As part of our three-day Valentine’s Day extravaganza, H reserved us two spots in a weekend cooking class. [Don't make too many assumptions here. We don't really do that lovey-dovey holiday stuff, but it was a great excuse to try a few new places and do something fun.]
We headed over to The Wooden Spoon in Uptown Chicago for a class called Cook and Eat Like a Francophile. I was expecting bistro sandwiches, things to pair with brie on a cheese platter, or some kind of pastry since it was a lunch-time class, but I was really wowed by the menu. We “made” shrimp bisque, fancy chicken with sauce, french-style bitter lentils, the most delicious green beans ever, and a weird pudding-berry-custard dessert. Or, as the French would call it,
- Shrimp Bisque;
- French Lentils with Honey Cashews;
- Green Bean Salad with Basil and Tomatoes;
- Poulet Sauté Chasseur; and
- Mixed Berries Gratin (not pictured).
Cooking classes are, overall, kind of weird but really fun. We didn’t fully cook any one single thing, because about a dozen people were helping with different stages of preparation. Everyday cooking would be so much easier if I had a half-dozen sous chefs to do all of my prep-work and measuring for me! We were tasked with chopping a few things, stirring a few things, and draining the lentils — but, most importantly, we got to eat everything. I would have perhaps liked a little more hands-on time than this class size provided, but we made some new friends and had a lovely time.
Sharing our love of food with strangers was comfortable and warm. A few other couples, a few friend groups, and two adult sons with their dad on his 68th birthday chopped and sautéed and ate this beautiful meal with us. (I remembered again how lucky I am to have such an awesome mom while watching a young woman search for help when asked to stir the pot, but not so often that the veggies wouldn’t brown.) Even the vegetarian we were partnered with loved learning about each of the recipes and promised to cook the bisque again for her fiance if he would handle the shrimp-y parts.
It may sound unimpressive, but our favorite dish of the day was the green bean salad. The green beans were blanched (well, more like double-blanched because they were almost done when they came out of the boiling water), chilled, and then tossed in a freshly made Dijon vinaigrette and served alongside sliced, salted tomatoes. It was perfect spring/early summer picnic food, and all-in-all a pretty healthy dish.
The Wooden Spoon has a cooking tools shop (and provides knife sharpening for their customers for only $3) so we purchased a little salad dressing bottle to take home with us for storing our own homemade vinaigrettes in the future. H has been mixing up balsamic and olive oil for our salads for the last few weeks and I’ve been food-dreaming about the vinaigrette recipe in Shauna Niequist’s book Bread and Wine, which is pretty close to what we made in class that day. This weekend we’ll be purchasing some red wine vinegar and eating this dressing on everything in sight.
Would you ever go to a cooking class? Have any favorite salad dressing recipes?