Immersive Cuisine with Matria's Arlette Eulert
When Mariela and I signed up for Chef Arlette Eulert’s class at Urban Kitchen, we didn’t know what was in store for us. I’ve been to home cooking classes in Paris, Chiang Mai, and Oaxaca, but this was by far the most immersive cooking class I’ve participated in.
We were dropped straight into the action. From start to finish, there was activity all around. The action revolved around the big counter in the middle of the kitchen but soon splintered off to a table in the front used for rolling dough. As we got close to plating, two more counters got conscripted for assembling the dessert and appetizer.
In small sessions, thirteen participants including Mariela and I were shown how to slice the fish for the tiradito, prep the vegetables for the codillo, and assemble the dessert.
The experience was much more than a cooking class. I had expected a lecture-style format, with the participants watching the action from a distance. This was the opposite. It felt like we were in the midst of a restaurant kitchen during service. However, there was no pressure on the participants. We were free to leisurely wander around from station to station as we sipped on wine.
We had watched Chef Eulert on TV, but it was another thing to see her cook in person. She was a natural teacher, taking every opportunity to share tips and demonstrate techniques.
Chef Eulert was completely in the moment. One minute she would be concentrating intensely on a task and the next she was all smiles. This is someone who clearly loves her craft. In the midst of the action, I realized that she rarely needed to look at what her hands were doing. Her hands had a life of their own.
At least a couple of the guests had serious cooking credentials. They wore the same aprons as the guests but as soon as they started tossing things in the pan and dicing vegetables, I could tell they worked in kitchens professionally. I felt like I was in a live musical where everyone wearing street clothes could belt tunes.
That night, we made three dishes:
Lenguado Crudo (Sole Crudo)
Codillo Norte Chico (Roasted Pork Knuckle)
Turrón Milagroso (Traditional Peruvian Dessert)
The crudo used lenguado, a fish that is prized for its delicate texture and flavor. The touches of yuzu and thinly sliced radishes complemented the fish nicely. Finally, the quinoa pop added a playful texture.
The Pork Knuckle was the centerpiece of the meal. The inspiration for this dish comes from the north of Peru.
Before the class, I was not familiar with this part of the pig; it’s the part that connects the feet to the leg. The pork was marinated in achiote and garlic and then fried in a pot of oil. It was an impressive way to cook pork. At home, I usually roast or slow-braise pork. This method of frying resulted in pork with a crispy skin on the outside and tender meat underneath.
The sauce featured two types of pepper (ají mirasol and ají amarillo), chicha de jora (fermented corn “beer”), and orange juice. The acidity of the sauce helped balance the pork.
Finally, it was nice to see how the traditional dessert of Turrón was made. They were everywhere during October in Peru, and we had our fair share. The recipe we used was based on the one at El Señorío de Sulco. Check out the photo of the Turrón we made here.
These dishes are all available at Matria if you want to try them yourself.
Chef Arlette Eulert
We first got “to know” Chef Eulert from watching Peruvian Food TV during the pandemic. She has a couple of shows that we enjoy. She has a show where she and another chef cook from a box of mystery ingredients. In another show, she travels to get to know food. Of course, all of this was like peering through a one-way mirror.
A few years ago, a friend, Ben, was visiting Peru for the first time. I sent him a copy of my guidebook. In turn, he recommended I visit Matria, a restaurant I hadn’t heard of yet. One day as Mariela and I walked by the restaurant, the name rang a bell. I realized that this was both Chef Eulert’s (“the chef from TV”) restaurant and the restaurant that Ben recommended.
After a wonderful meal that included the best scallops we’ve had (and at that time we were ordering scallops almost every meal), we were greeted with a pleasant surprise. Chef Eulert was at the restaurant and had a little time to chat with the guests.
Chef Eulert’s culinary style is difficult to pinpoint. Her dishes feature bold flavors and influences from diverse sources including Asian, Italian, and regional cuisine throughout Peru.
I met Chef Ignacio Barrios, founder of Urban Kitchen, four years ago when I took a more casual cooking class focused on ceviche. I was struck by his charismatic teaching style and patience as he re-explained each step to me in English. Chef Barrios worked in restaurants all over the world before deciding that his true passion was in culinary education.
Urban Kitchen offers a wide selection of classes including basic cooking courses. Nowadays, not as many Peruvians learn to cook growing up. For example, many of Mariela’s friends do not cook. Urban Kitchen provides a fun way for Peruvians to learn to cook.
The masterclasses like this one bring in the top Peruvian chefs to share their craft in an intimate space. I felt like it was the culinary version of a Tiny Desk concert.
All in all, it was a one-of-a-kind cooking experience that we’ll certainly never forget. Urban Kitchen is a place where culinary magic happens, and I hope to feature it more in future posts.
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