Sunday, March 20, 2011

Cooking Class At The North Carolina Aquarium.

Last Wednesday, the Hawthornes were treated to another cooking class at the North Carolina Aquarium on Roanoke Island.
Chef Jason Smith, of the Black Pelican, was conducting class today. I've always enjoyed Chef Smith's presentations. He's a talented chef, very personable, and knows his audience. He admitted to experimenting with us today on a rather unusual flavor combination for his sandwich. Anytime I can be a guinea pig for an accomplished chef, I'm game. Chef Smith's offerings today are Oyster Stew and Grilled Shrimp Monte Cristo. These classes are a great value for $20 a pop. I have learned something at every class - useful information - whether it be a cooking tip, a technique, a recipe, or whatever, and I incorporate this new-found knowledge in my own cooking. That said, when you're serving up soup and sand' for $20, be sure you have enough ingredients to go around. There was some scrambling at the end to redistribute the ingredients of some soup bowls and Chef Smith ended up not having enough egg batter to dip all the sandwiches in to fry, so he didn't batter up 3 sandwiches, which would have meant 1 sandwich per person, and instead served us 1/2 sandwich. It was a case of poor planning and both issues could have easily been corrected. I wondered why he just didn't add in the milk, which he had, to the soup to make up the volume or add the milk to the eggs so he'd have enough batter. Whatever. The food was great. Our first dish was what Chef Smith called Oyster Stew. I would call it Oyster Soup. There's a difference between soups and stews. A soup is typically any combination of meats and vegetables cooked in broth. A soup could be cooked or uncooked (gazpacho) and can be served hot or cold (gazpacho, Vichyssoise). A stew is thicker and could be described as a really thick soup. A stew is often thickened with potatoes and is always served hot. The liquid in a stew is more like a gravy than a broth and the stew ingredients are chunkier than a soup's ingredients. I would consider a stew as a main meal and a soup as a course in a meal. If you're still confused, imagine you're making something to take to an ailing loved one. "Hang in there, Heathcliff, until I can bring you some nice chicken _____ to make you feel better." Fill in the blank. You didn't say stew, did you? 'cause stew doesn't play near as well as here's some chicken soup. And for heaven's sake, don't get me started on the Wretched Rache's stoups. Because that is just stoupid. According to Rachael, a stoup is "thicker than a soup but not quite a stew," and a choup is " thicker than a soup, but not quite a chowder." FYI, a stoup is actually a basin for holy water at the entrance of a church for worshipers to dip their fingers in before crossing themselves. I'll stop rambling now and get to the food. Chef Smith's Oyster SOUP 2 pounds bacon, chopped 1 1/2 pounds onions, chopped 1 1/2 pounds celery, chopped 4 ears corns, kernels cut off 8 ounces parsley salt and pepper 3 dozen oysters 2 cups oyster likker 1/2 gallon milk 2 ounces seafood spice He called this Baltimore spice. I've never heard of it. I would substitute Old Bay, since I have that. Pour a little oil in your pan and start frying the bacon. You don't want to crisp it all the way. Add in the onions, celery, and corn. Cook a bit. Add in oysters and cook about 30 seconds. Pour in the milk and just heat through. You don't want this to boil. Season with salt and pepper and seafood seasoning Chef Smith's recipe called for 4 ounces salt and pepper. That sounds excessive, so salt and pepper to taste. Ladle into bowls and add seafood seasoning and parsley over top.
Serve with oyster crackers.
This was full of oyster flavor and nicely seasoned. Very good.
Next, Chef Smith is making Grilled Shrimp Monte Cristos. Grilled Shrimp Monte Cristo 2 pieces rye bread 4 ounces shrimp/ham spread 1 1/2 ounces Swiss cheese egg batter 2 ounces melba sauce (raspberry) powdered sugar Spread shrimp and ham spread 1/4 - 1/2 inch thick on rye. Add cheese. Dip sandwich in egg batter. Fry until brown on each side. Finish off in a 375 degree oven for about 7 minutes. Sprinkle powdered sugar over top and serve with melba sauce. Grilled Shrimp and Ham Spread 1 1/2 pounds softened cream cheese 2 pounds grilled shrimp, chopped 1/4 pound prosciutto, chopped 2 1/2 ounces sherry 1/2 ounce parsley salt and pepper Mix all ingredients together. Egg Batter 1 1/2 dozen eggs 1 ounce vanilla extract 2 pinches cinnamon This recipe sounds extremely interesting to me what with the rye, the raspberry, which I haven't liked until today, the shrimp, and the cinnamon. These are flavor combinations that I wouldn't have thought of.
We were the guinea pigs for this dish and the flavors are surprisingly well-balanced. This dish was very well-received but I must say, I could discern no shrimp flavor. However, I didn't miss the shrimp. Home run on this in spite of the non-shrimp.
Thank you, Chef Smith, for an enjoyable presentation and, most importantly, for good food.


Marilyn said...

That sandwich does look good.

Perhaps he didn't know how many people were going to be there, thus the shortage of ingredients?

Rosie Hawthorne said...

They know in advance.
And we had a particularly small group this time - only 13. Usually it's 20.

My point was that he had milk he could have used to stretch out the soup and the egg batter.

The food was good though. Unexpected flavors in the sandwich.