Posted by: Erin | August 19, 2009

Learnin’ Stuff at the CSCA

Every year, my office does a retreat. Basically, it’s a day off to do something fun together as a group. For the last few years, we’ve gone bowling at King’s, which is always fun, regardless of how good or bad any of us are. This year, my foodie coworker (the one who went with me to see Chris Kimball back in December), organized something new: a cooking class at the Cambridge School of Culinary Arts.

I was pretty excited about this – I love learning stuff, and I like being able to ask questions. Unfortunately, when I got there, I realized that the only thing on the menu I would eat was the chocolate cake. (Spicy food and I don’t get along, and I don’t like shrimp or shellfish.) But as long as I didn’t have to handle the mussels or shrimp (and could preferably be kept away from the raw chicken), I was willing to give it a shot.

We divided up into groups and split up the recipes. Two of my coworkers and I tackled an Indian recipe called Kadhai Murgh (a spiced chicken dish), and Shrimp in Tomato Sauce with Feta Cheese (which was apparently Greek, but we couldn’t figure out what was Greek about it, aside from the feta). My other coworkers took on Oven-Roasted Mussels with Garlic Herb Butter, Albondigas with Aioli and a Simple Tomato Sauce, Fresh Vietnamese Spring Rolls, Blueberry Cobbler, Bittersweet Chocolate Cake with Chocolate Sauce and Toasted Almond Cream.

On the whole, I think we did rather well. (New thing I learned? How to make garlic paste. I think my hands still vaguely smell like garlic.) The dishes looked quite impressive when we plated and garnished them:

Kadhai Murgh

Kadhai Murgh

Oven-Roasted Mussels with Garlic Herb Butter

Oven-Roasted Mussels with Garlic Herb Butter

Albondigas with Aioli and a Simple Tomato Sauce

Albondigas with Aioli and a Simple Tomato Sauce

Fresh Vietnamese Spring Rolls

Fresh Vietnamese Spring Rolls

Shrimp in Tomato Sauce with Feta Cheese // Bittersweet Chocolate Cake with Chocolate Sauce and Toasted Almond Cream

Shrimp in Tomato Sauce with Feta Cheese // Bittersweet Chocolate Cake with Chocolate Sauce and Toasted Almond Cream

Despite numerous reminders to myself, I forgot my camera when I ran out the door, so I took these with my cell phone, so they’re not the best quality. I didn’t get a picture of the blueberry cobbler somehow, but it was quite good, despite my general dislike of blueberries. (I like them IN things, like muffins, but I don’t like plain blueberries.) The Kadhai Murgh surprised me, because I thought it was going to be very spicy, but it wasn’t that bad. I don’t think I’d make it on my own, because it was a lot of chopping and such, and I don’t like handling raw chicken (though I like eating it once it’s cooked).

We voted on our favorite dishes, and I was torn between the chicken and the chocolate cake. In the end, the cake won my vote, because, well, it had chocolate in it. Weirdly, the almond cream was somewhat bland – I think I’m used to the more sugary whipped-cream-in-a-can. It was definitely good, though, because it balanced out the bittersweet chocolate in the cake. The overall winner was the Oven-Roasted Mussels, though, and two of my coworkers split the prize.

I’m particularly proud of the garnish on our dish. The idea was our teacher’s, and my coworker tried the first tomato rose (the smallest one), and then I tried another one. And because two looked weird, I made a second, so we had three total. Then I decided I needed to add to it. I was going to use the lime slices elsewhere to add some color (and I thought the lime flavor would add to the Kadhai Murgh nicely). The slices ended up being sort of abstract leaves. (Though when I look at the whole dish, it sorta looks like a fish…) Here’s a close-up of the garnish:

garnish_close-up

And that was my day of “learnin’ stuff” at CSCA. Now if only I could take that garnish class without being enrolled in the full program…

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