Archive for the ‘Cooking class’Category

Cruising with an appetite on Oceania Marina

Oceania Marina at dock in Key West
Despite an industry-wide upgrade to shipboard dining in recent years, few cruise lines dare to make the culinary experience a brand signature. But Oceania (oceaniacruises.com)—the middle sister in the Norwegian-Oceania-Regent family—has embraced the plate. We sailed the western Caribbean aboard Oceania’s Marina in February and can report that it was a tasty trip.

Oceania Marina galley
The Marina‘s galleys were designed before the rest of the ship. With a capacity for 1,250 passengers, she has the largest number of square feet of galley space per passenger of any comparably sized vessel afloat. That translates into a massive central galley and smaller galleys for each of the individual restaurants and for cabin service. Marina was originally planned at 54,000 gross tonnes, but the finished galleys pushed her over 60,000.

Master chef Frank Garanger aboard Oceania Marina
During our sailing, Marina had more than 140 cooks aboard. Jacques Pepin, the former personal chef of Charles de Gaulle, is the gastronomic godfather of the Oceania line, and contributed to the line’s culinary vision. Two chefs who are members of the prestigious Maîtres Cuisiniers de France (MCF) oversee the galleys directly. One of them, Frank Garanger (above), explained the organization. “We hire young cooks from all over the world and bring them up in the system of the classical kitchen,” he said. “It’s the same system you’d find in any five-star restaurant in Europe.”

Master chef Laurent Trias aboard Oceania Marina
Laurent Trias, also an MCF, showed us the library of more than 2,000 recipes. Binders fill shelf after shelf. Each recipe includes detailed directions and photo of how the finished dish should be plated. We did some quick math and realized that the galleys were producing about 25,000 individual meals each week.

Great taste cooked to order

bread basket at Toscano aboard Oceania Marina

Twenty-five cooks deal entirely with pastry, and the bread ovens aboard Marina would be the envy of many a bakery ashore. Working almost entirely with French flour, the bakers create all the baguettes, rustic loaves, beignets, croissants, muffins, and even bagels served morning, noon, and night at the various shipboard restaurants. (That’s the bread basket at Toscana pictured above.) Maybe getting to see the bakery skewed our perception, but we found breads and pastries uniformly superb throughout our voyage.

Dining room at Jacques aboard Oceania Marina

Even the offerings in the buffet restaurant (Terrace Cafe) are a cut above most cruise food. But Marina also has six fine-dining restaurants, including Jacques (pictured above), featuring the food of Jacques Pepin. Restaurant themes range from Italian to French country and steakhouse to pan-Asian. Only one—a wine and food tasting restaurant—carries a surcharge, though all require reservations. We’ll be writing about some of the options in a later post.

Fortunately, gastronomy is a participatory sport aboard Marina. The ship’s culinary center is a state-of-the-art culinary classroom for a hands-on cooking school at sea. Port excursions also include some culinary expeditions—foraging for local foods, visiting local restaurants, trying local dishes. (More to come on those subjects, too.)

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14

03 2017

Exploring KY cooking with top Lex chef Phil Dunn

Phil Dunn offers min Hot Brown in cooking class When England’s horse-loving Queen Elizabeth first visited Lexington, her personal chef was Phil Dunn. We don’t know what dishes he served to the Queen, but we do know that Dunn favors gourmet meals and enjoys exploring international flavors. He’s particularly fond of making European pastries—and anything with pasta.

A gorgeous display kitchen at Architectural Kitchens & Baths (345 Lafayette Ave., www.akandb.com) is the perfect setting for Dunn’s popular half-day cooking classes. We attended a recent session and learned that Dunn is equally comfortable with down-home Kentucky cooking. He makes familiar dishes his own through refined technique and a penchant for turning larger plates into finger food—perfect for parties in this most social of cities.

