Let me first start off by saying that my husband is one of those amazing people who have a knack for great gift giving. He and I love to cook together and try new recipes. This past Christmas he gave me an in-home personal chef cooking class. We had been so busy the past few months that we were finally able to book it for this past Saturday. What a great experience!
We learned so much from Chef Kasey Pasen of Culinary Gatherings. She was super down-to-earth and very knowledgable. Mark and I have taken many cooking classes over the years through The Chopping Block and we felt that we have learned a lot through those, but since this was a 1:1 class in our home, using our cookware and utensils, we learned so much more.
For instance, Kasey taught us the term “Mise en Place”, which translated means “set in place.” It makes perfect sense when you say it – basically it means that you should layout and prep your ingredients before you really begin cooking. I don’t know how many times I’ve started a recipe and realized half way through that I really should have prepped an ingredient ahead of time rather than risk ruining whatever it is I’m cooking by taking too long between steps. Plus, it has the added bonus of looking pretty and making the cooking process go quicker.
Kasey brought all of the ingredients we needed, and most she picked up that morning at the City Farm. Our menu consisted of a delicious dinner of summer panzanella salad with tuna confit and a radicchio and apple risotto. The meal was in perfect harmony with the late summer, early fall season.
Mark and I have enjoyed restaurant confit dishes before but have never made any at home, and frankly didn’t even know what “confit” entailed. We started with a great piece of Albacore tuna, placed it in a pot, and poached it (low heat on the stove) in a bath of oil and a variety of aromatics, such as fennel, garlic, and lemon.
Since the edges of the tuna will always cook first, Mark had the job of flaking off the done parts and placing them into a bowl until the entire piece of tuna was cooked. One of the benefits of cooking tuna like this is that we have been able to use the left overs on salads throughout the week by storing the tuna in the refrigerator in the cooking oil. (Kasey let us know that it would be good like this for up to a week.)
Once the tuna had cooled, we mixed it in with gorgeous heirloom tomatoes, arugula, fennel, English cucumbers (these are a lot smaller than the normal ones we usually cook with), basil, salt, pepper,and toasted bread pieces (hence the panzanella) – isn’t it pretty?
Prior to our lesson, I didn’t always see the point in adding salt to certain dishes. Kasey explained that salt really acts as a “spotlight” for the real flavors of a dish. Without salt, the flavors can taste muted. You just have to make sure you walk the fine line of adding enough salt to help highlight the ingredients and adding too much to over power them.
Next we focused on the risotto. This is where using the mise en place technique really comes in handy because of the cooking style used for risotto. We learned that there are special types of rice used for risotto. We used carnaroli that Kasey had brought from Italy. Good risottos are deliciously creamy mostly because of the texture of the cooked rice, rather than just the ingredients you include with it. Kasey also dispelled a common misconception that you need to constantly stir the rice for risotto. It won’t necessarily hurt the rice if you do, but it is basically a waste of time. You should however keep a keen eye on it so that it doesn’t over cook or become too saturated.
Once the rice was ready, we added in the chopped radicchio, fennel, apple, gouda, and a funky, but delicious taleggio. It was simply amazing!
After the risotto was ready, Kasey said her goodbyes and Mark and I enjoyed the fruits of our labor.
And it was quite delicious, if we do say so ourselves!
We are looking forward to incorporating these dishes into our repertoire and making them again for our friends and family.