Introduction to the Culinary Arts at the Workhouse: Weeks 3 & 4 but not 5

I’m behind on this. I always get behind on things like this.

I am still enjoying the class, though. Here are three weeks worth of updates. Our final session is tomorrow.

Week 3: Soups & Stews

I’ll say this was maybe the lightest on learning new things, but definitely built on the previous classes. Also, the food was good, which makes up for the light learning

We made:

  • Pumpkin Bisque
  • Beef and Guinness Pie
  • Zuppa Toscana
  • Chicken & Dumplings

I feel like we also made a dessert– but I’ve lot track of it.

Week 4

It never occurred to me that there might be a middle ground when it comes to eating snails. I expected either to be disgusted or enthralled. Instead? it was OK. The next time I see escargot on a menu, I might try it again.  I have trouble imagining a situation where I’d want to cook it at home.

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The emphasis of the class in general was pasta (which we made in class), and Italian food more generally:

  • Bruschetta with Tomato and Basil
  • Roasted Garlic Bread
  • Crab Cakes
  • Chicken-stuffed ravioli with cream and butter sauce
  • Manicotti with cheese filling.
  • Zabaglione

The bulk of my time was spent on the marinara for the manicotti (which was exactly the kind of experience I’d hoped to get out of this class: a chance to work on basic preparations, with an expert at hand to point me in the right direction), and the zabaglione.  The marinara turned out good, but I was damn proud of the zabaglione. Give me some yolks, sugar, and wine, and I’ll make you a desert. Well, a desert sauce at least.

That was rapturous.

Week 5

I was (sadly) not able to make class. The chef saved me a copy of the handout, at least– if there’s anything interesting, I’ll report it here. That’s kinda what I do here.

Introduction to the Culinary Arts at the Workhouse: Week 2

I’m enrolled in a 6-week cooking class at the Lorton Workhouse. Our second class was Monday, 1/6.

Class began with a discussion of the five mother sauces, and throughout the night we made two of them (hollandaise and a vinaigrette. We made a béchamel last week.), and some veggie chopping and other prep-work.

The night’s menu was:

  • Warm Bacon and Spinach Salad
  • Caramelized Onion Risotto with Roasted Tomatoes
  • Savory French Brussels Sprouts
  • Baked Salmon with Tarragon Hollandaise
  • A “cake” made of layers of crêpe and an amaretto crème anglaise, topped with a chocolate ganache (with more amaretto)

I may not have actually spent two hours stirring risotto, but it sure felt like it. Someone had to do it, and I was in the right (or wrong) place at the right time. Despite the arm-exertion, it was useful to see how a risotto builds up, and get a basic sense for when to add more liquid to the dish.

Making a crêpe was a good confidence-builder: I’ve tried it at home and failed miserably, ending up with something I’ll call “scrambled crêpes”. I tried it a home the next night, and promptly… scrambled some more. After about three or four failures, some tweaking of temperature levels and amounts of butter, and one pan switch, I made about a half dozen acceptable-looking crêpes. Score!

Introduction to the Culinary Arts at the Workhouse: Week 1

I’m enrolled in a 6-week cooking class at the Lorton Workhouse. Our first class was Monday.

I expected the classroom to be a temporary space. The workhouse map shows a “culinary arts center” that isn’t yet complete, so I was prepared for this to be a makeshift operation.

And boy, is it makeshift:  less a kitchen or classroom than a bunch of folding tables and portable gas and electric burners in the lobby area of one of the Workhouse buildings. The pantry and most of the equipment are crated and carried back and forth between class and the chef’s home.

I’ll admit this was off-putting at first, but Chef Kathleen Linton does a great job making it all work. I got more out of the 30 or so minutes we spent talking about knife skills and specific cuts than I did from Culinaerie’s 3-hour “knife skills” course, mostly because of the personal attention: In a five person class, you get a lot more interaction with the instructor.

Beyond the knife skills, it was good to see how a roux is supposed to come together, how to moderate the thickening it provides, how to produce a béchamel, how to that turn it into a pretty delicious cheese sauce, and some tips for shopping for and cooking with olive oil. Most of this stuff comes down to trusting the evidence of your senses– but seeing it done (or having someone knowledgeable help) is a big deal. It’s like calibrating those senses so you can trust them.

The food we produced was great. Our first menu was:

  • Garden Vegetable Soup
  • Cheese Scalloped Potatoes
  • Ratatouille
  • Pan Fried Chicken and Spinach
  • Apple Tarts

I’m not sure it’ll happen in the next six weeks, but (with the help of a corporate donor) a real teaching kitchen is apparently coming soon– it’s exciting that the Workhouse folks are investing in the cooking program.

Next Week: More sauces!

Best Indian food in Lorton is now (hopefully) best Mexican food in Lorton

A moment of silence, please, for My Karma. The owners shut it down a few weeks ago, promising to re-launch soon with a “new concept”. It turns out, that new concept is Mexican cuisine. Presenting Pasilla:

Photo Jul 18 7 26 59 PM

From an email they sent out this morning (oddly, branded with the My Karma logo and colors):

We are delighted to inform you that we will be opening at 5:00 p.m. on Wednesday, July 20, 2011!!

After a couple of months of renovation and working on a brand new concept, we are pleased to open Pasilla Moden Mexicano restaurant, featuring modern Mexican cuisine.  Our new chef, Juan Natal, has 20 plus years experience cooking at several fine hotels and restaurants.  His most recent employment was at Gaylord National Hotel, located at the National Harbor, Maryland.


(I’ve fixed the date in that quote from email)