Dunn makes a spicy version of Kentucky Beer Cheese (a cracker spread) that has a thick, rich texture. “You must use flat beer,” he told us. “It’s too fluffy if you use carbonated beer.” He also cautions against over-pulsing in the food processer. “It should be a little chunky.”

He also showed us how to make mini versions of Kentucky’s iconic Hot Brown open-face sandwich by layering Mornay sauce, slices of turkey, bacon, and tomato on slices of baguette. That’s Phil above handing one over to a hungry onlooker.

But we were most taken with his bite-size Bourbon Cakes, a clever use of Kentucky’s signature spirit to round out a meal. He soon had us dipping one-inch squares of firm vanilla cake into a warm bourbon mixture and then rolling them in ground vanilla wafers and chopped walnuts. It took a couple of tries to get the rhythm of wet hand for the bourbon and dry hand for the crumbs, but we were soon on a roll. The little bites are addictive, but if you have any left over, Dunn claims that they will keep for three to four months in the freezer. For information about classes, send an email to phildunn1948@gmail.com.

KENTUCKY BEER CHEESE

Phil Dunn makes Kentucky Beer Cheese
1 cup beer
1 lb. extra-sharp cheddar cheese, shredded
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 teaspoon dry mustard
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon Tabasco sauce
1/4 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce

Pour beer into a mixing bowl and whisk until it loses its carbonation. Place in food processor, add remaining ingredients, and process until well-mixed but still slightly chunky. Adjust seasoning to taste and refrigerate before serving.

PHIL DUNN’S BOURBON CAKES


Makes 200 squares bourbon cakes by Phil Dunn

For the cake
6 oz. (1 1/2 sticks) softened unsalted butter
1 1/4 cups sugar
8 egg yolks
2 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup warm milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Combine butter and sugar in mixer and blend well. Add egg yolks and blend well. Sift dry ingredients together and add mixture alternately with milk and vanilla extract. Beat until batter is very smooth. It will be thick. Spray a half sheet pan (18×13 inches) with cooking oil and spread batter evenly with a metal spatula.

Bake at 325 degrees for about 25 minutes until cake is golden brown. Cool completely. Cut into one-inch squares.

For the soaking liquid and coating
8 oz. (2 sticks) unsalted butter, melted
1 1/3 cups bourbon (Dunn used Very Old Barton)
2 lb. confectioners sugar
12 oz. vanilla wafers, ground
2 cups walnuts, finely chopped

Combine melted butter with bourbon and confectioners sugar. Combine vanilla wafers with walnuts.

Dip cake squares in warm bourbon mixture. (Do not let it cool.) Quickly drain cake squares, then roll them in vanilla wafer-walnut mixture.

23

08 2015

Lake Placid Lodge honors Adirondacks style

Lake Placid Lodge
Rainy weather showed me just how good the rebuilt Lake Placid Lodge really is. I say “rebuilt” because the original 1880s rustic lodge turned 1940s resort hotel burned down in December 2005. An exemplar of the Adirondacks rustic style, it had been a great example of American vernacular vacation architecture. The owners rebuilt, opening in 2008, and I’d put off a visit for fear the new wouldn’t live up to the old. Then Truman Jones — a talented chef I met some years ago when he worked for Gordon Ramsay — took over the kitchen and Cape Air launched 90-minute flights between Boston and Saranac Lake, a half-hour drive from Lake Placid.

It was only raining lightly when I flew up, and the pilot did his best to minimize the Peggy-Sue moments going in and out of weather. It was still raining lightly when I arrived, so I went out in the lodge’s classic style diesel runabout for a quick tour of the lake. Hence the view from the water (above) with plastic over the porches to keep them dry.

