On Saturday, June 28th, 2008, Troy and I participated in a cooking class at the Chef's Academy. They are a full-time culinary school, but also offer classes to the community on several weekends throughout the summer. The cost for the class was $75 each and our topic for the day was tapas, which are, essentially, spanish appetizers.
Tapas got their start as simply a slice of bread or cracker used to cover a glass of wine or sherry in order to keep flies out of it. Over time, the bars where these drinks were served started to put morsels of food on top of the bread or cracker. Bars were soon competing with one another for patronage based on how good their tapas were. The better the tapas, the more customers they might entice. It is now customary in Spain for at least one tapa to be served when a drink is ordered as a matter of course.
For our cooking experience, there were 19 participants in the class and the chef divided us up by table and together, the 4 tables prepared 4 different dishes. Our table (with 5 participants) was in charge of preparing a seafood, chicken and chorizo sausage paella. It's a good thing we had some many at our table because many hands made for very light work.
The Paella Posse, as we like to be called, consisted of (from left to right): Dana, Mark, JB, myself and Troy. There was quite a bit of cutting that needed to be done. Troy tackled the chicken, which consisted of dicing up 24 chicken thighs. He did a great job! Dana and JB then took on the peeling and deveining of the shrimp while Mark and I started to dice up the vegetables (red peppers, green peppers, onions, green onions and parsley). In no time flat, the prep work was done and Dana was starting to throw everything in the pot to cook. The only thing we didn't do was saute the chicken before adding it into the pot. The only thing it was missing was a but of a crunch that the sauteing might have given it. Apparently it didn't matter since the chef said it was excellent.
The class started at 10:00 with a bit of a lesson on the history and culture of Spain, then we cooked. So, by the time 12:30 rolled around, we were ready to eat and taste a bit of wine (which was also included with the class). The first dish we enjoyed was a tortilla. A tortilla in Spain in almost like an omelet. It was egg and potatoes served with an aiolli, which is a spicy sauce in the mayonaise family. It was simply delicious! The second dish and third dishes were served together. They were 1) a grilled portabello mushroom topped with goat cheese and red pepper and 2) mussels prepared with ham and tomatoes. Troy had never had mussels, but he claimed to like them. I thought they were quite yummy and when there were leftovers of everything else left to take home, there definitely WEREN'T any mussels left on our plate. I had polished them off!
Finally was our paella dish. It was a really great, hearty way to finish. All of the meats, seafood, vegetables and rice were cooked to perfection. The chefs even commented several times that it was really good!
We had a great time and are even considering taking another class in the fall! In addition, I got to count this as one of my new recipes (#3 of 6 - See 101 List item #98).