No, that’s not entirely true. Three-quarters of the cake came out like a dream. It was just the bottom (top?!) third of my Apple Cornmeal Upside-Down Cake that did not come out cleanly. Did I say it did not cleanly? Heck, it did not come out at all!
Making my Apple Cornmeal Upside Down Cake more a Cornmeal Upside Down Cake with a Squishy Apple Topping (squishy because those apple pieces scraped from the bottom of the cake pan and dumped unceremoniously onto the cake became, well, rather squishy).
Which would not have been that big a deal. Only it happened at the end of a Bon Appetit: Vegetarian Supper class at Sur la Table. In front of a roomful of people. Including a chef who studied at Le Cordon Bleu in France.
I learned three things. Never decant a cake in front of a roomful of people. Parchment paper is your friend.
And even squished cakes taste good.
Sur la Table Bon Appetit: Vegetarian Supper
The Sur la Table Bon Appetit: Vegetarian Supper class was a lot of fun. Fun because the chef instructor was a gentle soul with a ready smile. Fun because the assistants (Sur la Table has had two or three assistants at every class I have taken and they all have been great at grabbing needed utensils, providing ready advice, and probably best of all, washing the insane mountains of dishes a roomful of people furiously cooking can generate) were having a good time, and fun because my fellow students were delightedly chopping and splashing and sloshing and tasting.
This is how this class worked. First, the chef instructor demonstrated some of the key steps of the recipes. This ran about an hour which made me and a few of the other students restless (I was itching to get my hands dirty), but it was helpful to see.
During the demonstration, we got a few tips (such as keep your puff pastry cold or it won’t bake nice and flaky) and a review of the recipes. Sure, not all the recipes were strictly vegetarian (the Parmesan cheese in the pasta recipe was likely made with rennet and I can only wonder if the white sugar in the cake was refined with bone char), but if I want to go the strictly vegetarian route, these could be easily addressed with minor tweaks.
The next hour, we broke into groups with each group working on a different recipe. I, as you know, baked a cake. And we all know how that turned out!
Food, glorious food
I know what you’re thinking. You’re thinking where are the recipes already? Alas, while the Sur la Table chef’s have been very gracious in allowing me to share their splendid recipes with you in the past, Bon Appetit, the source of the recipes for this class, declined to acquiesce with my request (they said no).
Now, I looked on their site and found quite a few recipes that were surprisingly close to these, so if you simply must have a proper recipe, might I suggest a search. Other than that, all I am free to do is to recount my experience.
Let's get cooking
This is what what we made in class:
- Fig and Blue Cheese Tart with Fresh Sage: We simply baked frozen Trader Joe’s puff pastry as per the instructions on the box, topped it with blue cheese and sliced figs, baked some more until the figs were warm and the cheese melted, then sprinkled the tart with finely sliced sage leaves and a good dash of ground pepper. It was wonderfully simple to make and simply wonderful to eat.
- Potato, Parsnip and Celery Root Soup with Parsley Oil: I was not involved in the cooking of this so I can’t give you any information, but that’s okay because I found it a rather bland. If you want a vegetarian soup recipe that is just gorgeous, try this recipe for the world's best French vegetarian soup.
- Pappardelle with Wild Mushroom, Swiss Chard and Fresh Ricotta: Another quick and easy dish, it is simply cooked pasta tossed with wilted swiss chard and sauteed sliced mushrooms, garlic and shallots with cream and wine and ricotta drizzled over the top. Everyone who wanted some added their own dash of Parmesan cheese and dug in.
- Fennel, Orange, and Almond Salad: Thinly sliced raw fennel tossed with young greens and orange segments and topped with a vinagrette and a handful of sliced almonds. The texture of this salad was amazingly good.
- Apple Cornmeal Upside Down Cake: This was sliced apples tossed with caramel (butter and sugar stirred over medium heat until the sugar melted and the whole thing became a soft brown color), then dumped into a cake pan and topped with a cornmeal and buttermilk cake batter and baked. Suggestion: Put a bit of parchment paper cut to size in the bottom you’re your cake pan. Or, whatever you do, decant your cake in the privacy of your kitchen!