Lakeside room at Lake Placid Lodge I was barely settled into my sumptuous lakeside room (two-sided wood-burning fireplace, hand-carved bed, private porch overlooking the lake) when the heavens let loose. The rain didn’t let up for the next two days, which is how I discovered how much I like the lodge and how true it remains to its roots. Rather than go kayaking on the lake or hiking in the woods, I hung around the property and discovered a thousand little craftsmen touches that make the current Lake Placid Lodge a worthy successor to the original.

headshot of Truman Jones With the weather putting a true damper on outdoor activities, the lodge offered an unscheduled cooking lesson (almost always available on request) with chef Jones (left). About a half dozen of us signed up. The menu was lamb two ways with spring vegetables. Morel mushrooms and wild ramps foraged on the lodge property were paired with green peas, fava beans, and cherry tomatoes roasted for 45 minutes in a 250F oven with garlic. The peas, favas, and ramps were all quickly blanched by dipping in boiling water for about 10 seconds, then in ice water. The morels had been carefully scrubbed under running water, then roasted lightly in the oven. Ultimately, Jones simmered the vegetables in some vegetable stock, finishing with a little butter and salt to glaze.

The lamb portion of the lesson was more unconventional. He began with a whole saddle of lamb and demonstrated very slowly how to bone it to separate the two tenderloins next to the spine and then the two loins. He reserved the tenderloins to make tartare, and placed the loins in sealed plastic bags with a little olive oil, thyme, and a few cloves of garlic to cook sous vide to medium-rare. A little carrot purée on the plate (below) gave the food a colorful background.
Lamb and veggies 550

04

09 2014

CIA classes bridge to Latin cuisines

CIA class helper
There’s nothing like a cooking class to build bridges across cultures, and the San Antonio branch of the Culinary Institute of America has a special interest in the cuisines of Latin America. Its spacious and modern campus opened in 2008 in some of the larger buildings of the former Pearl Brewery. It was a keystone in the development of the Pearl District, a lively area of restaurants and shops and site of a Saturday farmer’s market.

Chef Sergio In addition to professional chef training, the CIA offers enthusiast classes for home cooks. During Culinaria in May, we joined a Latin Boot Camp class for a crash course in several styles of South American cooking. The class was led by Sergio Remolina, who hails from Mexico City and studied in France. He wears two hats at CIA: He is the director of Latin Cuisine Studies, and head of the Center for the Foods of the Americas.

The objective of the class was to teach us several different approaches to cooking with acid — as in making ceviche — and to develop an appreciation for the flavor profiles of Andean cuisines. It was not necessarily a class for the kitchen beginner, as Remolina assumed that all the students had fairly well-developed cooking and knife skills. Most ingredients had to be prepped by hand, and if you couldn’t peel, bone, and chop quickly, there was no chance of finishing a dish on time to be served with dishes from other teams.

CIA tableOur team undertook a simple salad of oranges and hearts of palm, lamb kebabs marinated in a complex mix of ingredients, and an Ecuadoran-style shrimp ceviche. Other teams made empanadas, duck with rice, quinoa au gratin, and mashed potatoes seasoned with crab and cilantro. The class culminated with a grand buffet table and a satisfying feast. Here’s one of the more straightforward dishes, slightly adapted from the class version.

CIA shrimp dishECUADORAN-STYLE SHRIMP CEVICHE

Makes 8 appetizer-size portions

Ingredients for shrimp
2 lb. medium shrimp with heads and tails intact
2 tablespoons peanut oil
1 cup medium diced red onion
1 tablespoon finely diced garlic
2 cups medium diced tomatoes, cored and seeded before dicing
1 whole red onion
1 cup freshly squeezed orange juice
1 teaspoon garlic paste
2 orange habañero chiles, seeds and veins removed
1/2 bunch cilantro, roughly chopped

Ingredients for marinade
1/2 cup fresh lime juice
4 cups coarsely chopped very ripe tomatoes, cored and seeded before chopping
1/2 cup fresh orange or tangelo juice
1/2 cup ketchup (to taste)

Ingredients for garnish
2 tablespoons finely chopped lightly toasted peanuts
1/2 cup chopped cilantro
plantain chips and/or popcorn as desired

Directions
1. Rinse, shell, and devein shrimp, reserving the shells and heads. Butterfly the shrimp.

