Hipcooks at Home in the DTSA Food Scene (RECIPE)

Eating in’s a worthy alternative when modern cooking classes and excellent ingredients combine

Everybody knows downtown Santa Ana is a place to go for great restaurant food. But it’s no slouch in the great-ingredients-for-home-cooking department, either—the lively Thursday farmers market has convenient evening hours, and the new 4th Street Market food hall is home to artisan, whole-beast Electric City Butcher as well as Honor Roll, which offers the type of groceries you’d expect in a store that’s part of Jason Quinn’s Playground empire. And, there’s a nearby Northgate Gonzales, with everything Latin, but almost everything else as well.

And now, Hipcooks is on the scene with ideas for using this multi-culti largesse. The first Orange County location of the modern cooking school has taken a light-filled space in the Grand Central Art Center in downtown Santa Ana, installing an open kitchen and a long, substantial dining table where students gather to share what they cook. The kitchen’s not just for demonstration, either. In a Hipcooks class you’ll chop, stir, and season your way through a menu of dishes from a wide variety of cuisines. One thing you won’t do, however, is slavishly follow a recipe—the name reflects the school’s “shoot from the hip,” experienced-based cooking ethic. Recipes are emailed later, but during class, it’s all down to you and your senses.

Suzana Pinkerton is the manager and main instructor in O.C., and when I sat in on a lunchtime “mini-Hip” class recently, we made dishes from her native Brazil—delicious black bean soup garnished with a salsa reminiscent of a mild pico de gallo, and popover-like pão de queijo, a cheese bread made with tapioca starch. Chewy, crisp, and almost hollow, pleasantly pull-y, they were perfect with the soup. In Brazil they’re sometimes served with honey, a combination we also tried. Both savory and sweet applications got thumbs-up all around. (And the puffs are naturally gluten-free, by the by.) Pinkerton was happy to share the recipe—it appears below.

Check out upcoming classes here—topics range from cocktails to main-dish salads to homemade pasta to Thai and beyond. Hipcooks is bookable for private parties and events, too.

Hipcooks’ o de Queijo, Brazilian Cheese Puffs

(Makes about 6 servings)

1 cup milk (can substitute almond, coconut or any other type)
3 eggs
3/4 cup grapeseed or coconut oil
1 tablespoon salt
3 cups tapioca starch (available in Asian and natural-foods markets)
2 cups grated cheese (Parmesan, Swiss, or a blend—in class we used Trader Joe’s Italian-style four-cheese mix)

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Spray mini muffin tins with nonstick spray.

Place milk, eggs, oil, and salt in blender container and mix until well combined. Add tapioca starch one cup at a time, blending briefly after each addition. Transfer to bowl and stir in cheese.

Pour or spoon into tins, filling almost to top. Bake 20 minutes, until puffed and golden.

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