Where have I been? I’ve been busy, that’s where. I planted a garden again, got married, had a honeymoon, have been attempting to keep my yard free of weeds (the battle continues…), attempted to maintain some semblance of a social life…
I’ve also been learning some cooking. Last weekend, Jenn and I attended one of Sorrentino’s cooking classes, of the Caribbean-islands focused Date Night events. The particular one we attended was for Curaçao, an island I happen to have some experience with, as I lived there for a spell while working for a now-defunct online poker site. While I wasn’t much of a foodie back then (it was back in 2003-04), I do remember being amazed at how much good food there was to be had, be it from one of the hotel restaurants to the little roadside snack shacks.
This is actually the second class we have taken at Sorrentino’s, the first being a “Valentine’s Day” Italian cooking class back in 2009. The classes are held at the Sorrentino’s catering kitchen, which backs off of the Sorrentino’s Caffe on 107 Ave. and 109 St. Catering manager and chef Christopher Hrynyk leads the classes, and is both an excellent teacher and an excellent cook. He is very interactive with his students and seems to have a lot of fun hosting these classes. Amazingly, he recognized us from the last time we attended one of his classes.
We started off making Conch Fritters, a tasty fried appetizer similar to crab cakes (and in fact crab can be substituted instead of conch if desired), served with a salsa made with pineapple (can also use mangoes), red onion, bell pepper, jalapeno pepper, and lime zest and juice. Getting everyone started on appetizers (with a complimentary glass of white wine) and then trying them right after is a great idea, since we would no doubt be getting pretty hungry by the end otherwise.
Shortly after, we started preparing a Coffee and Spice Rubbed Chicken, which we marinated with onion, some habanero, and a rub of ground coffee, chili powder, and thyme.
While we waited for the chicken to marinate, we moved on to starting a pineapple rum cake by cooking some pineapple in butter and brown sugar, and flambeing it with spiced rum. A pan was lined with the pineapple, covered with coconut and the sugar mixture, and then covered with a cake batter that was pre-prepared for us.
After that went in the oven, we moved on to searing the chicken and putting it in the oven to bake. While our main course and dessert baked, we prepared a watermelon chutney using a pureed watermelon reduction, with the white rinds diced and cooked with ginger, garlic, a bay leaf, sugar, vinegar, and a hint of Tabasco.
Lastly, we prepared Tutu, which is like a corn meal polenta with black eyed peas, onion, and sugar.
When everything was finished and ready, we plated it ourselves (we were allowed to plate as creatively or not as we liked) serving the chicken with some of the watermelon chutney and pineapple salsa alongside the Tutu. We took our plates out to a table at the now-closed-to-the-public Caffe to enjoy the fruits of our labours with our choice of red or white wine (I had the red, but forget the label). The chicken was juicy and perfectly spiced, reminiscent of a jerk chicken. There was little taste of the coffee remaining, replaced with a slight cocoa flavour. Both the chutney and the salsa were excellent compliments. The Tutu was fluffy and filling, and quite tasty with the onion and peas mashed in.
After the main course, we returned to the kitchen to serve ourselves our pineapple cakes, after soaking them in some more spiced rum. The cake was as sweet and delicious as it sounds, and rounded off the meal nicely, though we probably could have afforded to cook the pineapple a little more.
There was a fair bit of conversation around the table during and after dinner; passing around wine is a great way to get strangers to loosen up and talk with each other. We talked about Edmonton, about the food scene here and compared to other places, local chefs (it’s great being able to discuss such things with those in the trenches), and an assortment of other topics. Of course I talked about my time in Curaçao a bit too, I never miss an opportunity to share my own experiences when the opportunity presents itself.
In closing, I highly recommend one of these classes, and Chris is an excellent teacher; the Date night series is great for couples and at $150 for two, it’s a great deal and a fun and unique experience for a date. Go, sign up for one!
Sorry I have no photos to compliment this post, I think I will inquire about bringing a camera if we attend another class. I am already behind processing a bunch of other photos, though. Soon, though, I will be able to post some more.