2. Make shrimp stock: In a large sauté pan, heat the oil over medium-high. Sear the shells and heads until fragrant. Add the chopped onion, garlic, and tomato and stir until all ingredients are cooked through. Cover with water, bring to a boil, and reduce by half. Strain the concentrated stock through a fine mesh sieve.

3. Transfer strained stock to clean pot, bring to simmer and poach butterflied shrimp for 30 seconds. Strain the shrimp and chill shrimp and stock separately in an ice bath. Reserve 2 cups of stock for this recipe and reserve remainder for other dishes.

4. Slice the whole red onion in half, remove the heart, and finely julienne. Cover red onion with cup of orange juice and chill.

5. Toss the shrimp with garlic paste. Combine the shrimp, red onion mixture, habañero chiles, and cilantro and chill.

6. In a blender jar, combine the 2 cups of reserved shrimp stock, lime juice, ripe tomatoes, orange/tangelo juice, and ketchup. Process until smooth. Strain mixture through fine-mesh sieve and pour over the shrimp. Chill until ready to serve.

7. Just before serving, salt to taste and sprinkle with chopped cilantro and chopped peanuts. Garnish with plantain chips and/or popcorn as desired.

11

08 2014

Making crawfish étouffée

Spoonful of etouffeeThere are as many recipes for crawfish étouffée as there are cooks in Louisiana, but that’s probably because the basic recipe is so simple that everyone wants to add something to give it a personal touch.

As part of my instruction at Crawfish College in Breaux Bridge, Louisiana, I had the good fortune of meeting chef Dustie Latiolais of the hugely popular restaurant Crawfish Town USA (2815 Grand Point Highway, Breaux Bridge, LA 70517, 337-667-6148, www.crawfishtownusa.com). Crawfish dustie He showed my class how to prepare a classic crawfish étouffée at home. The key elements are the so-called “Cajun Trinity” of chopped onion, celery, and green pepper, and (of course) the crawfish. Latiolais thickens his with a red roux, which includes paprika as well as flour kneaded into the butter. The idea is to make a strongly flavored stock which is thickened with a roux so that it envelops the crawfish tails nicely.

CRAWFISH ÉTOUFFÉE

Ingredients

6 ounces (1 1/2 sticks) butter
1/2 cup chopped yellow onion
3 tablespoons chopped celery
1 tablespoon chopped green pepper
1 1/2 cups seafood stock (can be saved from boiling shrimp or lobster)
2 tablespoons soft butter
2 tablespoons white flour
1 tablespoon paprika
6 ounces crawfish tails

Directions

1. In heavy-bottomed saucepan melt 6 ounces butter over medium heat. Add onion, celery, and green pepper and cook until onion softens and begins to become translucent. Be careful not to brown butter.

2. Add seafood stock and bring to a simmer.

3. In small bowl combine soft butter, flour, and paprika. Knead together until uniform. This is your red roux.

4. Whisk roux into simmering stock, stirring vigorously to keep from lumping. Continue stirring until mixture begins to thicken (about 5 minutes).

5. Reduce heat and stir in crawfish tails. Heat until tails are hot. Serve over rice.

Cooking in Marrakech with Souk Cuisine


The Boston Globe recently published our abbreviated tale of taking a cooking class with the wonderful Dutch and Moroccan folks of Souk Cuisine in Marrakech. You can find the piece on our Sample Articles page. It was some of the best cooking instruction we have experienced because it enabled us to get intimately involved in the life and rhythm of the city and its inhabitants.

Even if your goal is to bargain your way through the souks (Pat was told she bargained like a Berber), it is hard not to work up an appetite when you keep encountering vendors like the back-street fruit man (above) or the citrus juice truck that stands on the main square, Jemaa El Fna. Everywhere you look, there is food. And if you don’t see it, then you are bound to smell it. Even before the charcoal braziers come out in the evening, the sweet scent of freshly bruised mint tempers the acrid dust of city. Marakshi drink an enormous amount of mint tea, which could explain why fresh mint is sold not by the bag, but by the armload.

