On a recent Saturday morning, sunlight streamed through the windows of The Kitchen Workshop in Paoli while nine women stood around a large granite workspace covered with cutting boards and ingredients. They cracked eggs and jokes with ease as the scent of lemon zest and the sound of laughter filled the air.
“There’s a lot of camaraderie,” said Leah Greene, a regular at chef Art Roman’s hands-on cooking classes. “Art’s a really good teacher.”
Roman studied botany, but discovered his true calling working as a prep cook and server in college. After owning his own restaurant, he opened The Kitchen Workshop 10 years ago. Classes cover everything from pub grub to French pastry shop classics. There’s even a 10-week “kitchen boot camp.”
“What’s good about my job is that it’s always different,” he said. “I’ve got a great gig.”
At Tabora Farm & Orchard in Chalfont and Tabora Café in Lansdale, executive chef Tom Fetters shares Roman’s passion for teaching.
He enjoys the “immediate gratification” and “being able to give people the tips and tricks I’ve learned over the years – some of the things to work smarter and not harder.”
Class menus change often. Some cover a region or cuisine. Others are for parents and children.
“To watch a kid make pasta by hand with a roller and everything — they have so much fun doing that,” Fetters said. “It really is a lot of fun.”
That’s also the idea behind Cooking Spotlight in Phoenixville.
“Our slogan is ‘It’s an entertaining cooking experience,’” described owner Vicky Hanko. “They learn something new. They’re entertained while they’re learning. And they get to eat.”
“Our classes are very varied. We’ve had everything from global street food to Downton Abbey,” added guest chef and event coordinator Jenny Young. “I really love teaching. I love seeing people find they can do something they thought they couldn’t do.”
Cooking Spotlight, Tabora and The Kitchen Workshop all offer scheduled lessons, parties, children’s and special events. Another option for small groups is Pagano’s by Chef Anthony in Chadds Ford, where Anthony Stella hosts private dinner classes for eight people.
“I don’t like to have any structure to them. I like to just let it flow,” he said. “If you have too much structure, it gets really boring. At the end of the evening, it’s about how much fun you have.”
Back in Paoli, the women finished making muffins and moved on to a pork dish.
“We’ll talk about how not to dry your pork out,” Roman noted as he introduced the recipe.
“I’d say he’s doing God’s work, but maybe that’s too much,” laughed Greene. “He’s saving marriages in the Chester County area.”
Try these cooking class recipes at home.
Makes about 3 dozen biscotti
½ cup (1 stick) unsalted butter
¾ cup granulated sugar
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 cups all-purpose flour
1½ teaspoons baking powder
¼ teaspoon salt
1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
1 cup walnuts, chopped
additional chocolate for garnishing
Heat oven to 350 degrees. Beat butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in eggs and vanilla. Mix in flour, baking powder and salt. Stir in chocolate and walnuts. Shape dough into two (14-by-1½-inch) slightly flattened logs. Place 2 inches apart on greased cookie sheet.
Bake 25 minutes or until lightly browned. Place on rack and cool 5 minutes. Using a serrated knife, cut each log into diagonal slices, about ¾-inch thick. Place slices upright on cookie sheet ½ inch apart and bake in oven for 10 minutes, until slightly dry. Cool on wire racks.
Melt additional chocolate in a double boiler or microwave. Dip cooled biscotti in melted chocolate.
(Recipe courtesy of Art Roman)
Anthony Stella’s Potato Gnocchi
Makes 13 dozen
4 pounds (about 5) Idaho baking potatoes
1½ teaspoons salt
9 turns of the pepper mill
½ cup grated Pecorino Romano cheese, plus additional for sprinkling on top if desired
1 large egg, beaten
2 tablespoons melted unsalted butter
4 cups (approximately) unbleached all-purpose flour
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Peel potatoes, wrap in aluminum foil and bake for 1½ hours. Transfer potatoes to a food mill fitted with a large disk and set over a large bowl. Pass the potatoes through the food mill or use a potato masher. Do not use a food processor. Spread the potatoes out on a baking sheet. Cover with a towel and chill for several hours in the refrigerator.
