IF THERE IS one thing you are sure to learn in a cooking class it is that everyone has his own way of doing things.
Some swear by participation classes. Others insist that participation hampers a student's ability to get the entire lesson. Some talk a lot, some want you to ask the questions. Luckily, most agree that only by tasting the end product can students know what they are supposed to duplicate.
A number of surprises were discovered in attending five local cooking classes. Foremost was the discovery that Washington has many professional cooking teachers who can hold their own anywhere. There are courses for the career-oriented as well as the home cook. And there is typically great rapport between student and teacher.
Franc,ois Dionot, Jacques Blanc and Carol Mason hold observation classes in nouvelle cuisine. You leave their classes having eaten a full dinner, with recipes in hand for a three-course meal. These classes tend to be quiet, as students watch the cooking, listen to them talk and ask lots of questions. Dionot and Blanc are heavy on cooking tips; Mason is heavy in literature and where to shop.
In Mario Cardullo's northern Italian cooking series, on the other hand, the students prepare the dishes. Halfway into the evening the room is buzzing with conversation, as one student stirs at the stove, another grates cheese and someone else helps shape the dough. In one recent five-hour class a groggy group sat down to a midnight dinner of various antipasti pies and tortes; what they had learned was how to make four basic crusts and that antipasti are not always tomatoes and salami with a vinaigrette poured over the top.
Another participation class, this one for the novice Chinese cook, dedicates as much time to learning the techniques of cutting vegetables as to cooking itself. Joan Shih painstakingly takes her group of 15 students from the holding of a cleaver to the deep-frying of egg rolls and the simmering of a Mongolian firepot. It reminds those who have already done it that learning to do things right from the beginning is quicker than breaking bad habits.
There is something for everyone, which we had suspected. Students can learn such intricacies as the making of butter and the proper way to clean a leek. Prices range from $12 to $42 per lesson, and do not reflect quality or quantity of foods.
Here is a bird's-eye view of a lesson with each instructor.
He says he's not a chemist, but he gives a reason for everything he does. Franc,ois Dionot knows why cooking works, and for this reason he is an inspiration to budding cooks. He makes everything seem simple and obvious.
We've always been told, for example, to pour cold water over vegetables to make a soup broth, but we didn't know why. Cold water, Dionot explains during his $25 Wednesday evening class, draws the flavors from the vegetables into the water; vegetables are immersed in boiling water to retain their flavor for eating whole.
He is cooking the first of three courses for this night's menu, a soup of mussels and thyme, lamb fillets with three sauces and, for dessert, crepes stuffed with kiwi sitting on a hazelnut sabayon.
He looks professional, dressed in white shirt and dark tie, protected by a blue pin-striped chef's apron. He is at ease behind the long, narrow kitchen settled at the bottom of the classroom's tiered seating.
"Mussels are available year-round," he explains, "but they are not always fat and without sand. That's why they are inexpensive," which leads him to his next point: "This is a recipe to do at home, because it's simple and restaurants charge too much for it.
"They've been serving dishes with three sauces lately," he says, explaining that he is not teaching sauces because they are in, but rather to show how to make three sauces. "You can do what you like; you don't have to serve it with three sauces. That's the beauty of nouvelle cuisine." The sauces are simple and make a colorful display of salmon pink, mint green and chestnut brown under lamb medallions.
Dionot defends his inclusion of crepes in the demonstration: "A few years ago people used to say, 'You serve me crepes and I won't talk to you anymore.' Now they seem to be coming back in."
But the real lesson lies in Dionot's soup.
First rule of thumb: Don't buy sandy mussels, he says. Soaking them in water or tossing them in cornmeal to get the sand out also draws out the mussel liquid, a major flavoring agent. "Ask the merchant if they are sandy; if he's honest he'll tell you the truth," he says. Mussels can be stored in the refrigerator on ice for up to a week if they are extremely fresh, but ideally they should be used immediately. Rinse the mussels under running cold water in a colander just before you use them, no earlier, he says, because fresh water kills mussels.
