There was no cooking in theshoeboxkitchen this weekend. Instead, we decided to roll up our sleeves and learn some new tricks from a real chef at the Viking Cooking School.
This cooking class was part of a birthday present to Anne, whom you can see above taking orders from Chef Louis in the midst of plating the first course of our meal, Open-Faced Seafood Ravioli with Vodka Tomato Cream Sauce.
Here’s a closer look:
These pictures are a bit blurry because things move fast when you’re plating food for 12 people.
The great thing about this cooking course is that we did it with 10 other people, in addition to Chef Louis and his wonderful assistant, Rita, and everyone had such a great time working together.
And you get to use REALLY NICE COOKWARE.
And Chef Louis was just great. He was very explicit in his instructions, extremely patient, funny, and he always took time to answer questions. We just can’t imagine trying to direct 12 kitchen novices to make a complex 3-course dinner. Chef Louis did so with ease, and made it tons of fun.
For our main course, we made Tournedos Saltimbocca (pork tenderloin medallions wrapped in prosciutto and herbs and served with a herb and white wine reduction pan sauce) served along side Sautéed Green Beans with Garlic and Parmigiano-Reggiano. Need we say more? Absolutely delicious.
The most interesting dish of the night, though, was the dessert – or should we say, the “dish” the dessert was sitting in – an edible dish.
This is an “Almond Crisp,” very easily made by mixing just a few ingredients over low heat in a saucepan then baking tablepoons of the mixture on a cookie sheet for about 10 minutes. When you scoop the still warm and pliable baked discs off the cookie sheet, you place them over the back of a muffin tin to mold them into cups. Brilliant. We may be trying this soon in the shoebox.
Here’s the finished product: Strawberry Semifreddo in Almond Crisps with Glossy Chocolate Sauce. The semifreddo was interesting, but we could have just dipped the almond crisps in the chocolate sauce all night long. Wow.
We will definitely do one of these classes again – you just can’t beat learning new fancy recipes, cooking them under the tutelage of an enthusiastic chef, and eating them on the spot with new friends and wine that flows generously.
But in addition to all that fun, we picked up all these little nuggets of kitchen wisdom. It’s impossible to remember them all, but we were able to come up with at least ten, which seemed like a nice round number. So here’s our Top 10 Kitchen Tips from our Viking Cooking Class experience:
- When searing protein in a saucepan, always add cold oil to a hot pan, followed immediately by the meat. This method prevents sticking and ensures good oil coverage in your pan.
- If you are searing or sautéing protein in a saucepan, it is better to crowd the pan than to leave empty space; the latter scenario leaves oil that may get too hot and burn.
- When folding a lighter mixture into a heavier mixture (say, whipped cream into cake batter), always add light to heavy, and just move the spatula around the outside circumference of the mixture a few times. It’s better to have a lighter, poorly mixed result than a heavier homogenized one.
- Always crack an egg on a flat surface rather than the side of a bowl. The blunt contact of a flat surface fractures the shell in larger chunks, as opposed to the smaller shards that result from an edge crack and which tend to puncture the egg yolk.
- Apparently, egg whites will stay good in your refrigerator for up to six months if you leave them in a bowl uncovered. We aren’t sold on this one, but Chef Louis swears by it. He did, though, give the caveat: “if they start to turn green, throw them out!”
- If you are separating egg yolks and whites and a yolk falls into the whites, you can remove the yolk using the egg shell – it sucks it up like a vacuum cleaner.
- When melting chocolate on a double boiler, start with dry chocolate, bring the water to a boil, remove the water from the heat and place the pot of chocolate on top and cover, then walk away. Twenty minutes later a gentle stir with a whisk will give you perfectly melted (and not burned) chocolate.
- When cooking a stew or soup with vegetables, add each different type of vegetable one at a time, starting with the root vegetables, then vegetables that grow closest to the ground, then work your way up, adding a pinch of salt each time you introduce a new vegetable. If you add all the vegetables at once and then the salt, the root vegetables or vegetables that grow closest to the ground will absorb all the salt.
- Green vegetables such as green beans, broccoli, asparagus, etc., can be cooked most of the way ahead of time by boiling them for 3-5 minutes, then immersing them immediately into ice water for about 30 seconds, then draining them. When just about ready to plate your entrée, throw the veggies back in hot water or in a sauté pan to finish them off. Apparently restaurants do this all the time.
- When dicing onions and garlic, make as few cuts as possible. The more cuts you make, the more bitter they become. Chef Louis demonstrated a 3-cut method, which Jason attempted but mostly failed. We’ll try to demonstrate with photos in a future blog post.
If you live in any area where Viking does these cooking classes, we highly recommend trying one out; and if you live in Atlanta, make sure you sign up with Chef Louis.
Cooking Class makes for a great date night, especially if you’re turned on by expensive cookware.