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I've been having a great time checking out Nashville's high end dining on the cheap thanks to Groupon. Have you tried it yet? Its awesome. I don't know why I ever hesitated.

Friday, August 29, 2008

Improve Your Kitchen Prowess: Upcoming Chicago Cooking Classes

Chicago is a city that provides world-class dining opportunities. But locals know it is also a city that offers a wide variety of learning opportunities to experienced foodies and kitchen newbies alike. I'm sort of a cooking-class geek; I can't get enough of them. While perusing through upcoming classes to satisfy my own inklings, I was excited to see that there is really an embarrassment of riches in upcoming cooking classes.

Rather than hoard this information to myself, I thought I would pass on some of these exciting opportunities. I've narrowed down the broad offerings of the city into a few that really caught my eye, but feel free to follow the links and look for other classes that suit your taste as well.

Oh, and if there are any wealthy philanthropists out there who want to finance my cooking-class habit, feel free to email me...

Coming up at:

Now We're Cookin'

1601 Payne Street, Unit C
Evanston, IL

Mama Mia Pizza Pizza

Wednesday Sept 10, 6:30 to 9 PM
Hands on class ($45)

The closet survivalist in me (I love reading post-apocalyptic novels) is desperate to learn to make my own mozzarella. Learn to make home-made mozzarella cheese and pizza dough, and then put them both together into made from scratch pizza margherita.

Cool Weather Cooking
Saturday Oct 18, 2 to 5 PM
Hands on class ($65)

The epitome of warm comfort food for those chilly fall days. I'm a sucker for lamb and wine, so my mouth started watering at the very first menu item. You get a ton of high quality food for a very good price. Red wine braised lamb shanks, pot roast with vegetables, whole roasted fish with hot and sour sauce.

Coming up at:

The Wooden Spoon

1601 Payne Street, Unit C
Evanston, IL

Home for Dinner
Thurs Sept 4, 6:30pm
Hands on class ($65)

I don't know why I have such a thing for chicken corn chowder, but it always piques my interests. Add in an opportunity to master a classic (beef bourguignon) and you've got me hooked. Top that off with a citrus dessert? I'm sold. Under the guidance of Chef Alekka Sweeney, learn to make: Smokey Chicken Corn Chowder, Filet of Beef Bourguignon, Coconut Spiked Pork with Quinoa and Peanuts, Lemon Layer Cakes.

Churros, Doughnuts & Beignets
Sat Sept 6, 11 AM
Hands on class ($65)

Donuts and their various cousins around the world aren't exactly "skinny" but they are certainly homey and delicious. The line up evokes images of sugar covered lips and eager morning munching. Chef Christie Saali guides students through Mexican Chocolate Churros, Strawberry Cake Doughnuts, Elephant Ears, Custard-Filled Beignets.

Thai Stir Fry

Wed Sept 10, 6:30 PM
Hands on class ($65)
Chef Rebecca Wheeler

Thai food is one of my favorite cuisines. By making them at home, you can control the oil content to produce light, healthy, flavorful meals. The organization claims this is easier than I think, so I'm eager to learn. The class focuses not only on recipes, but the essential technique of stir fry to put together Thai favorites, including the things my husband and I always order when we go for Thai. Pad Se Eiw (Wide Rice Noodle Stir-Fry with Chinese Broccoli, Beef and Sweet Soy), Basil Chicken (Minced Chicken with Thai Basil, Chilies and Garlic), Stir-Fried Shrimp with Mushrooms, Asparagus and Oyster Sauce, Thai Cashew Chicken Stir-Fry.

Welcoming Fall
Wed Sept 17, 6:30 PM
Hands on class ($65)

Here I'm just going to let the dishes speak for themselves. See if you can't already imagine yourself before a seaming, mouth-watering, soul-warming dinner: Butternut Squash and Apple Soup with a touch of Curry, Pork Stewed with Onions and Prunes over Polenta, Roasted Beet Salad with Warm Goat Cheese, Pecans and Citrus, Apple-Cranberry Crisp

Go Fish

Sat Sept 27, 3:00 PM
Hands on class ($70)

Selecting and preparing fish can sometimes be intimidating, but fish is an key part of a light and well-rounded diet. This class walks you through a variety of preparation techniques: grilling, stewing, saucing and baking. You'll even get tips on selecting and storing seafood. And along the way you get to learn and try some drool-worthy recipes: Grilled Shrimp with Avocado Cream on Black Bean Cakes, Shellfish Couscous Stew, Sword Fish with Sun-Dried Tomato Sauce over Linguini, Chocolate-Cherry Cake

Totally Tamales
Sun Sept 28, 3 PM
Hands on class ($65)

I'm really drawn to the specialization of this class: all tamales. Because tamales are darn tasty, but something about the form of them always intimidates me. There is something nice about the idea of dedicating an afternoon to becoming comfortable with this food form. Chef Alekka Sweeney walks students through both sweet and savory versions of tamales, including: Pork and Red Chili Tamales, Corn and Black Bean Tamales, Chicken Tamales, Cinnamon-Sugar Tamales

Coming up at:

The Chopping Block

4747 N Lincoln Ave
Chicago, IL

Got Gnocchi?
Saturday Sept 27, 10 AM to 12:30 PM
Hands on class ($75)

Based on my (mixed-results) experience, making gnocchi is more art than science, so learning how to read the signs to master the technique of gnocchi under professional guidance is a big plus. I've been obsessed with learning gnocchi for a while, so if I find the cash, I'll be at this class. Learn to make Potato Gnocchi with Fontina Fonduta; Herbed Ricotta Gnocchi with Tomato Sauce; Sweet Potato Gnocchi with Sage Brown Butter Sauce.

