Learning something new about food is always a pleasure, and the fun didn’t stop there Friday night at Jewett Farms Studio in Newburyport, where Mary Reilly of The Savory Kitchen was teaching a class of eight how to cook Thai food at home.
When we arrived, we were warmly greeted by Reilly and Jewett’s Elena Bachrach and offered beer, wine, or limeade. Being a Thai-themed evening, the beer was Singha, and the wine was a Covey Run Riesling from Washington, chosen by Bill at New England Wine and Spirits to go with the meal.
We gathered around the soapstone island in the store’s demonstration kitchen while Reilly, a personal chef, began simultaneously preparing Tom Yum soup and giving us a wealth of information about where to find Thai ingredients locally and what to substitute for hard-to-find items. We learned about green papaya, banana blossoms, jicama, red curry, coconut milk, and more. Reilly is a born teacher, relaying food history and kitchen techniques in a relaxed tone and happily fielding all of our questions. It was more like being in a friend’s kitchen who happens to know a lot about Thai food than a class.
After Reilly prepared a salad of jicama, pineapple, and watercress, another of green papaya, and set the red curry pork to cook, we sat down to taste the soup. The chicken broth had been flavored with lemongrass, ginger, lime, chiles, fish sauce, and brown sugar. Served over jasmine rice with tiny, fresh Maine shrimp and optional extra chiles and herbs, it hit all the notes that make Thai food so addictive, according to Reilly: hot, sweet, sour, and salty.
Reilly returned to the kitchen for a bit more prep work while we chatted about food and other topics. The group was diverse in age, but everyone was friendly and clearly excited to be eating well and learning. Reilly called us over to watch her make pad thai (in two batches so as not to crowd the pan), then we sat down to a Thai feast.
The curry had just the right amount of heat, tender meat, and lots of vegetables like cauliflower and sweet potato. The salads were full of unusual flavors and textures, the perfect foil for the rich curry. The pad thai was outstanding, with perfectly cooked noodles, fried tofu, salty peanuts, and, once again, those salty and sour notes.
Dessert was deceptively simple. Reilly set out vanilla ice cream and mango sorbet. We helped ourselves, pouring on a luscious banana ginger sauce that everyone swooned over. All of the recipes were bound together in a neat booklet that included make-your-own versions of things like roasted chile oil for those who don’t want to hunt down Asian convenience foods.
The class was the first in a series Reilly is doing this winter/spring. The next class is bread, on March 13, followed by food of Northern Italy on March 19 and fresh ways with seafood on April 16. Classes are $90. More details are the Savory Kitchen site. All classes are held at Jewett, by far the most appealing kitchen showroom I’ve been in.
The Savory Kitchen
Jewett Farms & Co
58 Merrimac St, Newburyport