(Original article appeared on my previous blog: my30before30.com)
My new thing: taking newlywed friends to Vancouver’s Dirty Apron Cooking School! Glenda was the first friend I ever made while studying Biochemistry and Kinesiology at Simon Fraser University (I wrote about her earlier this month and the cool signs she made for one of my field hockey games!). We both missed each other’s weddings this past Summer unfortunately, since I was in France while she was in Vancouver, but I love that we were able to spend some quality time together before and after our celebrations, and also on this particular evening!
It was a success taking Rosine here back on the Fall for the Ocean Portion Seafood class (read all about it here), as part of her wedding gift . My preamble was how Rosine and I bonded at work making food together. Well, Glenda and I have certainly shared many meals together (back when we were starving university students) but we had never cooked together. Glenda kept saying she didn’t know how to cook, but as you can see from the photo above and the tantalizing photos below, her statements were all lies! (and/or the cooking school did its job!)
Eric and I have had her over for dinner parties, but cooking together was going to be a completely new experience! And I am a huge fan of being able to help give someone a new experience. That’s why I’m so persistent about inviting friends to rock climb with me, or join my running teams 😉 In my honest opinion, the best gifts are either something that is super practical (like my vitamix which I’ve used to make homemade nutella, or our sous vide machine), something sentimental (like a photo album), or a really awesome experience such as a fantastic dinner or getaway.
Glenda and I are all about getting a good value so we wanted to do a meat class. We eventually settled on “French Food Revolution”
France from Field to Shore:
Join us for a culinary ‘Tour de France’ as you learn to prepare dishes that highlight the skills and techniques used in French cooking – inland and at the coast. Starting with an extravagant Wild Mushroom & Truffle Crepe with Herb-crusted Beef tenderloin Medallions, followed by an Oven-Roasted Mediterranean Bass with Lemon Caper Butter Sauce, this delicious journey through France is rounded off with an irresistible Chocolate Soufflé.
The dining room where you eat your creations is sooo nice!!! I love the rustic decor and long wooden table.
When you arrive, you are offered sparkling wine and aperitifs. You also get a dirty apron branded apron and folder with recipes that you get to keep at the very end.
Here is the main room with (I think) 20 people.
Our chef/instructor was showing us how to prepare our tenderloin medallion and gave us tips on how to touch your meat to tell when it’s done. It should feel like the fleshy part of your hand underneath your thumb for medium rare. We were given meat thermometers at our cooking stations but our chef said he was against them.
Our meat sizzling in the pan with a beautiful golden colour.
This is Glenda getting chastised for sticking the meat thermometer all the way through! And the hilarity begins!
As illustrated in my previous Dirty Apron write-up, we were given a tray with all our ingredients already measured out before we began cooking. This helped to save time while also allowing us to be very hands-on!
Some steps are already completed for you as well (usually the easy stuff). In this case, the batter for our extravagant crepe was pre-mixed.
I accidentally tore a whole in my crepe (what will my French family think!?) and luckily, one of the assistant chefs came by and gave me some spare batter so I could quickly create a new one! Thank you!! The lesson is, never skimp on buttering/oiling your pan.
Extravagant Wild Mushroom & Truffle Crepe with Herb-crusted Beef tenderloin Medallions
I started to fold up my crepe when I thought it looked kind of cool left as a fan – leaving the nice crispy edges of the crepe to show through! It’s not as perfectly packaged and neat, but it did the job.
We had lots of time to eat and drink wine before being invited back to the room.
And then. we were IN FOR A SURPRISE!!!
We were given a WHOLE FISH and instructed to FILLET THE FISH!!!!
Wow….. that was an experience!
Although we were wary and apprehensive, we both were pretty delighted to learn a completely new and unexpected skill! OK wilderness, I can totally take you on now!
In University, my lab classes were always where I performed the best. From Organic Chemistry lab to Anatomy, I loved being able to use my hands and see things happen right in front of me.
So taking on this fish? No big deal.
The next step was searing the fish to create crispy skin. I thought I had this in the bag! (See, last time!).
Glenda put her fish in the pan first and started to “swirl it around the pan” like our chef demonstrated.
“It’s not swirling! It’s sticking”
So I thought, “oh man, I better start swirling mine!!” But it wouldn’t move! I started scraping at it firmly and before I knew it, I had one hot mess.
I was mortified!!
There was no way I could hide this disaster with some garnish this time around 🙁
“Be honest”, I said to the chef, “This is the ugliest piece of fish you’ve seen in this class!!”
“Nooooo”, he said. The whole staff was super nice and encouraging. Told me I should I just have left it. And then..
And then, they gave me the demo fish! Oh thank goodness!! Another surprise!!! I guess they always have an extra one in case someone royally messes up like I did.
Oven-Roasted Mediterranean Bass with Lemon Caper Butter Sauce
The portion was so gigantic and generous that many of us packed it up in a box to go. The sauce was incredible and so simple to make. I found from my last experience, that after you go through the steps of cooking, it’s much easier to replicate again.
Finally, we were onto dessert.
We agreed that given our earlier mishaps, we were going to nail this soufflé!!!
While we were waiting for our soufflé to bake and rise (12 minutes) we toured the shop that was connected to the school.
The whole team and staff was very friendly and entertaining!
12 minutes later, our timers went off.
And THIS happened.
So much for “killing it” in the good sense!
Well, it’s all in the presentation right?
We scraped off the sides, dusted icing sugar, and then drizzled in chocolate sauce.
Irresistible Chocolate Soufflé
Nothing but smiles! I poked a hole in the soufflé and poured the hot chocolate sauce in the middle. The quality of the chocolates made for an incredibly decadent and rich chocolate dessert.
Although I had done a class before, this was a completely different experience. I made a few mistakes but learned a lot, ate a lot and had a wonderful evening with my newlywed friend!!!
I highly, highly recommend signing up for classes – this makes an amazing gift. I wouldn’t buy this for myself, but for an important occasion it is worth every penny! I was so happy to hear that after Rosine’s experience, she ended up buying classes for her sister and husband as a present!
This may be the birth of the next top chef – congratulations again Glenda! Thanks for all the laughs!! And for the surprise cooking utensil gift. I will think of this night every time I use my new grater.
Comment below if you have any cooking school questions or experiences of your own to share 🙂