I found that since I've been taking the George Brown cooking class (part of continuing education) that I haven't been eating out as much. The class gives you a different perspective on food and I found that it makes you think about the quality of the dishes served in restaurants and almost makes me question what goes into their meals. It's amazing what you learn about tastes, textures, how to put things together and what works and what doesn't when you start experimenting with cooking.
Great experience! I would highly recommend it (even though it costs $750 for 12 weeks - but that includes the ingredients and uniform - except the steel toed shoes and the knives and utensils).
Some of the photos aren't mine (and belong to my classmate E).
Week 1: Learning to make stock
Intro week - we watched the Chef make beef, fish and chicken stock (not that we got to try it or anything) and we went to the store to pick up our uniforms.
Week 2: Tuscan Bean Salad
Our first chance to make food! Chef Frank demonstrated how to make three salads and we got to make our own tray of Tuscan bean salad which was tangy and delicious with beans, peppers and prosciutto. Week 2 was all about learning proper knife skills and learning how the kitchen worked as well as the logistics of our stations and how to share food with the other 3 people at our table.
Week 3: Piquant Vegetable soup
Chef made some cream of wild mushroom soup and the vegetable soup. We graduated to using the stove top and my vegetable soup was rather chunky and not as piquant or flavourful as I would have liked it. Well, I guess it's all about experimenting.
Week 4: Lasagna al Forno
One of my favourite classes and definitely the longest class that actually took the full 4 hours (and we learned how to use the oven!). We made our bolognese sauce with meat and vegetables and then layered the pasta sheets with cheese and sauce and then baked it. Yum! Surprisingly simple and yet so time consuming - I could see this as a recipe that I'll use again in the future.
Week 5: Rainbow Trout Vin Blanc (poached filets of trout in Riesling wine sauce) and duchesse potatoes
My portion of the Chef's demo (trout and potatoes)
The potatoes were so pretty and really delicious - but it was the trout that was AMAZING! It was actually better than most restaurant trout I've had - which makes sense since they train the next generation of chefs out of George Brown. It was like I was eating high end restaurant food for free!
My rainbow trout
Also, really good - but I couldn't recreate the Chef's balance of flavours and perfectly cooked fish. It's great that there's an ideal to try to live up to, but a little sad when I can't perfectly recreate what he served us. Another recipe that I'll use in the future!
Quiche and Eggs Benedict on an English muffin with asparagus and hollandaise sauce
After watching Chef Frank make the hollandaise sauce from scratch, I'm not sure I'll ever order it again at brunch. It was really yummy and great that we actually got to try the real thing after he made it right before our eyes. However, watching him put in all that butter and egg yolk made me a little queasy and knowing that most restaurants make it using powder is kinda gross. The things you learn in cooking school.
Looks amazing right? And this was actually so simple to make that it's almost crazy to think that they charge $5 and more for a slice of this (or $6-$10 in grocery stores for a full quiche).
Another recipe for that I'll use (although I probably won't make the pie crust from scratch again - I tried really hard to follow the instructions to a T and I still couldn't get the pie crust right - it seemed a little soggy).
The carbonnade that the Chef made was okay - not my favourite dish. We got a tougher cut of meat that required more braising to make it tender, but despite leaving the beef in for a long time, my meat still came out really tough.
Week 8: Roast Chicken
Surprisingly, another super easy class! The roast chicken recipe was actually really simple and chef made it look like a walk in the park and the chicken was really juicy and perfectly seasoned. This was one recipe that I had no issues recreating and the chicken was perfect! The downside of this class? I burnt my hand on the oven door...owie.
Week 9: Beef Stroganoff and spatzle
The Chef made the plate below (and this was also the approximate size of our take-home portions). The beef stroganoff was made using a better cut of beef, so the meat was easier to handle (but you also didn't want to leave it too long on the stove to toughen it) and it had a much easier time soaking up the flavour of the espagnole (gravy) sauce. We didn't get to make the spatzle though - and when the Chef made it - it looked so easy!
Chef made some delicious poached chicken with an amazing curry lemon grass cream sauce. It was a little taste of Thai cuisine with the lemon grass sauce. Another amazing dish! We didn't make the pilaf, but my chicken was fantastic - even with my nutmeg heavy sauce.
I really dislike blue cheese - it's strong, pungent and makes me a little nauseous. So who would have thought that Stilton cheese would work so well with apples and pork chops? The blue cheese complemented the sweetness of the apples and added a punch of flavour to the pork, even my mom (who hates blue cheese and the smell) really enjoyed this! And we had savoury bread pudding with it too. This was a seriously gourmet and delicious class! And all the food was surprisingly simple to make.
Week 12: Roast leg of lamb with goat cheese and onions and cauliflower polonaise
We each got a young boneless lamb leg to make our roast. The Chef's lamb was really good! Not gamy at all, but the goat cheese was a little too overpowering for me. Also, he made a beautiful cauliflower polonaise with hard boiled eggs. I would have never thought of eating cauliflower this way with the polonaise sauce - totally expanding my horizons.
My classmate (E)'s lamb and cauliflower polonaise (because I'm terrible with taking pictures when I'm focusing on cooking).
And to top it all off, Chef Frank made us a dessert bread pudding with caramel sauce! I can't believe it was so easy to make after he demonstrated it (and it was phenomenal!).