Whenever we go someplace for a week or more, we often try to rent an apartment with cooking facilities, but the riad system in Marrakech was too enticing to pass up. Fortunately, Souk Cuisine filled the gap for us. As we describe in the Globe article, we made our reservation, met our guide in Jemaa El Fna, and set off through the markets with a grocery list, shopping bags, and a modest number of dirhams. With the aid of our guide, we selected ingredients and shopped for a meal. Not only did we dicker with the herb vendors, like this gentleman with fresh coriander, we also visited one of the city’s better spice shops for all the essential seasonings.

The hands-on instruction was first-rate, with a Souk Cuisine guide explaining in English (they also teach in French, Arabic, and Dutch) while Moroccan women demonstrated and literally held our hands to make sure we understood the techniques. We were taking the class, as it turned out, with a young Dutch couple and a Dutch family of mother, father, and three grown children. Everyone pitched in. Here you can see Anne-Mieki Móll mixing up the Moroccan tomato salad (see recipe below).

Sitting down to eat the fruits of our labors after an hour of shopping and a couple of hours of cooking might have been the greatest satisfaction of all. In a nod to western (i.e., non-Islamic) taste, Souk Cuisine even pops a few bottles of cold Moroccan rosé from the Atlas Mountains. As good as the meal was, we could not resist the lure of the open-air restaurants that set up every evening on Jemaa El Fna (below).

Souk Cuisine, Zniquat Rahba, Derb Tahtah 5, Medina, Marrakech, Morocco; 011-212-673-804-955; www.soukcuisine.com. Classes held daily, reservation required, 45 euros (about $62US) per person.

MOROCCAN SALADS

As we described in the Globe article, we were in charge of making couscous for the group. But Moroccan cuisine includes a number of salads that use the wonderful fresh local vegetables and herbs. They are less exercises in cooking than in cutting, which made them perfect for the cardiovascular surgeon in our group. Here are Souk Cuisine’s recipes for three of our favorites that we make at home. Note that most measurements are by weight rather than volume.

Moroccan tomato salad

Ingredients
2 pounds tomatoes
1 onion, finely chopped
1 tablespoon fresh parsley, chopped
1 tablespoon fresh coriander, chopped
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons vinegar
2 tablespoons olive oil

Directions
Peel the tomatoes, cut in half and remove the seeds. Cut the tomatoes into fine dice. Mix all ingredients and then add the vinegar and olive oil.

Zucchini salad

Ingredients
1 pound small zucchini
1/2 teaspoon salt
3 cloves of garlic, unpeeled
1/2 tablespoon fresh coriander (cilantro), finely chopped
1/2 tablespoon fresh parsley, finely chopped
1/2 teaspoon ground paprika
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
2 tablespoons vinegar
2 tablespoons olive oil

Directions
Remove the ends of the zucchini. Cut in half lengthways. Place zucchini and unpeeled garlic cloves in pot and cover with salted water. Bring to a boil and simmer until tender. Drain the zucchini. Peel boiled garlic and mix with spices, herbs, olive oil and vinegar. Pour marinade over cooled zucchini and arrange on platter.

Carrot salad with almonds and raisins

Ingredients
2 pounds carrots
1 1/4 teaspoons salt
4 ounces raisins
4 ounces almonds, unpeeled
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1 cinnamon stick
6 teaspoons sugar
1 teaspoon orange flower water
2 tablespoons argan oil (walnut oil makes an acceptable substitute)

Directions
Peel the carrots and slice lengthways. Remove the inner core of the carrots and cut the remaining lengths in cubes. Boil carrots in salted water. Drain after 15 minutes and leave a small quantity of water in the pan. Place again on the stove over low heat. Add the remaining ingredients to carrots in pan. Simmer until carrots are well cooked. Serve the salad lukewarm or cold.

