Truthfully; I hadn’t really been looking forward to this week’s cooking class all that much. We were going to be cooking a Provence-inspired menu which was riddled with a few key ingredients that I really don’t like; goat cheese and fish. Yes, I am sure you are reading that last line with horror and thinking “WHAT?! Who doesn’t like goat cheese?!” Me. I don’t like it. In fact, I loathe it. So it was with very little enthusiasm that I arrived at Day 4 of the Serious Foodie course. The dishes we were to make were:
- Baked goat cheese Provencal salad.
- Slow pan-fried steelhead trout in a butter-lemon sauce.
- Green beans and almonds.
- Lemon tart.
I hate to say it, but I was wrong. Really wrong. The dinner turned out to be surprisingly wonderful! It was so wonderful that I have since re-created it…yes, even the goat cheese salad!
We started by making our own pie crust for the lemon tart. Normally I would run for the hills at the thought of making my own dough but it was relatively easy to make and the pay-off was a flaky, buttery crust. Generally, I could take or leave lemon tarts – I am more of a mousse or crème brûlée girl – but this tart had so much tangy, zingy flavour that I couldn’t help but demolish it all. Hmmm, maybe I have been under-estimating the appeal of a good lemon tart.
The biggest surprise of the night came from the baked goat cheese Provencal salad. I’m unsure if it was the gentle baking, the creaminess of the brie, or the contrast of the honey, pepper and rosemary dressing, that disguised the gamey flavour of the goat cheese but I was actually able to eat (and enjoy) this salad. Usually the taste of goat cheese would make me want to tear out my own tongue and burn it!
To create this salad we made small discs of a brie and goat cheese mixture which were then rolled in toasted walnuts and rosemary. These were then lightly baked before being placed on a bed of lightly-dressed greens and finished with oven-roasted tomatoes, pickled cucumber, roasted garlic, and roasted red pepper. This salad was phenomenal and could be a satisfying meal all on its own. This will be perfect as a light meal on a summer’s day.
And finally, our main course was the slow pan-fried steelhead trout in a butter-lemon sauce, served with faro, and green beans with almonds. Cooking fish scares me. I always worry about under-cooking it so I usually err on the side of caution and over-cook it. Chef Tony showed us that the way to tender fish is to cook it over a gentle heat and to keep a watchful eye over it. It cooked within about 4 to 5 minutes and was delicate and flaky. The lemon-butter sauce helped give it a light flavour and, the beans and almonds, and faro, rounded out the dish perfectly by adding a bit of crunch. What impressed me most about this dish was that I could see myself making it as a quick go-to dinner on a weeknight. Not only is it healthy (protein, veggies and grains) but by taking time to plate it properly, it looks almost as good as a meal you’d get in a restaurant.
Helpful tips that I learnt from Day 4:
- Never wash a wooden rolling-pin in water. Use a clean, dry tea-towel to wipe it down.
- Goat cheese pairs well with Sauvignon Blanc.
- Shortening is called shortening because it shortens the gluten networks, which is what you need for crusts or pie dough.
- Cold inhibits gluten development. This refers to cold water, cold butter, and even cold hands.
- When rolling dough, roll it north to south once, and then turn your dough 90 degrees and roll it north to south again. Continue doing this until you get your desired consistency.
- For a quick and healthy addition to meals, you can cook grains in advance and store them in Tupperware in the fridge. To reheat, simply place the grains in a sieve over a saucepan of boiling water, and cover with a lid.
- When cooking fish, the side of the fish that you want to showcase (the presentation side) should be cooked side down in the pan first.
Overall, Day 4 of the course was a pleasant surprise. I had really low expectations going into the class but I left with a belly full of good food and a new-found respect for goat cheese and lemon tarts.