My beau loves to surprise me so when I saw in the calendar that there was a super secret birthday night I was was excited but not too surprised. The question in my mind: what were we going to do? I’ve made several guesses over the past couple of weeks (he loves the torture of it all) but it didn’t click until he started loading up left-over containers into a market bag. “Are we going to a cooking class tonight?” “Yep.” Smiles all around – him and me. I may or may not have done a little dance but he definitely got hugs and a kiss or two. I’m a bit of a nerd and love going to these types of classes. I get to try out new recipes and meet new friends. I like the social aspect of it all even more than the food. But the food was good.
So off we went to Cambridge School of Cooking, bag full of containers. We walked to the class building where they had four classes set up. Note for anyone who decides they want to join: knock to get let in. They keep their doors locked for security reasons after a few items mysteriously walked away while prepping for classes. The instructors are more than happy to help you get where you need to be if you start in a different classroom.
Class started on time and tasks were divided up based on what everyone wanted to do. We got the prosciutto wrapped shrimp after not speaking up quickly enough for the Cornish hens. Whoops! The shrimp was a quick and easy app that can be prepped ahead and served day-of for the holidays. They took more time to prep than cook.
After that it was the mains. Cornish game hen with a gravy and a sausage and apple stuffing. Beef tenderloin with a cherry gravy. The meat was cooked perfectly for both. The instructor definitely paid a lot of attention as these were coming out of the oven and being checked. I really liked the hens and stuffing overall. No changes to the hens. I got more meat than anything else in the stuffing when I really wanted more bread and apples. Something to pay attention to in the future but next time I won’t be trying to grab food as fast as possible to make the line run smoothly! On to the beef tenderloin. Grabbing a piece of cherry with every bite was heaven. It was good on its own but I really loved it with a touch of cherry from the gravy. Thinking about it, I kind of want to swim in some of that gravy right about now. People frown on that, though, don’t they?
The sides were an Israeli cous-cous with roasted butternut squash and risotto cakes. The cous-cous. It needed a bit more depth. Rehydrated golden raisins or craisins. Maybe some pine nuts on top. It had a sweet note from the butternut squash but it needed some savory flavoring. (Leftover solution: the cherry gravy on top of the cous-cous. Yum.) The beau wanted a pop to the cous-cous itself. Its something I’d make but I’d adjust the recipe to have a lot more additives. Oh! Maybe some rough chopped parsley? Maybe? The risotto cakes were sensitive. The instructions said to brush the cakes with eggs then coat them and I ended up doing this in a four step process to decrease breakage. 1. brush the top with egg-wash 2. flip over into the breadcrumbs with a fish spatula, gather crumbs and return to the tray 3. repeat steps 1 and 2 4. before returning the cakes to the tray, swoosh in the breadcrumbs to cover the top and press the breadcrumbs into the cakes to fully coat. These were super crispy and the beau loved them. I think I’d prefer to stick to risotto balls or arancini.
Dessert was a chocolate mousse. Yum. Who doesn’t love chocolate? The real surprise was the wine pairing. It was our favorite of the evening. Pineto Brachetto D’Acqui, in case you’re curious. It was a good wine and it just got better after a taste of chocolate. I will repeat: it was very yummy. Definitely a part of our future because the mousse can be made ahead of time and refrigerated until you need to pull it out to serve and the wine is one that the beau and I can both agree on.
The big positives and negatives of the evening:
The only negative that I can come up with for the evening is that their knives aren’t all that sharp. It was frustrating.
The positives included good food, guidance on wine pairings and the ability to try a bunch of different wines without actually purchasing all the different bottles. Everyone there was warm and welcoming so you’ll meet a good group of people if our evening was representative. Some of our classmates had been to the school before for other classes and planned to keep coming back. I liked being able to experiment with a bunch of different recipes all at once. And did I mention that they take care of the dishes for you? I don’t love dish-washing so this is a giant bonus for me.
All the recipes were by our instructor, Jen Murray. She teaches at the cooking school and runs her own business called The Urban Chef where she does wine tastings/pairings, catering, cooking classes, and meal prep. To give you an idea of how fantastic she is, I’ve included the app below. For meet her, you’ll just have to go to class with her!
Proscuitto Wrapped Shrimp with a Cranberry Dijon Dipping Sauce
1.5 lbs large scrimp, peeled and deveined (there were ~48 shrimp so a 31/35 bag)
1 lb Prosciutto, cut in half lengthwise twice (aka quartered, essentially)
1-15 oz can jellied cranberry sauce
3 Tbsp Dijon mustard (the completely pulverized version)
1/4 cup Maple Syrup (the real stuff)
2 Tbsp orange zest (2-4 oranges, our were older so…3)
1/8 cup orange juice (half of an orange)
Combine the cranberry sauce, mustard, maple syrup, zest and orange juice in a small sauce pan over medium heat. Whisk until smooth (I just broke it up and let it sit then stirred…) Keep warm until serving then transfer to a bowl.
Wrap each shrimp in a piece of prosciutto and secure with a toothpick. Coat the saute pan with a sheer layer of oil and heat over med high heat until the oil shimmers. Add shrimp so that they’ve got about an inch of room about them. *Batch cooking* Cook 4 min on the first side then flip and cook for 2-3 min. You’re looking for crisp prosciutto and opaque shrimp.
Notes: I removed the toothpicks and piled them up right on the platter. I’m thinking that a better first stop for these guys would be a plate covered in paper so that the serving trays stays clean. Also, the shrimp are solidly cooked. I grew up in a house that just cooks its seafood so while I loved the flavors, the seafood itself was a little overcooked for me. Please note that most people would consider the seafood my mom and dad make undercooked… The beau thought they were perfectly cooked so it really is a preference thing. The sauce is super delicious and the only adjustment I would make would be to play with it to make it from scratch. The flavors were spot on and it was nice and creamy because a jellied cranberry sauce was used.