The Culinary Arts Department at the Martha’s Vineyard Regional High School has furthered students’ education in cooking, baking, and food preparation for years. Offering three levels, the department teaches and allows students to create dishes from across the world. Most recently, before the school closed due to the coronavirus, instructor Kevin Crowell taught students in Culinary Arts 1 how to cook the French dessert beignets.
Chef Crowell always begins the classes by demonstrating how to make or create the food. For the beignets, he explained the ingredients needed to make the dough, and what the dish should look like when completed. He made sure we were all being safe while cooking, and that we also understood the recipe and directions. While we followed the recipe, he stressed the importance of using recipes to learn how to cook a multitude of foods that are similar.
Crowell started teaching students about five years ago. “I began teaching students through fundraisers from restaurants,” Crowell said.
Many of the students were eager to learn how to cook beignets a couple of weeks ago, and looked forward to eating the dessert at the end. While eating the food we create is an exciting part of this class, many of the students take the class as a way to prepare for their future. “When you cook something once, you can do it again,” sophomore Jessie Dalbaj said. “Now I can cook for my family, cook for my parents, and my own kids eventually.”
The process of making the beignets involved using the Frialator, or deep-fryer, similar to the ones used in restaurants. Having the opportunity to use machines like these helps to simulate cooking in a real restaurant, which some students may want to pursue. Throughout the month, the Culinary Arts Department served lunches in their dining room. This gives students an opportunity to experience cooking for large groups of people, and serving them. As students participate in the three levels of the Culinary Arts Department, they are able to refine their skills and create dishes from scratch. While some students choose to take Culinary Arts solely as an elective, others have or develop a passion for cooking and pursue it through this class.
With the current closure of the school, Chef Crowell is doing everything to provide students with learning opportunities online. He is encouraging students to watch cooking videos, asking students to cook at home, and sending worksheets to students about measurements and vocabulary. During this time, he and other MVRHS teachers want to ensure that their students are still learning new material, studying, and practicing.
French Quarter Beignets
1½ cups lukewarm water
½ cup granulated sugar
1 envelope active dry yeast
2 eggs, slightly beaten
1¼ tsp. salt
1 cup evaporated milk
7 cups bread flour
¼ cup shortening
oil, for deep-frying
3 cups confectioners’ sugar
Mix water, sugar, and yeast in a large bowl, and let sit for 10 minutes.
In another bowl, beat the eggs, salt, and evaporated milk together. Mix egg mixture into the yeast mixture. In a separate bowl, measure out the bread flour. Add three cups of the flour to the yeast mixture, and stir to combine. Add the shortening and continue to stir while adding the remaining flour. Remove dough from the bowl, place onto a lightly floured surface and knead until smooth. Spray a large bowl with nonstick spray. Put dough into the bowl and cover with plastic wrap or a towel. Let rise in a warm place for at least two hours.
Preheat oil in a deep-fryer to 360°F. Add the confectioners’ sugar to a paper or plastic bag, and set aside.
Roll the dough out to about ¼-inch thickness, and cut into 1-inch squares. Deep-fry, flipping constantly, until they become a golden color. After beignets are fried, drain them for a few seconds on paper towels, and then toss them into the bag of confectioners’ sugar. Hold the bag closed and shake to coat evenly.