"In this soup the better the wine you use, the better the recipe will be," he lectures. "Do not use a wine which is unpleasant to drink for cooking. If you don't like it, it's gonna get even worse when you reduce it." He steams the mussels in wine, shallots, parsley and butter, giving them a good shake at four minutes to stir them around. "Don't wait for the last one to open, or they're going to be overdone."
He lifts the top from the steamer when they are done. He smells and smiles. "These are very good," he says. At this point they can be served in their open shells sitting in a reduced broth as an appetizer; on a platter with sauce of strained broth mixed with cream; or they can be turned into soup. He drains the mussels and runs his fingers along the bottom of the pan to check for sand. "If there was any sand, you'd find out now."
A little oil is put in the bottom of the cooking pot and the garlic, leeks and shallots are saute'ed in to extract their flavorings. "Leeks add wonderful flavor to soup. Add it to all your soups," he says. Then he shows how to clean a leek by quartering almost to the end and rinsing under cold water. Once the vegetables are saute'ed, the broth, fish, tomatoes and seasonings are added. Use white fish in the soup, he says. It's inexpensive and can cook a long time without changing flavor.
LA SOUPE DE MOULES AU THYM FRAIS (Mussel Soup With Fresh Thyme) (6 servings) 2 cups dry white wine 3 tablespoons chopped shallots 3 tablespoons chopped parsley 3 tablespoons butter 2 pounds fresh mussels 1/3 cup olive oil 1 onion, finely chopped 2 leeks, julienned 1 1/2 quarts of cold water 2 pounds white fish fillet 4 tomatoes, peeled, seeded and chopped 2 ounces fresh fennel, if available 2 garlic cloves, chopped 1 bay leaf 1 teaspoon fresh thyme Pinch saffron (optional) 1/2 cup heavy cream Salt and pepper 2 sprigs fresh thyme Bring 1/4 cup of the wine to a boil with the shallots, parsley and butter. Add the mussels, well cleaned, and steam for 3 minutes until they open. Remove mussels and set aside.
In a large pot, heat the olive oil and add the onions and leeks and cook slowly for 5 minutes. Add the water, remaining wine, cooking liquid from the mussels, fish, tomatoes and seasonings and let them simmer for 40 minutes. Skim and degrease occasionally.
Pass the soup through a fine chinois (conical strainer), extracting all the juices from the fish and vegetables. Bring the liquid to a boil, add the cream, season with salt and pepper. Add fresh thyme. Boil 2 minutes.
Divide mussels among soup bowls. Pour soup over top and serve immediately.
Jacques Blanc is doting and continental, so you'll be greeted with kisses on both cheeks when you enter his one-room academie. His lectures focus on technique, so you'll leave with more everyday cooking tips than you can count on 10 fingers.
The room is a converted music store painted hospital-white: walls, appliances, tablecloths. A large open kitchen faces several rows of tall, colorful captain's chairs so the students can observe the demonstration from up high.
The students sop up his techniques, and say the $250 they pay for six classes is well worth the investment. During the four-hour classes, Blanc cooks a three-course meal and serves it to his students along with his own private label of French red and white table wines. He's so attuned to the students that he answers their questions while they are still forming them in their heads.
His purpose, Blanc says, is to teach the home cook who is interested in improving the quality of life through the dining room. "I try to improve the skills of those who entertain at home," he says in a thick French accent. "I want to give people the self-confidence to rely on their own tastes instead of someone else's."
Dressed in a toque and chef's coat, Blanc moves behind the 6-burner stove to discuss the day's recipes: rillettes of scallops (potted scallops), beef tenderloin with green peppercorns, zucchini with fresh herbs and strawberries romanoff. His assistant moves behind the sink and begins hulling strawberries for the dessert.
"We'll start with the rillettes," he says, "a type of pa te' from central France." It is a combination of tomatoes, scallops, a number of spices and heavy whipping cream. "This is not a mousse," he boasts of the creamy mixture of "shredded" scallops. "There are too many mousses in nouvelle cuisine. You'd think people didn't have any teeth."
