Cooking School: Spain

The cooking class last night was a lot of fun…despite slightly cramped quarters and loud neighbors, Lindsay and I were able to learn a bit more about Spanish cooking.

The chef, Paul Schunder, gave anecdotes about the time he spent in Spain, and demonstrated several recipes.

First up was Patatas Bravas, crispy potatoes with hot sauce. The potatoes were perfectly deep-fried in canola oil and served with a delicious, smoky tomato sauce for dipping. This sauce was so simple to prepare, but full of flavor from smoked hot paprika. The drizzle on the side is a garlic aioli, from the Central Market deli department. I’m an aioli-lover, but this one was just okay in my book.

Next was Gaspacho de Andaluz, a fantastic cold pureed soup. Until now, my favorite gazpacho recipe comes from the French Laundry Cookbook…but this one is so much easier and just as tasty. The chef used canned Muir Glen Fire-Roasted tomatoes, which added a great roasty-toasty flavor to the soup. The soup is strained before serving, so the chef kept the solids and used them as a bruschetta topping. This was definitely my favorite dish.

Ensalada en Salsa Romesco (Vegetable Salad in Romesco Sauce) featured surprising textures and flavors. The vegetables (potatoes, green beans, zucchini, onion, cucumber) were just blanched for a short time, so each one, even the potatoes, were somewhere between raw and crisp-tender. The sauce served as a dressing, a bit spicy, vinegary, and flavorful.

Next came the Paella amb Verdures (Vegetable Paella), which was good, but not wonderful. I liked the mix of vegetables (cauliflower, leeks, artichoke hearts, roasted bell peppers), but it seemed a little ordinary. There was no saffron in the dish, which was surprising to me.

And for the big finale, the chef prepared Crema Catalana, a Spanish version of creme brulee. Unfortunately, the dessert never firmed up, so were were unable to see the end result. We did taste the liquid, smooth and cinnamony with a hit of lemon, but without the proper texture, it was quite disappointing. I was a little insulted to find out that the chef had not tested this recipe (or several others) beforehand…it seems disrespectful to the class…we were there to learn how to make Spanish dishes, not to be guinea pigs for an unprepared chef.

Other than the dessert, the class was a lot of fun, and I loved being in that culinary atmosphere. I will probably make the gazpacho and the hot sauce soon, and possibly the Romesco sauce. I’ve already found several other classes that would be fun to attend in the coming months.

Actually, I think a bowl of gazpacho would be perfect to dine on while watching Project Runway tonight. Happy Wednesday, everyone!

5 responses to “Cooking School: Spain”

  1. Those recipes look fun, but I’m sorry that it wasn’t quite organized well. I mean, if you’re going to a class you’d expect things to at least be tried out… mistakes are always made, that’s part of cooking… but still. But, as you said, at least you have some recipes to try out and make them your own by building on them.

  2. The food looks delicious. And shame on the teacher for not being better prepared!

  3. wow, those photos look amazing. i totally want to try that gazpacho & bruschetta recipe…you’ll have to post those! i’ve never tried gazpacho because i don’t think i’d like cold soups, but i like the idea of using the solids to make something else. smart! too bad you were guinea pigs for the class, that really sucks!

  4. great pictures–looks like a fun class–I love the idea of reusing the soup parts for bruschetta!

  5. They look lovely. The cooking class gave great results.

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