Ever wanted to learn how to cook in a classroom kitchen setting? Ever noticed the price tag (RIDICULOUS) on those classes and decided to hold off on the class?
Well, Nick and I gave in to the temptation and splurged on a date to learn how to cook seafood at The Chopping Block here in Chicago. Thanks to a gift card Nick got as a birthday gift, we had 50% off. With the half off, the class was well worth it! (and so much fun!)
I even got my own chopping block “station” with my own set of recipes and a super sharp chef’s knife!
“Seafood 101” Menu
Macadamia Nut Crusted Sea Bass
Pan Seared Salmon with Sesame Ginger Glaze and sticky rice
Sweet potato, corn, bacon and chive succotash
I hauled my lazy self out of bed at 9am on a Saturday to make it to class on time, which starts promptly at 10am. We arrived a little early and found this! Surprise! A breakfast granola with yogurt and fresh berries.
I immediately helped myself to some deliciousness while I made my name tag and we waited for other members to join the class. Though the yogurt was really runny, spiked with lots of honey, and went extremely well with the crunchy, slightly tart, cranberry-studded granola. Needless to say, this was only the first of 3 helpings.
I took some pictures of the huge kitchen we were cooking in. On the counters are 12 “stations” for all 12 students to chop and cook. The kitchen is actually much larger than it looks. I couldn’t capture the left side of the room.
Going further past these counters, there were 3 big wooden dining tables with chairs that made me feel like I was Goldilocks in the 3 bears’ cottage. Lots of natural lighting!
Before class started, we all washed our hands and put on aprons for obvious reasons. Then we went to work. The first dish we made was THE most Amazing Pineapple Relish. EVER. I can definitely get used to having all my vegetables washed, pitted, and peeled…Here were all our raw ingredients set up on the counter between the 4 of us.
It was basically pineapple salsa with a heck of a lot of ingredients (including cilantro, shallot, mint, mango, and a whole jalapeno!). It was a lot of fun working in a group of 4, slicing and dicing all the individual components then combining it! (I’m going to save the end product for the end because this was my favorite dish)
Next up, the Bacon, Sweet Potato, Corn Succotash. In our group, Tom decided he was going to be in charge of cooking the dish and he did a mighty swell job of sauteeing all the ingredients. He was a huge bacon-lover. 🙂
The big hunks of bacon aren’t obvious in the picture, but there were plenty. While Tom cooked, Nick and I diced EVERYTHING (onion, garlic, chives, cilantro…). And we got to roast the poblano pepper!
I worked on my knife skills chopping up the chives. We were taught the “correct” method to chop vegetables and I was able to produce this mound of chives! I haven’t felt this proud of my knife skills in a looong time…or EVER for that matter.
I also got to be in charge of making the macadamia crust and crusting our Macadamia Nut Crusted Sea bass. As you can see, this wasn’t a particularly difficult crust to make. Simple simple ingredients.
I was sort of meticulous when it came to coating the fish fillet’s. We coated 4 fillet’s with 1 whole cup of roasted macadamia’s, panko breadcrumbs (unexpected but yummy!), flour, chives, and 1/2 cup of melted butter. A decadent crust it was!
We marinated shrimp, seared salmon, and made an amazing sesame ginger sauce to glaze the fish (no pictures, I was too busy dicing at the time). Before we knew it, everything was ready! And it was noon! Here was our other group mate Diane, de-panning (is that even a word?) our bass which was broiled in the oven.
When all the dishes were ready, we set all our goodies on the counter for one final picture, and then moved everything to the Goldilocks dining table so the four of us could dig into our feast. 🙂 We didn’t even care what the other 2 groups were doing, we just ate and ate and ate.
ROUND 1! Here’s my plate of goods. Of course, there was a ton of salsa and shrimp and succotash. I am not embarrassed to say that I literally ate all of the pineapple relish after everyone else took their spoonful. It was DELICIOUS – refreshing, tart, sweet, fresh, but maybe a little too much cilantro. My tongue was numb after all the acid by the end of the meal.
My review of our Salmon: The sauce was the best part. Though we put an entire hunk of ginger in it, the flavor of the honey and mirin was able to counter that and bring out sweetness instead of fishiness. However, I would have liked my fish less well-cooked (we pan-fried it for too long!) The sesame seeds on top really do make a difference! Look at all those Chinese fermented black beans on top! Nom nom nom…
*Tip* When peeling ginger, use the curved edges of your spoon to scrape it off! Saves time and energy!
My review of our bass: Though I loved the fish – tender, flaky, and light, the crust was in general too heavy and a little disappointing. Surprisingly, the macadamia and panko didn’t give the crust much flavor, but did provide a good texture. The panko got soggy but the nuts were crunchy! I would have preferred my sea bass topless and eaten with a mound of pineapple relish!
My review of our succotash: Sweet potato’s browned on a pan with corn + bacon + roasted poblano pepper = flavor explosion. I actually didn’t feel that the bacon added much to the flavor of the dish, though it helped grease the pan! That night, we went home inspired to make sweet potato souccatash without bacon! Unfortunately, Nick bought a yucca instead (thinking it was sweet potato) and needles to say…we kinda failed. 😦
My review of our Shrimp: You cannot go wrong with grilled shrimp that was marinated in olive oil. It tastes as good as it looks! They key is to have a sizzling hot grill pan when you throw them on. Char on grilled food is just…amazing.
Overall, it was an insanely fun class!
I learned a TON of cooking tricks, and I really ate a lot of delicious food. Our teacher Quincy was hilarious and everyone had a ball! I would totally do another class if only it weren’t so expensive. That best part is, NO NEED TO WASH DISHES!!! woohoo!!
Would I take another class at the Chopping Block?? Although I had a blast, I’d probably say NO – one class just to get the experience is enough! These classes are more fun when you go with someone else you know, but the price tag is too steep. An exception might be if there was a special occasion or if there was a specific class offered that was especially interesting to me and that I couldn’t find recipes online for.
Now if ONLY The Chopping Block will realize we are in a recession and adjust their prices accordingly! Let me know if anything looks good to you and you’d like the recipe. I’d be happy to share.
So now I ask you this, if YOU taught a cooking class, what would be on YOUR menu??
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