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Title - Natalie Knezic
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Demystifying Food: The Cooking Class
Follow Me on TwitterNatalie Knezic
OurHometown.ca
Demystifying Food: The Cooking Class
The Maple-Roasted Berkshire Pork Tenderloin and side dish recipes featured below are from my experience there - so delicious, yet so approachably easy to prepare.

London - Feb. 25, 2011 - When I first discovered my passion for cooking, I assumed that every delectable dish on earth must be difficult to make. Risotto is a prime example of that, and yet seeing it made on television for the first time completely eradicated that thought. "Is that it?" I remember thinking.

Food television has had an enormous, positive impact on the explosive popularity enjoyed by the food industry today. People are being inspired to try new things, to learn more about where their food comes from, and some have been motivated to pursue related careers. Doors that were previously closed to the average home cook are now wide open, and the world is our culinary playground.

Despite all this relatively newfound exposure, some beginners still feel a disconnect between that virtual kitchen and their own, and there is nothing like taking up a local cooking class to close the gap. Whether you are a seasoned domestic kitchen master or a complete novice, all you need is a spark of interest and a little bit of cash to partake of a great learning experience.

Vacationing in Vancouver a while back, I decided to enrol in a couple of cooking classes at The Dirty Apron Cooking School. It was a cool evening as I raced up the steps and into the state-of-the art cooking studio located in a charming brick building just a stone's throw from China Town.

My first impression was of how organized everything is - you receive your menu with recipes upon arrival, and after dispensing of your coat you are ushered into the kitchen theatre. A long island facing rows of spectator seating welcomes participants and affords an opportunity to chat with your peers as you wait for things to get underway.

Enter David Robertson, principal Chef and co-owner of the School. David has an infectious enthusiasm for teaching that is quite evident as he guides people through the first of three courses on offer by demonstrating how things are done. Questions are asked, and discussions ensue. Quickly after that, participants are turned loose on the cooking stations located in the large, open studio, endeavouring to replicate what they just witnessed.

The Maple-Roasted Berkshire Pork Tenderloin and side dish recipes featured below are from my experience there - so delicious, yet so approachably easy to prepare. And the beautiful thing about classes of this nature is that you get to sit in the well-appointed dining room with your peers to sample what you made with some fine wine to match. Things grew so lively as the evening progressed, that David had to coax us away from the dining table and back into the studio for our next course like a mother duck lovingly tapping her chicks into line.

If you are thinking about attending a participatory class for the first time, there is no need to feel intimidated. Structured classes are led by professionals who patiently assist you and guide you through your menu. Experienced? You never stop learning and growing on your food journey. I was pleasantly surprised to come away with several cooking and food styling tips that I may have otherwise missed.

Food is so approachable. The more you expand your horizons by practicing new dishes or exploring unfamiliar cuisines, the more pleasure you can derive from your dining experiences shared with the people in your life.

Check your local listings to find cooking classes near you, then step out and enjoy.

Note: Berkshire pork is a richly marbled, flavourful meat of the black Berkshire pig; a heritage breed. It is more readily available than it used to be, so check your nearest fine butcher for supply. Alternately, commercially raised pork tenderloin can be used.

Maple-Roasted Berkshire Pork Tenderloin (serves 2)

2 170g portions of pork tenderloin (about 6 ounces each)
2 tbsp maple syrup
1 shallot, finely diced
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
100ml dry red wine
100ml chicken stock
1 tbsp grainy Dijon mustard
2 tbsp chilled butter
1 tbsp fresh thyme, chopped
Olive oil
Salt and pepper


Preheat oven to 400F.

In a small bowl, coat all sides of the pork loin with the maple syrup then season with salt and pepper.

Heat a medium skillet over medium-high heat. Add some olive oil to the pan and sear the pork on all sides (about two minutes).

Transfer the pork to an edged baking sheet and roast in the oven for eight minutes.

In the meantime, make the sauce. Reduce the heat under the skillet to low, add the shallots and garlic, then sauté for one minute.

Add the wine, chicken stock and mustard and bring to a simmer until slightly thickened (about two minutes).

Whisk in the chilled butter and fresh thyme. Taste and adjust with salt and pepper.

Remove the pork from the oven after eight minutes of roasting time, and allow it to rest on a cutting board for five minutes. (Internal temperature should be 140-145F. The pork will be slightly pink.)

When ready to serve, cut into medallions.

Herb Roasted Potatoes

4 small red skin potatoes
4 small yellow skin potatoes
1/2 tbsp fresh thyme, chopped
1/2 tbsp fresh rosemary, chopped
1/2 tbsp butter
Juice of half a lemon
Olive oil

Preheat oven to 400F.

Cut the potatoes in half or quarters, place in a bowl and toss with olive oil, lemon juice, salt and pepper.

Preheat oven-proof sauté pan over medium heat, add the potatoes and sear them for a couple of minutes. Place the pan in the preheated oven and roast until potatoes are tender; about 20 minutes.

Remove from the oven and add butter and fresh herbs to the pan.

Apple and Green Bean Saute

60g fine green beans
1/2 Granny Smith apple, diced
1/2 tbsp butter

Cook beans in boiling salted water for two minutes or just until crisp-tender.

In a small saute pan, sauté the diced apple with butter for about one minute. Add the green beans and saute for another minute. Season with salt and pepper.

Tip: During class we prepared the apple separately from the green beans so that we could layer the dish with the presentation you see in the photo. Here's David's recommended plating style:

Place the herb roasted potatoes in a strip along the plate.

Criss-cross the sauteed green beans over the potatoes.

Lay the pork medallions on top. Top with the sauteed apple.

Drizzle some sauce over the top and around the plate.

(Recipes courtesy of David Robertson from The Dirty Apron Cooking School. To learn more about David, check out his blog at http://chaseeats.com)

Chefs David Robertson and Takashi Mizukami of The Dirty Apron
Chefs David Robertson and Takashi Mizukami of The Dirty Apron.

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