He works at a measured pace, careful to explain each step of the way. He skins the tomatoes and squeezes the juice through his fingers for the rillettes. He saute's the pulp with garlic, shallots and spices, letting the mixture cook until the liquid is gone. He saute's the scallops for about 5 minutes and drains the juice. "You don't want too many juices -- it will be watery. Do not overcook, or it will be too dry." Then he tells students his latest discovery: Scallops can be shredded in a food processor fitted with the shredding blade. He finishes mixing the rillettes, pours it into an 8-inch mold and stores it in the freezer to chill.
As he moves on to the preparation of the steak, vegetables and strawberry romanoff, he talks all the while. Perhaps he is a little difficult to understand when he gets excited, but everyone gets his message. Here are just a few of his tips from one day:
* After dipping tomatoes in hot water for skinning, drop them into cold water. This leaves skinned tomatoes shiny so you can't tell if they've been skinned or not.
* Bouquet garni saves the cook from fishing out the herbs. It's called a bouquet because it's tied with a string.
* Garlic burns faster than scallions; add it after the scallions have been saute'ed for a few minutes.
* Be sure to clean a carbon steel knife carefully after cutting tomatoes because the acid will rust the blade.
* When you cook something to be served cold, always season on the heavy side.
* Buy lots of fresh herbs when they are available. Saute' them in a little oil. Bag them, label them and freeze them. They can be refrozen a number of times.
* Never use salt on tenderloin while it is cooking, because it draws out the juices.
* If strawberries are dull and colorless, toss them in a little confectioners' sugar and they become shiny.
* "Zucchini is like a woman. It doesn't mean because it's bigger, it's better. Smaller zucchini have fewer seeds and the skin is more tender."
"I try to give students the perfect taste," he says of his recipes. "That way they know when they come close to it when they are making it at home."
But are his nouvelle cuisine recipes difficult?
"No, they're not too difficult, if anything they are too good," said one student, patting her stomach.
RILLETTES OF SCALLOPS (Potted Scallops) (20 servings) 7 ounces butter 5 or 6 shallots, minced 2 cloves garlic, minced 1 bouquet garni (celery, bay leaf, thyme tied in cheesecloth) 3/4 pound tomatoes, skinned and seeded 1 teaspoon tarragon 5 pounds large scallops 1 tablespoon chopped parsley 3 ounces vermouth Salt and pepper to taste 1 tablespoon anise liqueur (optional) 3 ounces whipping cream Pinch saffron (or saffron coloring)
In a heavy frying pan, melt 1/2 of the butter without letting it brown. Add half the shallots, garlic, bouquet garni, tomatoes and tarragon. Cook this gently, without covering the pan, until liquid reduces and is gone. Remove the bouquet garni, and pour the mixture into a bowl and set aside.
In another heavy frying pan melt the remaining butter, saute' remaining shallots and then add the scallops. Stir gently for 3 to 4 minutes. Add the parsley and vermouth and cook another 3 minutes. (Scallops should be barely cooked.) Remove from pan and drain, reserving juices. If there is more than enough scallop liquid to moisten mixture reduce it by 2/3 its volume.
In a separate bowl beat tomato mixture with a beater to break into even pieces. Shred scallops with grater or with shredding blade of food processor into fine shreds. Season to taste with salt and pepper and then add to the tomato mixture. Add cooking liquid and anise. Add the cream and saffron, whisking all the time. Check seasoning and pour into 8-inch mold. Cover with plastic wrap and let sit overnight in refrigerator to firm.
Serve in an earthenware bowl with warm soft toast alongside or as a salad, scooped by rounded spoonfuls dipped in cold water over lettuce and tomato slices.
"I've finally learned the difference between cling and freestone peaches," instructor Carol Mason told members of her Wednesday morning cooking class. "Cling are the peaches with the fuzz on them."
She was skinning cling peaches for the fresh fruit trifle her class would polish off for dessert following chicken breasts topped with fontina cheese and a sauce tomate, and a German potato salad. There was a jug of white wine with which to wash it all down. Not bad for a monthly $12, midsummer luncheon with your friends.
