For our one year anniversary, I decided to get Taylor a ticket to a cooking class while we were in Charleston or Savannah. I researched every cooking class in both cities trying to determine which one would be the best fit. This was tricky because I didn’t want something so basic that it wouldn’t teach him anything he didn’t already know, but I also didn’t want something so out there it wouldn’t be something useful for our day-to-day cooking. I settled on “In the Kitchen with Chef Bob” because it seemed to be something that would challenge us, but also be useful information. Many of the other cooking classes had themes like “Italian” or “Low-Country” and it was a set menu for each class. What seemed different to me about Chef Bob’s class was its ever-changing menu of seasonal items, and we wouldn’t know the specific menu until we got there. I waited with anticipation for months to know what we were cooking, and here it is…
Course 1- Scallops with Pineapple Salsa
I looked through hundreds of photos on Trip Advisor, anticipating possibilities of what we might cook and one of the things that appeared the most was scallops. Taylor was been experimenting with scallops quite a bit in the past year, so I was really hoping that the appetizer would end up being scallops…and it was!
We started with the Pineapple Salsa, and most of what he covered for this was just chopping basics. Where we really got some useful information was with the asparagus that accompanied this dish. (You probably can’t see it from the photo, but the asparagus was under the scallops) First off, he talked about using a brine to prep the asparagus, which he did before the class. Essential he does a quick thirty-second boil in “stupid-salty water” to make the asparagus more tender than if you just sauteed them. The second tip we got for asparagus was to cut it in thirds and at a sharp angle before you saute it. (This is something we have already adopted at home) because it makes it more manageable to cook and to eat.
Once the salsa and asparagus were prepped, we moved on to the scallops. What I wanted to know was how he gets such a great sear on his scallops?!…and his trick turned out to be grapeseed oil. Grapeseed oil gets hotter than olive oil or butter, which is what you need to get that great sear. (Taylor has already picked up some grapeseed oil to experiment with)
The dish tasted amazing! I enjoyed the pineapple salsa because it made the dish taste so different from the scallops we cook at home (We typically stick with lemon and butter).
Course 2- Duck with Snow Peas and a Blueberry Reduction Sauce
When the main course was revealed, we both looked at each other and smiled. In addition to all the wild duck in the freezer, Taylor has some farm-raised duck breasts he’s been hanging on to and wanting to try out. So, he couldn’t have picked a more perfect meat for this course.
The first tip Chef Bob gave us for cooking the duck, was to remove the skin and the fat because it greatly increases the cooking time and makes it difficult to sear without overcooking. He reduces the fat and pours some of it on before baking the duck so that you still get the flavor from it, without the hassle.
To sear the duck, we used grapeseed oil again, and the biggest thing he stressed to us was not to move the duck around in the pan until it was time to flip it. You wanted the duck to stick to the pan so that once you removed the duck, you had some good bits to get the sauce started.
Once the duck was seared, we set it aside and moved on to the sauce. Using the bits of duck and juices left in the pan, we cooked some strips of onions down before adding in the wine, which was a two parts pinot noir to one part port. Then we added in the blueberries and let that cook down. He had us finish the sauce off by adding in a couple of tablespoons of beef broth he prepared earlier in the day.
While the sauce was cooking down, we finished the duck in the oven, pouring a few tablespoons of the duck fat over it first. Once the duck was cooked, we sliced it into strips and placed the snow peas in between the pieces and topped it off with sliced kumquats.
We learned that the snow peas have a string along the top that need to be removed from the pod so that it is not tough to eat. Not having done too much with peas like this, this was a great tip that I took away. We used this technique to add some snow peas to a stir fry this past week.
We have already recreated the duck recipe at home with teal breasts and the blueberry sauce. I found that the sweet sauce balances out the gamey flavor that often accompanies wild duck and makes it more enjoyable. I am usually not big on eating just piece of duck (Usually I put it in something with more going on, like a jalapeno popper) but the sauce really helped.
Course 3- Pear Puff Pastry
As much as we like to cook, baking is just not either of our fortes. Probably because it actually requires you to measure things out, which we don’t do ever. However this pastry was surprisingly simple for as tasty as it was (and no measuring cups were required).
The dough was store-bought. All that we had to do to it was roll it out and “shock” the dough by trimming each edge. We then laid the pear slices on top of the dough, added pecans that he had already cooked a bit in a pot with honey, topped it with a few slivers of butter, and sprinkled some sugar. (Those are my kind of measurements. I can work with that)
The pastry then went into the oven until golden brown, and finally was plated, topped with ice cream and some powdered sugar on top.
This is such an easy dessert for us non-bakers to make. We plan to recreate this at home soon with dewberries, which we should have plenty of in the next couple of weeks.
As you can tell, we learned a lot and had a great time. As if all the food didn’t sound good enough, I forgot to mention we got a glass of wine to pair with each one. They were all great, but I was focused on the food and not missing any information, so I did not take note of what they were.
We would recommend this class over and over. If you plan to go, you should reserve your spot several months in advance. I booked ours two months before and it was the last couple of slots for the week. The cost is reasonable for what all you get (three courses, three hours of instructions, and four wines). Add it to your bucket list!
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