October 10, 2009

Lugano Holiday Entertaining Class

Jeni spoiled me today, letting me go to a "Holiday Entertaining" cooking class at Lugano, one of "America's Top Italian Restaurants" for the last 5 years. The class was taught by Chef Greg Neville, owner and chef who was awarded "Salt Lake top chef" in 2008. There were 13 of us there today for the class and it was an amazing experience. Below are some pictures of the dishes he created for us and gave us recipes for, and then we were able to eat every course when he was done. So delicious!

Black Truffles - Considered by many the "Diamond of a kitchen," the bowl below (which Chef Greg keeps in Arborio rice to prevent spoiling) would cost about $400 as they typically go for anywhere from $200 - $400 per pound, depending on the time of year. At that price, I'll stick with the truffle oil, although the taste of these was amazing. Black truffles are primarily found in France, Spain or Italy and are reminiscent of an earthy, mushroomy taste with a very strong odor. Greg put a little bit in almost every dish.

Caramelized Figs - A fig, cut in half, with some added sugar and then torched. Delicious!

Bourbon Sage Yams - Perfect blend of yams, sweet potatoes and butternut squash, combined with orange peel, garlic, nutmeg, ginger, sage, pecans and brown sugar - bourbon optional.

Brussel Sprouts with Pancetta - This was the only dish I didn't care much for, though it had more to do with a bad brussel sprout experience at daycare 30+ years ago than it did Chef Greg's preparation. This recipe combined brussel sprouts, lemon, garlic, thyme, pancette, chili flakes and bread crumbs.

Shaved, Raw Brussel Sprout Salad - loved this one, even with the brussel sprouts. Probably because their taste was hidden in the Belgium endive, mushrooms, lemons, shaved grana padana, parsley and fennel, all of that mixed with a citrus vinaigrette made with vegetable oil, olive oil, champagne vinegar, lemon, shallot and thyme. I could have eaten the whole plate.

Butterflied Game Hens with "Quick" Stuffing - A wonderful alternative to the traditional turkey and I loved how he prepared the meat as it was marinated in garlic, parsley, thyme, sage, dijon mustard, lemon and olive oil. The stuffing combined onions, apples, croutons, pecans, chicken broth, butter, leeks, celery and parsley. Great combinations.

Rack of Pork "Arista" with Braised Fennel - They way Chef Greg prepared the pork was incredible, cutting around some of the bones to make a great presentation and tying it together with kitchen string. The pork loin was center cut, bone-in and was treated with rosemary, oregano, ginger, chili flakes and salt then studded with some garlic. The fennel was out of this world. I had never had fennel before (Florence Fennel to be exact) and it had a wonderful almost licorice-like flavor. Chef Greg prepared this with garlic, salt, butter and rosemary. This was maybe one of my favorites of the day.

Not pictured - Chef Greg also made us mini appetizers including a brussel sprout leave stuffed with a paste of olive oil, garlic, pancetta, white beans and rosemary, then caramelized onions on top with grana padana and some olive oil. He also made us each an endive leaf with crezencia cheese, pecan, black truffle and olive oil. Wow!

Needless to say, this was an incredible experience and one I hope to have again next year when the classes start up again. As I attempt to make these dishes, I'll put the recipes on here.