26

09 2011

Mad for macarons


Montrealers have come to rival Parisians in their passion for macarons. Slowly but surely, pastry chefs all over the city have learned the techniques of making fabulous macarons – those delicate meringue sandwiches that bear only the slightest relation to the much cruder coconut-based American macaroon.

The leading macaron boutique for our money is Point G (1266 avenue Mont-Royal est; 514-750-7515; www.boutiquepointg.com). The name refers to ”Glaces et Gourmandises,” or ice cream and small pastries. In practice that means some fabulous artisanal ices (including a foie gras ice cream to take home and dollop on steamed asparagus), and close to two dozen inventive flavors of macarons, including lavender-blueberry, roasted pistachio, orange blossom, crème brûlée, lime-basil, and chocolate-hazelnut. The shop even has clear-plastic containers fitted to hold a dozen macarons for take-away.

Le Péché Glacé (2001 avenue Mont-Royal est; 514-525-5768) is best known for the ice creams for which the cafe is named, but also serves macarons filled with coffee, caramel, chocolate, and lemon ice creams. They’re tasty, but the ice cream can make the usually crisp cookies a little gummy.

These elegant treats aren’t just the purview of bakeries and snack shops. Some of Montreal’s best macarons come from the pastry chefs at Restaurant Europea (1227 rue de la Montagne; 514-398-9229; www.europea.ca), the fine-dining restaurant of master chef Jérôme Ferrer. The restaurant rivals our long-time favorite Restaurant Toqué! (900 Place Jean-Paul-Riopelle; 514-499-2084; www.restaurant-toque.com) as the top destination dining in Montreal. Ferrer is quite the entrepreneur. His Old Montreal snack shop Espace Boutique Europea (33 rue Notre-Dame ouest; 514-844-1572; www.europea.ca) often has macarons in the dessert case, and they’re often available as dessert at his Bistro le Beaver Hall (1073 Côte du Beaver Hall; 514-866-1331; www.beaverhall.ca). You can even buy a box of these sublime macarons at Birks Café (1240 place Phillips; 514-397-2468; www.birkscafe.ca), which sits on the mezzanine of Montreal’s most exclusive jewelry store.

Ferrer also offers cooking classes at Atelier Europea (www.europea.ca/atelier/index.html), the workshop in the basement of the flagship restaurant. The sessions on making macarons are taught by pastry chef Olivier Michallet, whose resume includes a stint at the legendary Paris pastry shop Ladurée, often considered the pinnacle of Parisian macarons. The classes are usually conducted in French, but cooking transcends language. They fill quickly, but David was able to secure a slot when we were there in early November finishing our research for Food Lovers’ Guide to Montreal.

MACARONS Á L’ATELIER EUROPEA


Makes 5 dozen cookies (30 sandwiches)

This is the recipe that the Atelier Europea uses in its classes. We have kept the original metric weights for ingredients because, as with all meringue-based recipes, weighing gives more consistent results than measuring by volume.

Ingredients

300 grams almond flour
300 grams powdered sugar
6 egg whites
90 grams water
300 grams granulated sugar

Directions

1. In a large bowl, combine almond flour and powdered sugar. Mix well. Add 3 egg whites and blend until thoroughly mixed to a smooth paste.

2. Add water to a non-reactive pot and stir in granulated sugar. Heat on low, stirring until sugar is well dissolved. Raise heat to high and monitor temperature with candy thermometer while preparing egg whites for meringue. Syrup should not exceed 121˚C (250˚F).

3. Place 3 egg whites in a metal mixing bowl (ideally in a stand mixer) and whip to medium peaks—not soft, but not stiff.

4. When sugar syrup reaches a temperature of 121˚C (250˚F), remove pot from heat. With mixer running, slowly pour syrup down side of bowl into egg whites. Increase speed of mixer and whip until whites form very glossy high peaks. Set meringue aside to cool.

