Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Le Cordon Bleu Cooking Class: Appetizer Party

My wonderful parents got me cooking classes at Le Cordon Bleu for Christmas last year. Le Cordon Bleu holds a series of non-professional classes for the general public, and my gift was to pick three to attend. I went to the Italian class in April, the French class in June, and this past weekend, I went to the "Appetizer Party" class.

It was a great class, perhaps my favorite of the three. There were only three students, and the chef teaching the class seemed genuinely interested in teaching us some good techniques.

The four appetizers we prepared were clam and corn fritters, stuffed figs with gorgonzola, prosciutto, & balsamic honey, panzanella crostinis, and "empanadas". I have quotes around empanadas because what we made only very loosely resembles any empanada I have ever made or eaten. Is it okay to put any dough around any filling and call it an empanada?  In my opinion, no. I am not mentioning those empanadas again in this post.

Clam and Corn Fritters

2 strips thick-sliced bacon
1/2 cup finely diced onion
3/4 cup fresh corn kernels, or thawed frozen corn
2 cups all purpose flour
1 tsp salt
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp Old Bay seasoning
1 egg
8 oz beer
1 cup chopped clams (from four to six oz cans) drained
1/4 cup vegetable oil

1. In a medium skillet, cook the bacon slowly until crisp. Remove bacon and set aside. Pour out enough fat from the pan to leave about 2 Tbsp behind. Finely chop the bacon and reserve.

2. Add the onion and cook over medium heat fro 2 minutes without browning. Add the corn and cook for 1 minute. Set onion and corn mixture aside to cool.

3. In a mixing bowl, combine the flour, salt, baking powder until thoroughly incorporated.

4. In a separate bowl, beat the egg and stir in the beer. Add the dry mixture from step 3 along with the chopped bacon, onion corn mixture, and chopped clams. Gently fold everything together until barely combined. Don't over-mix or the batter will become tough and gummy.

5. When ready to cook, heat a large, heavy skillet over medium heat and add the vegetable oil. Scoop individual portions of the batter into the hot oil; for bite size portions, use 1 Tbsp or for a more substantial size use a 1/4 cup measure. Cook until browned on the bottom and flip to brown the second side. Remove to a paper towel-lined plate to drain.

6. Serve with the following dipping sauce: combine 1/2 cup mayonnaise, 1 cup sour cream, 1/2 tsp Old Bay seasoning, 2 Tbsp finely sliced chives in a mixing bowl.  Keep cold until serving.

Stuffed Figs with Gorgonzola, Proscuitto, and Balsamic Honey

12 - 14 figs, cut in half
1 pack proscuitto
1/2 cup shallots, minced
2 Tbsp canola oil
1/2 tsp rosemary, finely chopped
1/3 cup honey
1/3 cup water
1/2 cup balsamic vinegar

1. Make the balsamic honey: in a pot, sweat the shallows in the canola oil. Add rosemary, honey, water, and balsamic and reduce until it coats the back of a spoon.  Season with black pepper and salt to taste.

2. Stuff the figs with gorgonzola and wrap with proscuitto.

3. Place on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper and bake at 375 degrees for 5 to 8 minutes.

4. When the figs come out of the oven, glaze with the balsamic honey.

5. The figs can be served with mixed greens or arugula on a salad plate.  Drizzle a little balsamic honey on the greens.

Panzanella Crostinis

1 French baguette
Extra virgin olive oil, as needed
2 cups diced tomato
1 cup diced seedless (English) cumber
1/4 cup diced Vidalia or other sweet onion
2 Tbsp capers, drained
3 Tbsp red wine vinegar
6 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
1 bunch fresh basil
1 small head of romaine or green leaf lettuce

1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. 

2. Slice baguette into 1/4 inch thick slices. Brush each side lightly with olive oil and place on a cookie sheet.  Place in the oven and bake until crisp and golden brown in color.  Remove and set aside.

3. In a mixing bowl, combine the tomato, cucumber, onion, capers, vinegar, and oil and toss well to combine.  Season mixture with salt and pepper and let sit for 15 minutes to 1 hour on the counter to marinate.

4. When you are almost ready to serve, tear the basil leaves by hand into coarse pieces and fold into the marinated vegetables.

5. Separate the lettuce into leaves and cut or tear into pieces slightly larger than the size of the toasted bread crostinis.

6. Place a piece of lettuce on top of each crostini and top with a mound of the marinated vegetables. Serve immediately.

At the Le Cordon Bleu classes, way more food is prepared than is eaten, so we end up taking a lot home.  The chef teaching the class was smart about leftovers, and packed up things like unfried fritter dough, baguette, and baguette dough for us to cook and eat at home.  The pictures here are the result of that cooking at home.

Bon appetit.


  1. My mom would love the stuffed figs! Maybe I'll try to make them for her when she comes here...yeah, who am I kidding? I'll just take her out somewhere yummy and Italian!

  2. This: "I have quotes around empanadas because what we made only very loosely resembles any empanada I have ever made or eaten. Is it okay to put any dough around any filling and call it an empanada? In my opinion, no. I am not mentioning those empanadas again in this post."

    That made my whole day.

    Your parents are awesome, not that I needed further convincing. What a great gift!

  3. Wow, what a nice gift! I'm not a super-foodie and it sounds cool me! LOL about the empanadas! Those stuffed figs look so good! I'm a little hungry now. ha ;)