Friday, February 20, 2015

Mardi Gras Cooking Class

Fun! Flavor! Flames!

Billed as The Best of New Orleans, this Sur la Table cooking class featured a knowledgeable and humorous instructor (Chef Thanh Tang), a three-course and flavor-packed menu straight from NOLA, and an amiable group of sixteen students. Well, I can only speak for our congenial team of four, but no fights broke out anywhere in the kitchen. Flames and occasional shouts, yes, but no harsh words or fights.

Photo: Chef Thanh Tang
Photo: Our focused, smiling team at work in the Sur la Table kitchen.

Peel and Eat Shrimp with Remoulade Sauce 

We built a new-to-me version of the versatile Louisiana remoulade sauce, a mayonnaise-based blend incorporating some sweet pickle relish, capers, anchovy paste plus a hit of Tabasco. Akin to a zippy tartar sauce it added a nice flavor punch to the perfectly poached cold shrimp. Everyone had a part in the prep and cooking, sharing roles as cooks and as diners throughout the evening. 
Photo: Team Hilary, Marilyn, Ron and Dee (not shown) cooking & consulting
Smoky Red Beans and Rice and Chicken and Sausage Gumbo came next, giving us some opportunities to... 
  • analyze sausage quality (big, visible chunks of meat, please), 
  • practice knife skills (pinch blade with fingertips and grip handle lightly; grasp food but tuck fingertips, bend knuckles, and slide the knife down past the second joint...without any unnecessary clunking please),
  • guesstimate the measure of a pinch of salt, 
  • negotiate spiciness/heat levels within the team (how much salt, pepper and cayenne is enough? and watch the Tabasco!)
  • use 1-count, 3-count measures for oil; preheat to shimmering before adding food.  

We sliced, seared, sauteed, stirred, seasoned and finally savored two delicious dishes served with a scoop of perfectly cooked white rice... and now know the secret of cooking one-knuckle rice. Oh... My... Goodness... these were good eats!

Photo: l. Okra joins the "holy trinity" of bell peppers, celery and onion; c. a simmering pot of red beans; r. bowls of gumbo and red beans and rice. 

Bananas Foster

Photo: Five simple ingredients plus a little flame add drama to dessert.
Heat some butter, brown sugar and cinnamon; add lemon-coated bananas and warm; stir in a little rum and continue cooking and stirring until warm. Then flambe! Easy peasy, right? (Our sauce seemed faintly harsh in flavor - was it over-browned butter or was it the rum?) Generously spooned over a scoop of vanilla ice cream, this dessert disappeared quickly! Hmmm, know anyone who loves sweets?

The class wrapped up with a review of recipes, techniques and cooking tips, plus hugs or handshakes all around. It's easy to bond over good food and a cooking adventure. 


  1. Yes, my eyebrows are still intact, but that flambe shot impressively skyward! The kitchen's ventilation system must be very powerful since four cooking stations didn't set off the smoke alarm.


  2. Totally fun! What a great class! It doesn't have to Mardi Gras around here for Bananas Foster, have you tried them on pancakes yet??

    1. Hi Sandy. Agreed that Bananas Foster are terrific year 'round. We love them on ice cream, pancakes, crepes, waffles, bunelos, sweet grits and even steel-cut oats... or just straight from the pan with a large spoon. grin


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