5. Once meringue is cooled to warm room temperature, stir about a third of the meringue into the almond-sugar paste to incorporate well. Gently fold in the rest of the meringue.

6. Using a pastry bag with a 3/8-inch round tip, deposit about a teaspoon of batter per cookie onto parchment-covered baking sheet. Space about 1 inch apart. When baking sheet is covered, tap on counter to make batter settle. (Cover remaining batter with plastic wrap before assembling the next tray.)

7. Let sit uncovered for 15–30 minutes to allow a light crust to form. This helps ensure the desired texture of creamy interior and crunchy outer shell.

8. Preheat oven to 180˚C (350˚F).

9. Bake for 6–7 minutes, rotating pan halfway through.

10. Let fully cool on parchment paper. Then remove and make sandwiches. Europea macarons are often filled with rich and complex sweets like caramel fleur de sel buttercream, raspberry buttercream, chocolate ganache, or lemon curd. But we have found that purchased lemon curd or raspberry jam—or fresh berries—sure impress our friends.

18

02 2011

Making pâté chinois the cooking school way

In our most recent Montreal residency we were amazed by the explosion in cooking classes. Montrealers have always loved to go out to eat, but more and more they’re also dining well at home. One of the pioneers in teaching classes for the general public was the Académie Culinaire (360 rue Champ-de-Mars, 514-393-8111, academieculinaire.com), which has its offices and kitchens in a modern facility on the edge of Old Montreal.

The Académie created a modernized, jazzed-up version of pâté chinois that reflects the increased sophistication of even basic Quebecois cookery. We find it a wonderfully comforting supper dish on a cold winter night. The recipe required no tinkering at all, except that we adapted it for cooking in a 9×13 pan. If you prefer, individual portions can also be prepared in six small casseroles.

PÂTÉ CHINOIS

Serves 6

Ingredients

3 large potatoes, peeled and cut in cubes
1 tablespoon white truffle oil
1/2 cup heavy cream
salt and pepper to taste
12 oz. creamed corn
1 cup fresh or frozen corn kernels
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 1/2 pounds ground veal
1/4 pound pancetta
3 tablespoons sun-dried tomatoes packed in oil, diced
1/2 cup brown stock
salt and pepper to taste
2 tablespoons butter

Directions

1. Place the potatoes in a sauce pan and cover them with cold water. Season the water with a generous pinch of salt, and cook the potatoes until they are fork tender (7-10 minutes).

2. Place the cooked potatoes in a food mill and process them to prepare the mashed potatoes. Add cream and truffle oil and mix well to obtain a smooth texture. Season the potatoes to taste with salt and pepper. Reserve.

3. Mix the two types of corn together and reserve.

4. In a sauté pan, heat olive oil and sauté veal and pancetta. After a few minutes, add the sun-dried tomatoes and the brown stock and continue cooking until the meat has completely lost its pink color and the sauce has become thick. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

5. Preheat oven to 400°F. In 9×13 pan, create three even layers for the shepherd’s pie starting with the meat, followed by the corn and finishing with the mashed potatoes (using a piping bag fitted with a star tip will add flair to the finish).

6. Cut remaining 2 tablespoons of butter into small cubes and distribute over top of potatoes. Place in oven until the potatoes start to brown, 25-30 minutes.

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29

01 2011

Making your own lunch in Paris


We used to have a professional dancer friend from New York who always signed up for a dance class when she visited Boston. We thought it was an amusing quirk–until we discovered that most dancers take classes when they travel. At worst, they get a good workout. At best, they learn something new.

In that same spirit, I signed up to make my own lunch in Paris with a half-hour express class through L’atelier des Chefs (Chefs Workshop), which offers a whole array of cooking classes for home chefs and, judging by my classmates, for bachelors who are cooking for themselves for the first time and women who would like to relieve them of that chore.

