For Valentines Day 2011, my girlfriend Fara took me to the Institute of Culinary Education http://www.iceculinary.com/ for a cooking class called Belly Up to Bacon. That is where I met Chef Daniel Stone http://rec.iceculinary.com/Chefs/Detail/277 a man whose passion for Bacon may even eclipse mine. After the class, Chef Daniel and I stayed in touch – comparing other bacon dishes we have had or created.
When I got home after the whole Big Brother experience, I had an email in my inbox from Chef Daniel. Little did I know other than our passions for Bacon we also share a passion for Big Brother. Since we only met in person 1 time, it was not surprising he did not recognize me at first on the show – but once he heard me say the word bacon (over and over) he remembered me from that class months before. He was doing another Belly Up to Bacon cooking class a few days after I got back from California. Unfortunately it was on the first night of Rosh Hashana. While I am not the most religious Jew on the planet, I felt it would be wrong to go to a Bacon cooking class at the start of the High Holy Days. I told him I was unable to make it to that class, but I would keep an eye on the class schedule http://rec.iceculinary.com/ to see when another class would fit my schedule better.
A few months later I saw they were offering a class called Bourbon, Bacon, Beignets. UMMMM – Hello!!!! Yes, I talked about Appletini’s all summer, but my #1 drink of choice is Bourbon, and before I started losing weight and watching what I ate, donuts were one of my go to quick snacks. This class screamed ADAM. I was happy to learn that Chef Daniel was also the Instructor for this class. So on the night of Sunday March 11th – Fara and I went back to ICE.
The menu was simple
Warm Bacon wrapped Gorgonzola stuffed Figs
Baked Potato Leek Soup with Cheddar & Bacon
Iceberg Lettuce Wedge with Sour Cream Dressing, Maytag Blue Cheese, and Crumbled Bacon
Slow Cooked Green Beans with Bacon
Bourbon Sweet Potato Puree with Buttered Pecans
Swiss Onion Tart with Speck
Wild Turkey Wild Turkey
Bittersweet Chocolate Hazelnut Tartlets with Jack Daniels Ice Cream
Old Fashioned Cocktail
Mint Julep Cocktail
(yeah, real simple menu – haha)
After a history lesson about Bacon, Bourbon, and Beignets, and a quick demo of some of some knife techniques. We were split into 3 teams. Each team was responsible for a couple of the dishes. Some of the dishes were split up among the teams (one team would make one part, and another team would make the other and then put them together at the end).
Our team was responsible for the Beignets, Lettuce Wedge, Onion Tart with Speck (for those of you that do not know what Speck is, its similar to prosciutto), and the Jack Daniel’s Ice Cream.
I am not a bad cook – but there is no way I would ever be able to compete on a show like Top Chef. This would be the closest I would ever get to a Quickfire Challenge. There were 17 people all running around the kitchen getting their ingredients, utensils, pots, mixing bowls etc… Our team broke everything down and agreed on what each person would do, and help whoever needed it. Over the next 2 hours we prepped, cut, mixed, diced, sliced, fried, blended & baked.
Just before 9pm Chef Daniel told us to clean up our stations, and join him at the bar where we would have some cocktails. He showed us how to muddle the ingredients to make each cocktail. Then we were free to make our own drinks. I have never been to the Kentucky Derby, but every year on that day, I have a Mint Julep or two (or three, or four, or…), but I have never made my own. After finishing my first one, I made another and went back to my station to start putting together the lettuce wedge salads to get ready for the feast we were about to have. One by one, the dishes were all being laid out on the tables, and all the hard work we had done was on display. We all grabbed our plates & bowls and loaded them up and sat down for a nice group dinner. Everything tasted soooo good! For a bunch of casual cooks, this was as good as any meal I have ever had.
Our team had to eat dinner quickly since we still had to make the beignets for dessert. Fara rolled out the dough and cut them into 2″ round pieces. I put them in the fryer and turned them until golden brown. Karen rolled them in the sugar. And Ron squeezed the raspberry filling into each one. I will admit, not everyone of them made it to the dish as we just HAD to sample them before letting others have them. Another team took our ice cream and put it on top of the tartlets. We then reassembled at the table and enjoyed the desserts.
When we walked in to the class we were 17 strangers – but our love for bacon & cooking brought us together on this night. We then packed up what leftovers we had (not much at all!) and went our separate ways. We left with full stomachs of Bacon, Bourbon, Beignets, and most important, a recipe packet for us to share these dishes with our family and friends for years to come.
I apologize for not having pictures of all the dishes, once they started coming out, my camera went away and my fork, knife, and spoon came out!