It was a morning of beginners' nouvelle cuisine. Mason, a London Cordon Bleu graduate, demonstrated in her Georgetown kitchen, while seven women looked on and ate the final results. The class was chatty and the discussion rolled from what's in the supermarket and the cooking magazines to what diet one should be on. Technique was not a major focus of the day, but versatility was when Mason accidentally threw away bacon grease saved for the potato salad's dressing. "Oops. I shouldn't have done that," she said. "Well, in this class don't do as I do, do as I say." She quickly replaced the bacon grease with a non-flavored oil. Mason doesn't routinely lecture aloud, but if you ask her questions she is enormously helpful and if you watch her carefully, you can pick up a number of good cooking habits.
Students can watch Mason's hands via an overhead mirror. The room is long and narrow -- clearly designed with cooking classes (which she says are her true gastronomic love) and catering (her "bread and butter") in mind. Cookbooks and floor-to-ceiling cabinets line one wall. A display of serving platters lines another. The students sit at a table directly in front of the stove and cutting board, where all the cooking and chopping is done in front of them.
The trifle is assembled and the potato salad is tossed together. The class moves on to the main lesson of the day: deep-frying boned chicken breasts and the making of a basic tomato sauce to top them.
"I'd like to say this sauce tomate is a nouvelle cuisine recipe, but the Italians have been doing it for centuries," she says. She cores the tomatoes and squeezes the tomato halves between her fingers to discard the seeds. They are chopped in a food processor. "Measure carefully," she says, as she dumps oil into the saute' pan. The garlic and shallots are sweated, not browned. The tomatoes and herbs follow them into the pan. She tastes. "If the tomatoes don't have it, then add a little sugar." The sauce is set aside.
"Deep-frying is something I cannot do," Mason tells her class. "I'm terrified of it." She has already prepared a batter and left it in the refrigerator to chill for 30 minutes. She pours a half-inch of oil into each of two heavy saute' pans. She heats the oil to 375 degrees -- "no higher" she says, "otherwise the oil will burn and break down." The pounded breasts are dipped in the batter then laid in the pan. They are cooked for two minutes and turned.
"This is one of those dishes I don't think I'd do if I had a couple of drinks in me," she advises the group. "The dish requires a certain amount of organization. There's no futzing around once you get started."
Five minutes later the breasts are crisp and golden. She tops them with fontina cheese, and tells the students they can substitute monterey jack, munster, gruye re. "Don't use mozzarella; it gets too stringy," she says. A thick sauce tomate is spooned over the top and they are put in the oven to melt the cheese. While they warm the students begin to discuss their own cooking habits.
"I don't cook," said one woman, explaining that she turns the recipes over to friends and attends the class to visit and eat. Another says she takes the recipes home and changes them just a bit to incorporate them into her own cooking style, while another makes them as they are. A fourth says she's there to eat and learn, but never has the opportunity to make the recipes at home. "My family just won't eat fancy stuff."
CHICKEN BREASTS WITH FONTINA (6 to 8 servings) 4 eggs 1/3 cup flour Salt and pepper 8 chicken breast halves Vegetable oil 1/4 cup butter 1/2 pound mushrooms, sliced 1 tablespoon lemon juice 8 slices fontina cheese 1 cup fresh sauce tomate (recipe follows)
Chopped parsley or chives
Combine eggs, flour, salt and pepper in a food processor or blender and process until smooth. Allow to rest in the refrigerator for about 30 minutes, if there is time.
Skin, bone and flatten the chicken breasts so that they are about 1/4-inch thick. Heat 1/2 inch vegetable oil in a large skillet or wok to 350 degrees. Dip the chicken breasts in the batter (a few at a time) and put in the hot oil. Fry until golden on both sides, turning (about 2 to 3 minutes). Remove to paper towels to drain. Continue until all the breasts are browned, adding more oil if necessary.
