is college after all!

Have a few tricks up your sleeve. The guys were interested to learn that you should use blended oil and butter when cooking fish because it has a higher temperature at which it starts to smoke. This means you will get a better sear than if you use olive oil, which has a lower smoke point. Also, cooking chicken is simple. In a pan, only cook it skin-side down to get a crispy texture, and then finish it off in the oven in the same pan. Less clean up and a much better taste.

Interested in cooking classes at The Little Nell? Consider the Fall Culinary Classic, or private classes can be set up through the events department

ajax tavern bolognese

One Pot Beef Bolognese

1 Onion, Diced

1 Head of Fennel, Diced

1 Carrot, Diced

1 Clove Garlic, Chopped

1 tsp Chili Flakes

1 Pound Ground Beef

4 Cups Whole Canned Tomatoes

1 TBL Tomato Paste

1 Cup White Wine

1 Cup Heavy Cream

Salt and Pepper

Sear the ground beef in a hot pan seasoned with salt and pepper. Once the meat is seared and broken into small pieces, drain the beef in a colander. Do not save the fat.

Sweat the onions, fennel, carrots in the same pan you just removed the beef from with a little bit of oil. Once the vegetables are soft, add garlic and chili flakes until aromatic.

Add the tomato paste and cook for another minute. Add the white wine, this is called deglazing, and cook until almost all the liquid is gone. Now you can add your tomatoes, cream and seared beef.

Cook on a simmer until the flavors have incorporated… or until you can’t wait anymore.

This sauce can be served with any pasta and is great when finished with some fresh hebs and cheese. I love mint and mascarpone.