Cooking Class at Stir

How did you learn to cook?

My cooking skills were born out of necessity. I never had any interest in cooking when I was younger (my interests were mostly in eating) but when I moved to Boston seven years ago, I quickly realized that I cannot survive on restaurant meals and take out and junk food forever. So I started small.  I started with Rachel Ray. 30 Minute Meals. Then I moved to Barefoot Contessa. Then I started calling home, asking my mom for recipes. I started reading blogs (lots of ’em) and I started trying things out myself. And I learned to love  cookbooks and food books and anything that has to do with food and cooking. Now I love to cook.

But I’ve never, ever, taken a cooking class. Not until last week.

I went to my very first cooking class on Thursday, and it wasn’t just any cooking class. It was a cooking class at Stir, the demonstration kitchen and cookbook library of Barbara Lynch, chef extraordinaire at Menton, No. 9 Park, Sportello, the Butcher Shop, and B&G Oysters (only some of the best restaurants in Boston).

we had a private cooking class with Caitlin, Stephanie, and Kristen

I have to say it outright though, that this was definitely not a traditional cooking class, as we didn’t really get to cook anything but only prepped parts of our meal.  It was more of an experience for me, a very nice evening spent with some of my friends where I learned how to do things I’ve never done before.

There were six of us, and there were three stations where we could prep different items from our menu. We picked the menu beforehand, so we at least knew what we were getting ourselves into. The Stir team prepared some things in advance (mixed the cookie dough, roasted the veggies, made the pasta dough, etc) and then basically just guided us and taught us step-by-step instructions in the kitchen.

here's to give you an idea of how small and intimate Stir is: it is basically a room with a giant counter in the middle

and a wall of cookbooks in one side

this was our menu and wine pairings for the night

Our first task was to divide into three stations: one for marshmallows and graham crackers, one for chocolate mousse, and and for the tian (a tian is a layered vegetable dish)

the girls chose to start with the desserts (that's Kelly and Janine)

while the guys (Mike and Tim) paired up to work on the tian

I discovered that I get very serious and focused when I am cooking...

... that I can't even be bothered to look at the camera! (very unlike me)

meanwhile Melissa is all smiles

the dough was already pre-made before we rolled it out, but the Stir staff sent us all the recipes after the class so we can try them at home

we made a second batch, teenier and cuter, and this is Kelly poking holes in them

the roasted veggies were thinly-sliced eggplant, zucchini, and squash

the veggies were layered together with whipped goat cheese and basil, then pressed

we also rolled out some fresh pasta

(which made me long once again for my very own Kitchen Aid mixer)

and then we made ravioli

It was my very first time to roll fresh pasta and make ravioli – I had a lot of fun shaping them into these little flowery pouches! It reminded me of the first time I made gnocchi when I realizes that homemade pasta isn’t so intimidating after all.

This was the end of our prep session, and while the Stir staff cleaned up and set up for dinner, we were whisked into The Butcher Shop next door. Brian from A Thought for Food told me that we will be wined and dined at Stir and the Butcher Shop, and he was absolutely right.

we were greeted with a table filled with different cured meats, bread, butter, and honey

and a bottle of light and refreshing Lambrusco

We were able to just chat and relax at The Butcher Shop, and after a few minutes we headed back to Stir. Then we started our dinner, with the Stir staff demonstrating and teaching us about each course:

first course: heirloom tomatoes with burrata and basil (okay so they didn't really need to teach us anything here)

while we were eating the first course, they started preparing the second course, chopping mint...

... whisking cream and yogurt together

second course: artichoke ravioli with a lemon, mint, and yogurt sauce

again, while we were eating, the Stir staff started preparing our next course: duck

seared then basted in butter

third course: seared duck breast with basil-orange glaze, carrot puree, and crispy skin

did I mention crispy skin?

it was also served with the tian (here it was just removed from the mold, befor being sliced)

there was a point during the meal where I had three glasses of wine by me (don't worry, I finished them all)

And as for dessert… well we all know how this meal ends:

chocolate mousse with homemade marshmallow and graham crackers, almost like a deconstructed smore

Chocolate, always the perfect ending :)

My friends and I had a really fantastic time at Stir. While it was more like a hands-on demo class than an actual cooking class, it was a really delightful experience to prepare a meal together. Our experience at Stir reminded me that food and cooking really bring people closer. And at the end of the day, we all yearn for the same things: good company, a home-cooked meal, some nice drinks, and a perfect ending – whatever that may be.

Tell me, how did you learn to cook?


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