Sunday, February 19, 2012

Cooking class

For my birthday, my parents got me a gift card to attend a cooking class at Kiss Z Cook. David and I went to class on Friday night, and it was great.

(Side note/funny story: The gift card was for the amount of one cooking class. About a month after receiving the gift, I realized I couldn't find the card. I looked and looked and looked..... nothing. Obviously, this was a problem. It was also a surprise, as I'm generally pretty organized. David and I got in an argument about my organizational skills--or lack of, in his opinion--but when it came down to it, there was no card to be found. My mom still had the receipt, though, and the company said we could bring that in in lieu of the card. We were already planning to visit my parents that weekend, so we got it from them then. My mom gave it to David, who took several pictures of it on his phone before putting it in his car. The receipt was lost two days later. I got to laugh at David and make some "I told you so!" comments, and we had to call Kiss Z Cook and explain the situation yet again. And yes, it was starting to get embarrassing. However, they agreed to honor the "gift card" at a class as long as we brought in David's phone with pictures of the receipt. These people are awesome!)

The class was an Italian cooking class. There were 20 people (10 couples) working in groups of four to make dinner. The class started off with everyone being served drinks of their choice. David had a beer (I forget what it was called) and I had a glass of wine (Torrontes, a type of wine from Argentina). I'd never heard of this kind of wine, but a couple of the assistant chefs told me about it. (Read more here and here.) Here's a picture of me before class (note the wine in hand):

See the snazzy red aprons? They were a must, as the cooking got a little messy.

We started out by going to the front to watch the chef do a little prep work. Actually, the first thing he showed us was how to roast a red pepper. It got my attention and let me know right away that I'd be learning a few new things over the next couple of hours.

First, he greased the pepper in olive oil, then he put it on the stove to roast it. Like, directly on the stove. The stoves were gas (apparently you can't do this on electric stoves), and he had us put the pepper right on the burner, directly over the flame, turning it ever so often

Next he showed us how to prepare the veggies--chop onions, slice and peel tomatoes, mince garlic... you get the idea. Apparently there are techniques to doing this properly.... who would have thought? I got to work with fresh basil for the first time (yep, I generally use dried herbs and spices that come conveniently in bottles, all ready to sprinkle on your dish), and I must say, the fresh stuff really does make a difference.

A note on the chopping: a good knife really does make a big difference. I've heard this before but experienced it firsthand at this class. The knives we have at home are not fancy or expensive at all, and they're probably not as sharp as they should be, either. They get the job done, but they require a good amount of work from the user.

These knives were a whole different story. The first one I used sliced easily through the basil and minced herbs without too much trouble. I say "too much" because an assistant chef came over to watch when she noticed I wasn't chopping the herbs as easily as I should've been. She thought the knife was a little dull and brought me a sharper one. And THAT was when I really noticed a difference. WOW. I chopped the thyme up really easily. No scraping the knife back and forth across the cutting board, trying to get it to cut into small enough pieces. I just simply had to use it in the rocking motion the chef had shown us, and in no time, it was ready to go.

After that, I was a believer. I was ready to buy one of those knives.... until we saw a display of them for sale. The price tag? $240. Hmm... perhaps I'd have to find a less expensive version, or wait for a sale.

After the prep, we got started on the cooking. First up: Caprese salad. I've had this many times before, but thanks to a little variety in the recipe and new cooking techniques, this was one of the best Caprese salads I've ever had. (I don't want to say too much about the recipes, partially because I don't want to give away the company's recipes, but also because I don't remember any of them. We didn't actually take copies of the recipes with us.... they are going to email them to us next week.)

We made two main dishes. One was shrimp with polenta. I don't remember the exact name of the recipe, but I do know that it was good. I'd never had polenta before, so, needless to say, I'd never made it. The other couple who was working with us actually did most of the cooking on this one, but it was good to learn how to make polenta. And I love shrimp, too, so this dish was definitely a winner.

The other main dish was probably my favorite part of the whole meal. I don't remember what it was called (again, I don't have the recipes on me), but it was beef cooked in a skillet with vegetables (like red pepper and onion--yum!) and all kinds of spices. Delicious!

Dessert... I don't want to brag, but this was where David and I proved how awesome we are.  :)  The dish was supposed to be made with berries and this type of dough called phyllo, and that is what it ended up being, but plans changed a little along the way.

An assistant chef came over with a plate covered in a wet paper towel. She asked if who would be making dessert (us or the couple we were working with), and David and I said we would. She asked if we'd ever worked with phyllo before, and we responded by asking what it was. Ha! Turns out it's a type of very thin dough. You can read more about it here, but what we learned was this: it must stay damp or it tears easily. Actually, even if it is damp, it tears easily.

She told us to layer it with butter and bread crumbs. It was a tricky and very slow-going process, and we kept getting small tears in the dough. Overall, though, we were doing pretty well, and we were about halfway through when the chef announced that the phyllo was being particularly uncooperative and we were going to scrap that plan. David and I didn't want to give up on it, though, and we showed the chef our tray and asked if we could keep going. He said ours did look good and to continue. We finished layering the phyllo and cooked it as instructed.

When it came out of the oven, the chef came to inspect it. He told us how well it had turned out and said he'd use it to make dessert for the whole group. So, thanks to David and me, the whole class had dessert that night!

After we finished cooking, it was time to eat. I think I've mentioned this before, but the food was delicious! We got to spend some time with the other people in the class and get to know them, and for the most part, they were very friendly and had a good time.

One thing that I didn't expect was to make an entire Italian dinner without any pasta. I mean, Italian food? Pasta seems like an obvious choice. Looking back, though, I'm glad we didn't, because it gave me a chance to try some new recipes that I probably never would've known about otherwise.

The people who worked at Kiss Z Cook (the chef, the assistant chefs, other helpers, and the main who talked with me on the phone at least five times about our gift card trouble) were so friendly, helpful, and knowledgeable. I can't say enough good things about them. The class was a "date night" class and, at $125, isn't something I would do every week, but I would certainly go back in the future to try something new.

Thanks for a great birthday present, Mom and Dad! And thanks to Kiss Z Cook for a great experience and some new recipes!


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