Sunday, September 5, 2010
Last night my husband and I along with another couple took an Argentine Steakhouse cooking class at one of the 16 Viking Cooking School locations around the country. We are lucky that there is one only 20 minutes from us since there are so few in the US and this was the 3rd class we've taken over the past few years.
The classes are really fun - usually between 3-5 hours and are just a one-time stand alone activity. Two years ago we did a French Pastry class and learned to make palmiers, cream puffs, eclairs, rum cakes and a few other treats. We then followed that class a few months later with an Ice Cream making class where we learned to make ice creams, sorbets, shaved ice and a few other things. That class was my husbands favorite, obviously.
This time around we chose this Argentine Steakhouse class with our friends as something fun to do on a Saturday night. The class was from 5-8 and you cook first and then get to enjoy everything afterward!
When we first arrived, there was an appetizer waiting for us of Grilled Chorizo on Crusty Bread with Chimichurri Sauce. We all got to sit down and eat as they explained what we would be doing in the class. It was the first time I had chorizo and chimichurri sauce and they weren't bad! The chorizo kind of tasted like a hot dog a little bit so I was fine with it. (I pointed out to my husband, the hater of hot dogs, that it tasted like one and he still shrugged and indicated he would never eat a hot dogs. Whatever!)
Then we started to cook! Here is what our menu was going to consist of:
*Argentine Empanadas (and learning how to make the dough)
*Roasted Marinated Sweet Peppers
*Grilled Skirt Steak with Chimichurri Sauce
We started on the flan first because it would need to bake and then cool and we only had a few hours. To make the caramel we simply browned some sugar and water in a skillet for a few minutes. I'd never done that before and it was neat to watch the sugar brown and turn into a caramel. (When eating it, we felt it needed to be a bit sweeter though). The custard part was just condensed sweetened milk, evaporated milk and eggs. Simple!
Next we charred our peppers. This was also the first time I ever charred food. We put 3 large red peppers directly on the gas range and let the flames blacken them. Once they were mostly black, they went into a large metal bowl and plastic wrap was used to seal it. The instructor told us that the moisture would soften the peppers to allow the char to be brushed off more easily later on.
A quick lesson in knife skills came next so we could chop up some of our ingredients for our empanadas. Then we chopped scallions, red pepper, parsley, onions and green olives.
When that was set aside, we cut up our Yukon Gold potatoes for our roasted potatoes. They cut pieces were mixed with paprika and olive oil and then roasted in the oven. Those were my FAVORITE part of the meal!! I never thought to use paprika on potatoes before.
Back to the empanadas. The instructor demonstrated how to make a simple dough with flour, shortening and ice water. Then we were sent to the stove to prepare the empanada filling. First we were told to brown our chopped beef. Once that was browned we drained the beef and in our empty skillets, were told to sweat our onions. We were also told to keep our freshly chopped parsley to the side because you always want to add in any fresh herbs last! Who knew! Dry spices can be mixed into whatever you are cooking or sauteing whenever but fresh herbs will lose their flavor if mixed in too early. Anyway, so the onions were sweating and we added in the rest of the ingredients that we had chopped and diced, also a few dry spices and currants! They wanted the empanadas to have a sweet and salty element. Some of the cooking groups also added in hard boiled egg but we didn't because my husband hates eggs and while I like them, I do not like hard boiled egg.
Once the ingredients sauteed up nicely we added the beef and fresh parsley back into the skillet for a minute and let the mixture rest.
Back on the prep table we chopped up some more ingredients for the chimichurri sauce and once it was ready, marinated our skirt steak in it. By that time, the dough for the empanadas was cooled and ready to work with so we set to work rolling out dough and cutting circles out. We stuffed our circles of dough and sealed the edges with a fork to get those fun ridges at the end. While the instructor took them away to fry, we started prepping the charred peppers!
The big bowl of red peppers came out and we all took one and put it in a ziplock bag. Then we were taught how to massage the pepper to rub all of the char off easily. Once most of the black was off in the bag, rinse the pepper under cool water for just a few seconds to get any remaining char off - but not too long or it will lose its flavor. Then we chopped them into strips and set them aside to eat later on. (I like roasted red peppers but I felt we should have eaten these warm, not room temperature!)
It was then time to grill our steaks! We were taught to always load your grill from back to front in case of flare ups - so your arm doesn't get caught in flames. We were also taught how to test for doneness of steak with the touch method. (We failed a bit on that...we thought our steaks were at medium to the touch but they were still rare. Back to the grill!)
Once the steaks were done, we gathered around the table and got to eat our creations! Steak, roasted red peppers, potatoes and empanadas, accompanied by a Creole Salad that was already made for us and some red or white wine. Our flan was dessert!
The Viking Cooking Schools always have really fun classes and they are worth the money for sure. If you are lucky enough to live in an area that has them, treat yourself to a class or two. But book early - classes are only 12 students each and they fill up FAST, especially the weekend ones. If you don't have a Viking School near you then find a location that does something like this. It's a different activity to do once in a while and it is fun to do with friends. This class was the first one my husband and I did with people we knew and we probably had more fun this time socially.
And I always enjoy learning new skills! Bring out the grill, it's time to char some peppers!
*** If anyone would like any of the actual recipes from this post, leave a comment, e-mail me at EatingWithA at gmail dot com or check my Facebook Fan Page (Eating With A). While I did not post them here, I have the recipe cards from what we made in class. My friend said the chimichurri sauce was AWESOME. She often makes her own but said this surpassed what she does in her own kitchen. Since I've never had it before, there was nothing for me to base it on, but it was pretty tasty.