Braised and Beautiful

Oh how I love Groupon… It always gets me places that I normally would not go to, know about, or want to spend money on. Case in point: Epicurean School in Anaheim.

My first experience with a “cooking class” was also because of Groupon at Prep Kitchen Essentials. This one at Epicurean was different in that this place is not a store with a kitchen in the back. This place is a kitchen classroom, which was very cool. Expectations upon walking in were high.. and you know what happens when expectations are high?? You’re often disappointed.

Good opportunity for us to test out Wolf Ranges

Minh let me choose the class. Of course I’m going to pick braising.. braising is like MY FAVORITE METHOD OF COOKING.. (well braising, roasting, and stews). My first experience with braising was this AMAZING braised oxtail I made back when I was living in DC.. Cooked in the oven for like 4 hours or something ridiculous like that.. but it was SOOOO good. I have since lost the recipe, but I’ll try to dig something up.

There were about 18 participants in the class, 1 chef and 1 sous chef. The menu: Orange Braised Chicken with Crisp Prosciutto (3x), Beer Braised Flank Steak with Wild Mushroom Sauce, Halibut Braised in Tomato Fennel Broth, Braised Short Ribs with Chinese Flavors, Osso Buco, and Boeuf Bourguignon.

Going over the recipes with Chef and Sous Chef

Considering that we only had 3 hours for the class (and we started late), the dishes weren’t going to have the same effect as if they were cooked for the total time needed (HOURS AND HOURS AND HOURS) to truly develop the flavor and tenderness that you get from braising. Minh and I made the Osso Buco, which is one of my favorite braised dishes EVER (the top being braised oxtail).

Chef Minh.. slaving over a hot stove to saute veggies..

For the most part, the dishes turned out OK. The halibut was a little overcooked, which made it a little rubbery. That’s a shame, because halibut is so good when cooked right. The tomato-fennel broth that went with it, however, was very good. There were three different groups that made the chicken, so I can actually compare the different cooking styles of these people.

Food in the oven... now we wait...

Chicken #1: Chicken was overcooked and starting to become rubbery, but not nearly as bad as the halibut. The sauce had great flavor, but looked chunky (perhaps from the orange pith). Also would have been nice if there were thin slices of orange in the dish rather than the orange quarters. The prosciutto was not crispy.. had the consistency of jerky.

Chicken

Chicken #2: Chicken was cooked well, but the sauce was bland. They had added extra chicken stock to the sauce to thin it out (I guess it was looking thick), but didn’t add any extra salt of flavor. Prosciutto was nice and crispy.

Chicken #3: I think this was the best of the three. The sauce was good, and had a little spicy kick to it that the others didn’t have. Also, the orange flavor in the sauce was much stronger than the others. The chicken was super tender, which was a bonus. Prosciutto was nice and crispy.

Next was the beer braised flank steak, which I could tell when they pulled it out it was going to be tough. The meat was rather dry, but the sauce and mushrooms were REALLY good. Also, the totally didn’t let the meat rest before slicing into it, which is a big NO NO for any method of cooking meat.

Beer-Braised Flank Steak ... getting sliced (unrested)

The braised short ribs had a TON OF FLAVOR.. I’m totally using that as a euphemism for “it was salty”. If it wasn’t so salt, I think it would have been very good. But.. alas.. salty kinda made the dish overwhelming. At least the meat wasn’t tough. The short braising time actually got the meet to a semi-tender state.

Braised Short Ribs (please ignore the messy bowl)

The boeuf bourguignon was one of the dishes everyone was waiting for. It came out LAST, because there was this huge fear that it would be super tough and dry. They ended up braising it for as long as they could, and added extra beef stock to it to keep it from drying out too much. Like the braised short ribs, the meat was tender (as good as it could get in the short amount of time), but the sauce was SALTY. Totally ruined it for me.

And.. last.. the osso buco. I might be a little biased, but I think this turned out the best. Not because I made it, but because it wasn’t salty and the meat was tender (enough) and the flavors melded together beautifully.

OSSO BUCO!!! yum!

Since there was a lot of downtime between dishes coming out and getting plated, we also made a basic tapenade and some fresh pasta with (1) brown butter and basil and (2) creamy tomato sauce. The tapenade was good (for someone who’s not a fan of olives) and the fresh pasta was DELICIOUS.

Fresh Pasta with Brown Butter

Overall, the experience was not exactly what I was expecting. For some reason, I expect a little bit more from these classes than “Here’s the recipe… Have at it!”. A little more direction, a little more instruction. I mean, what am I paying for.. I could just cook at home if they’re gonna hand me a recipe and let me go, right?

Lots of dishes got used, washed, and reused.. and washed..

Still have more Groupons to redeem and both locations (Prep and Epicurean), so I will be returning… but probably not again after that.

Epicurean School
270 S. Clementine Street (Broadway Arms Building)
Anaheim, CA 92805
(310) 659-5990

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