Friday, March 11, 2011

Cooking School - A St. Patricks Day Feast

My St. Patty’s Day Workshop at the Seasoned Chef Cooking School was an absolute great evening.  Since my sister in law Jodi asked me, I’ve been patiently waiting to see what the school was all about. Overall, it was a fun night with lots of great food. Let me give you a small picture tour of our prep. I was the only one there with a camera, so I was trying to be not so obvious when time allowed. That meant I didn’t get very many pictures, but you’ll get the idea by the time I’m done with my mini tour. 

First I was surprised at how quant the place was and I loved the red, black and white kitchen. Having a red stove would be rather fun I think. Once the chef introduced himself, did a quick walk through of the menu and gave us some safety rules, he assigned us to teams. It didn’t take long for Jodi and I to get into trouble. When he was showing us the giant RICER (aka: hand potato masher) I couldn’t help but pull Jodi in with an inside joke. The problem was, the teacher thought we were laughing at him. Being the “trouble makers in class” we were assigned to the bread. Yes…THE BREAD!! Apparently in cooking class world, that’s where they send people like us! Too funny! On a positive note, I do have a bit of experience with Irish Soda Bread, on the downside we didn’t get to be in charge of one of the other new dishes we would be trying. 

On the menu was:
  1. Beer -Cheddar Soup (My husband’s favorite soup)
  2. Irish Stew with Herbed Dumpling (After the Christmas dumpling disaster I needed this one)
  3. Corned Beef and Cabbage “Shepherd’s Pie” with Hearty Mustard  (Super Yummy)
  4. Colcannon (Mashed potatoes and cooked cabbage mashed together)
  5. Irish Soda Bread (Found out what a current was with this one..kind of like a raisin if you don’t know)
  6. Apple-Oatmeal Crumble with Irish Cream Sauce (aka: Whiskey and whip cream)

Once we were at our stations, all of us would proceed until we came to an important point in our demonstration and then we’d gather in one particular cooking area to see what was happening and listen to the chef tell us what was particularly important with that recipe. As an experienced cook, I was amazed at how many little things I learned in 3 hours. 

First up was our Irish Soda bread. After making it 3 times now at home and making it at the school, I realize my problem at home is not having a large enough bowl to work with. With most bread, less is more. The less you work it, the lighter it is. I was a bit embarrassed to ask exactly what a current was, but I did and found out, it’s just a very small type of berry they dry like a grape.  I like this recipe because it used both white and wheat flour, but I really do prefer the recipe I have a home. Someone on the Christmas boards gave it to me and it’s very, very yummy. I’m excited to try the new technique next week and see what Ciara and I come up with. 

Next was the Beer Cheese Soup. I don’t drink beer, but I do enjoy the scent and flavor it add when cooking. What I liked about this recipe was the use of leeks, instead of green onions and learning how to make a wet rue to thicken soups.  If you’re not familiar with leeks, give them a try and when using cheese in a soup recipe, always add it last once the heat has been turned off.  (Sorry, no picture of this cooking station) 

Then came the Irish Stew with Herbed Dumplings. As with most Irish Stews, this recipe used Lamb stew meat. I don't prefer to eat lamb by itself as a cutlet, but I do like it in stews. This recipe was super easy and Chef Witherspoon emphasized how to use cheaper cuts of meat by quickly browning and then braising (aka: simmering" the meat slowly till tender. I also learned that cooking in a crockpot is a form of "braising". Again, with breads the less you handle them the more tender and less dense they become. Once these dumplings were added to the stew, we didn't touch them again until they were done and ready to eat. 

Now comes one of my two favorites. Corned Beef and Cabbage Shepards Pie. The best part of this, is being able to use thick sliced corn beef from the deli. I can tell you, this is going to become a staple in our house for Ciara and I. Since Doug doesn't eat cabbage, it will be one of those treats we make when he's away or working late. The team making the shepards pie, ran out of time, so we made the Hearty Mustard Sauce. I normally don't serve a sauce with my corned beef, but I can tell you the mustard sauce added the perfect finishing touches. The chef forgot to add the cornstarch at some point, so they tried to add it after they had already added the potatoes. Didn't work to well, was a bit runny, but still tasted AWESOME! When making Shepards Pie, can never have to many mashed potatoes on top!

Colcannon ended up being one of my favorite dishes. It's a side dish, but the flavor of mashed potatoes, cabbage and green onions together was to die for. This I can get by with at home, because I'll just added the cabbage after Doug gets his serving of taters! For both mashed potato recipes, we used the ricer. It makes the perfect texture for mashed potatoes. The key to a good mashed potato is not beating them into a mushy starch blob. Ask my friend Lesley, she tells me she'd marry me if I could supply her with a life time of mashed potatoes. I love Lesley, but not that much! 

Last, but not least was the Apple-Oatmeal Crumble with Irish Cream Sauce. I love all things apple, but this recipe can really be made with any fruit. We also used Irish Steel Cut Oatmeal, which can be found in most stores now. I didn't get my dessert on the first go around, so when I went back I'm unhappy to say it was all gone, except one little apple slice and one spoonful of Irish Cream Sauce. For those of you who don't use alcohol in your cooking, you can leave the Whiskey out of the sauce, but it tasted sooooooooooo good with the crumble. Almost as good as Whiskey Caramel Sauce. 

When the evening was over, Jodi and I had decided we want to go back for the Bread class. Both of us love to cook and make desserts, but neither of us can bake bread. I've tackled my fear of cooking beef, now I need to learn to make yeast bread. I've already made this post into a novel, so if you are interested in recipes, let me know and I'll share them over the next week. 

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