Elegant Italian: Cooking Class @ Loblaws PC Cooking School

I have taken all the Black Label PC classes, with Elegant Italian being the last one. I was very excited about this class because I have been wanting to learn how to cook palenta for a while now and one of the recipes uses palenta. When I arrived at the class I felt mixed emotions. I was excited to take the class and sad that this would be the last class in the series.

I entered the room and looked around. I could not help but the feel the Christmas spirit. There were flowers and candles all over the dining table which was set up like what you would expect a dinner table to look like when you are having dinner with the family during Christmas.

As I usually do, I sat down to review the menu. It did not take long for me to realize that several recipes required a lot of onions. I was disappointed. I have attended 3 other PC Black Label classes in the past and their use of onions was very limited, and when cooked, it was done with a lot of spices so I could not even taste them in the meal. In this case however, I knew that I would not be able to eat half the meals that we were scheduled to make today. But I had to stay optimistic. Maybe I was over-thinking it. I had to just relax.

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I took this class in December of 2012, so it was nice to see that the season was considered when decorating the room. It felt very festive.

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Ingredients for recipe #1: Caponata topped crostini with fried eggplant-based condiment.

This was the longest recipe and the one that required the most onions. Unfortunately, as soon as we got up to choose a station ( 16 people per class so 4 per station), everyone gravitated to all the other stations but this one.  It was too late for me to join one of the other 3 stations since they had enough people. There was only myself and another student left without a station so we became responsible for this recipe. The irony. The one recipe that I did not want to work on.

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Ingredients for recipe #2: Puttanesca shrimp over polenta. The recipe I wanted to work on and the one with no onions. Oh well, I am always up for a challenge.

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Ingredients for recipe #4: Zabaglione with mandarin oranges & blackberries as dessert. I always enjoy dessert, so I was looking forward to this one.

)Somehow I missed the ingredients for recipe #3: Pork with marsala mushroom sauce)

At the beginning of the class Chef Lorraine took some time to learn our names and educate us on the history and background of the ingredients and dishes we would be making. Throughout the class Chef Lorraine made herself available to all of us.  Any questions or concerns were eagerly attended to by Chef Lorraine. Imagine 16 people calling out your name at the same time and waving you over. Well, that was pretty much what Chef Lorraine had to deal with, and she did it with such enthusiasm that it made us more excited to cook and learn.

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Here you have the final product of the Caponata topped crostini with fried eggplant-based condiment. A mistake I made that I will not make again is that I cut the celery too thick, so it did not cook fully. I do not know how it tasted since I did not try it, but everyone around the table seemed to love them. They were grabbing seconds and thirds. A sign of a successful dish.

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Here you have Puttanesca shrimp over polenta. Yes, the one I was looking forward to. I found this dish to be quite good. It had large shrimps  marinating in  a tomato sauce that was made with ingredients such as anchovies and olives. I did find the polenta to be a bit bland, but I guess it could not be too seasoned since the star of this dish were the shrimps and the sauce.

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Here you have the pork with marsala mushroom sauce. I took a bite of this dish, but I stopped at one bite unfortunately. I love pork and I love mushrooms, so I would have loved this dish, but picky me could not get past the shallots.

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Here you have the final dish: Zabaglione with mandarin oranges & blackberries for dessert. I enjoy fresh fruits when combined with heavier and creamier ingredients.  This was a hit for me.

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Dinner is served.

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Chef Lorraine and moi. Oh she was so lovely.

I enjoy food. I love eating it, taking pictures of it,  and writing about it. However, there is one ingredient that I simply will not eat, and that is onions. I cook without them and I ask for them to be omitted when eating out. That’s just me. This does not mean that a dish with onions will not be delicious. That’s just silly. I do not know many people who dislike them like me. So I am an outlier in this case. So, putting my preferences aside, these dishes were loved by all the students. There was excitement and a lot of chatter as everyone passed the crostinis around.

This class was a wonderful end to a series of classes that opened my eyes to food I had never seen or tasted before. Yet,  in addition to being exposed to new food, I learned great skills and tips from the amazing chefs who as teachers shared their wide breadth of knowledge and skills with us.

Thank you!

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