Saturday, February 20, 2010

Learn to cook - the Allen & Petersen way!

Last night I went with some friends from work to Allen & Petersen's to attend a session of their Viking cooking school. Our class, picked more at less at random from the dizzying array of classes available, was Argentine Steakhouse.  Two of the aforementioned friends recently went to another of their classes and had such an awesome time that they came in to work the next day and recruited a few more of us into their cult.  We had to decide fast, as they had 10% off coupons that only lasted a day, besides which these classes seem to sell out FAST. 
     I am glad we picked this class, though, because of one specific recipe we walked away with...chimichurri sauce.  A few years ago I worked as a software trainer, and my job took me to Ft. Lauderdale for a couple of months.  When I went to lunch with the folks with whom I was working, we often went to a local place that had a vat of chimichurri sauce right by the cash register, and my hosts would ladle this stuff all over everything on their plates - meat, sandwiches, mashed potatoes, pasta...everything.  After one taste, I put it all over everything too.  Since that time, I have been hunting for this recipe.  I looked online, at epicurious and Gourmet and Saveur's websites.  I looked in cookbooks and magazines.  And I found plenty of chimichurri recipes, but not the same one.  They were all either too acidy or too oily or too... well, too something.  So I had a little bit of a mission in going to this class, but also hoped to have a good time with my friends as well. 
      So we showed up at A&P's fabulous midtown showroom at around 5:30 and cruised around the store, salivating over all the shiny toys.  My kitchen philosophy veers between the austere and the gadget-hound - I'm somewhere in the middle right now.  I should point out that A&P  is a high-end store, with high-end prices.  I'm not a high-end girl, but there were a lot of extremely tempting gadgets for sale.  Eventually, I wrenched myself away from the shopportunities and went upstairs to the beautiful kitchen/classroom.  A staff member ushered us into the dining area sector of the upstairs, where we found our welcome packets.  We each got a Viking apron, a recipe booklet, a 10% off coupon (good for that night only) and an evaluation sheet.  We also got an appetizer, a little chorizo sandwich with...chimichurri on it!  One bite told me that my gamble had paid off - this was the chimichurri I was looking for.  Happily chewing away, we listened to the opening spiel.  Our teachers introduced themselves - one lady is an experienced cook who has been doing this for some time, the other is just finishing up her culinary arts degree at UAA.  Also assisting was a lady who cleaned up as we went, made sure everything was right in place as needed, and just generally ran the show from the background.  These three made a great team and backed each other up pretty well.
     We had an ambitious class schedule lined up in front of us.  In about 2 1/2 - 3 hours, we were making empanadas, grilled skirt steak with chimichurri sauce, roasted marinated sweet peppers, oven-roasted potatoes, and flan.  We started with the flan, then went to the empanadas, and mixed in working on all the other stuff on the way.  The teachers were very knowledgeable, and gave lots of great tips and info about the food we were working on.  The classroom space itself is absolutely astounding - well laid out and beautiful as well.  During the course of the event, the teachers would occasionally demo some gadget or the other and point out that it was available for sale downstairs.  Also, the class itself was sort of an ad for Viking ranges and other appliances.  The pitches were kind of darling in their straightforwardness, but I have to say they worked.  More than one of us left with a garlic-chopping gadget or similar item.  Also, I have to say I see now what all the fuss is over Viking stoves.  I rate it as highly unlikely that I will personally ever own a Viking stove.  When the same amount of money will get you either a stove or a luxury cruise through the south Pacific for two...well, I won't be going for that stove.  However, the ones we were using were pretty damn impressive.  So we watched and then did, getting occasional feedback and coaching from the teachers.  We chopped, we stirred - it became a part of us.  At the end of the class, we served ourselves from the big platters of food.  Here is what my plate's worth looked like...
And it tasted even better than it looks!  I did not get a picture of the flan, because I was far too busy feeding my face by that point.  However, that looked and tasted wonderful as well. 
So at the end of the day, I got some good recipes, a good meal and a good time.  Are these classes for everyone?  No.  They are spendy, and honestly not that informative if you are an experienced cook.  However, they are a good time, especially if you are there with friends.  However, if you like to cook and can afford it, gather up a friend or two, check their catalog for a class that interest you, and go! 

No comments: