Friday Night Cooking Class/ Season Finale/ Le Villa

Here we are at the end of our cooking classes for another season and I have a real treat for you this time. Rick the owner of Le Villa restaurant graciously agreed to do the season finale for us and teach the girls about what it is like to cook in a restaurant kitchen. We were all thrilled to watch a professional chef in action. All three of us took a lot away from that afternoon plus very full stomachs!! Our meal was out of this world fantastic and I can’t say more about this fine restaurant. Their food is consistently marvellous and new creative items are popping up on the menu. For example this out of the world Pan Fried Steelhead Trout with seared scallop, citrus hollandaise, lobster risotto and arugula with truffle oil. The girls were able to watch Rick prepare this dish emphasizing the importance of a very hot well seasoned fry pan so the fish will never stick. The fish was seasoned only with sea salt and fresh pepper. It was cooked with the skin on which turned crispy and delightful. If you know me you know I don’t like risotto but this lobster risotto was like nothing I had before. Absolutely cooked to perfection. The girls gobbled down the meal even enjoying the arugula and truffle oil which goes perfectly with the rest of the plate. The crowning glory for them was the scallop that melted in their mouths. A fabulous meal that you must try.

Secondly, what do you mean there’s more!!! Rick prepared a very classic yet divinely delicious Steak Diane. The girls again learned the importance of a very hot and well seasoned pan along with a simple application of a light dredge of flour on the beef tenderloin medallions to seal in the juices. They now got to get in closer to see all the ingredients being added to make the sauce, like brown stock, Dijon mustard and the flaming of brandy. Whooooosh!! And finally the drizzling of whipping cream that was making them lick their lips. The steak is then presented over heavenly Boursin mashed potatoes and perfectly cooked seasonal vegetable. They loved the baby turnips!!

After the girls devoured the steak with ooohs and aaahs they wanted to move onto dessert. Really??? I was stuffed but they insisted on trying a classic espresso creme brulee. They were able to watch the pastry chef tranform the plain sugar into a crispy crunchy topping and decorate it with whipped cream, chocolate bark and fresh berries. Simply decadent!! They loved every spoonful and said they had never had such a great meal. Amber asked why we couldn’t come there every night!!!

Upon asking for the bill I was shocked to find out that Rick had graciously treated us to this entire experience. We are all truly grateful and will cherish this afternoon in fine dining as one of the best experiences that FNCC has had to offer us!! I am blessed to have this time together with the girls laughing and sharing food and look forward to the next season to see what the girls dream up for us to do. Stay tuned for more to come in the fall.

Come and dine at Le Villa located at #404, 1851 Sirocco Drive SW, Calgary, AB. For reservations call 403-217-9699. Their website is www.levilla.ca.

Julia Child’s Roast Chicken

It is week 8 into our celebration of JC100 and we are learning how to roast a chicken to perfection. I honestly think this was the best chicken I have ever made. Moist and juicy and full of flavour. You probably thought you made a pretty good chicken already but if you follow Julia’s techniques you will make an even better roast chicken. I watched Julia last night on my DVD to see if there were any thing else I was missing. She talks a lot about the much enjoyed bird. From first washing it well, to checking it over for unwanted feathers, to trimming the nubs off the wings and removing the wish bone for easier carving and finally trussing it securely. On her show she has an open counter top rotisserie and an oven one. Two things you don’t see that much of today. She also added strips of bacon to the chicken when she was trussing it up. Doing the rotisserie method you would cook the bird twice as long but she ended up with a gorgeously browned chicken. Upon studying the DVD, my assignment and a few recipes this is what I came up with and it was fantastic!!!
I love that I am continually learning on this journey.

For The Roast Chicken

3-4 lb. chicken
1/2 onion, sliced
Handful of celery leaves
2 Tbsp. butter
Salt and pepper
Herbs de Provence
2 Tbsp. olive oil
1 onion, chopped
2 carrots, chopped

Sauce

1 Tbsp. pan drippings
1 cup chicken stock
1 cup beef stock
2 tsp. fresh thyme leaves
2 Tbsp. cornstarch
4 Tbsp. port
Salt and pepper

Mashed potatoes
Green Beans

Preheat oven to 425F. Remove giblets from inside of the chicken if necessary. Wash the chicken well inside and out and dry well. Salt and pepper the cavity and place in the 1/2 sliced onion and the celery leaves. Fold the wings under the chicken. Julia says to fold them “akimbo”, which is I am sure what she meant. Tie drumstick ends together. Rub the outside of the chicken with the butter and sprinkle on the salt and Herbs de Provence. Oil a cast iron pan or small roasting pan with a V shaped rack with the olive oil. Place chicken in the preheated oven and baste every 10 min. for 30 min. Scatter the chopped onions and carrots around the chicken and reduce the oven to 350F. Continue to baste every 10 min. now including the vegetables. The chicken will take an hour and 10 to 20 min. to reach an internal temperature of 170F. Remove chicken from the pan and let it rest on a cutting board while you make the sauce.

Remove vegetables from the pan and all the drippings but 1 Tbsp. Heat the pan on the stove and add the chicken and beef stock. Bring up to a rapid boil and reduce slightly. Add the fresh thyme leaves. Stir the cornstarch and port wine together and add to the sauce stirring constantly. Adjust seasoning with salt and pepper. If too thick adjust with more stock.

Slice chicken and serve over mashed potatoes with cooked green beans (or veggie of choice) and the roasted carrots and onions. Pour the sauce over and serve immediately. Gorgeous!!

Excerpted from Julia’s Kitchen Wisdom by Julia Child. Copyright © 2000 by Julia Child. Reprinted with permission from the publisher Alfred A. Knopf, a division of Random House, Inc.