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Restaurant chef to teach kosher cooking class

This is not your grandmother’s kosher," says Judy Belinfante, speaking of upcoming cooking demonstration classes at the Kaplen JCC on the Palisades. "It doesn’t have to be fattening or loaded with cholesterol. And these classes are not just for those who are kosher."

Belinfante, program director of the Adult Department, schedules cookbook authors and restaurant chefs to lead kosher cooking classes, which take place periodically in the Tenafly JCC’s teaching kitchen. "The big problem is finding people who are both good cooks and good teachers," she confides. "It’s not always in the same package."

The next class takes place on Monday, Oct. ‘9, when Denis Whitton, executive chef of the Harvest Bistro and Bar in Closter, will prepare a meal using seasonal ingredients. The menu will consist of cream of butternut squash soup, pan-seared snapper with green pea coulis, pea sprout risotto, and apple tart tatin.

Chef Denis Whitton will teach a cooking class at the Kaplen JCC on the Palisades.

The two-hour class costs $50 for JCC members who register before Oct. ”, $60 for non-members. Reservations made after Oct. ”, if space permits, are $65. Whitton will do the cooking, but the class participants, who number 1′ to 16, get to ask questions and sample all the food.

"Part of the appeal of a program like this, that uses well-known chefs as teachers, is that participants get to really see how things are done," says Belinfante. "You can ask questions, satisfy your curiosity about things, and get to taste the results." Belinfante says people appreciate the chance to get "up close and personal" with the class leader.

When reached at his restaurant, Whitton, who has 30 years of cooking experience, most of it in French restaurants, said that he had compiled the menu by working with Belinfante, since Harvest Bistro and Bar isn’t kosher. "Using fish makes it easy to be kosher," he said. "And I like to use what’s available at this time of year, like butternut squash and apples." Whitton is accustomed to doing cooking demonstrations and offers a regular series on Monday nights at his restaurant, where he cooks a six-course meal in front of patrons who then get to eat it.

Asked for tips on adapting recipes for kosher menus, he suggested substituting soy milk or chicken stock for cream in a menu with meat — for creamy risotto, for instance. Participants in the class will get copies of each recipe that’s demonstrated.

"Being a cook myself, it’s interesting and fun to get different interpretations of dishes and various meals," says organizer Belinfante. "Different people bring different things to the plate." She generally does the shopping for all cooking demonstrations. "We check out every menu and recipe item very carefully. Sometimes we have to make some substitutions, but most chefs are very cooperative and positive."

Also scheduled in the series is a dessert class on Jan. 14, led by Michael Langry, Harvest Bistro’s pastry chef. Lantry will demonstrate the creation of both healthy and decadent desserts, including vanilla cr?me brul?e, individual chocolate souffl?, Alsatian apple tart, and Shiraz poached pear.

For reservations for any of the JCC’s cooking classes, call ’01-569-7900, ext. 463. Classes fill up quickly, so early registration is advised.

The following is an adaptation of one of Whitton’s recipes.

Pan-Seared Snapper
with Green Pea Coulis

Serves 6

6 filets boned red snapper, scales off with skin on 4 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil 1 lb. green peas

5 shallots thin sliced

‘ garlic cloves, peeled

‘ bay leaves

‘ cups vegetable broth or stock

1/4 cup cream

‘ tbsp. butter

Salt and pepper to taste

In a saucepan with ‘ tbsp. olive oil, saut? shallots, garlic, and bay leaves over low flame. Add vegetable stock. Simmer over low heat for about 30 minutes until soft. Add the fresh or frozen peas; turn off the flame and let stand for about ‘ minutes. Put in blender and puree. Put in a fine strainer and set aside in a saucepan.

Season red snapper with salt and pepper. In a Teflon non-stick saut? pan, over medium heat, add ‘ tbsp. olive oil. Pan-sear the snapper filets, skin side down, until crispy; turn over and remove pan from heat.

Heat up the green pea coulis, add cream, butter, salt, and pepper to taste. Mix well.

Tips: remember to ask your local fisherman to remove scales and pin bones from fish.

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