Pour oil from the skillet and wipe clean. Melt the butter and add the mushrooms and lemon juice. Cook over high heat for several minutes. Lay chicken breasts on the bottom of a baking pan. Lay a slice of cheese over each breast. Combine the mushrooms with the tomato sauce and spoon a bit over each breast. Place in the oven and bake at 375 degrees for 10 minutes. Dust with parsley or chives and serve immediately.
CAROL MASON'S SAUCE TOMATE (3 to 4 cups) 3 to 4 cups tomatoes, seeded 2 to 4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil 1/2 teaspoon crushed garlic 1/2 teaspoon crushed shallots 1 tablespoon fresh thyme 1 tablespoon fresh oregano 1 tablespoon fresh basil Pinch salt and pepper to taste 1/2 to 1 teaspoon sugar (optional)
Coarsely chop tomatoes in a food processor. Heat oil in a large saute' pan. Add garlic and shallots and sweat 1 minute over low heat. Add tomatoes, thyme, oregano and basil. Cook 10 minutes over high heat (sauce should be thickened to pouring consistency but not dry). Taste for seasoning. If tomatoes need a little zip add sugar to taste.
Mario Cardullo is the gadget man of cooking teachers. In one evening his students used two food processors, a KitchenAid, an electric grater, a hand grater, a microwave and the electric oven.
"I'm an engineer, I love hardware," he says. It was with the gadgets that his students produced five unusual antipasti in five hours, the "overture" to any decent Italian meal. Four of them had crusts and the other was an omelet.
"I thought antipasti were going to be vegetables in a vinaigrette with beautiful olives," one student said, still surprised as the dishes came out of the oven at midnight.
Encouraging participation, Cardullo first gives students a complete tour of his kitchen. One drawer is filled to the brim with cookie cutters, another with cotton towels. The only cans that can be found in his cupboards are those of Italian plum tomatoes, and his spices are arranged in alphabetical order on revolving trays.
He dons his apron with "The Renaissance Chef" printed across the front and begins talking about his family's native Italy. "There is no place called Italy, it's really many little regions. You can tell where you are by the fats they are using," he says, concluding that generally butter is used more heavily in northern Italy; olive oil and lard are more popular further south. Cookies, he says, differ from town to town.
The Arabs had the greatest influence on Italy, he continued, and at about 800 A.D. they introduced nuts, rice, sugar, spices and ice cream. They even introduced the water buffalo, whose milk is used for Italian mozzarella.
In Cardullo's class there are certain givens. "In this class we will always have at least five different wines to taste, drink them . . . We will never end before 11 p.m. and generally we go on until midnight . . . We will always make our own butter," he says.
From his refrigerator he pulls a quart of fresh cream and pours it into his food processor. "Never add salt to butter," he says adamantly. "Salt in butter is not good for you, it's not good for the butter and it's not good for the food." He puts the lid on the processor and turns it on. Several minutes later there are butter and whey. He drains off the whey and wraps the butter in cheesecloth. It is rinsed with cold water and stored in a crock.
Quality of ingredients is something he is firm about. "Think of it this way, when you put food in you, it becomes part of you. So why not put good food in you?" He holds an olive oil and vinegar tasting to prove the point that good quality also tastes better. Nine olive oils ranging in price from $5 to $20 are used; some are filtered, some are not, and they are all either cold press, virgin or extra virgin. The six vinegars range in price from $2 to $20, and are prodominantly produced by vineyards. It is generally agreed that the $10-to-$20-range olive oils are best, but filtering is not favored one way or the other. About the vinegars, "Wow," one astonished student says, "I had no idea vinegar could be dessert."
He moves on to the crusts, which are the lesson of the day. "All it takes for dough is flour, fat and a liquid." There will be four doughs, he says, which will generally represent the "whole gamut" of doughs. "I chose these recipes because they demonstrate certain uses. For example, you use warm water with lard to help break it down and you use cold water with butter to stop it from breaking down.