Most classes take an hour to half a day to prepare a three course meal or learn the secrets of sweet pastry. But the popular lunch-hour classes have students make a simple meal with enough time left over to eat before they go back to work. L’atelier des Chefs supplies the tools, ingredients, and kitchen. You supply enthusiasm and an appetite.

I signed up from home through the all-French web site (www.atelierdeschefs.com) for a class in the Galeries Lafayette department store, near the Opera stop on the Metro and the most central of the school’s locations. The kitchen turned out to be a glassed-in cubicle in the kitchenware department, steps from shelves of the same knives, cutting boards, saucepans, and woks we would use to make honey-soy laquered fish fillets with stir-fried vegetables.

All the classes are taught in French, and my instructor apologized for speaking no English. I apologized for speaking such amusing French, and proceeded to nod a lot in the next half hour. Fortunately, cooking is best learned by watching and copying.

This uncomplicated dish was well suited to our group of varied cooking experience. Three women had taken several classes from L’atelier des chefs and could have made the dish with their eyes closed. Two young women and a man in business attire were learning self-sufficiency cooking and had to be shown how to hold a knife.

Even with seven of us, the instructor carefully corrected our vegetable cutting techniques, swiftly taught the precision knife nips to remove bone tips from a commercial fish fillet without messing up the shape, and made sure that we each shared in the stir-frying. Five minutes into the stir-frying, we put the honey-soy coated fish into the oven so fish and vegetables would be ready at the same time. As the fish came out, each of us probed the fillets with a finger to learn exactly how perfectly cooked fish should feel. It was an impressive amount of technique for a short class.

After a demonstration in plating (complete with a decorative drizzle of balsamic vinegar), we sat down to eat and the instructor passed sliced baguettes and poured glasses of wine. (Ah, lunch in France.) My weak French made me a less than scintillating dining companion, but it was adequate enough to understand that the instructor was explaining how to generalize our new skills for different fish and vegetables. Besides, the women were more interested in the handsome chef and the obvious bachelor.

For details on classes and locations, see the web site www.atelierdeschefs.com. Cost ranges from 15-72 euros.

HONEY-SOY LAQUERED SEA BASS WITH STIR-FRIED VEGETABLES

Fresh baby corn is usually available in Chinese markets. If substituting canned baby corn, add to the stir-fry after the bean sprouts.

Serves 6


Ingredients

2 tablespoons honey
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
2 tablespoons soy sauce
6 fillets of sea bass, about 6 ounces each
salt and pepper to taste

3 tablespoons olive oil
1 small onion, cut in half, then into thin vertical slices
10 ounces Chinese cabbage (one medium head), cut in 3/4 inch chiffonade
4 ounces French green beans (about 1 cup), cut in half-inch slices
4 ounces fresh baby corn (about 1 cup), halved, then cut in 1/2 inch slices
10 ounces bean sprouts (about 2 cups)
zest and juice of 1 lemon

balsamic vinegar for plating

Directions

1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.

2. Heat honey, balsamic vinegar, and soy sauce in sauce pan over medium heat, stirring until completely dissolved.

3. Carefully remove any remaining bones from fish fillets. Trim off the thin (belly) section of fillet and discard (or reserve for making fish stock). Add salt and pepper to flesh side of fillets. Place fillets skin-side up on lightly oiled baking sheet or silicon baking mat. Brush with honey-soy mixture.

4. Heat oil in wok and add sliced onion and Chinese cabbage. Cook two minutes over high heat, then add the green beans. Cook one minute more and add the baby corn. Stirring constantly, cook mixture another minute. Add bean sprouts and cook one additional minute. Stir in lemon zest and juice and remove from heat.

5. After adding green beans in step 4, place fish fillets in the oven and roast for 5-6 minutes, depending on thickness. Fillets are done when just barely firm to touch.

6. To plate, create a vertical line of vegetables across plate. Top with fish fillet and decorate with lines of balsamic vinegar.

14

06 2010