Virtuoso Life - July/August 2017 - 114
TIP: Add half a teaspoon
of mayonnaise to vinaigrette
to keep it from separating.
THE CULINARY ADVENTURE CONTINUED
across its fleet. The show and its companion magazine, Cook's Illustrated, are known
for their obsessive trial-and-error cooking
methods: Testers might prepare a recipe 50
different ways until they're pleased with it.
The goal? To make home cooking foolproof.
TIP: To avoid pitting
your pot, don't add salt to pasta
water until after it's boiling.
EVERY SEA DAY OF OUR SAILING, I'D HEAD
to the 125-seat America's Test Kitchen theater for a 45-minute demo led by our ATK
host, Samantha Block. She covered topics
from Asian dumplings to chiles, while cameras broadcast her whisking, slicing, and
chopping skills on TV screens beside the
stage. Prerecorded footage from the show's
Brookline, Massachusetts, headquarters
complemented the lesson, with experts adding commentary and insight into the science
behind each technique and ingredient.
V I RT U O S O L I F E
Block also hosted smaller, 90-minute
workshops in the theater. There, seven
of my fellow passengers and I gathered
around a sleek granite countertop and attempted to replicate our instructor's graceful maneuvers. After we'd filled and cut our
porcini ravioli during my first workshop,
Block lowered them into boiling water for
me with a netted spoon. "Ravioli are little
pockets of heaven," she said. "So you want
to be gentle with them."
Block brings ten years of restaurant experience to the job, as well as intensive training at the ATK mother ship. Despite her
pedigree and crisp, white chef's jacket, she
was an approachable instructor, full of savvy tips. She taught us how to bone salmon
(drape it across an overturned bowl and use
tweezers to pluck the bones away), how to
handle slippery mixing bowls (wrap a damp,
twisted towel around the base), and how
chocolate promotes relaxation (the scent
affects our theta brain waves).
(SHIP) COURTESY OF HOLLAND AMERICA LINE
Clockwise from top left: Ravioli prep, America's Test Kitchen instructor Erin Montgomery
on board Holland America's Oosterdam, and the line's Volendam. Below: Pasta success.
outside the classroom. Menus reflected our
ports of call in China, Korea, and Japan,
with congee (rice porridge) at breakfast,
sushi at lunch, and dak kalguksu (Korean
chicken noodle soup) at dinner. There were
winetastings and tours of the ship's galley -
a stainless-steel city packed with kitchen
staff turning out more than 4,000 meals
a day. The food fun continued on shore: In
Seoul, we visited a local market, lunched
on bibimbap, and learned how to make traditional flower-shaped rice cakes. And for
those obsessively dedicated to the culinary
theme, there was even a 24-hour America's
Test Kitchen channel on stateroom TVs.
In my final workshop, All About Eggs,
Block taught us how to whisk up mayonnaise, steam eggs instead of boiling them,
and pipe out meringue cookies using pastry bags. I never did master the perfect piping twirl (maybe the bag sensed my fear?),
but I did have a blast squeezing out those
The more I learned, the more I looked forward to sea days, eager to pick up new tips
and recipes. I may have left the Volendam
less bronzed than those sun worshippers on
Deck 8, but I'll hang on to the secret for perfect ravioli long after their tans fade.