Bread Basics
Monday Sept 15 , 7 to 9:30 PM
Sunday Sept 28, 10 AM to 12:30 PM
Hands on class ($75)

Many people find working with yeast doughs so intimidating they never even start. I find it addicting, maybe something like learning to play golf: you have some maddening failures (umm, a rock-hard sourdough discus comes to mind for me), but every time you get the money shot it keeps bringing you back for more, and before you know it you are an addict. And there is nothing that so embodies home as the scent of home made bread baking. Learn to make Bagels, Foccacia and Dinner Rolls.

Building Block: French Bistro

Tuesday Sept 30, 7-9:30 PM
Hands on class ($75)

French food is a timeless cornerstone of find cuisine. As much as I'd like to travel to France and spend afternoons in the sunny south of France mastering the classics, this class offers a look into the heart of French food much closer to home. Mussels with wine and cream, 40 garlic clove chicken, celery root puree, creme brulee.

Focus on Tuscany (all day intensive)
Sunday Sept 14, 10 AM to 4 PM
Hands on class ($175)

If ever I've been tempted to part with $175 on the basis of a cooking class menu alone, this is it. Try not to lick the screen: Artichoke frittata, calamari and white bean salad, Ribolata (rustic bean and veg soup), parmesean gnocchi with sage brown butter sauce, hand-made pasta with lamb ragout, fennel with balsamic vinegar and honey, ricotta and pine nut tart.

Summer Fruit from Seedling Orchards
Tuesday Sept 16, 12-1 PM
Demonstration Class (FREE!)

A free cooking demonstration and produce tasting with Pete, straight from the Lincoln Square farmer's market, using seasonal fruits including pears. Did I mention that it is free? Yeah, if you are home during the day, it doesn't get much better than that.

For a broad list of cooking classes in the greater Chicagoland area, see Culinary Historians.

If you are interested in private cooking parties, Bespoke Cuisine offers private cooking parties for a ridiculously low price. $100 per person (minimum 15 people) includes professional hands-on instruction, 4-course meal, a take away gift, and soft drinks. Talk about personalized attention. For just a little more than many scheduled cooking classes, you can select what you want to learn from their menu of choices. If you don't happen to have 14 close personal foodie friends, consider joining one of their Mix it up parties.

If you are looking to be more of a master than a dilettante, you might want to look into Heat and Spice Cooking (925 W Cullom Ave, Chicago). They offer short courses (three and four weeks, $260 and up) and longer courses (five and six weeks, $460 and up) around cuisines including Indian, Mexican, or Thai. They also have a series of one-time courses that go for around $75 each. Best of all, they offer incredibly intimate settings: courses are limited to 5 people.


Megan said...

The city is starting its World Kitchen series of classes again in Sept, too.

Ari (Baking and Books) said...

I have never taken a cooking class but really, really want to! Most of them around here are in the city, which should be ideal except my work schedule makes the hours impossible to manage. Alas, someday! And I hope you find a wealthy philanthropist to fund your classes. If they have any cash left to spare send them my way? ;)

ginny said...

hey erin, I love your food on foodgawker and your posts on your blog! Yum! My husband and I used to live in Chicago (he's in the restaurant biz) and are going back for his birthday in a couple weeks. Just wondering if you have ever done the Chicago food planet tour? We are both big foodies, is it worth the 3 hours?

Astra Libris said...

ooooh, I'm sincerely hoping that you'll attend plenty of these classes so you can tell us about them!

I'm also completely enamored with your chicken tortilla soup recipe... Such a nutritional triumph, and So scrumptious sounding too! It's zoomed to the very top of my "must make soon for supper" list!

Jeep Parts said...

Thanks for this classes.

Erin @ The Skinny Gourmet said...

Megan: Great point! Thanks for bringing it up. There are some great opportunities there too.

Ari: The options are really flexible for most classes, including both afternoon and nights during the week and on weekends. If you poke around you should surely be able to find something that fits your schedule.

Ginny: I've never done the food planet tour, although it is a tempting opportunity. The online reviews all look very very strong. Also, if your hubby was in the restaurant biz in chicago, he probably knows a lot of great spots already, but if you want to email me I'd be glad to share some of my eating recommendations with you for your visit.

Astra: I'll be sure to let you know if I catch any classes, and thanks for the good vibes on the soup. It is one of my absolute favorites!

jeep: glad you liked 'em

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