Thursday, June 6, 2013

Italian Cooking Class

Last night, I attended a cooking class offered by my alma mater, UPJ, at the local ethnic center.  Jill Varmecky, chef and restaurateur from Gia Visto Restaurant in Monroeville, PA taught the class. The menu consisted of Lemon and Thyme Roasted Chicken, Sweet Pea Risotto and Italian Trifle.  I rarely learn much at cooking class, but really enjoy cooking with a group of people, tasting new combinations and taking home some tried and true recipes to share with my family.
Sweet Pea Risotto

I have never eaten or prepared Risotto before last night.  It is a food that needs constant attention during cooking.  It would be a perfect side for any dish that is baking in the oven.  My group decided to leave our peas whole, but you can also puree them with a bit of mascarpone cheese and mix that in to your finished risotto.  Both ways are equally delicious.  We also cooked with shallots, another first for me, and I found them to be strong smelling, but not as noticeable as onion in a dish.

Sweet Pea Risotto

1 Tablespoon Olive Oil
2 Tablespoons Butter
1/2 cup finely chopped shallots or onions
2 cups Arborio rice
1/2 cup dry white wine (or chicken broth)
6 cups chicken broth
1 cup fresh peas
1/2 cup romano cheese
1/4 cup parsley
salt and pepper

Combine olive oil and 1 tablespoon of butter in a heavy 4 quart pot over medium heat.  Add shallots and cook until tender, not brown.  Stir in rice and cook one minute.  Add wine and stir until mostly absorbed.  Add broth 1/2 cup at a time and continue stirring well after each addition, allowing the rice to absorb the broth before adding more.  After 15 minutes add peas.  Cook five more minutes.  Turn off heat.  Add 1 Tbsp. of butter, cheese, parsley, salt and pepper.  Serve immediately.  Makes 4 to 6 servings.
Italian Trifle

For dessert, we made Italian Trifle.  It's a classic English dessert made Italian by the use of Mascarpone cheese.  It was really warm in the kitchen last night, so this dessert was a welcome treat because it had chilled in the refrigerator for about 30 minutes before serving.

Italian Trifle 
 Box of your favorite brownie mix with needed ingredients
1/3 cup coffee liqueur or flavoring
1/3 cup coffee
8 oz container mascarpone cheese
1/4 cup sugar
1 tsp vanilla
1 cup whipping cream
Chocolate Bar, chopped
Pecan pieces, optional
Prepare brownies according to package directions.  Remove from oven and allow to cool for 10 minutes in pan.  Stir together liqueur and coffee.  Pierce brownie multiple times using a fork.  Pour coffee mixture over brownie in pan.  Allow to cool completely.
Whisk 1/4 cup sugar, mascarpone cheese, and vanilla together in a large bowl.
Beat whipping cream at medium speed with an electric mixer until stiff peaks form.
Fold whipped cream into mascarpone mixture.
Cut brownies in small cubes. 
In six 8 oz glasses, place one layer of brownies on the bottom.  Spoon mascarpone mixture on top.  Repeat layer of brownies and mascarpone mixture. 
Garnish with chocolate bar shreds or pecan pieces
Chill until serving.

We also made Lemon and Thyme Roasted Chicken. I made this tonight for dinner. Here is the recipe for this easy, moist chicken.  The skin really helps keep the chicken moist and ensures that the lemon flavors the chicken. 
Lemon and Thyme Roasted Chicken
4 lbs of chicken breasts, legs and thighs with skin on
3 Tbsp of olive oil
Salt and Pepper
2 lemons, thinly sliced
6 small shallots, peeled and quartered
1 Tbsp. Thyme leaves
Heat oven to 425 degrees.

Toss shallots and thyme leaves in 1 tablespoon olive oil in a bowl and set aside.
Rub chicken with 1 tablespoon of olive oil and salt and pepper.
Pour 1 tablespoon of olive oil in baking pan and place half of the lemon slices in a single layer on top of the oil.  Place chicken, skin side up, on lemons.  Carefully loosen the skin on the chicken and slide remaining lemon slices under the skin.  Roast 20 minutes, remove from oven and scatter shallot mixture over chicken.  Roast chicken 20 minutes more or until internal temperature is 165 degrees.
~peace and blessings~

1 comment:

Luludou said...

Would love a cooking class like that! so much fun to share & learn things.... yummy things!