Dream Shard Blog: The Scintillating Adventures of Our Household

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Oct '11

John & Shannon Learn to Cook

On Friday we had a date night that involved going to a cooking school and taking a class.

I have grouched on here before numerous times about my lack of cooking finesse (most recently here). When I saw Groupon offering a cooking class for 50% off I went for it and bought one for both me and John so we could go together.

It was a bit of a time commitment when you consider the cost of babysitters, but it was worth it. It took us an hour and a half just to get there, when it should have been an hour or less, so we were late. But the other students were just chilling, eating chips and homemade dip and drinking wine. We were in the minority for once; there were more wine-drinkers than not.

After we got our aprons on and introduced ourselves we got up and went to work. The class is three hours (actually, it went late and was four), and in that time you work in teams to make, and then eat, a four-course meal. We signed up for “Classic Steakhouse.” (Come on. You’re not surprised “steak” is in the title, are you?)

The menu was:

mushroom caps stuffed with crab imperial
iceberg wedge salad with homemade bleu cheese dressing
oven roasted asparagus
twice-baked tall potatoes
bacon-wrapped filet Mignon with Bearnaise sauce
bananas foster

This type of cooking was fantastic because all the ingredients you needed were already set out on neat little trays in the appropriate measurements. Oh, and someone else was there to clean up after you. So wish I had that at home. I’d cook all the time.

We were in a team of five. First up was the appetizer of crab-stuffed mushrooms.

Let me just say now that John hates both crab and mushrooms.

But here he is so diligently stirring the crab meat mixture anyway. Because he is a team player.

As we prepared the food our instructor, Shaun (female), guided us and occasionally I’d learn something new. Like about how you should clean mushrooms with a mushroom brush instead of in water. Huh. We didn’t believe there was such a thing as a mushroom brush until she whipped one out and showed us.

After preparing the appetizer we made homemade bleu cheese dressing. I don’t have pictures of it, but it was easy and I think I’d be silly to ever buy the stuff in a bottle again because this tasted so much better.

Next up was asparagus. We learned how to snap off the bottom third, and how if you want to keep asparagus fresher longer in the fridge, put the ends in a bowl of water. (Hear that, Mom?) We tossed the asparagus in olive oil with salt and pepper and arranged it on a tray (actually, a rack on top of a tray) to bake.

Then we made the steak. Which was pretty much the reason most people signed up for the class. We are all great steak lovers (or married to one).

Shaun said that the only grocery store she will buy fresh meat from is Harmons, but that mostly she gets it from CostCo.

We wrapped our filet in bacon (easy) and secured it with a toothpick. Then we heated olive oil in a skillet until it was smokin’ hot before adding the fillets. We seared them on each side and seared the bacon around the sides. Then the skillet went in the oven for a few minutes to finish cooking.

Then, The Beast: Bearnaise sauce. It’s one of those tricky sauces that can go wrong easily, like hollandaise sauce (which I’ve made twice–and I only had to do it twice because it failed the first time).

Bearnaise sauce has delicious fresh tarragon in it, which I’d never used before but it smells so good. It uses shallots, too, which was also new to me.

However. We completely goofed up the sauce the first time around. You have to whisk the base constantly while slowly adding melted butter, and if you add the butter too fast or too low or breathe wrong, the sauce will break–meaning it falls apart into a grainy mess instead of getting thicker and more beautiful. I don’t know what our problem was, but we flunked. Only one team out of three made their sauce right the first time around.

By the time we finished the sauce (twice), it was close to 9 pm (which is when the class was supposed to end). We hadn’t eaten anything except the chips and dip when we first came, and we were ready to dig in!

So we did. We sat around the table and talked and ate while the kitchen staff served up the food we made.

First up: mushroom caps stuffed with crab. John tasted it and then gladly gave up his serving to seafood-loving team members. I thought the crab mixture was good and would be really tasty on a toasted baguette, but I didn’t love the mushroom. (I really don’t like mushrooms in general.)

Our salad was good. The bleu cheese dressing was a little heavy on the lemon, but it was still miles ahead of the store-bought stuff.

Then the entree. We had our oven roasted asparagus, which was crispy and so tasty with the oil and salt and pepper. The twice-baked tall potatoes were good and creamy (although we realized we forgot the salt and pepper, and we all agreed next time we’d add more cheese). And, the steak! Crispy, juicy, melt-in-your-mouth goodness. Yum.

Last up was the bananas foster. We basically made a caramel sauce with bananas in the skillet, and then set the whole thing on fire. Except the flame was totally unimpressive. I didn’t get a picture of the piddly flame, or of the final product, but we ate the bananas with Häagen-Dazs ice cream.

It was such a wonderful night. We enjoyed the food, the company, and the experience. I have heard people say that they love getting together and cooking for friends, which I never really understood. But this was really fun, relaxed, and now I understand what it means to get together to break bread with friends.

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