Friday, February 5, 2010

Nuggets of Info from a Demonstration Dinner at Sibling Rivalry

The first Tuesday of every month, one of the chef brothers at Sibling Rivalry in Boston's South End hosts a cooking demonstration dinner. It is a small intimate event where a group of about 15 diners belly up to the bar facing the kitchen and get a first hand peek at how three of Sibling Rivalry's dishes are created. For $50 a head, everyone not only receives a delicious three-course dinner and a packet of recipes but also gets insider trade secrets and tips doled out along the way.

This past Tuesday, February 2nd, Chef David Kinkead was our host for the evening and presented Grilled Oysters Wrapped in Pancetta with Balsamic Mignonette and Chive Beurre Blanc and Herb and Garlic-Crusted Rack of Lamb. His pastry chef prepared a Dark Chocolate Parfait with Chocolate Sauce and Toasted Almonds.

Arriving early, our group of four ordered a bottle of Gigondas from the bar and then took our seats promptly at 7:00 pm as the presentation portion of the evening began. Chef David Kinkead and his pastry chef demonstrated the dishes while their guests were served slices Irish Soda Bread and an amuse-bouche of tuna tartare on a handmade waffle potato chip with a dab of sriracha aioli. Each chef took questions from the group whenever they arose and allowed for group discussion of food and food preparation. It was wonderfully interactive and offered useful information to novices and advanced cooks alike. After each dish was presented and explained, we all sat to dine on the food we just saw prepared.

In the beginning of my cooking foray, I snubbed cooking demonstration classes almost entirely. Hands-on classes seemed to be a much more valuable way to learn how to handle, prepare, and cook food. Over the years, my attitude has changed. So often I find in hands-on classes that, while I am learning to cook the one dish I have been asked to prepare, I am missing out on the finer points of how to cook the other dishes included in the course. While I walk away with a handful of recipes, I feel I have had a very narrow field of learning. Cooking demonstrations are great ways to improve one's understanding of the nuance of a particular dish or several dishes in a class of food. I now find that I often walk away with as much or more knowledge from a demonstration class as from a hands-on class.

The nugget of information I walked away with on Tuesday was how to get an evenly breaded crust on a piece of meat. So often a crusted anything will lose its crust to the bottom of the pan before it hits the plate. Chef David showed us a fantastic technique for getting that crust to lay flat and stay on your piece of meat. My 6 year old requested fish for dinner last night so I decided to try out this breaded crust technique.

Surf and Surf with Mashed Potatoes, Roasted Vine Tomatoes and Grilled Asparagus
We have a divided camp on fish here at my house. My son and husband love panko crusted cod and my daughter and I love salmon. So I did both to please everyone last night. I cooked the salmon whole and then sliced it to serve but cut the cod fillet into chunks and breaded them individually.

The salmon was the lucky recipient of the crust experiment. I did not use a recipe but just drawing on Chef David Kinkead's technique, I took one stick of softened butter and creamed it in a mixer. I then added some herbs I had on hand (tarragon) and a handful of panko. Once it was all incorporated and would clump into a ball, I rolled it out between sheets of parchment paper. I then put the flat sheet of butter, panko, and herbs into the fridge.

The chef said that this technique works well if you sear your meat first and then when it is cool, cut the chilled butter mixture into a piece the size of your meat and lay it flat on the area you want breaded. I broiled the crust until it browned and then turned down the heat in the oven for a few minutes to finish off the fish. Everything turned out perfectly. Yes, the highlight was the incredibly successful crust on the salmon but cooking the cod in medallions was a huge hit with my crowd as well.

Above: panko/butter mixture on fish before cooking.   Right: Salmon on the left and Cod Medallion on Right
Sibling Rivalry, if you happen to see this post - see you in March. I had a fabulous time!