Recently, a good friend and I have been trying to take cooking classes here and there. Nearly all have been demos, like the ones at Williams-Sonoma and at Cook's Warehouse, but we wanted something hands-on.
We finally found some classes that are held at a couple Whole Foods stores in the Atlanta area and booked one for yesterday where we would be preparing a New Orleans Brunch. On the menu were Pain Perdue (French Toast) with Berry Compote, 3 different types of Eggs Benedict -- one on a mushroom cake and tasso hollandaise, one on a grit cake with shrimp and asparagus and a veloute sauce, and the last on a corn cake with ham and a mornay sauce -- and finally, fried green tomatoes with a crab ravigote. Oh and how could I forget the cafe au lait and mimosas? Doesn't all that sound sooo yummy?
Anyway, when we got there we filled out some paperwork, then everyone got aprons and name tags, we washed hands, and were split up into 3 stations. My friend and I were assigned to the mushroom cake station, where she was tasked with slicing fresh herbs and scallions and I got to slice mushrooms. Ahem, not to brag (although I already did in the title), but we were complimented on our knife skills! Thank you, Food Network!
Once all of us finished prep work, we all came to the cooking area where we were going to start off making the fried green tomatoes and the pain perdue. We all got to take turns coating the tomatoes and frying them, and then we moved on to the pain perdue. Once we finished those, we got to take a break and eat the first round of our creations. The fried green tomatoes were good, the crab sauce that was on them was okay though -- there was something in it that I didn't care for. The pain perdue was to die for. Literally, because it had whole milk and cream in the batter and we cooked them in honey butter.
After we were done eating, we got started on assembling and cooking our bases for the eggs benedict. Note that so far we had done zero clean-up. There were assistants helping out that took care of all that. Now if I didn't have to clean up I would most certainly cook every day. Anyway, so we divided back up into our groups and set to work. Our mushroom cake mixture smelled and looked divine with all the fresh herbs and vegetables in it. We had some trouble forming the cakes and having them keep their shape because the mixture was a bit on the too-wet side, but they ended up doing fine. We also got to make the hollandaise sauce -- we took turns whisking the eggs and lemon juice over a double boiler, and then melted butter was added in at the end. I don't know if I could do it on my own, but it was cool to see it being made.
So all the groups made the sauces first -- we were busy with our hollandaise, so I didn't really get to see the other two being made. I just know they both used roux, and that the veloute had broth mixed into the roux while the mornay sauce had milk and cheese mixed into the roux.
Once all the sauces were done we cooked up the bases. The mushroom cakes somehow held up and smelled great. Once these came out, I added sauteed spinach and a dollop of our hollandaise on top. For the grit cakes, the grits were spread out onto a sheet and refrigerated to firm up, then they were cut into hearts using a cookie cutter and these were then dipped in flour and fried up. On top went some poached shrimp and grilled asparagus, then the veloute sauce. The corn cakes were cooked just like pancakes and the grilled ham and mornay sauce were put on top.
The assistants had already pre-poached eggs, so these were revitalized with some boiling water, and then we were ready to eat!
We ate SO much. I already told you about round one with the fried green tomatoes and pain perdue. Now we got to try each of the eggs benedict bases and then got 1 egg. I hadn't been able to finish the first round and most certainly couldn't finish this second plate. I would say my favorite by far was our mushroom cakes. Not necessarily because we made it, but it just seemed to have the most flavor of the 3. The cakes had fresh oregano, basil, and thyme, as well as fresh chopped peppers and garlic to add lots flavor. The hollandaise was creamy and tart, and the spiced sausage we used in lieu of the tasso gave it some bite.
I don't mean to tease you by telling you all about it and not having recipes or pictures to show how great it was. We got a packet in class that gave us the recipes for each of the dishes we made. Now I don't know if we're allowed to post them, but be assured you will see some variation of the mushroom cakes in the near future!
All in all, I had a great time. I really loved the hands-on aspect of it and it was just great to have this communal sense of accomplishment as we all finished our parts and then ate together. And I will definitely keep practicing my knife skills for next time! :)