As a birthday treat we went to Rhodes Master Cooking Class today in Rhodes Mezzanine. The restaurant which Michelin star Chef Gary Rhodes took over couple of years ago. This was the first time we were joining to such an event; in fact this was our first cooking class. Besides the incredible meals we cooked (was assisted to cook), we were so impressed by the kitchen atmosphere, in the back of our minds we’re ready to leave our professions, go to cooking school and start all over again. The equipment, the set up, the team work, the smells, the colors, actually feeling the food, even the heat, I genuinely felt I was made for this. But of course this was in the middle of the day when the restaurant is closed so there was no stress in the kitchen. We got the whole attention of our Chef and his team and pampered and assisted so I know this is no way closer to real kitchen environment but we felt the positive energy and peace in there.
So the day started with a warm welcome by the Chef Paul and the restaurant manager Natissa with a beautifully set up table, fresh croissants and bakeries and champagnes on it. There were four of us as students. After 45 minutes of general conversation about cooking, Gary Rhodes and Dubai, we put our aprons and hats on and went into the kitchen. First we started with the dessert of the menu (raspberry soufflé), prepared it and put it in the fridge for waiting to be put in the oven after the main course. We got couple of tricks here (as we tried couple of times before mostly unsuccessful soufflés). The key is to distribute the right amount of butter in the ramekins properly - you brush the butter in the ramekins in such a way that every corner of the ramekin should taste the butter and take the excess with upward strokes around the edges. Hence no less no more but everywhere. By the way as we already knew it butter is the key to cooking! And the other crucial element in soufflé making is filling the ramekin with the mixture in a way that there won’t be any air bubbles; you pat the mixture in the ramekin to make sure there is no bubble.
Then we went on to cooking our starter – broad bean soup with poached eggs. The key thing we got here is actually making the perfect poached eggs! As we would never thought of poaching the eggs in a very large pot and let it swim. Ah and don’t forget to add a little bit of vinegar in the water. And the eggs should be really really fresh. The freshness test can be done by breaking the eggs into a small cup and check the wateriness of its white. The more watery the less fresh. And if you use a not so fresh egg you’ll probably fail. The soup was wonderful and this recipe can be used with any other vegetable. We had a really nice Chardonnay from Chile (I’m generally not a Chardonnay fan but I really liked this one).
And then comes the salmon on top of spinach with a caviar-champagne sauce around. Finally we got the main trick for pan-frying the fish (other than for tuna of course). To be honest our pan-fried fishes are generally ok but I don’t think you can go wrong doing like this. First of all either with skin or without (our salmon was with skin), you pat some flour on the presentation side of the fish (if there is skin, skin side is the presentation side) and then brush it with butter, put some olive oil on a warm pan (NOT hot!) and fry the fish on the presentation side 70% of the time, see the color is changing starting from the bottom and after the color change is more than halfway through, turn the fish upside down and cook 30% of the time. In total it should be about 6 minutes for a normal size salmon fillet (but not the super thin ones). Just perfect, crispy on the outside, translucent in the middle (isn’t this what all the cook books say – make sure the salmon is translucent in the middle!). And sea bream, sea bass, halibut, all these types of fish can be cooked the same way. And with caviar sprinkled champagne sauce (which is simply butter, shallots, cream, champagne and caviar) around the buttered spinach, our main meal was superb. And we drank the remaining Champagne that we used for the sauce.
As we finished the salmon and starting to feel full but excited at the same time for our soufflés, they are put in the oven for 10 minutes (for normal size ramekins, for small size 8 minutes and for big size 12 minutes). Of course we were all amazed with the result as almost all of them came out like big mushroom explosions. With raspberry sauce and raspberry sorbet on the side the soufflé was probably one of the best we’ve ever eaten. And again we were spoiled by a beautiful sweet wine from Chile (which I’m again surprised by myself as I really don’t like sweet wine).
Today was like a dream thanks to Rhodes Mezzanine Chef and his team for sharing their knowledge with us in their kitchen and Natissa who really took care of us, taking our pictures and enlightening us about the wines. As Anton Ego said at the end of Ratatouille: We will be back at Rhodes Mezzanine, hungry for more!