Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Cooking Class

Jordan shows us how to plate our crudo
It may not have escaped your attention that I love to bake. Cooking, however, I leave to my husband most of the time, as he's developed a passion for it over the past few years. So as his birthday loomed closer and closer and I had no idea what present to give him, I finally came up with the idea of going to a cooking class.

As usual, I turned to the wisdom of the Internet and found a few local chefs that had one-time classes within our budget. And after weighing a plethora of reviews, menu choices, and schedule, I decided on Jordan Schachter's class through Jordan's Kitchen. Seriously, I don't think I've ever seen someone with so many 5-star ratings on Yelp. Plus, his 4-course menus looked amazing, like something we'd be fairly likely to cook again, and the reviews talked about how down-to-earth and practical his teaching methods were. Sounded perfect.

The hubby was thrilled when I told him about his present, and even though I felt a little like I was gifting myself at the same time, I had decided to go along. This way we could enjoy an evening together, as well as being able to both learn from the class and cull our experiences when back in our own kitchen. See, I may not cook very often, but it doesn't mean I can't. My more common role these days is chief taster and feedback-giver for the hubby's creations. But I'm also good for helping him pair flavors, seasonings, and leading him away from less edible experiments.

We (impatiently) waited the few weeks until the class, re-reading the menu and trying not to drool in anticipation. We would be making four courses over four hours:
- King Salmon crudo, quick pickled cucumbers, radishes and black sesame
- Sweet chilled corn soup with wild shrimp and chive flowers
- Chicken thighs with housemade BBQ sauce, summer squash and goat cheese gratin
- Baked peaches in Riesling with mint, blueberries and whipped crème fraiche

Hubby pulls off chive flowers for the corn soup
We're not usually fancy foodie eaters, but all of these dishes were incredibly delicious, could easily be made again in our own kitchen, and really weren't as overly fancy as they sound. Jordan is a self-taught chef with a background in agriculture, so he really focuses on great-quality, local, fresh ingredients, and letting those flavors shine. I hate it when the food is so overly seasoned and messed-with that you can't taste the actual food. He does a great job of creating recipes that really star the main ingredients.

I'm not going to walk you through the 4 hours of class because it's really something that has to be experienced. But let me say that the reviews did not exaggerate - the class was fantastic, and definitely something we'd love to do again. I will point out a few things I loved.

Freshly cooked blueberries
First off, part of the reason I picked the class was because it was small - no more than 11 people. You can even have Jordan come into your home and do a private class if you like. The kitchen was a perfect size for the 13 of us - 11 students, Jordan, and Colin, his amazing assistant. Colin would clean our stations for us, take our plates after eating, show us around the kitchen, and was constantly keeping utensils clean and stocked for the next step. And he did it all with a smile, yet letting us feel like we had ownership of that kitchen for those 4 hours as well.

Jordan told us from the get-go that we could participate as little or as much as we wanted. For the duration of the class each of us was armed with an apron, tasting spoon, chef's knife and paring knife, and towel tucked into our apron strings. We each had a spot along the gorgeous wood-block island, which was perfect for when he would walk us through various knife skills, which we then tried our best to duplicate. What I loved about this part was that he walked around and gave each person helpful feedback on their knife skills, and had us continue to practice them throughout the class. Even the hubby learned a few things, even though he was pretty much the star student of knife skills (he practices a lot on his own, and loves it).

Adding the panko crumbs to the baked squash gratin
We were the ones really making the food - adding ingredients from the recipe sheet, milking corn cobs, crumbling cheese, sweating onions, slicing persian cucumbers on the mandolins, and chiffonading fresh mint. We plated our own food under his guidance, paying close attention to aesthetics. He encouraged us to work together, helping us each step of the way but never feeling the need to take over and do it himself or admonish someone for something not quite right. Sure, things didn't always go perfectly, but he took each situation and talked us through how to fix it, which in a lot of ways was more helpful than if the recipes had all gone perfectly. Troubleshooting in cooking is normal, and being able to turn those "oh %*@#!" situations into fantastic food is a sign of a great cook.

The class moved along at a good pace, but I never felt like I didn't know what was going on, or that there were steps I had missed. We ate after we had completed each dish, but we were juggling all four of the recipes throughout the class, which was great for thinking about real-life time management in your own kitchen. And we were encouraged to use our tasting spoons quite frequently. The four hours went by incredibly quickly, and we had more food than we could eat. The hubby and I would both love to go back for more classes from Jordan, and we weren't alone in that thought. There were even a few students in our class that had been to his classes before.

So are you ready for our food pics? Here's each course, my plate on the left (closer to the camera) and the hubby's on the right.

Appetizer of fresh salmon crudo with quick-pickled Persian cucumbers, radishes, fresh basil, and pea shoots (no, we didn't actually eat with our chef's knives!)
Chilled corn soup with wild shrimp and chive flowers
Main course of house-made BBQ sauce on chicken thighs, squash gratin with local goat cheese and panko crumbs, and lime chili fresh corn
Baked peaches in riesling sauce with blueberries, creme fraiche, and fresh mint
If it weren't already obvious, I highly recommend taking one of Jordan's classes - whether you're an experienced cook looking for new ideas, or just starting out and don't know the difference between sweating and carmelizing. It's fun with a friend, but don't be afraid to go by yourself either. It's a small enough class that you'll be interacting with everyone else anyway. And if the food p0rn isn't enough for you, can you tell that we had a lot of fun?

1 comment:

  1. This looks like a delicious menu and a great class! I'll have to look into it... ;)