Last weekend I attended an Ina Garten inspired cooking class with my boyfriend’s mother, Pam. He’s alright, but his mother is what truly sealed the deal. Since I am no longer going to doctor’s appointments every week, we had to find new ‘adventures.’ We both love to cook, so I forwarded her a Sur la Table email on a whim and the next thing I knew, I had a cooking companion!
The class is a little pricey, but I was impressed with how well organized it was. As someone that spends their paycheck at the grocery, I know that the ingredients we used were not cheap.
Things I liked about it: someone had already prepped the ingredients for me, the kitchen was ten times bigger than mine, and I did not have to do the clean-up. You also receive 10% off anything you purchase in the store on the same day as your class and $20 off your next class. Both dangerous perks!
Things I didn’t like: I realized that I read a recipe and then I’m ready to go. I do not usually follow it step by step, so I thought there was a lot of pausing. You’re not allowed to take home the leftovers due to liability issues, so you must eat as much as you can while you are there. I had at least three bowls of the soup, half the chicken, a little shrimp salad, and as much crème brulee as I could muster while still being able to walk at the end of the night.
We are already planning to go back in a few weeks for a Tuscany themed class, so the pros far outweigh the cons. Besides, it is always fun to spend time with Pam. I packed two Williams-Sonoma aprons for us and it did not even occur to me that it is an ‘imposter’ brand and should probably not be worn at a competitor (Sur la Table). Whoops. Our instructor was sure to call us out on that. They do provide aprons, but they’re white and generic. I had done my homework and knew what we’d be working with. Ours were colorful and had pockets, which is important in my world.
Our other faux pas was letting the heavy cream explode on the burner. This happened within the first five minutes of class. Each couple had a cooking station equipped with a professional grade burner. The temperature was in Celsius or something funky that I was not familiar with.
I was trying to figure out which empty bowl was supposed to be used as our trash bowl (where you throw your egg shells and other unnecessary items) and then BOOM: heavy cream everywhere. The Sur la Table instructor was very nice about it, but I received a few eye glares from the posse next to us. Keep in mind, they were the same people that were completely perplexed when we had to separate the yolk from the egg white…
The soup was by far my favorite and the flavors were amazing. I hardly ever buy leeks and it was a great way to introduce me to it in something that tasted really good! I plan to re-create it and while we used an immersion blender right in the pot, I will throw mine in the Vitamix and let it go.
The shrimp salad was even surprisingly good and refreshing. I am not big on mayo, unless it’s on a BLT, but the flavors worked and the lemon added a nice zing.
I make roast chicken all of the time and have a few different recipes on the blog, but I had never butterflied a chicken before, so I learned something new! You need a very sharp knife and you basically cut out the backbone. This is not a task for a vegetarian and I was even a little intimidated about my knife skills and hacking through it, but laying it flat in the skillet ensures that it cooks evenly.
You can also eat the lemon slices that roasted underneath the chicken. It seems weird to eat the skin, but if you think about it, how many times have you eaten the zest of a citrus fruit? Consider it a little added fiber.
The crème brulee was basically an excuse to use a torch. I was full by the end of the meal and the brulee was extremely rich. I ate a portion of it, but it is definitely a dessert you would want to share.
If you’re planning to make the entire menu, we assembled the brulees first (since they take the most time), then the chicken, then the shrimp salad (to allow enough time to cool in the fridge), and then the soup.
INA’S ROASTED CHICKEN
Recipe via Barefoot Contessa
2 teaspoons fresh thyme leaves
1 teaspoon whole fennel seeds
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/3 cup good olive oil
1 lemon, halved and sliced ¼ inch thick
1 yellow onion, halved and sliced ¼ inch thick
2 large garlic cloves, thinly sliced
1 (4-pound) chicken, backbone removed and butterflied
½ cup dry white wine, such as Pinot Grigio
Juice of 1 lemon
Preheat the oven to 450 degrees.
Place the thyme, fennel seeds, 1 tablespoon salt, and 1 teaspoon pepper in a mini food processor and process until ground. Pour the olive oil into a small glass measuring cup, stir in the herb mixture, and set aside.
Distribute the lemon slices in a 12-inch cast-iron skillet and distribute the onion and garlic on top. Place the chicken, skin side down, on top of the onion and brush with about half the oil and herb mixture. Turn the chicken skin side up, pat it dry with paper towels (very important!), and brush it all over with the rest of the oil and herb mixture.
Roast the chicken for 30 minutes. Pour the wine into the pan (not on the chicken!) and roast for another 10 to 15 minutes, until a meat thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the breast registers 155 to 160 degrees.
Remove the chicken from the oven, sprinkle it with the lemon juice, cover the skillet tightly with aluminum foil, and allow to rest for 10 to 15 minutes. Cut the chicken into quarters or eighths, sprinkle with salt, and serve hot with the pan juices, cooked lemon, and onion.
INA’S SHRIMP SALAD
Recipe via Food Network
3 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 lemon cut into quarters
4 pounds large shrimp in the shell (16 to 20 shrimp per pound)
2 cups good mayonnaise
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
2 tablespoons white wine or white wine vinegar
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
6 tablespoons minced fresh dill
1 cup minced red onion (1 onion)
3 cups minced celery (6 stalks)
Bring 5 quarts of water, 3 tablespoons salt, and the lemon to a boil in a large saucepan. Add half the shrimp and reduce the heat to medium. Cook uncovered for only 3 minutes or until the shrimp are barely cooked through. Remove with a slotted spoon to a bowl of cold water. Bring the water back to a boil and repeat with the remaining shrimp. Let cool; then peel, and devein the shrimp.
In a separate bowl, whisk together the mayonnaise, mustard, wine or vinegar, 1 teaspoon salt, pepper, and dill. Combine with the peeled shrimp. Add the red onion and celery and check the seasonings. Serve or cover and refrigerate for a few hours.
WHERE’S THE SOUP?
Here’s the deal, Ina’s asparagus and fennel soup is in the newest cookbook, Cooking for Jeffrey, and is not yet online. However, she does have a pea and fennel soup from one of her first cookbooks and it’s pretty much the same. Swap out some peas and add some asparagus. You can find that recipe here.
INA’S CHOCOLATE CRÈME BRULEE
Recipe via Barefoot Contessa
1 extra-large egg
4 extra-large egg yolks
½ cup sugar, plus extra for topping
3 cups heavy cream
8 ounces bittersweet chocolate, such as Lindt, chopped
1 teaspoon instant espresso granules
¼ cup coffee liqueur
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
Preheat the oven to 275 degrees. Place six (8-ounce) ramekins in a roasting pan large enough to hold them completely flat.
In a large heatproof bowl, whisk together the egg, egg yolks, and sugar until just combined. Meanwhile, scald the cream in a medium saucepan. Off the heat, add the chocolate and espresso and whisk until the chocolate is melted. Slowly whisk the cream mixture into the egg mixture, then whisk in the coffee liqueur and vanilla. Transfer to a large measuring cup and pour into the prepared ramekins until full.
Place the pan in the oven and carefully pour enough of the hottest tap water into the pan to come halfway up the sides of the ramekins. Bake for 40 to 50 minutes, until the custards are set on the edges but still a little jiggly in the middle when gently shaken. Remove the custards from the water bath, cool to room temperature, wrap in plastic, and refrigerate until firm.
To serve, spread 1 tablespoon of sugar evenly on each custard. With a kitchen blowtorch held one inch from the surface of the crème, heat the sugar until it caramelizes evenly. Allow to cool for 5 minutes and serve.