One of the few (only) perks of my job is that we get to attend one cooking class every month for free. I've always meant to take advantage of it, but never did until tonight. Yesterday at work a certain very cute boy told me he was taking one tonight and asked if I cared to join him, so naturally I immediately went and signed up.
It turns out it was a class called "Prego Entertains," and was led by John Watt, the owner and head chef of Prego and Trevisio, both upscale Italian restaurants in Houston.
I don't know if I actually learned a whole lot of very useful information (unless I'm hosting a dinner party for 30), but damn, I sure ate a shitload of delicious food, and got 2 glasses of wine.
It started out with a Tri Colore Salad, made with an amazingly savory Lemon Vinaigrette dressing (actually, very similar to the dressing I always make with my salads at home, but with a few more little ingredients).
Then we had rigatoni with pancetta, roasted root vegetables and scallions. It was incredibly rich (as is most Italian food), and filling. This would be incredibly simple to make, actually, and I may attempt it myself soon. He made a creamy, but not too thick, sauce with heavy cream and white wine that was extraordinary that I would probably never attempt at home, but at least I'm pretty sure I could.
Next we had Salmon with caramelized onions and bianco. Again, very rich and heavy, but absolutely delicious. He also seared then baked the salmon, and I usually pan cook mine, so I'm going to start baking, I think. It doesn't dry it out as much, it's cleaner, and it keeps it so much more flavorful. I love cooking salmon, and I do it at least once a week, but I don't see myself caramelizing any onions anytime soon.
As the final course we had Sicilian spiced lamb chops on a bed of garlic spinach. I learned how to blanch (sp?) spinach to help it retain its lush green color, and cook easier. He mixed the spinach with the garlic, and again cooked it in some white wine, and it was the best spinach I've ever had and was absolutely gorgeous. As they were putting it on the plates before they passed it out, I was literally grinning from ear to ear, I was so excited to eat it.
I can say in the past couple of years, I've come to really appreciate healthy, homemade whole foods in a way I never used to. It's frustrating sometimes, because I have such little expendable income to spend on extravagant meals (because even cooking for one can run up to $10 or more), and often don't even know where to start. So I'm really glad I took the class. It got my creative cooking juices flowing and made me excited to maybe try some of this someday. And they give you the recipes to hold onto, so that's nice.
At the end they pass out a survey, and for any suggestions for future classes, I put down that maybe they should have classes on more "realistic" food for busy, fairly inexperienced people to make. And economic dishes for single people. Which seemed sort of depressing to write down, but hey, that would be useful.
So I think I'm gonna start taking more advantage of these classes, and try to take one every month. In May, they have the chef from 34th Street Cafe coming in, and I'd definitely like to jump in on that. As we were leaving, I told my friend that we'd just eaten probably $70 or $80 worth of food for free. That was exciting.