Monday, September 6, 2010

Class Act

Last weekend I donned yet another hat... culinary instructor. Central Market, the gourmet grocery store that I shop at several times a week, got wind of my MasterChef experience and proposed I put on a cooking demonstration in their cooking school. Ever eager for a new challenge, or an opportunity to be in front of an audience, I jumped at the offer and immediately began putting together sample menus. Since breakfast is truly the meal I am most enthusiastic about, I opted for a brunch themed class. Brunch is really just a prolonged breakfast elevated by champagne and bloody marys, and who doesn't love the sound of that? To me there is something all at once casual, and yet sophisticated about hosting a brunch, a privilege that manages to say something like, "I am leisured enough to laze about in the first half of the day be drunk by noon". As the class date drew nearer I began having panicked moments of dread- somehow I had overlooked the fact that I had selected a date which coincided with a major travel holiday... "What if no one comes?" was a common phrase espoused in the days leading up to the class. Saturday morning I arrived to a flurry of staff washing, prepping, and assembling trays of ingredients that I would be using for my various recipes. It was quite amazing to see actually... employees with actual culinary pedigrees working swiftly to accommodate my specifications so that I could stand up front with ease and play for 2 hours and get paid for it. I felt slightly guilty at first, but after doing the math and realizing I spend more in their store for food than I do on housing, I decided it must all balance out. When the door opened up 15 minutes before class to a line out into the hallway, I realized my apprehension about an empty class was completely unnecessary- there was not an empty seat. My menu was a celebration to the of summer (it pains me just to type the words), with berries and colorful veggies that will soon be out of season (sigh)- Berry Bruschetta with Honeyed Mascaprone Cheese and Berries, Frittata Primavera, French Toast with an Apricot and Maple Glaze, Baked Brown Sugar Bacon, and the requisite alcoholic beverage, Prosecco Cocktails. Aside from ending about 15 minutes early, the class went smoothly and was by all accounts a success. I shamelessly pilfered through all of the written reviews that were left by the guests and all but one had raved about the food and rated me as "excellent". The lone nay-say-er rated me simply as "good" and commented on the menu being too simple and similar to things she had done already (I am unsure why she booked the class to begin with as the menu was clearly posted). Anyhow, a good lesson learned is that you simple can not please everyone, as another woman wrote how thrilled she was that the dishes were items that she would actually make and be able to replicate. The greatest compliment by far was seeing how far some had traveled to come to the class- a mother and daughter had come from Marshall, 150 miles away, just to see me. The culinary director Carol Ritchie, who is one of the sweetest and most lively woman I have ever met (and with whom I share an uncanny mother-daughter resemblance), left me with a bottle of Prosecco as a gift, and an invitation to return, which I will be doing, very soon!

*To anyone from the class who is reading, I would love for you to send me the photos that were taken so that I may post them on the C&C Facebook page!

Frittata Primavera

1 TBS olive oil 1 bunch asparagus, trimmed
1 zucchini, chopped
1 large shallot, chopped
3/4 to 1 cup cherry tomatoes
2 tsp fresh oregano
10 eggs
1.5 oz goat cheese, plus more for garnish
salt and pepper

preheat oven to
heat the olive oil in a large 12 inch oven proof skillet over medium to medium high heat
add the the asparagus and the zucchini and saute until slightly softened, about 4 minutes
add the tomatoes and shallot and cook for 2 to 3 more minutes
season with a sprinkle of salt and pepper and the oregano
whisk the eggs until fluffy with 1 tsp salt and and a pinch of pepper
add the eggs to the pan and let set for about 2 minutes before placing in the oven for about 15 minutes, until puffed and golden
run a spatula or thin knife around the edges and invert onto a cutting board
slice, top with a few sprinkles of goat cheese, and serve

Baked Brown Sugar Bacon

1 pack of best quality, nitrate free bacon
about 1/4 tsp of garlic powder
a few grindings of black pepper
1/3 cup brown sugar

preheat oven to 350 degrees
place the bacon on a wire rack that has been placed on a rimmed baking sheet
sprinkle evenly with the garlic powder, pepper, and brown sugar
bake until crisp, 30 to 35 minutes

Challah French Toast with Maple Apricot Glaze

6 to 8 slices Challah bread, sliced 3/4 inch thick
1 1/2 cups milk, warmed
3 egg yolks
3 TBS brown sugar
1/2 tsp cinnamon
2 TBS melted butter, plus more for frying
1 cup maple syrup
3 TBS apricot jam
2 tsp Grand Marnier

place the bread on a wire rack, set atop a rimmed baking sheet and bake in a 300 degree oven for about 15 minutes, flipping half way through
reduce heat to 200 degrees
whisk together the milk, yolks, brown sugar, cinnamon, and butter in a rectangular baking dish and soak the bread for about 20 seconds per side, until saturated but not overly soggy
heat a large skillet over medium low heat and add about 1 TBS butter until foamy, then add the bread slices and cook for 3 to 4 minutes per side, placing cooked sliced back in the oven to keep warm
when all of the toast has been cooked, add the syrup, jam, and liqueur to the pan and warm through

Prossecco Cocktails

fill each persons flute with Prossecco or champagne, top with 1 tsp Chambord and garnish with a fresh raspberry

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