The Culinary Center of Kansas City is a well-known institute throughout the Midwest that offers over 450 classes on the culinary arts throughout the year. The name is slightly a misnomer. While very close to Kansas City, the culinary center is actually in Overland Park.
This weekend I was lucky to be learning from Chef Gary, a certified executive chef and great teacher. The first day, we learned a number of important basics. We learned how to sharpen knives properly and how to make a variety of essential cuts, such as how to dice, mince, and julian vegetables. We also learned how to make good chicken and beef stock. We also learned how to make Chicken Chasseur with a rice pilaf and properly sauteed fall vegetables. The vegetables were actually a bit of revelation. For years, I thought I didn't like zucchini. Every time I had it before, it was mushy and full of seeds. But when Chef Gary made properly sauteed zucchini, I discovered I love it! I think that says a lot about the importance of proper cooking technique.
The second day was equally brilliant. We started off with a southwest smoked turkey corn chowder. I love soups, especially in winter, so I was thrilled for a new recipe. Soup is one of my favorite things to cook as well because you can freeze it. So often when I make really good food I'm stuck eating it for days. And around the third day I don't think its so good anymore. But with soup, you can freeze individual portions and so I can enjoy it for a long time without being forced to eat it day after day after day. With the soup, we also made salad dressings, asian salmon, and a stunning barley salad. The barley salad was so brilliant, I have to share the recipe! So check it out at the bottom of this post.
On the second day, we also confronted my biggest fear: baking. I am terrified to bake. For as much fun as I have cooking, I am a disaster every time I try to bake. It cruel and unusual punishment of chocolate chip cookies. But we were going to make an apple walnut pie and I was determined to finally bake sometime well. And I did. With my team of fellow culinarians, we made an amazing apple walnut pie and I did not destroy it.
Finally, on the third day we made eggs benedict to start the morning. I learned some great tricks to properly poaching eggs and how to make a really amazing hollandaise sauce. We then went into a high speed culinary race - we learned two beef dishes, a pork dish, shrimp scampi, risotto, and received recipes for a great pasta dish we ran out of time for.
I can't tell you how absolutely great this weekend was. Anyone who has any interest in cooking should definitely check out a class at the Culinary Center of Kansas City. You have the option of a weekend cooking basics class like mine, a nine week more intensive cooking basics course, or one of the many, many single evening courses that can bring a smile to any foodie's face.
Roasted Barley Salad
1 cup pearl barley (do not buy the instant kind!)
3 cups vegetable stock
1 cup drained black beans
1 cup diced green bell peppers
1 cup sweet corn
1 cup diced seeded tomatoes
8 ounces of sliced mushrooms
6 green onions, diced
1/4 cup of jalapeno pepper slices
1/2 cup of fresh basil
6 cloves chopped, peeled garlic
Juice of a lemon
3 tablespoons olive oil
Salt and pepper
Toasted pumpkin seeds
Place barley in a sauce pan with olive oil over medium heat and toast it lightly. Be sure to stir it regularly to prevent burning. Add stock and bring it to a boil. Reduce heat and cover; simmer gently until liquid is absorbed (about 25 minutes). Allow to cool. Saute the mushrooms in olive oil and then add to the barley. Then add everything else to the cooked barley and season to taste with salt and pepper.
Distance Traveled: About 150 miles (back and forth)