Monday, June 06, 2011

date night, DIY style

Over the weekend, the Dearest and I went on our first date night in a while. I had planned this date night out some time ago and didn't tell the Dearest where we were going...I just told him that it was something we'd never done before, and that he had to wear close-toed shoes. I'm sure that led to some crazy speculation on his part!

But no, we didn't go zip-lining or bungee-jumping....instead we did this:


It was a "Date Night" cooking class at the Laguna Culinary Arts Institute! When we arrived, we were given aprons and shown to our stations....

prep stations
Whew, that's a professional kitchen set up, isn't it? A little bit intimidating even if you are a decent home cook.


We were joined by four other couples- it turns out each couple had one person who did most of the cooking and other one was there to learn how to cook better. In our case, I was the 'home cook' and the Dearest was the aspiring cook. Don't we look like pros?

ready to cook
After a short introduction on how to best handle/use the knives, Chef Anna led us in preparing the lemon curd for dessert. That required whipping egg whites over a double boiler on the stove for at least 10 minutes.....and let's just say that everyone was taking shifts because after 2-3 minutes of constant whipping our arms were getting TIRED. I don't know how the pro chefs make it look so easy when they whip something by hand. If I have to make whipped cream I always use my Kitchenaid and if I was making this recipe at home I would have been sorely tempted to use a hand mixer to do the whipping on the stove.

Once we had the curd made, we stashed it in the walk-in to chill while we worked on the rest of dinner. First course was asparagus soup - it only took about 20 minutes to make but it was SO GOOD. We all sat family-style around tables in the dining room and happily slurped up our soups. Then it was back into the kitchen to work on the side dishes.

Chef showed us how to blanch veggies and use an ice bath, then we worked on making a compound butter of lemon and tarragon. We cooked orzo, added lemon and parsley to flavor it, then moved on to preparing the salmon. First we seared the filets in a very hot pan, the moved them to the oven to finish. Check out the Dearest 'working the line':
line cooks!
With all the people at the stoves, there was much shoulder bumping, elbowing and jockeying of position- all in good fun! And here is the finished plate:

dinner, plated and ready to eat!
Seared salmon topped with lemon-tarragon butter on a bed of lemon-infused orzo and a side of sauteed spring veggies. SO YUM!

After we finished our main course, it was back into the kitchen one last time to assemble the trifle. Pound cake, lemon curd and berries were layered to create these:
lemon curd trifles
And no, they weren't supposed to be overflowing but this was our final course and some of us had had 'some wine' so we got a little enthusiastic filling the cups! It was amazingly delicious-like a restaurant-quality dessert! We ate so much over the course of the class that I could barely move once we got home! And we came home with a big box of leftovers, too.

The whole night was great fun and the Dearest said he really enjoyed the surprise. We might have to take another class with friends as I can see this would be even more enjoyable with a group who know each other well.