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?


28 Responses to “Cooking Class at Stir”

  1. #
    daisy posted August 31, 2011 at 8:33 am

    you guys made some beautiful food. I’ve always wondered what went on at a Stir cooking class! too bad Babs wasn’t in the house ;)

    • #
      Bianca Garcia posted August 31, 2011 at 10:01 am

      Haha Daisy yeah, I have yet to meet Babs!

  2. #
    Michelle posted August 31, 2011 at 9:00 am

    I learned to cook by watching my mom but I also really started cooking on my own out of necessity when I was in law school! This class sounds fantastic and I really want to take a Stir cooking class someday!

  3. #
    Mal @ The Chic Geek posted August 31, 2011 at 9:17 am

    I have never taken a cooking class, it looks like you had a fun time, what a cool experience!

    I learned to cook by always being in the kitchen and watching or helping who was cooking (most my mom and grandma) and completely loved doing it all.

  4. #
    Maggie posted August 31, 2011 at 9:31 am

    Any pictures of the tian when sliced? I’d be intrigued to see how it held together. It looks wonderful intact, but did it get crumbly when cut?

    By the way, saw you on NBC Nightly News last night. Sitting there watching TV I was suddenly alert, that’s a familiar name…Bianca Garcia, hmm. OMG.

    Very, very nice segment on the benefits of chocolate.

    • #
      Bianca Garcia posted August 31, 2011 at 10:08 am

      Hi Maggie, thanks! So the tian actually stayed together very well, almost liked a veggie lasagna – and the reason for that is because we pressed it after assembling. We placed some plastic wrap on top of the last layer, placed another same-sized pan on top, then put pressure in it to kinda mold everything together. It was also chilled for a few minutes. It was really good, and I will attempt it at home soon!

  5. #
    Dana posted August 31, 2011 at 9:54 am

    This looks like so much fun! I’ve only taken one cooking class (actually it was a baking class), but I did recently buy a Groupon for a Caribbean Cooking Class!

    Everything you made looks great!

  6. #
    Liz posted August 31, 2011 at 10:07 am

    What a beautiful meal! Sounds like a relaxing and delicious evening.

    I first learned to cook from watching and helping my mom in the kitchen. As I grew up I realized how much I also loved cooking with my grandparents (Jewish grandma, Italian grandma, and Jewish grandpa who owned a deli for years – endless traditions and recipes!).

    Since college I’ve been slowly creating my own arsenal of recipes and techniques – having a food blog is a great way for me to challenge myself and share what I learn.

    • #
      Bianca Garcia posted August 31, 2011 at 10:21 am

      Liz, that is a great way to start to learn how to cook :)

  7. #
    Kim K posted August 31, 2011 at 10:50 am

    what a wonderful experience! everything looks absolutely divine. i would love to take a cooking class. my cooking/baking just comes from watching others (my family) and being inspired!

  8. #
    Jenn @ Frost Bites posted August 31, 2011 at 11:35 am

    Hi Bianca! I just wanted to say that I saw you on TV during the national Nightly News (w/ Brian Williams) re: chocolate and health. Nice interview and you looked soo cute! Good job girl!!!

  9. #
    Emily @ A Cambridge Story posted August 31, 2011 at 12:42 pm

    This looks like a BLAST. Everything looks incredible, especially that pasta!

  10. #
    Samantha @ Bikini Birthday posted August 31, 2011 at 1:51 pm

    That looks like an AWESOME cooking class. The dishes are so high class.
    I probably would have preferred having done a little bit more of the work. I went to an Indian cooking class in Chicago once and we did absolutely everything.

  11. #
    Elizabeth posted August 31, 2011 at 2:02 pm

    Omigosh I would LOVE to go to a class at stir. And you’re meal looks amazing. You know how I feel about burrata.

  12. #
    Michelle Collins posted August 31, 2011 at 2:24 pm

    This looks like such a great class! I took my first cooking class a few months ago, and learned how to make pasta. The rest of my cooking experience comes from a lot of practice – but I can always use more!

  13. #
    Alaina posted August 31, 2011 at 4:27 pm

    What an awesome class! I love Barbara Lynch. :-)

    My husband and I took a cooking class in Atlantic City and we cooked a French bistro meal: roast chicken, haricot verts and an apple torte. It was so delicious!

  14. #
    MelissaNibbles posted August 31, 2011 at 5:27 pm

    The class looks like a lot of fun. I like your serious picture :)
    I watched you on the NBC Nightly News and you did a great job. I hope it leads to even more opportunities for you and the blog.

    • #
      Bianca Garcia posted August 31, 2011 at 10:35 pm

      Thank you for the sweet words Melissa :)

  15. #
    Lindsey @Textbooks and Cookbooks posted August 31, 2011 at 5:32 pm

    That looks like so much fun! I learned how to cook by watching my family/food network haha. I never cooked until grad school, when I was finally off the school meal plan. Reading blogs helped too :)

  16. #
    Meghan@travelwinedine posted August 31, 2011 at 6:02 pm

    I have been dying to go to Stir! This looks incredible.

  17. #
    Megan posted August 31, 2011 at 9:29 pm

    That duck skin — OMG! Looks like an amazing evening. I have a gift certificate for Stir that I still haven’t used because the classes always fill up so fast. I learned to cook from my parents but didn’t have much interest in it until I lived on my own… and that’s when my mom would get the “how do I make mashed potatoes” phone calls.

  18. #
    Averie @ Love Veggies and Yoga posted August 31, 2011 at 10:33 pm

    that’s great that you took a class!

    i would love to take a cooking class…I am self taught (and it probably shows! ha!) but would love to do a class someday.

  19. #
    Joanne posted September 1, 2011 at 7:32 am

    I’ve never taken a cooking class either but this seems like so much fun! ANd you cooked some AWESOME food!

  20. #
    Taryn posted September 1, 2011 at 3:17 pm

    This sounds incredible! I have always wanted to go to Stir but haven’t ever been able to. Hopefully someday! I also lust after Kitchen Aid mixers – still not in the budget, but I WILL get one eventually! I hope the same goes for you :)

  21. #
    Simply Life posted September 1, 2011 at 9:16 pm

    wow! looks like so much fun! I took a spanish tapas cooking class last year in Cambridge and LOVED it!

  22. #
    Tracey posted September 1, 2011 at 10:02 pm

    Bianca, I am so jealous. I get the invites for these classes all the time but have never signed up. Everything from the preparations to the finished dishes looks fun and fantastic What an amazing evening! I must sign up.

    • #
      Bianca Garcia posted September 1, 2011 at 10:57 pm

      Tracey you should definitely go – you would love it!


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