Thursday, February 10, 2011

South of the Border Cooking Class

Figure: Miss Outlier, Chef

This is actually a woefully old post, but one of the nice things about establishing a routine is that I can be productive. So I'm getting around to posting things I've always meant to share! Oh wait - productive was supposed to apply to RESEARCH? Details, details...

In February 2010 (gulp - where did the time go?) I took a class from the Cambridge Culinary School of the Arts. The cooking school offers classes on the weekends to the public. Some are series - baking, or international cooking, or just the basics - and some are single day courses. I signed up for a one afternoon class, called South of the Border Cooking. And the best part? Getting to use the professional kitchen! Drooling, drooling...

Figure: We're wearing aprons. Must be official.
Figure: The teaching podium, where the instructor demonstrated techniques.

Look at that cool mirror above the instructor's table - it shows you the bird's eye view, so you can see the ingredients and watch what the hands are doing!

The class had ten people, and the instructor lead us through making an authentic Mexican meal. Or at least I'm told it's authentic, how would I know... The students were split between the dishes (or the dishes between the students?), so one or two people would work on each recipe.

Figure: Other students intent on preparing their dishes.

The recipes we prepared were the following (and yay, I got to take home all the recipes!):

Marinated and Grilled Shrimp with a Chipotle Pepper Sauce
Chicken Mole
Grilled Flank Steak with Ancho Chili Cream Sauce
Green Rice
Chicken Fajitas
Fresh Tomato Salsa
Salsa Verde
Refried Beans
Grilled Pork Tenderloin with a Peach and Macadamia Nut Salsa
Bittersweet Chocolate Cake

Does that not just make your mouth water? YUM! I was assigned the chocolate cake (no need to twist my arm on that one, I assure you).

Figure: Measuring out Mexican chocolate for my dessert

It was neat to hear the other students in class chattering away with their teammates. These two ladies in particular kept the class lively!

Figure: Ladies making roasted peppers.

 I claimed a saucepan and spot at the stove, to make the chocolate topping sauce.

Figure: That's heavy cream. Oh yes.

Because the kitchen was all open, I could peek over shoulders and watch the other dishes come together.

Figure: Preparations for mole chicken.
Figure: Chicken being mole-d.

I felt like a fancy chef on a TV show - I got to have fun with the presentation (or, "plating") as well as actually making the dessert.

Figure: Plates for the chocolate cakes, dusted with cocoa powder.

 At this point, the ladies making the shrimp appetizers finished the dish, so we all got to take a mid-class break and sample our efforts!

Figure: Shrimp, completed quickly, as appetizers are meant to be - and eaten quickly, as good food is meant to be!

After our break, I continued on and finished making my little cakes in individual ramekins.

Figure: Miss Outlier at work!

The kitchen smelled so good, it was ridiculous.

Figure: Grilled Flank Steak
Figure: Setting up the buffet. You can see green rice, flank steak, refried beans, and chicken mole.
Figure: Our instructor (see the hat? nobody else got a hat).
Figure: Meat! Pork and chicken.

When everything was ready and set out on the buffet, the whole class got to enjoy the meal.

Figure: Sitting down together.
One of the couples taking the class had brought Mexican beer to pair with the meal, and they generously shared with the class. Seemed only appropriate!

Figure: South of the Border, baby.

Let's get a close up of that, shall we?

Figure: Oh, life is good.

It's really cool how food brings people together. At the beginning of the day, none of us knew each other. At the end of the afternoon, we were laughing and joking and passing the salsa.

FIgure: Because really, who doesn't like food?

I ducked out of dinner a bit early to put the finishing touches on dessert. And because one of the students had a birthday, the instructor even provided a little candle for one of the cakelets. How cute!

Figure: Looks downright professional, if I do say so myself.
 The finished dessert:

Figure: Basically a chocolate lava cake made with Mexican chocolate, topped with a fudge sauce and whipped cream.

The day was a success - I learned a lot, ate good food, and got to indulge my inner Julia Child! Maybe someday I'll take another class... the baking series looks particularly tempting...

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