Playing Sous-Chef + Drinking Wine
1. Bacon is like a chef’s duct tape
2. Lemon kills everything (germs and bacteria)
3. The wine you serve at a dinner party or social gathering can make the food you prepare taste bad
WARNING! This post will make you hungry.
I had so much fun playing sous-chef a couple of weeks ago when Dev’s sister (Ashlee) and brother-in-law (Tom) asked us to join them for in-home cooking lessons, featuring a four course meal with wine carefully selected by a sommelier. Let’s just say it didn’t take much to convince us…
Food + wine = YESSSSSSS!
We were sent a few different menu options ahead of time and selected each course based on what our taste buds would enjoy and what we wanted to learn how to make. Each of us played different roles and were actively involved in the production of our meal. Not only was it a blast, but we all found it very interesting and educational as well. We were able to appreciate how much time and effort went into each course, and therefore savoured every bite.
Our menu looked a little something like this:
The first dish we prepared was a pinwheel style puff pastry with smoked eel, smoked pork butt, emmantel cheese and apple. It was paired with a “champagne” (Veuve Ambal Cremant De Bourgogne Grande Cuvee Brut), which compliments rich, fatty flavours like butter and cheese.
Did you know that champagne can only be produced using grapes from the Champagne region of France, using the champagne method? All other “champagnes” like Prosecco and Cava are simply considered sparkling wines. We also learned that “Brut” means dry and ironically contains less sugar than “Dry” sparkling wines. It may sound silly, but I totally thought Brut was a brand name…
Kudos to Ash for picking up the eel and doing so with a smile on her face. I was too grossed out to get anywhere near the slimy looking fish. I have had BBQ eel at sushi restaurants many, many times. But it has always been prepared and smothered in terriyaki sauce. While it was slightly disturbing to see the head still attached, it was also pretty cool at the same time!
Surprisingly, it tasted alright! Especially with the apple and Emmental cheese. Which I am told is similar to Swiss. The eel was quite smoky and less fishy than I expected.
Our second course was a bay scallop and watermelon ceviche, which we “cooked” in a trio of orange, lemon and lime juice with a hint of jalapeño. Ceviche is essentially raw seafood that is marinated in citrus juices. Not only have I never tried it before, but I’ve also been too intimidated to ever try making it myself. We’ve all heard horror stories of food poisoning caused by salmonella…
But as I learned that night, lemon kills pretty much everything. We used it to sanitize cutting boards and countertops). Therefore my fear disappeared and I couldn’t wait to dig in. It was incredible!! Fresh and light, yet super flavourful and the perfect starter ahead of our (mammoth) main. I’m pretty sure Dev and Tom both went in for seconds.
I was absolutely blown away at how the wine (Castello di Tassarolo Titouan Gavi) paired with this course seemed to change flavours after each bite of the ceviche (and vice versa). I’ve never experienced anything like it. I’m normally more of a red wine-o, but I can appreciate how sweet, fruity and smooth the organic white wine tasted with this course. It truly proved how important picking and choosing a wine with each meal can be.
One of the (many) questions we had – which you may find interesting – is what beverage to order at a restaurant when you’re not sure what you’ll be eating. The first question any server will ask after introducing themselves is if they can get the table started with a round of drinks, even before you’ve had a chance to look at the menu. We were told the safe bet (aside from water) is to order champagne or sparkling wine. It’s the most versatile choice and will compliment nearly any dish.
Our main course featured Cornish hen stuffed with a lobster and asparagus béchamel sauce, wrapped in prosciutto and accompanied by a spring pea and mint risotto. Sounds fancy, huh?
It tasted just as good as it sounds (if not better) and went nicely with a vintage red (Inniskillin Montague Vineyard Pinot Noir 2013). There was no shortage of salty, rich goodness and despite being a large portion, I devoured the entire plate!
The boys were in charge of butchering the birds, which was quite the production. They did a great job and I am happy to report that there was no bones or remnants in any of our dishes.
A dinner of this magnitude would not be complete without something sweet. We happily tucked into a trio of desserts consisting of chocolate truffle Crème brulee, pear tart tatin and raspberry sorbet.
A tart tatin is defined as a an upside-down pastry with fruit caramelized and baked on top. Ours featured a layer of almond paste, which was sweet but not too sweet and went really nice with the thin slices of pear. It even pleased my picky “I don’t like dessert” boyfriend who typically passes on sugary treats at the end of a meal. I know this is a recipe I will replicate at home over and over and over again.
We finished the final course with a lovely sparkling red wine (Viticoltori Acquesi Brachetto D’Acqui) which was quite possibly my favourite! It wasn’t too bubbly and had the most magical berry flavour with hints of floral notes. I’ve also never tried a sparking red before, so it was a nice treat and yummy surprise.
I highly recommend this type of activity for any self-proclaimed foodies who are looking to eat amazing dishes, in a social environment, while learning various culinary skills at the same time. I certainly can’t wait to do it again!