Sunday, March 16, 2008

Decadent Cooking

My good friend Peter and I went to a cooking class at the Viking Cooking School in Walnut Creek a few weeks ago- you part of Home Chef Store. Have you been? I love this place, it is full of gorgeous cooking utensils, pots & pans and a myriad of baking tools.

I signed up for this class because the recipes sounded over the top -decadent, delicious... with recipes such as:

Lobster Cakes with Champagne Butter Sauce
Herb Crusted Beef Tenderloin Stuffed with Wild Mushrooms
Asparagus with Roasted Shallot Pancetta Vinaigrette
Blue Cheese Souffle
Mixed Greens with Walnuts & Port
Key Lime Cranberry Cheesecake with Chocolate Crumb Crust

I know...don't you wonder who thought of all these recipes, whatsmore putting them all in one class? This is an ambitious amount of recipes which equates to a lot cooking in a small amount of time but when we signed up for this we didn't realize what that really meant... good thing Peter is an accomplished cook because without advanced cooking skills this would have been a tough class to master! We were speed cooking trying to get the entire menu done by the scheduled class end and our partners, (the students we were paired with) seemed to have little culinary experience. You could tell this by one woman's attempt to finely cut herbs with a massive chef knife; Peter rescued her by getting her the appropriate 4" knife needed for the job. I love Peter because he always maintains a calm demeanor even under pressure- so when the knives were flying with all our cooking and the unexperienced woman was wielding a huge butcher knife, he simply walked over, removed it from her hand and gave her the proper knife. With relief she took the knife and those around her were secretly relieved as well.

With that being said, Peter whipped up the egg whites for the souffle, I browned the duxelle mixture and stuffed the tenderloin with it. Have you ever done that before? Okay, so here's what you do- you take a knife sharpener- you know, that round, cylindrical spear and poke a hole the long way horizontally through your beef. Work the spear in circular motions to create a large space in the beef and then stuff your mushroom duxelle mixture into that space, the entire length of the roast. From there, you roll the beef in the herb mixture, brown it then put it in the oven for 20 minutes. What you have when you are done is nothing short of a masterpiece. When you cut the meat into filet mignon sized slices, you see the gorgeous cross section of red meat with herb crust and the core of mushroom filling. We'd been standing and race-cooking at this point for 2.5 hours so we were ready to dive in!

This alone with a salad would have been enough but coupled with the lobster cakes which were unbelieveable with the champagne butter sauce, and the airy yet thick blue cheese souffle left us weak at the knees. It would be unfair to post the recipes since they were created by the Viking Cooking School so I encourage you to check this place out if you want great instruction and superlative recipes.

The end of the meal introduced the unlikely Key Lime Cheesecake for dessert and you know what? It was amazing. I couldn't have been more surprised as were most of the students. You have to keep in mind, we were really full. We'd had a very rich meal, with one too-many courses- kind of like Monty Python with the, "One thin mint" scene. We just didn't think we could do it. But somehow, we managed because it was so good!

The notion of creating menus that inspire romance, that are decadent and rich is one that most people only dream of doing or more likely than not you'd just go out to a restuarant and purchase said meal. But, if you're an experienced cook and want to wow your guests or create an decadent meal for 2, have fun and search for recipes that inspire. We did, and this class provided us with a variety of recipes we'll be able to use time and again for special occasion cooking.