Italian Cooking Class

I occasionally enjoy attending a cooking class at Johnson & Wales in Charlotte, or more easily at A Southern Season in Chapel Hill.  Last week I attended a class by Chef Guiliano Hazan, whose mother Marcella Hazan wrote one of the cookbooks I used during Italian cooking this summer!  Chef Hazan showed us how to prepare a complete Italian meal, 4 simple dishes with really good flavor. I apologize for the quality of some of these photos, we were sitting in a room without a lot of light. Also, by the time we got the food towards the end of the class, I was so hungry I just wanted to eat it!! :)

Our first course, or “Primo”, was Leek and Chickpea Soup with pasta, pancetta and pecorino cheese. I actually found the full recipe posted on Hazan’s own blog, so you can make it for yourself. The soup was tasty and smelled delicious while cooking, but I found it to be the least exciting of the dishes we tried at the class – even though I really enjoy all these components together. What I found most useful about this demonstration was the chef’s treatment of leeks. If you’ve ever cooked with leeks you know that they can be very dirty, and the dirt is within the inner layers so it can be pretty hard to clean. Chef Hazan showed us how to slice the leeks to the desired size and just swish them all around in a large bowl of cold water.  As it sits for a few minutes, the dirt is washed out of the leeks and drops to the bottom of the bowl. Then you can lift the leeks from the top of the bowl, shake them off to drain and add them to your dish.

That’s one of the best benefits of attending a cooking class, not the actual recipes (which you can find online or in cookbooks), but the many tips and techniques that chefs have learned through cooking school or from their own experience.  The other great tip I learned at this class was how to wash parsley. It sounds like an easy thing, I know, but washing and chopping parsley can be a very messy job if you don’t dry the parsley completely before chopping. Chef Hazan showed us how he picks off the flat-leaf parsley leaves from the stems, then briefly rinses the parsley leaves.  He then places them on a layer of paper towel, covers with another paper towel and rolls them up into a cylinder.  He then rolls that cylinder back and forth on a cutting board or other surface to aid in absorbing all the extra moisture from the parsley.  After it is dried in this way, parsley is clean but dry and can be chopped very finely for use in various dishes.

Our “secondo” or second course, was Beef Chuck Braised in Milk, and Zucchini Sauteed with Fresh Mint.  The beef recipe was absolutely delicious, and I will DEFINITELY be making this one at home this winter!  It turned out like a very tender and savory pot roast, the milk making a lovely carmelized and flavorful brown sauce. I’ve included the link above to this recipe from “Every Night Italian” – available in Google books.  The zucchini recipe is similar to a recipe I made out of Guiliano’s mother’s cookbook earlier this summer, the full recipe is also on their blog.

Finally, our dessert for the evening was a Chocolate and Amaretti Custard.  This was a homemade egg custard with crushed Amaretti cookies and semi-sweet chocolate stirred into the hot custard to incorporate prior to chilling.  A deliciously sweet end to the evening. This recipe is also available on Google books from the link above. Overall, it was a great evening and tasty meal!

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