Late last year, I wrote a post on why you should spend your money on experiences, not things… and this included advice on how to find the perfect experiential Christmas Gift for the adventurer on your list.
Well, my wonderfully brilliant business partner and fellow freedom hacker, Leanne, got me the greatest gift ever!
Cooking Classes At The Dirty Apron
For those of you who don’t know me, I’m a little old Italian lady on the inside. Aside from planting flowers on my patio while listening to Andrea Bocelli, one of my favorite things to do is cook!
I tend to stick to my trusty classics: chicken cacciatore and polenta, risotto and baked salmon, or a spicy Mexican dish…
But I have never really (ever) tried to cook seafood like scallops or mussels. In fact, seafood terrified me. I would walk past the fish man at the local farmer’s market and ogle at the different types of fish, squid and crustaceans but would never place an order!
Firstly, I had no idea how to order. Do I order by number? Weight? Size? Bah! I didn’t want to sound like an Albertan who only knows how to order 200 grams of deli meat…
Secondly, how the heck do you cook those things? Are they still alive? How do I prepare them so my guests aren’t crunching on sand or swallowing something with seaweed still attached to it. God, I get the stress sweats just thinking about it.
So when I opened up my Christmas present this year and saw that Leanne and I would be taking an Ocean Potion Cooking Class at the infamous Dirty Apron, I was soooooooo excited.
The entire experience was absolutely amazing – start to finish!
The second we walked in the door, we were greeted by a wonderfully charming girl with pink hair. “Are you here for the cooking class?”, she pleasantly asked and then immediately led us into the back to show us where to find our aprons.
The entire class was about 4.5 hours long and each dish we prepared happened in 3 delicious steps:
Step 1: A Live Demo
We watched in wonder as our Chef, Carol Chow, prepared each dish to perfection.
Step 2: Give It A Whirl
We then headed to our individual cooking stations to try our darnedest to re-create the masterpiece we just witnessed.
Step 3: Eat!
The best part of any cooking class, of course. Once we cooked, plated and garnished our dishes, we headed to the dining room to feast on our creations! Then, that magical pink-haired goddess came around anf poured us a glass of crisp white wine with each course. Because, as any old Italian lady would say… “what’s a meal without some vino!?”
Now, if you’re wondering what dishes we made… here they are in the order we made them:
Coconut Tomato Mussels
Here are a few tips to keep in mind when preparing mussels:
- If you live on the west coast, get Salt Spring Island mussels. They are the best!
- Make sure the mussels are still ALIVE until right before you cook them. To test, use your thumb and forefinger to pinch the mussels together. Pinch quickly and repeatedly (almost like you’re trying to make the mussel into a hand puppet). The mussel should eventually close all the way. This means it’s still alive (but not for long). If it’s dead, chuck it. But take note that it might take a while for the mussel to close if it’s a stubborn one.
- Buy mussels and eat them on the SAME DAY to make sure they are fresh. If you DO need to keep them for a few hours before serving, put them in a bowl and cover with a wet cloth, then stick them in the fridge.
- Make sure you de-beard the mussels before you cook them. The “beard” is the little tuft of hairs that the mussel uses to latch on to the side of a rock or dock. Pull on it so it’s sticking straight out (but be careful not to pull it out completely as that will kill the mussel) then slice it off with a paring knife.
- Oh and btw, you order mussels by the pound. 1 lb serves about 2 people.
Maple Seared Scallops, Warm Chorizo and Kalamata Ragout
Here are a few tips to keep in mind when preparing scallops:
- Frozen scallops are absolutely OK! But be sure to look for IQF on the bag (that means they are individually frozen so you can separate and cook as many as you want and keep the rest frozen).
- Once the scallops are defrosted, prepare them by rinsing them under cold water and patting them dry with a paper towel. Then, with your fingers, peel of the side-muscle if it’s still attached. This is a little white rectangular tag of tissue on the side of the scallop that is quite tough in texture.
- When salting scallops, don’t salt too early as it will “burn” the surface creating a rubbery layer.
- When searing, use grape seed oil as that has a much higher smoke point than other oils. Heat the oil in the pan first until it’s very hot. You can test the temperature by lightly touching the scallop to the pan. If you hear a sharp “tssssssssssssss” sound, the oil is ready. If it’s a soft sizzle, give it a bit more time.
- To make sure you don’t overcook your scallops, sear one side first until golden brown, then turn off the heat, flip them over and add 1/2 tbsp of butter. The residual heat will cook the other side to perfection and the butter will make them taste AMAZING (duh).
Pan Roasted Halibut & Sautéed Spinach On A Bed Of Crushed Fingerling Potatoes
Here are a few tips to keep in mind when preparing halibut:
- Get filets that are as consistent in size as possible.
- Rinse the filets under cool water and pat dry with a paper towel.
- Heat a pan of oil (olive oil works) on high heat. Again, you want to make sure the oil is “tssssssssssssss” hot before you add the fish.
- Place the fish PRESENTATION SIDE DOWN. If the filet has the skin still on it, that is the presentation side. If the filet does not have skin, the opposite side (the bone side) will be the presentation side.
- Sear the halibut on one side until it is golden brown, do not flip. Then take the pan (make sure it’s oven safe) and put it in the oven at 400F to finish cooking the fish. The length of time you bake the fish for depends on the size of the filet. Remove the fish from the oven when a there is still a 1-inch circle of uncooked fish in the middle. You should be able to see this circle as it will appear shinier and slightly pinker than the white cooked meat around the edge. The residual heat will cook the filet the rest of the way through without drying out the fish.
- Then add 1 tbsp of unsalted butter to the pan and coat the filet. Butter, mmmmmm.
We wrapped up the class by enjoying a Cardamom Caramel Poached Pear desert that was to DIE FOR. Then it was time to take our food babies and satiated taste buds home for nice long nap. We even got to keep our aprons!
Check out the Dirty Apron for amazing recipes like these and information on their upcoming cooking classes. They even have a cookbook with a collection of their most popular recipes for foolproof yet delicious and visually stunning dishes that are sure to impress the socks off your dinner guests.
Mmm, mmm, mmm! I just love finding adventures close to home! Thanks again, Leanne.
Here’s to getting filthy in the kitchen! 😉
That little old Italian lady,