We’d been threatening to take a cooking class as couple for a long time and while I’d agreed in principle, I was apprehensive. I do three things around the kitchen pretty well, salsa, green chili and grilling/smoking. I can say that grilling is around the kitchen because the grill is literally right outside the kitchen.
Now that all the munchkins are draining my pocketbook while simultaneously getting a college education, we decided to try “Napa Style” cooking at home on a regular basis. Part of the deal was that I had to cook (not grill) more. My first attempt was a duck breast recipe I found on the Merryvale Winery website. It turned out well but I was a nervous wreck getting all the parts to come together simultaneously. Donna had to step in and help. Personally, I think my real strength lies in kitchen supervision with a nice glass of Pinot in hand.
With summer approaching and healthy eating on our minds, the class “A Fish
Tale” offered by Cook Street – School of Fine Cooking in the LoDo area of Denver seemed like an excellent choice and they gave us wine. What a deal. The menu was Mussels with tomato saffron sauce, Tuna Nicoise and Pan Roasted Salmon with Pesto and rice pilaf.
There were only 11 people in our class so we were able to really get our hands dirty and slimy. Remember, it was fish. Chef John Parks had a great low key style with a very dry sense of humor. As we were seated around the kitchen we were served Bieler Pere et Fils Coteaux d’aix-en-Provence 2009. This dry, rich, deeply colored rose is Syrah-driven (60%) blended with Grenache and Cinsault was a nice starter.
Donna was particularly interested in the mussels. While we’d been told they were easy. She found the whole idea pretty intimidating. As with most things in life, there was no need for fear. First, we de-bearded and cleaned the mussels then watched as Chef John prepared the sauce. Some of the class prepped the tomatoes; the rest of us prepped crostinis with EVOO and salt. The result was mussels in a mild but savory saffron broth.
Then came the real fun, we prepped a whole salmon. Chef John asked if anyone was squeamish about cutting up this 3 and ½ foot long monster as it starred up at us. A tough crowd it was and no one turned away. After Chef prepped one side of the fish I volunteered to prep the other side. I felt like a real chef with the huge knife in hand. As I cut the flesh away from the backbone my cutting style fell under scrutiny. It seems I swayed my hips too much creating an inconsistent knife angle. Damn…and I thought I was doing so well.
The rest of the class worked on the Tuna Nicoise which mainly consisted of slicing a beautiful tuna loin into small thin slices. Personally, I’d rather have put my grilling skills to work on a big thick cut tuna steak. We then watched and tasted while Chef John made the lemon basil pesto.
Everyone took turns pan roasting their own piece of salmon at high heat. The meal was served buffet style. Chef John wanted to make a counter intuitive point about wine/food pairing by serving red wine. In this case, it was La Vendimia 2008 (50% Garnacha Pais and 50% Tempranillo) from Rioja Spain. This is a lovely bright wine and proved to be an excellent pairing.
The well dressed fellow seated to my left was the only person not part of a couple. While we enjoyed the fruits of our labors, I asked him why he came to cooking school. He said that he was a single dad of two high school aged kids and wanted to be able to “amp up” their family dinners. In addition, he said someone told him cooking might help him get in touch with his emotional and creative side.
I don’t know if I got in touch with anything emotional but I learned a lot and had a great time with some very fun people. Would I do it again? You bet, but I still believe my real talents lie in wine enhanced kitchen supervision.