Spread the potatoes out onto a lightly floured work surface. Sprinkle with salt, pepper and grated cheese. Drizzle with the egg and butter. Work the ingredients into the potatoes with your hands. Begin adding the flour, a cupful at a time, kneading it into the potatoes with your hands. Continue adding and kneading in enough flour to form a soft, but not sticky, dough. Adding too much flour will make heavy-tasting gnocchi.
Divide the dough into eight equal pieces and work with one piece at a time, keeping the rest covered. Roll each piece out into an 18-by-½-inch-thick rope. Cut the rope with a knife into ½-inch pieces and transfer to towel-lined baking sheets.
To serve four to six, bring 4 to 6 quarts of salted water to a boil. Add 3 dozen gnocchi and boil them. When the gnocchi bob to the surface, scoop them out with a slotted spoon and transfer them to a platter. Toss gnocchi with 2 cups of tomato sauce and sprinkle with additional grated Pecorino Romano cheese, if desired. Serve immediately.
Note: Freeze what you are not going to use by arranging them in single layers on a baking sheet. Cover the sheet loosely with aluminum foil and place in the freezer. When the gnocchi are hard, transfer to heavy-duty plastic bags. They freeze well for up to 6 months. When ready to cook, add them frozen to boiling water.
(Recipe courtesy of Anthony Stella)
20 egg yolks
¾ cup granulated sugar
2 cups sweet Marsala wine
5 cups heavy cream
1½ pounds mascarpone cheese
lady fingers — enough to layer 1 hotel pan (twice)
1 pot hot coffee (approximately 10 cups)
8 ounces anisette or other licorice-flavored liquor
¾ cup fine cocoa powder
Whip the egg yolks, sugar and Marsala wine over a double boiler until volume of liquid triples and thickens to ribbon stage (Sabayon). Fold in mascarpone cheese and let rest for approximately 10 minutes. Whip heavy cream to peak stiffness or just before and fold half into Sabayon. After half of the cream is completely folded in, you may now fold in the other half of the cream. Mix anisette with coffee and begin to quickly dunk lady fingers and pull out. Layer the hotel pan with Sabayon cream mix and lady fingers until full to top. (It should take two layers.) Top with sifted cocoa powder and let set at least one hour under refrigeration. Let set for 2 to 3 hours to let flavors infuse and make easier to cut into pieces.
(Recipe courtesy of Tom Fetters)
Italian Sausage and Potato Stew with lemon & rosemary
6 assorted Italian sausages, skinned and sliced
1 large yellow onion, chopped
6 to 8 yellow or red potatoes, large dice
4 roasted and peeled red or yellow peppers, large dice
24-ounce can peeled Italian tomatoes, chopped with juice
big sprig of rosemary
1 lemon, zested and finely chopped
bunch of parsley, chopped
4 cloves garlic, crushed and chopped
vegetable broth (if needed)
salt and pepper
Heat 2 tablespoons oil in heavy pan. Brown sausages and remove. Wipe pan clean. Add 4 tablespoons olive oil and heat. Add onions and cook until translucent. Do not brown. Chop together the parsley, garlic and lemon zest to make a “persillade.” Add to pan, and cook 2 to 3 minutes on low heat stirring. Add tomatoes and peppers to the pan. Season well.
When the oil floats free of the tomatoes, add potatoes and rosemary, and bring to boil. Lower heat, cover and simmer gently until potatoes are very soft. Check that pan has enough liquid to just cover potatoes and add broth if necessary. Add sausages back into pan, heat through and serve with crusty bread to sop up the juices!
(Recipe courtesy of Jenny Young)
Tips and tricks
Cooking classes are all about learning new recipes and picking up some pointers along the way.
“I’m always amazed by what people do know and what people don’t know,” said chef Art Roman of The Kitchen Workshop. “They just want simple, good homemade food they can replicate for their families.”
Here are a few tips he shared during class:
» Read through the entire recipe first.
»To avoid forgetting anything, group ingredients in a pile. After using, move each one to a new pile.
»There’s a right way and a wrong way to measure flour. Instead of scooping the measuring cup directly into the container or bag, use a spoon to place flour into the cup and level off.
» When measuring honey, spray a little Pam on the measuring spoon.
» Use large eggs in recipes unless otherwise specified.
» When baking, try to bake in the middle of the oven for better air flow, even with convection.