For Valentine's Day I gave the hubby a cooking class at Sur La Table in Stony Point. We had done one of their classes before, earlier on in our relationship and had an awesome time. I love to cook but tend to fall into cooking routines and make what I am comfortable making (salmon, Asian noodle bowl things, Mexican, a lot of salads). I don't venture much outside of my cooking comfort zone and rarely make beef or pork dishes (not counting ground beef or bacon). So I signed us up for a Tuscan cooking class with pork tenderloin and risotto (something else I have never dared try) as the main dish. R loves Italian food so I knew he would be excited.
We went this past Friday night and had a really good time. The class was packed with 16 people (our last class only had 6) so that part was a slight drawback just because it was less intimate and the instructor was spread slightly thin with that many amateur chefs to watch over (and make sure don't burn/cut themselves or break the expensive equipment). They started the class with appetizers and then off we went.
We started making a pie crust for a lemon custard tart as the big group (R and I were called on to pulse a food processor and add butter, two things I feel fairly able to handle). After that we split into groups of 4 (we were at a table with a young college aged couple who were really nice and by the end of the class the instructor asked if we knew each other before the class!).
With our new friend!
We started by making lemon custard which was really cool. I liked this class because I feel like we did three techniques that have always kind of scared me, custard, risotto, and properly searing/cooking pork. The custard part was tricky because you have to cook the eggs and lemon juice in a glass bowl over a saucepan of simmering water at just the right temperature. The water can't boil and you need to take the glass bowl on and off the heat frequently, because if the eggs get too hot you have scrambled eggs which no one wants in a pie crust. You also have to whisk constantly. After our custard got to the proper heat (which the instructor could tell based on taste, he had super chef spidey senses) we added it to a blender that costs more than my car. We added a huge vat of butter piece by piece as we blended and boom, custard (there were a few more steps than that but just hitting the highlights here).
After custard we tackled the risotto. This was also really cool, because as an avid Top Chef watcher I know there are about a thousand ways to screw up risotto (as every poor chef on that show who attempts it almost always does). The trick with risotto (according to our instructor, who used to be a chef in NYC) is to cook the rice in oil until it "opens" (the way to tell, it smells like popcorn!), and only then start to add broth. You have to add broth bit by bit and stir the entire time as the rice absorbs the liquid. Our risotto ended up awesome (might be less about our technique and more because we added about a pound of butter and almost as much cheese).
The last thing we did was sear our pork tenderloin. Take aways from this are that meat should be room temperature when you add it to a pan (not cold right out of the fridge) and that you need to make sure your oil is hot before you add your meat if you want a good sear (also that teflon pans will make you die, as our instructor frequently told us).
At this point they pushed us out into the store (conveniently timed right after they gave us all a glass of wine) with our 10% off coupon. Of course we bought something (they enchant you with the wine and the cooking smells and all the fancy, shiny objects that you feel like you have to have, these people know what they're doing). We bought grill baskets (so excited about warm weather and grilling) and a gadget thingy that gets the stems off herbs (I know that sounds completely silly, but Sur La Table basically exists to sell kitchen gadgets that if you really think about them are really cool and pretty but absolutely unnecessary). Luckily they only gave us one glass of wine or we might have bought that blender and be forced to eat every meal for the rest of our lives out of a blender to justify the cost.
They let us back into the kitchen as soon as the instructor and delightful three lady helpers/magical kitchen elves had cleaned up all of our messes (and probably done quite a bit to the food to make it taste good and fool our silly selves into thinking we had done it ourselves). The food tasted SO stinking good. Again, I have never made pork tenderloin and I never order it, but I absolutely loved it and plan to cook it a lot more in the future (it's actually a pretty lean meat so really not much more unhealthy than a chicken breast). The risotto was also incredible and full of so much cheesy goodness. We licked our plates.
We finished things off with dessert. One word: mmmmmmmmmmmmm.
R and I shared one of these, and I almost had to stab him with my spoon to get my share.
Overall I highly recommend taking one of these classes. You learn cool techniques but in a very labor non-intensive way. The magical kitchen elves do all of the prep and cleaning (which are the worst parts about cooking anyway) so you leave these classes convinced you can make a meal like this any night of the week (with Sur La Table products naturally). Which you can't really. But you do leave a better cook than you started, and get to eat your delicious food (or at least the professionally prepared food they secretly swap out when you're not looking).
I'm a thirty-something mom of two, wife, pediatric RN, and writer with a passion for all the big and little things in life.