The first is a yeast dough for a leek pie. It includes yeast, water, eggs and salt. Then there is an artichoke tart, the crust made with butter, eggs, flour and a pinch of nutmeg. There will be a fontina filling for a crust of flour, butter and wine. And finally a spinach pie with crust of lard, flour and eggs.
"I don't measure too exactly," he says as he dumps the ingredients into the KitchenAid for his yeast dough. The hook is put in place and the machine in turned on. Ten minutes later he puts the dough in the oven to rise while he makes the three non-yeast doughs. He secures them in plastic wrap and sets them in the refrigerator to rest.
Into the third bottle of wine, the students begin helping and the fillings are quickly made. Saute'eing, grating and chopping are going on in all corners of the kitchen. Cardullo takes a break and watches.
The pies are filled, the kitchen is cleaned and the table is set. Much to everyone's surprise, it is nearly midnight, and the murmur of hefty appetites is heard from the dining room.
At dinner he gives his students his final advice of this $25 evening. "Never let a recipe stop you because you don't have the stuff on hand. Improvise. If you are timid you'll never cook anything. If you make mistakes correct them. If not, eat them anyway."
CROSTATA SALATA DI FONTINA (Fontina Pie) (6 servings) 1 1/2 cups flour, sifted 1/2 cup butter, softened 1 teaspoon salt 1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons dry white wine 2 tablespoons chicken or veal stock 2 eggs, beaten 2 tablespoons parmesan cheese, freshly grated 1/2 pound fontina cheese, cut into fine cubes Pinch nutmeg
On a pastry board, mound the flour and make a well or depression in the center. Place butter, 1/2 teaspoon salt, 2 tablespoons white wine and chicken or veal stock in the well. Work mixture with finger tips until light dough has been formed. Do not overmix. Wrap dough lightly in plastic wrap and store in refrigerator 1/2 hour.
Beat eggs and 1/2 cup dry white wine in bowl. Add parmesan cheese, 1/2 teaspoon salt and pinch of nutmeg. Remove wrapped dough from refrigerator and roll out on pastry cloth, floured board or between two pieces of plastic wrap.
Line an 8-inch Springform pan with dough. Trim edges of dough. Arrange cubed fontina cheese evenly over bottom. Pour egg mixture over fontina cheese. Bake in 350-degree oven for 30 to 40 minutes. Serve immediately.
If you don't know a thing about Chinese cooking and want to start with the basics, Joan Shih will teach you what there is to know.
In one evening the beginner students practice the art of slicing vegetables and meats, make a fresh chicken broth and learn the how's and why's of basic Chinese ingredients.
Shih begins with a one-hour lecture about the menu and its ingredients. This particular evening's menu is egg rolls and a Mongolian firepot -- a type of "Chinese fondue," she explains. It is a combintion of meats, vegetables and noodles cooked at the table in an electric pot filled with chicken broth. Following the lecture, the students assist with the cooking and later taste samples of their work.
The first step will be cubing the meat and marinating it, Shih explains. "Marinade," she says, "works as a coating agent" to keep the meat from drying out while it is cooking. Then there will be the cutting of the vegetables. Not only for the esthetics of the dish, but to allow for even cooking, it is important that they are sliced into uniform pieces. She details the dimensions for the carrots, celery and onions. The cabbage will be shredded, as will the bamboo shoots. The bean sprouts will be left whole, but added to the wok last since they shrink during cooking.
Then she explains why students will be using these particular ingredients this night.
* Scallions are used in China as a garnish; since in this case the onions are for egg roll stuffing, white onions will suffice.
* Dried black mushrooms will keep indefinitely, as long as they are stored in a dry spot. They take abut 20 minutes to soften in warm water, and even then, you can't use the stems because they remain hard. The caps will lend fragrance to the egg roll stuffing.
* Cornstarch is used to thicken the filling.
* There are two types of wrappers for egg rolls, wheat and rice. Rice wrappers are harder to work with because they tear easily. Whichever kind you work with, she warns, keep them stored under a damp towel to prevent them from drying out.
* All of the slicing is done ahead and the broth is made by the time you sit down to a firepot. Everything must be sliced paper thin.
