I know I promised an exciting blog post on Sunday, but I apparently lied. I have a paper due for my class and I told myself I couldn't put up a fun and exciting blog post until I finished my paper, which did not occur on Sunday as planned. It did, however, occur Monday around midnight. With that out of the way I'm ready for the excitement!
On Saturday, a local chef, Mr. Thomas Lantz of Trinity Catering in Kernersville, graciously came to our home to give MW and me a private lesson. Mr. Lantz is also an instructor at Guilford Technical Community College in the Culinary Arts Program. The lesson was actually a present from me to MW for his birthday. My aunt, who knows Mr. Lantz, put me in touch with him and he was more than willing to come teach us a lesson. He worked with us to find a menu that was perfectly tailored to our culinary interests both in taste and skills we wanted to learn.
Homemade Basil Pasta with sugar snap peas, basil and sausage in a cream, white wine and parmesan cheese sauce
Chili Rubbed Chicken with Honey Lime Glaze
Oven Dried Tomato CousCous
Red Pepper and Corn Relish
Creme Brulee with fresh berries
We explained that we love Italian cooking and learning more about it would benefit us most, and this was the menu he put together. Although he brought us recipes for all the wonderful dishes we made, he mostly taught us knife skills and how to time things well. We didn't use the recipes all that much as we cooked, but rather merely referenced them for guidance.
We started by making the homemade pasta dough. When he recommended that we make homemade pasta, I was ecstatic! I had bought MW a hand-crank pasta maker for Christmas and due to the business of school and work, we had not yet used it once. Being able to bust it out for the first time with a cooking veteran to guide us was way better than consulting Google every ten minutes for instructions. And making the pasta was such a breeze!
We started it straight on the counter-top, no bowl needed. You first make a little "bowl" of your flour (we used bread flour and semolina) where you crack the eggs into. Once you have your seasonings (we used blanched and chopped basil) you start to collapse to bowl onto itself, mixing and creating your dough. Then, like any normal dough, you knead it. I don't have many pictures of this process; I was just getting warmed up!
I let MW have the honor of kneading the dough,
since I'm the resident bread maker and get plenty of practice with that
Once completed, we balled up the dough, wrapped it up and stuck it in the fridge.
Next up we cut some roma tomatoes in half, seasoned them up with some fresh garlic, thyme, salt and pepper, and stuck them in the oven to roast for an hour (or few).
Then we started the Creme Brulee. Honestly, I wouldn't have even thought to plan ahead and make this next. Pathetic, I know.
Making creme brulee is almost as simple as heating heavy cream. The tricky part comes when you need to add the egg yolks. Since the cream is hot, the eggs would scramble if you just dumped them in. Instead, you need to "temper" the hot cream mixture into the egg yolks by taking ladles of the hot cream and adding it to the bowl of egg yolks. Once the eggs are warmed up, you can add them back to the pot with some vanilla bean/extract. Pour this mixture into some ramekins and place these in a baking pan full of water (you want the water to reach to about the middle of the ramekins). These will bake for about 35 minutes. Once done, pull them out and refrigerate!
At this point, we made some roasted red peppers by placing them straight onto our electric burners.
All you have to do is char the skins! It may set off your fire alarm, but it worked surprisingly well! You can also do this on gas burners or on a grill. Once they were nice and burnt, we let them cool and peeled off the burned skin. We put our new knife skills to work to dice the peppers and add them to some sweet corn fresh off the cob.
At this point, our creme brulee was ready to be carmelized.
They puffed up quite a bit, but they were absolutely delicious (I promise)
Chef Lantz showed us how to caramelize sugar with a torch
MW and I each took a shot
After putting those back into the fridge, it was time for our appetizer! We had to roll out the pasta and cut it, and allow it to dry for a few minutes. Fresh pasta cooks very fast, so we sauteed the sausage and some onions and garlic. Then we added wine and reduced it with the sausage. We threw our sugar snap peas and pasta in a pot of boiling water for about 2-3 minutes. When the pasta was almost ready, we added basil (which we cut in a chiffonade method, making little ribbons) and some heavy cream to the sausage and wine reduction.
Chef Lantz grated in some parmesan and combined the pasta with the sauce. It was out of this world. I don't usually like cream sauces. I never make them and when you order them at restaurants it seems they just pour a vat of cream and cheese onto your plate. But these noodles were so perfectly coated with thick cream sauce that I was instantly in love.
We ate this, reveling in the wonder of the balance of all the flavors. It was hard to stop myself from eating my whole bowl, but I knew there was much more ahead of us, so we tidied up and got back to cooking!
At this point, Chef Lantz gave me a tutorial on chicken fabrication. He had had us buy two fryer chickens (young, whole, RAW chickens, about 3-4 lbs.). I've included here a small video that MW took and edited with Chef Lantz walking me through the cuts. If you're vegetarian you may not want to watch this. As a meat eater, I strongly feel that people should, at least once, have an intimate connection with the meat that they eat. If you're going to continue to eat meat, you can't pretend that it comes nicely packaged for you without there being a sacrifice. We were very happy to find these chickens locally at the Reynolda Farm Market. They were from a Greesnboro farm that uses cage-free and sustainable methods of farming.
( I hope you are enjoying this multi-media post!!)
Thanks to MW for making this video.
After I thoroughly cleaned our working space, we pulled out our oven roasted tomatoes which looked fabulous. They had roasted in the oven for nearly 3 hours at this point.
The tomatoes we diced and added to some Israeli CousCous along with some onions:
These were eye opening! It was so easy and so delicious. MW uses sun-dried tomatoes to spruce up a lot of his cooking and we both enjoy them, so now we can just make a batch at home and use them throughout the week.
We coated the chicken with a chili rub and a honey-lime glaze
and then pan seared them to perfection
This is where everything quickly came together for the culmination of the day of cooking
How beautiful!? And absolutely wonderful.
This was such a pleasant experience and we are still so grateful for the time that Chef Lantz took to come and teach us a full multi-course meal. We were able to use a ton of things from our garden and enjoyed using a lot of local, fersh ingredients. We learned so many useful things about how to cut foods more efficiently, how to make our own roasted red peppers and sun dried tomatoes (something we'll use regularly) and how to work with the food to make each flavor pop. As he said, in Italian cooking, you cook from the heart.
Oh, and of course I can't forget the Creme Brulee, which we had much later that night (in PJs).