Sunday, January 23, 2011

A little Cajun/Creole learnin'

I'm a home cook. I'm not a chef. I'm not trained at all. Some of the things I make are restaurant quality and some are....not.

What I'm trying to say is that I always relish the chance to learn about cooking and expand my skill set. DB~ got me and my brother-in-law a cooking class at Le Cordon Bleu for Christmas. The one she got us was Cajun Cooking. What a perfect way to spend a January morning (3 degrees when I left the house).

With Le Cordon Bleu announcing that they will be closing after the last batch of students graduates, approximately this time next year, it was the perfect time to squeeze a lesson in from a master chef before they close. My brother-in-law is married to my sister, who is a chef (different from me being a cook). Chef is not her actual job, but it very well could be. She has a mastery of what goes with what, what tastes good, and the ability to invent and replicate recipes on the fly. And her husband is right behind her in terms of ability.

I wasn't sure what to expect from the lesson. But it far exceeded my expectations. There were about 12 of us in one of the kitchens there, complete with multiple burners for range cooking, multiple ovens, every spice you could want, and any utensil you need. Chef Snyder had pre-printed recipes for 10 different things waiting for us and he read through each of them. All of the ingredients were pre-cut (for safety and liability reasons). An added bonus was that 6 Le Cordon Bleu students were there to assist us. They would answer questions, help cut stuff, deep fry things for you, basically another set of hands.

My brother-in-law and I looked over the recipes for Seafood Gumbo and Shrimp Creole and said "We could do those in our sleep" so we decided to tackle some interesting side dishes: Arroz Verde (Green Rice) and Charred Corn and Black Bean Salad. The Green Rice, more Mexican than Cajun, was a Pilaf style rice with cilantro/spinach/garlic/green onions pureed and added to the rice. The first half was added on the stove top to the rice and chicken stock. This sauce pan was then put in the oven for 20 minutes to bake and absorb the liquid. When it came out the other half of the green puree was mixed in for added color.

The Corn and Black Bean salad was very easy to make. First we charred the corn, canned because of the weather, in a heavy iron skillet (very heavy, couldn't lift it with one hand) until it browned just a little bit. Then we sauted the Holy Trinity (bell pepper, onion, and celery) in the skillet with some oil. This was added in a large bowl to the reserved charred corn and then mixed with black beans, lime juice, lemon juice, lemon and lime zest, olive oil, salt and pepper. The piece de resistance was some roasted garlic cloves that we squeezed out into the salad mix.

The picture above is only about 3/4 of what the class made. We ate for nearly an hour, sampling the treats we crafted:

Seafood Gumbo
Shrimp Creole
Marinated Beef Tenderloin
Margarita Chicken
Green Rice
Corn and Bean Salad
Fried Hush Puppies
Asparagus Salad
Pecan Pie

If anyone wants to know of the specific recipes for any of these, let me know in the comments

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