16 February, 2009
Niki Tehranchi used to be a lawyer, until she came to her senses: her sense of taste, smell and touch to be exact. Leaving the exciting world of law behind to pursue her passion for cooking, Niki graduated from the Culinary Institute in Hollywood and opened her own business, teaching and inspiring others by sharing her love for food and cooking with private classes from her home. EATZ offers hands-on lessons and ideas for a fun and tasty five-course meal, made by vouz. My boyfriend and I celebrated Valentine's Day by sharing the fun, the techniques and the tastes at EATZ this past Friday night. Three hours and five courses later, we could hardly wait to run home and book another class with Niki.
The class was full with five couples and four girlfriends paired up at seven stations, each equipped with utensils, a gas range unit and cutting board. Niki knows that the best way to keep hungry people baited during her class is to provide lots of wine and small bites, so the glasses are poured and a plate of bruchetta is passed around for the growling stomachs. The first course we prepared was actually the last course we ate, since the Chocolate Cinnamon Mouse with Cherries needed a couple cold hours in the refrigerator. We watched and listened as Niki explained how to reduce the cherries for the topping while my beau had cherry duty, and how to fold melted chocolate chips into freshly whipped cream so as to keep a fluffy and aerated mousse, while another classmate works on the mousse. We finished and refrigerated.
Onto the next course, the Smoked Salmon Caviar Rolls with Toast Points. Working with smoked salmon strips, we whipped together creme fraiche and sour cream, and added fresh chives as a deliciously creamy filling to our rolled salmon rolls. Topped off with caviar, we set the rolls atop toasted bread cut into fourths, and quickly gobbled up. A quick and easy appetizer for any small or large dinner party.
The third course was a Roasted Broccoli and Cheese Fondue appetizer. What we appreciated about this class was that we weren't necessarily making complicated dishes, but instead we were working on some relatively easy courses that could easily be done at home. Niki does take time to teach techniques that amateurs may not know, such as some knife tips, and the importance of melting and continuously whisking fontina cheese in order to thicken it. The result was a buttery fondue with oven roasted broccoli seasoned with balsamic vinegar, and another great dinner starter, which was also, again, quickly and happily consumed by all of us eager students.
Next on the menu was Seared Scallops with a Tomato Beurre Blanc Sauce. We minced sun dried tomatoes and cutting them into 3/4s of a stick of butter, after which we rolled into a log and refrigerated to chill and harden. After chilling, we sauteed a minced shallot in white wine and lemon juice. The chilled butter log then came in handy, where we cut it into 1-inch segments and melted these gradually by swirling the pan over the gas range unit constantly over low-medium heat. This helps to keep the butter from browning too much and allows it to thicken within the mixture. The white wine reduced down, we set aside the Beurre Blanc sauce and quickly seared the scallops, which we topped with the buttery tomato topping. The entire class happily ate the fruits of their labor. Believe me, you would too.
The fifth and final course cooked was the culmination of an exciting and interactive evening of food (1000 times better than how I remember Home Ec!!). A large bowl of fresh rib eye steaks was passed around for the main course, Rib Eye with Brandied Mushrooms and Thyme, and by this time, I was wondering if I really had the room. I did, of course. And it was well worth it. After pan searing the steaks to a medium rare, our personal favorite, we then sauteed mushrooms in a flambed brandy and cream sauce (woo - the fire that "accidentally" started in our pan was quite the adrenaline rush). The steak, already delicious on its own merits, was enhanced even more with the mushroom topping. So delicious was the final course that we ALMOST forgot to snap a photo before it was entirely devoured!!
Whether you already know your way around the kitchen and already have a few great recipes of your own, or not, you will have a great time at EATZ. The excitement and enjoyment of seeing and eating your finished product make the class a huge pleasure. Check out EATZ's future class list. At least in this kitchen, you are the judge to your own dish, and you certainly don't have to hear Padma tell you to pack your knives.