* Two kinds of noodles are used this evening: vermicelli (made from mung beans) and wheat. They will be cooked ahead and then warmed in the broth.
* Everything is arranged decoratively on a platter, then laid just as decoratively in the pot to simmer so that it still can be admired during the cooking process.
With the basics in mind, students circle the central cooking area--an electric stove in a table-sized cutting board. Shih demonstrates how to string snow peas. A student takes over. She puts the bones, two slices of unpeeled ginger, celery and water into a pot and covers it to make the broth.
Everyone becomes busy with a project. The noise level in the room grows. One student chops onions, while another boils water for the noodles. Shih wanders around the table. Her eyes seem to go in four different directions at once as she helps her students improve their cutting style. A heavy Taiwanese accent makes her a little difficult to understand.
"Remember," Shih tells her class during the cooking of the filling, "pork turns white when its done, shrimp turns pink. The mushrooms always follow the meat into the wok." She starts the thicker, longer-cooking items, such as onions and carrots, before quick-cooking items like bamboo shoots and bean sprouts.
Then there is the wrapping of the rolls, which end up resembling odd-shaped envelopes. But they cook well, as Shih points out during the deep-frying process in a second wok.
Later, while watching the firepot and munching spring rolls, the students continue to be enthusiastic. "Oh, I feel like I've learned a lot," one explains. "For one thing, I'm comfortable with the cleaver now." And that utensil is as important to Chinese cooking as fat is to pie crust. "The thing about this kind of cooking," she continues, "is that it's all in the getting ready and using the right ingredients together. She's taught us all about that."
EGG ROLLS (From Joan Shih) (Makes about 20) Filling: 1/2 pound ground pork 2 teaspoons cornstarch 1 teaspoon soy sauce 1 cup chopped raw shrimp 1 teaspoon dry sherry or rice wine 6 to 8 dried black mushrooms 1/2 cup shredded bamboo shoots 1/4 cup sliced water chestnuts 1 cup shredded cabbage 1/2 cup celery, julienned 1/2 cup onion, julienned 1/4 cup carrot, julienned 1/2 pound fresh bean sprouts Cooking: 2 tablespoons peanut oil, corn oil or vegetable oil Salt to taste 1/2 teaspoon sugar 2 teaspoons cornstarch 20 square egg roll skins (raw) 2 tablespoons flour mixed with 2 tablespoons water for sealing 6 cups oil for deep frying Sauces: Duck sauce or plum sauce and Chinese mustard for serving
Mix pork with 1 teaspoon each cornstarch and soy sauce. Mix shrimp with 1 teaspoon each dry sherry or rice wine and cornstarch.
Place black mushrooms in a bowl, add 1/2 cup boiling water. Let stand for 20 minutes. Squeeze the mushrooms to extract liquid. Save the liquid. Cut off and discard the stems. Shred the mushrooms and set aside. Thinly slice bamboo shoots and water chestnuts. Chop cabbage leaves in half, then chop in thin, 2-inch-long slivers. Cut celery and carrot into 2-inch julienne.
Heat 2 tablespoons oil in a wok. Stir-fry the pork mixture, until pork loses its raw color, adding salt to taste. Add shrimp, mushrooms, bamboo shoots and half of the mushroom liquid. Keep stir-frying. Add the remaining shredded vegetables, sugar and stir-fry. Blend the remaining 2 teaspoons cornstarch and 1/4 cup mushroom liquid. Stir it into the filling mixture. Add bean sprouts and cook briefly. Immediately remove the filling from the heat and let it cool.
Wrap the egg rolls by using 2 tablespoons filling in each roll. Place filling in center of each wrapper. Drop one corner toward the opposite corner. Roll over once. Turn sides in toward center and roll firmly. Seal with flour-water paste, being careful to leave no holes open so cooking oil will not seep in during deep-frying.
Heat 6 cups oil in wok or deep fryer to about 375 degrees, then drop in the egg rolls one by one. Cook, turning, until golden brown, drain and serve with sauces on the side.