What do I want when attending a cooking class? Excellent instruction, a friendly environment, and of course tasty eats that can be duplicated at home. That is exactly what I received last Sunday evening during my first cooking class at Vancouver's premium culinary school, "The Dirty Apron".
Our instructor for the evening was co-proprietor of the school, Chef David Robertson, former Chef de Cuisine of Chambar and now travelling chef for the Vancouver Canucks. The course I selected was San Sebastian Tapas, an exploration of David's journey through Spain's infamous city, and mecca for some of the world's top rated restaurants.
Our first tapa was a ragout of black olives and one of my favourite cooking ingredients, the mighty pork sausage, Chorizo. Known for its gorgeous red hue, this salty, paprika spiced product is a staple in Spanish cooking. Underneath the ragout was a disc of olive oil soaked goat cheese, which we quickly baked in the oven, creating a wonderfully gooey surface for the rest of the food to sit on. This was finished with a small handful of frisee lettuce, a reduction of vinegar for sweetness, and of course lemon juice to cut through the richness of of cheese. Probably my favourite dish of the evening.
We followed up the ragout with some lovely Serrano wrapped scallops, which sat atop a velvety smooth cauliflower puree. For those who are not familiar with Serrano, just imagine a Spanish version of the more well known Italian ham, Prosciutto. After searing the scallops, we hit them with a bit of olive oil and sherry vinegar.This was finished with a hint of truffle oil and some parsley oil for colour and freshness. Overall a great plate of food.
The most exciting part of the class for me came next. The Foie Gras tart. That's right. Nothing like using force fed duck liver to get me going. Some of my fellow classmates were not as excited to use this highly conversational product as I was, however, Chef Robertson did his best to educate us on the process used when feeding the ducks. Most people have been given false information about Foie Gras. They assume the force feeding would affect the animal it in the same manner it would a human being. This is entirely incorrect. He explained how the animals liver and gag reflex are entirely different from one of a human. He also discussed the way his providers care for the ducks during their lifetime; even playing them music if you can believe that. In the end, he let use decide what side of the fence we wanted to stand on. I can tell you that I have my feet planted firm in the ground right beside his.
So I give you my spiced Fois Gras mouse tart, with grapes, caramelized onions and a sexy sweet reduction of port wine.
We finished the evening off with some seared white tuna, which we first lightly smoked with cinnamon. This was served over a tomato and lemon orzo and finished with some micro greens. This plate screamed summer to me. I couldn't help but jump a few months forward and imagine how perfect it would be in the middle of July. I will certainly be making this one time and time again in the near future.
Between Chef Robertson's tales of travel, the warm and friendly smile of our server, the family style dining table where we shared our creations, the fabulous selection of wine and beer, and overall professionalism of the entire class, I would highly recommend the school to anyone who is looking for a fun and educational evening. In fact, I intend on going back in just a few weeks. If I could just make my mind up on which class to attend next!
For more information on attending one of the Dirty Apron's cooking classes check out their website at:
aka The Seasoned Palate