Private cooking classes are a versatile way to entertain and be entertained. They also make for a great night out for stay-at-home moms.
A group from the Mothers' Center of Greater Toledo attended a private cooking class in April at Essential Gourmet, 5650 Mayberry Square in Sylvania. Geoffery McKahan, chef at Manhattan's Restaurant, led the class. His menu featured an elegant entree, a creative use of a bundt pan, and an easy dessert. In short, it was a menu most young moms would love to make at home.
About 10 women attended the class, which included the cooking lesson plus a food tasting. It amounted to a full dinner for $35.
The Mothers' Center is a nondenominational group that meets Thursday mornings in McCord Christian Church. Its programs have included flower arranging and book clubs. Membership dues pay primarily for child care during the meetings.
"Our social calendar is geared to what moms can do with kids," says Sara Shelton of Toledo who attended the class. "I like cooking and I like to try new things."
"It's a social event," said Kate Conway of Sylvania "It's so hard when you have little kids who are picky eaters. Pre-kids, my husband and I would make Italian pasta with a rich gorgonzola sauce. Today, a successful meal for me is when everyone eats something, even broccoli trees."
To make broccoli trees, she cuts broccoli into florets with stems and cooks it. Her kids dunk the broccoli pieces into warm cheese sauce, which they like to call "yellow snow."
"We are all trying to figure out what to make for dinner," says Christine Tyo of Sylvania, who organized this class for her club. Her favorite recipe is chicken piccata with lemon and capers, which she makes about once a month.
Pam Grotke of Sylvania, who likes to try new recipes, says, "I enjoy cooking, not as daily dinners, but more as a hobby."
For the private cooking class, Mrs. Tyo selected a menu the chef had used for a Valentine's dinner class. "We like to pair things up with complementary tastes and textures," he told the women seated at tables in the shop, which was closed for the evening class.
He started the class with a side dish of Spring Vegetables and Gorgonzola Rolls baked in a bundt pan. "Most people have a bundt pan but hardly use it," he told the group. "This recipe is a fun way to get kids to eat. Kids can even help make this."
He steamed seasonal vegetables - yellow squash and zucchini - added chopped fresh herbs and red onion (or you can use eggplant with Italian seasoning and chopped broccoli buds). He layered refrigerated extra-large buttermilk biscuits on the bottom of a sprayed bundt pan, then topped the biscuits with steamed vegetables, three ounces of gorgonzola cheese. This was followed by a second layer of refrigerated biscuits to cover the cheese and encompass the mixture. Then it was baked.
Next he showed the class how to make Potato Puffs with Spring Pea Pods using boiled red potatoes, which can be served as a side dish or an appetizer. Once cooked, the potatoes are cut in half and the pulp is scooped out and mixed with cheese or sour cream chip dip and seasonings. The mixture is returned to the potato skins and heated in the oven.
The entree was Shaved Filet Mignon with Hoison & White Wine Glaze served with broiled petite lobster tails. The chef discussed different types of lobster including Maine lobster, warm water lobster, and slippertail lobster, which he used. These were flatter and about five or six ounces each. Before cooking, he sliced the lobster down the back spine so that it could be easily lifted from the shell.
He marinated the filet mignon in red wine to tenderize it, then cooked it on a grill pan for three minutes per side (broiling for six minutes is an option), and served it with simple Hoisin and Wine Glaze.
For dessert, he made a Raspberry Chocolate Tart using puff pastry, melted chocolate chips, and fresh raspberries.
"We loved the class," Mrs. Tyo said later. "The chef was very interactive with us."
This was not the first time the Mothers' Center had planned a cooking class. Last fall, before Thanksgiving a class was held at Williams Sonoma on a Sunday evening. Members also have had a pediatric dietitian speak at their Thursday morning meeting.
Toledo Hospital's Elaine Poole-Napp, a registered dietitian, spoke to the group on feeding infants and toddlers. "They are often in the phase where they don't eat vegetables," she said. Mrs. Poole-Napp also has spoken to MOPS (Mothers of Pre-Schoolers), a group that meets in Christ Presbyterian Church.
One of the Mothers' Center members, who had been born in Germany, "taught us to cook German food," says Ann Pittman, currant facilitator of the group. "Food is always an issue with us," she says. "We all have young kids. It's whether they aren't eating or whether they are making a mess of food."
For more information on the Mothers' Center of Greater Toledo, contact www.motherscenter.net.
Private classes also are being used by other groups. "Corporations are using cooking classes as a way to entertain customers, instead of the usual golf outing," says Kathleen Hooker, owner of Essential Gourmet. This spring she has at least three private cooking classes for men and women scheduled by financial companies
Chef McKahan also has led private cooking classes for bridal showers at Kitchen Tools & Skills at 26597 North Dixie Hwy. in Perrysburg.
"We have done many bridal shower cooking classes over the years," says owner Sharon Dela-Hamaide. "We talk about what they want on the menu. One time we did three different kinds of soups."
"A lot of people like to have a cooking class instead of playing [shower] games," she says.
Here are four family-friendly recipes, two of which are from Chef McKahan. The other two include Peanut Butter Sweet Rolls made with refrigerated biscuits and Fish Steaks made with cod or halibut.
Kathie Smith is The Blade's food editor.
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