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Cooking Class

Want to learn some tricks from a top Houston chef? Try this one-night cooking class

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Quattro cooking class Maurizio Ferrarese
Chef Maurizio Ferrarese explains cooking techniques during a class at Quattro.  Photo by Eric Sandler
Quattro cooking class
Eric Sandler, right, chopping onions. Photo by Eric Sandler
Quattro cooking class
Chopped Roma tomatoes simmer to become sauce.  Photo by Eric Sandler
Quattro cooking class
Ferrarese demonstrates proper pasta cutting.  Photo by Eric Sandler
Quattro cooking class
Sandler attempts to replicate, mostly unsuccessfully.  Photo by Eric Sandler
Quattro cooking class
Vitello e tonno tonnato: lightly seared tuna with veal. Photo by Eric Sandler
Quattro cooking class
Ferrarese prepares tiramisu tableside.  Photo by Eric Sandler
Quattro cooking class
A jar of sauce and a jar of pickled cherry tomatoes to take home.  Photo by Eric Sandler
Quattro cooking class Maurizio Ferrarese
Quattro cooking class
Quattro cooking class
Quattro cooking class
Quattro cooking class
Quattro cooking class
Quattro cooking class
Quattro cooking class

Looking for a little entertainment with dinner? Or how about the chance to learn cooking techniques from a well-regarded Houston chef? How about a fun, interactive date? Can you get home from work a little later than usual?

If so, I have an idea.  

Quattro, the Italian restaurant in downtown Houston's Four Seasons hotel is offering cooking classes Wednesday through Saturday evenings. They start at 6:30 p.m. and last a couple hours. For $79 (or $149 for two), diners receive instruction from executive chef Maurizio Ferrarese or a member of his team on a specific cooking topic. The class also includes a three-course dinner built around the night's class. Usually, the classes are $130 per person, but the special price is available through Sept. 28. 

 Ferrarese set the tone for the evening with a simple set of instructions. "I talk. You chop." 

I recently attended a class titled "Pasta Sauces ABC" with Ferrarese. As a mostly indifferent home cook (my specialties are grilling meat and the occasional dump and stir), I evened things out by inviting a friend with professional cooking experience to join me. Our agenda for the evening included a classic tomato sauce and a garlic sauce that's the basis for seafood dishes like linguini vongole. Then we made fresh pasta. 

Ferrarese set the tone for the evening with a simple set of instructions. "I talk. You chop."

So we did, starting with blanching Roma tomatoes for the sauce before moving on to cutting onion, parley, basil and more. While the Romas simmered down to almost nothing in a pot, we turned to the garlic sauce. Ferrarese demonstrated techniques like the proper way to prepare leeks and that cool way chefs dice onions.

My cook friend bailed on the role of taking over prep by picking up my camera and shooting the images above. Throughout, Ferrarese kept things moving, and a server ensured our wine glasses stayed full. It made for a light-hearted, jovial atmosphere.

With the pasta sauces on their way, we turned to making pasta. Thankfully, Ferrarese had all the ingredients ready to go. Add them to a mixing bowl and let the machine combine them into dough. While the finished dough went to chill, Ferrarese produced another batch that was ready to flatten and cut. 

Finally, it was time to eat. Ferrarese returned to his role in the kitchen, and we sat down to dinner that began with Quattro's signature riff on vitello e tonno tonnato (veal with lightly seared tuna). From there, the pasta and garlic sauce we made showed up with a variety of shellfish (clams, lobster, shrimp), but the individual strands looked far too evenly cut to have been the ones I made. Finally, Ferrarese returned to prepare tiramisu tableside. 

"I'm telling everyone I know about this," my friend gushed.

"Me too," I said.

Why not? It had been a fun evening full of delicious food. Want to give it a shot? Call Quattro at 713-276-4700 for details.

Tomato Conserva Recipe

Ingredients:

10 lb ripe tomatoes
1 onion
2 celery stalks
5 garlic cloves
Parsley
Basil
Bay leaves
Salt and pepper

Method:
Blanch and peel tomatoes. Chop tomatoes, celery and onion. Place them in a pot with all the herbs. Close it with a lid and cook for 45 minutes. Stir in the meantime. Pass it to the food miller, season it with salt and pepper. Fill up the bottles and close with a lid. Boil it for one and half hours covered with water.

Garlic and Seafood Base

Ingredients:

100 g spring onion
10 cloves of garlic blanched three times in milk
2 bay leaves
1/2 teaspoon chopped fresh chili
5 basil leaves
1 teaspoon chopped parsley
Leaves from a sprig of fresh thyme
200 mL water
6 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
sea salt
Fresh shellfish such as clams, shrimp and/or lobster

Method:

Chop the garlic. Cut the spring onions into thin strips.

In a large saucepan heat over low heat 3 tablespoons of oil with the bay leaf, add the garlic and onions and cook over low heat for about 15 minutes and discovered, dipping from time to time with a little broth. Remove from heat, add the pepper and thyme leaves. Season with salt. Let it sit for 5 minutes. Remove the thyme and bay leaves. Blend to achieve a smooth consistency.

Sautee your seafood in a pan with oil, add cherry tomatoes if you want a touch or red in the sauce, and emulsify with the garlic base. Toss the pasta in it.

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