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Wednesday, April 18, 2012

cooking local / a class at Johnson & Wales

Last weekend my mom and I took a cooking class at Johnson & Wales that was focused on farm to table dining. I had been looking forward to the class since Christmas (it was a gift from my dad) and I'm happy to say it did not disappoint. 

There were about twelve people in the class plus the instructor and a few assistants, so the kitchen was packed. All the produce we used was from local farms... we were even provided with a list detailing where each ingredient was grown. A menu was presented to us and the chef assigned each course to a pair of students. My mom and I were assigned what had been deemed the most difficult of all - fresh gnocchi. After the cooking portion of the class we were all going to sit down together and share the meal... talk about intimidating!    

First the potatoes had to be baked so they would be soft enough to run through a food mill. 

Next we created a well out of the potato and filled it with flour, a couple eggs, and some olive oil.

The chef shared a tip with us: before forming the well, lay down four large pieces of parchment paper. Then you actually use them to knead the dough! Fold the paper in half (doing your best to keep the eggs from running all over the table, of course) and press on the dough a couple of times. Open it up, turn the whole mess a quarter turn, and repeat. You continually fold the paper, turning it a quarter turn after each time until everything is incorporated. The table and your hands stay clean!

After I kneaded the dough just a bit more (without the parchment paper) to make sure there weren't any large pockets of flour hiding in there, it was time to roll out the gnocchi. I rolled out long ropes of the dough and used a bench scraper to cut them into little pillows about an inch by an inch and a half. We rolled each pillow into a ball and then over a fork to create the little lines that are the hallmark of gnocchi.

While I was overseeing the gnocchi production line, my mom had been preparing all the other ingredients for our dish: Brussels sprouts that were blanched and then sauteed, shaved Parmigiano, and rendered pancetta. It all came together beautifully to make my favorite part of the meal. Now if only I can work up the courage to try it at home. Whether I make fresh gnocchi again or not, I know I would love to take another class. I'm thinking basic pastry skills would be a good one, if only because we'll be eating pastry afterward. Have you ever taken a cooking class?

3 comments:

  1. Hmmm, maybe you and MATT could take that pastry class together! (They don't allow babies/toddlers - just saying...)

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  2. that looks so delicious!? i usually make gnocchi by smashing the potatoes, grating them looks so much easier. what did you use for the "sauce"? just olive oil?

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    Replies
    1. The rendered fat from the pancetta... yum!

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