Sunday, February 15, 2009

A no Habs zone today....(well, almost)

Today I’m not going to discuss the Habs, to cheer myself up I headed downtown to Bishop street to a seafood restaurant called the “Oyster Shack” for a cooking lesson and a scoff. (I'm a bit of a foodie and enjoying learning new things). I dragged along my other half (he doesn’t cook but loves to eat) to join in on the adventure. We arrived at the restaurant at 11:00 AM prompt and met chef Paul, his sous chef Tracy and one other couple. Tracy also owns and runs the bar Grumpy’s below the Oyster Shack. We sat around drinking coffee while waiting for the last participants to arrive, we would be a party of eight. It’s a small place, not very fancy, (hence the name "Shack") with a bar, 1 large table with chairs and four booths for diners. The last of the group appeared and we all donned chefs’ aprons and gathered in the kitchen.

You could participate as much or as little as you wanted to, help with the chopping /mixing or in the case of my other half who refuses to boil water, just be a voyeur; I was actually too busy writing to help out, I’m the chief cook and bottle washer in our house so it was a welcome change to just take notes and watch. First up on the menu was crème brulee; we made that first to ensure it was ready for dessert. It’s much easier than I had expected and I will post the recipe at the end. We quickly moved on to making a basic tomato sauce, which we proceeded to use as a base to concoct both a rose and a spicy tomato sauce. I have a preference for cream sauces; my other half likes it spicy so we were both happy. This was no place for dieters; full 35% cream for the rose sauce, poured on top of pasta with a sprinkling of freshly grated parmigiana cheese. Next dish on the menu was Oysters Rockefeller (again with 35% cream in the sauce) sprinkled with cheese and baked in the oven. Utterly divine. Then we went on to prepare seared scallops with a garlic lemon sauce, followed by seared shrimp with lobster sauce. In between there was a blackened fish with fresh guacamole followed by a lesson on making home-made mayonnaise. All were incredibly sinful and delicious. Paul cooked with dizzying speed and I could barely keep up with writing down the ingredients and cooking methods.

Paul and Tracy kept us entertained with stories of previous classes and in one particular case too much wine was consumed by a female participant who was contemplating taking off her clothes and just wearing the apron. She was becoming so insistent that Paul said he started getting nervous about her actually doing it. Judging by the expression on his face I gathered she was no supermodel.

Hockey managed to slip its way in to the conversation (what a surprise), well to be perfectly honest while Paul was busily searing scallops and warning us of the dangers of overcooking them, I chirped in and compared an over cooked scallop to a hockey puck. (Hey, I couldn’t help myself; I just had to put a feeler out). He replied with, “Yeah last night I was on the internet and watched a video of the Habs overtime wins in 1993.” We agreed you have to do whatever it takes to get you through these dark days of Hab fandom and left it at that. A tray of Perrier then arrived and we happily sipped on it while Paul whipped up his last creation and our main course, fresh steamed lobster in spicy tomato sauce with fettuccine, which I didn’t eat because of an incident many years ago. I had made a fish dish covered with a tomato sauce and then baked in the oven. I was quite ill for the next couple of days and although the fish wasn’t the culprit, that memory has been ingrained in my head for all eternity. I can’t even stand the smell of seafood and tomato cooking together, but it was no problem, I was already full by then. We sat around the table with a couple of glasses of wine, the rest of the gang feasting on the lobster and pasta dish giving it a big thumbs up. Last task of the day was going back in to the kitchen to finish off the preparation of the crème brulee. Now it was perfectly chilled and all that was needed was a generous sprinkling of sugar on top followed by searing and caramelizing the sugar with a torch. It tasted wonderful, a perfect ending to a fun day.

If you’re interested, the cooking classes are on Sunday morning at 11:00 AM until 3:00 PM. The cost is $60.00 per person including a couple of glasses of wine. It’s well worth the money, and if you enjoy cooking the recipes and techniques alone are worth the price of admission. The restaurant is located at 1242 Bishop Street; in fact you can see the Bell Center from it. Phone number is (514) 395-1888.

Recipe for Crème Brulee (serves 8)

11 egg yolks
4 oranges
1 liter of 35 % cream
1 cup sugar

Whisk egg yolks in bowl. Grate orange peel from the 4 oranges. Combine orange peel with 1 cup of sugar in food processor, process to a fine consistency. Add contents of food processor to egg yolks, mix well. Pour the liter of cream into a sauce pan and heat, then add to egg mixture, skim off any mousse that has formed on top to eliminate air bubbles from forming in the brulee. Refrigerate over night. When ready to cook, pour mixture into individual ramekins. Prepare a baking dish filled halfway up with water (called a bain- marie), place ramekins in water and bake in a 400 degree oven for 20–25 minutes. Cool before sprinkling a generous amount of sugar on each serving, use mini blow torch to caramelize and crystallize sugar. Very decadent and delicious.

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