My neighbor asked me why I was taking a cooking class because “you already know how to make all those fancy meals”. She and her husband have a lot going on health wise and I’ve been dropping off a meal here and there to make things a little easier for them. In answer to her question I replied, “there is always something to learn”.
While I am familiar with a lot of cooking techniques, I hope I never get to the point when I no longer care to learn new tricks or with great arrogance, as many people I know, don’t need to learn. If I acquire that attitude…just shoot me. Not only do I taking cooking classes, I take language classes, I attend monthly WordPress Blogsite lectures. Learning is just my make up. The reason I continually attend cooking classes is to meet a new chef and learn a new trick or the latest food trend they openly share.
I attend cooking classes at Cook’s Warehouse in the various locale’s of Atlanta. Many years ago when my kids grew up and moved out, I had this desire to attend cooking school at the nearby Cordon Bleu until I saw what all was involved. I really had no desire to become an actual Chef or run a hotel or cater. I was, after all, finally free of duties with kids, and did not want to be tied down to anything, or anyone and especially tied down to school.
I have great admiration for those who pursue cooking school. It is hard but rewarding work. For me however, I was only interested in learning techniques in cooking different foods from different regions. That is when I discovered Cook’s Warehouse and so happy I did.
A couple of weeks ago, I met the newest Cook’s Warehouse family of Chef’s, Adeline Borra. Adeline is French but spent time in Italy so she brings not only her contagious smile, bubbly personality but serious hands on teaching skills of Italian and French cuisines.
It was a night of Crostini, Soup, Fresh Pasta, and Panna Cotta. This class was “Hands On” and with three other people, I helped prepare Asparagus Velvet Soup with Parmesan Cheese Flan.
The following weekend, I made this at home. I will admit right here and now…I had never made flan before. Soups, I make frequently. So, it would be quite a challenge for me and it turned out to be really simple. My husband loved it and son and daughter-in-law devoured it. My husband said…”this is definitely a do-over”. I love the fact the dish itself is so elegant. It is an expensive meal to prepare. So it would be a dish to serve on special occasions.
Following is the recipe provided to the attendees from Adeline on the night of the class:
Ingredients for Six people
For the flan:
1 1/4 cups Parmigiano Reggiano cheese grated
1 cup heavy cream
1/2 cup whole milk
1 whole large egg
2 large egg yolks
pinch of white pepper and fine, sea salt
For the soup:
The following ingredients will ultimately end up in a blender and sieved so…a rough chop is all that is necessary
1 leek (white and pale green part only), washed well then chopped
2 finely chopped shallots
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 lb. asparagus, trimmed and cut into 1 inch pieces
(pick a couple of pretty ends and set aside for garnish)
5 cups chicken broth
1/4 cup heavy cream
pinch of fine sea salt and fresh ground pepper
Making the Parmesan Flan:
Bring cheese, cream and milk just to a boil in a small heavy saucepan over medium heat, stirring occasionally. Remove from heat and cover for 30 minutes to fuse the flavors.
Preheat oven to 300°F
Whisk together whole egg, yolks, salt and pepper in a bowl. Add the cream and cheese mixture whisking until smooth. Divide among well-buttered ramekins. Fill up to 3/4.
Set the ramekins in a baking dish containing a water bath. Place in the oven and bake until centers are completely set, about 45 minutes. Remove from the oven and transfer each ramekin to a rack and cool 5 minutes. Cover with foil and keep warm.
Making the soup while flans bake:
Cook the chopped leek and shallots in a 6 qt. pan with butter over medium heat until softened about 3-4 minutes. Add the asparagus and broth. Cover and simmer for about 15 minutes or until asparagus is tender.
With a slotted spoon, transfer small amounts of soup ingredients to blender and purée until smooth. (Remember this is hot and blender lid will pop off so hold down the lid). Pour mixture through a sieve over a large bowl. If too liquid in the bowl, add small amount of cream to the blender when puréeing next batch.
Take this soup and place back on a stove in a new pan over medium heat and add cream and season to taste. Do not cook the soup just warm it as you cream and season.
Removing the flan from the ramekin…I used a buttered knife and slid around the inside parameter of the ramekin, then tapped the bottom to further loosen. I placed the soup bowl over the top of the ramekin and holding the ramekin to the bowl, I turned the bowl back over. Carefully, I removed the ramekin from the flan. Carefully add soup surrounding the flan. Garnish with asparagus tip.
The soup can be made a day ahead. Just reheat on low heat. Remember it is already cooked. You just want to warm it up.