Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Cooking Class for Valentine's Day

One of the reasons we moved from the 'burbs into "town" was so we'd be close to lots of things to do.
Not that there's nothing to do outside the perimeter (OTP they call it here in Atlanta) but we wanted to do different stuff.
So here we are. Doing different stuff.

Last night we participated in a cooking class at Cooks Warehouse at Ansley Mall and had SOOO much fun--much more fun than going to a restaurant.

I feel like I'm writing a commercial--maybe I am, but no one at Cooks knows it.

Anyway, this class was lead by a real chef with several assistants. Rosemary, the chef--I'm not making that up-what a great name for a chef--was knowledgeable and down to earth. Her explanation of the recipes and techniques was so easy to follow and entertaining she actually had me believing I could make all this stuff.

Since it was Valentine's Day and we were at the Dinner for Sweethearts class we worked in couples.  Each course on the menu was prepared by two couples along with an assistant and Rosemary keeping an eye on everybody.

The menu:

Creamy Roasted Wild Mushroom Soup with Sage Croutons
Crab-Stuffed Shrimp with Champagne Beurre Blanc Sauce
Ginger & Sweet Potato Gratin
Sauteed Haricot Verte with Caramelized Shallots
 Mini Baked Alaska

Is your mouth watering, yet? It should be.

Steve and I worked on the Creamy Roasted Wild Mushroom Soup.  We don't know diddly about wild mushrooms so thought we might actually learn something--we did.

Thankfully nobody judged us and our sad lack of "knife skills" when we somehow turned an onion into a pile of choppings. I do not claim to have "chopped" the onion--it takes skill and know how to do that.  I made a whole onion into little pieces.
We combined several types of mushrooms with olive oil and a little salt and roasted them on large cookie sheets. They smelled heavenly--I highly recommend roasting wild mushrooms the next time you want to impress somebody--it's easy and looks really classy.
The roasted mushrooms were cooked with vegetable stock, shallots, thyme, Madeira and cream--really there were 15 ingredients including 3 kinds of mushrooms. The soup came out just fine. It tasted great and nobody choked or keeled over.

The Crab-Stuffed Shrimp with Champagne Beurre Blanc Sauce was a thing of beauty.
I could have eaten the whole pan of Ginger and Sweet Potato Gratin all by my little 'ol self it was that good.
Some people didn't show up so the Haricot Vertes were on their own--actually I think Rosemary did them on the sly. They were delish! Caramelized Shallots are almost burnt when they're done--learned that, too. They were just wonderful.

Now the Mini Baked Alaska;  this was the most complicated, difficult, wrought with peril dish on the menu.
I think something went wrong and they had to start over on part of this one.  All this was happening as I was turning a whole onion into little pieces with a very large sharp knife so I'm not entirely sure what was going on over there.
In the end they came up with a lovely Italian Meringue which is different from regular old meringue. It involves cooking Karo Syrup and a candy thermometer.  I'm not so good with candy thermometers as evidenced by the batch of divinity we threw out at Christmas so I'll probably pass on making this at home.

Anyway, after we were allowed to pipe (with a star tip and piping bag) the meringue on our cake and ice cream Rosemary cranked up the blow torch and the couples browned the meringue "as evenly as possible" according to the directions.  I was worried ours would look like a giant roasted marshmallow--you know--burned on one side and raw on the other.  But, Steve was careful and meticulous so it was darn near perfect.

THIS IS NOT OUR BAKED ALASKA ours just looked a lot like this.

Imagine pistachio ice cream instead of chocolate.

This is really Janis' Baked Alaska. She includes the recipe on her blog.

About 8:30 or so we all took our places at the lovely festive dinner tables set up by the very talented assistants and dug in.
What a wonderful Valentine's Day Dinner.

If you have an opportunity to take a cooking class in your town, or if you live in the Atlanta area and want to sign up at Cooks Warehouse, I highly encourage you to do so.  It's different and lots of fun and nobody expects you to know a thing.