Saturday, March 29, 2014

Cooking Class at Gervasi and Mole Recipe

Over the weekend, my mom, my sister and I took a cooking class at Gervasi Vineyards in Canton, Ohio.  It was an amazing experience... cooking in an industrial kitchen made me feel like I was on Top Chef, cooking in a quickfire challenge!  I had never taken a cooking class before and I was more than impressed by the facilities at Gervasi, the friendliness of the staff, and what a comfortable, fun atmosphere Chef Bob Sferra helped to create in the kitchen!  (Chef Bob owns a catering business in the Cleveland area, so if you live up there, check out his site by clicking on his name above!)  Based on the food we had 
today, his catering company has got to be phenomenal!

Chef Bob Sferra teaching us the ins and outs of cooking in a REAL kitchen!

At this point I think Kelli and I were scheming about which stations we wanted...

The class was called "Cooking with Chocolate."  With the help of Chef Bob Sferra and two assisstants from Gervasi, we were given the recipes for and learned how to make...

  • Bacon Wrapped Dates with Chocolate, Almonds, and Poblanos with Mole Sauce
  • Chocolate Stout Braised Beef
  • Parmesan French Toast with White Chocolate Sabayon
  • Pumpkin Sage Ravioli with  Milk Chocolate Sauce
  • White Chocolate Macadamia Nut Mousse

Chef Lori hard at work!  She's one of the best cooks I know!
We felt super cool in this kitchen!

Before we got started, Chef Bob explained what we would be making then let us choose our stations.  !My sister and I teamed up, and my mom joined up with another outgoing lady.  We were given the responsibility of making the white chocolate sabayon, and the white chocolate macadamia nut mousse, which I was pretty excited about because both required techniques I had never tried before.  I spent the last 20 minutes trying to figure out the names of the techniques we used but I can't for the life of me figure it out.  For the mousse, we mixed eggs with powdered sugar and Frangelico, placed it over a saucepan of barely simmering water, and whisked it until it became "frothy and warm", 160 degrees.  Then you whip the eggs, add a mixture of gelatin and whipping cream, add white chocolate melted with butter, and add already whipped cream.  Next you stir in chopped macadamia nuts.  Full disclosure: I tried everything we made, even the dishes with sugar and gluten.  GASP!  As my 2nd graders would tell me... YOLO (you only live once).  Don't ask me how second graders know of this saying or how a second grader could possibly understand the meaning of this phrase... I just don't know!  I digress...

For the sabayon, we used a similar technique to heat the eggs and sugar, but this time added a mixture of white chocolate, orange juice, and grand marnier, along with the whipping cream, to the egg and sugar mixture.  Man was it good...

So as we finished our two dishes, we got to see what everyone else was working on.  Watching the groups making the mole was awesome.  They got to char peppers, onions, and tomatoes over the grates of the stove, then simmer them with all kinds of herbs, spices, broth, nuts, dried fruit, and dried peppers.  The smell was heavenly, and the taste... well let's just say I could have eaten that mole sauce like soup.

We also got to try our hand at making homemade ravioli.  It was very therapeutic to send the dough through the pasta maker, fill the ravioli, wet the edges of the ravioli molds, and form the raviolis.  Labor intensive, but very therapeutic!  

White Chocolate and Macadamia Nut Mousse
Starting in top left corner, going clockwise: Chocolate Stout Braised Beef, Parmesan French Toast with White Chocolate Sabayon, Mole Sauce (we also made stuffed dates to eat with the mole, but those were appetizers and they went FAST!), Pumpkin Sage Ravioli with Chocolate Butter Sauce.

As everyone finished up making their dishes we all helped plate the food buffet style, and then could each get a plate with GENEROUS samples of everything we made that day.  Not only was the food amazing, but everyone in the class was very friendly and we enjoyed a relaxing and delicious meal with our new friends!  Chef Bob Sferra was an incredibly instructor, helping you with any question you had and making small talk like he's know you for years.  The kitchen became such a comfortable and friendly environment with him there to guide all of us.  His assistant were invaluable as well, always seeming to be right there when you had a question of needed help with anything.

I had such a great experience that I would highly recommend taking a cooking class at Gervasi.  Their new class offerings come out at the beginning of April (in a few short days!), so check their website to register for classes starting in the Fall (they take a break from classes over the summer, and the rest of the classes for April are already sold out!)

So I came home from the class and since I am on Spring Break this week, decided to recreate the mole we had in class.  I made a few changes to the original recipe but was very happy with how mine turned out!  Below I listed Bob's recipe as well as my own, with the changes.  I couldn't believe the depth of flavor in this sauce... I'm not sure I've ever made anything with so many "layers" of flavor.  On cooking shows, chefs always talk about those "layers" and I truly never knew what they meant until I tasted this mole.  The flavors come at you one by one, and it truly starts out herbacious from the cloves and star anise, then you get that hit of sweetness from the chocolate, and the heat from the peppers develops and lingers after you've taken a bite.  The multiple types of chili peppers, the spices, and the chocolate are apparently key characteristics of a Mexican mole.  To be honest, I don't think I had ever tried a mole before this class, but I'm sure glad I've had the experience and now have a solid recipe for it.  My life will never be the same...  No, but really, you've got to try this if you're a fan of spicy and have an even slightly adventurous palate.

I actually split the mole in half and only added chocolate to half of it.  I enjoyed the non-chocolate version just as much as the chocolate version.  Try both and see what you  think!

Yes, I know this is not the most appetizing picture but do not let it deter you from making the mole!  I should have taken a picture of all of the ingredients simmering in the pot.  But I didn't.... maybe next time.

Chef Bob Sferra's Chocolaty Red Mole

Makes about 3 cups of sauce

6 whole roma tomatoes
3 whole poblano peppers
2 whole onions, peeled (*I used sweet onions)
1 whole, fresh jalapeno pepper
1 T ground cinnamon
1 T star anise (*I used 5 stars)
3 whole dried red chili peppers (*I used 5 dried arbol chiles, found at Giant Eagle)
3 whole dried green chili peppers (*I used 1/4 c diced green chiles- I couldn't find dried green chili peppers)
2 whole dried chipotle peppers (*I used 2 dried ancho chiles, found at Giant Eagle)
1/4 c white sesame seeds
1/2 c canola oil (*I used grapeseed oil)
1/2 c sliced almonds
1/4 c golden raisins
2 cups vegetable stock/broth (*I used Kitchen Basics unsalted vegetable stock)
7 whole black peppercorns
3 whole cloves
1/4 c granulated sugar (*I omitted this)
2 T salt (*I used 1 T salt)
2 T fresh garlic, minced
1 c semisweet chocolate chips (*I used enjoy life chocolate chips)

*I altered the directions to what I did at home, adding some details that I learned in the class that were not written in the original recipe.  I also changed the directions for charring the vegetables since I don't have a gas stove that would allow me to char the vegetables over an open flame.

1. Heat your oven to 500 degrees.  Place tomatoes, poblano peppers, onions, and jalapeno on a foil lined baking sheet.  Roast for 10 minutes, then set your oven to BROIL and broil the veggies for 10 minutes, or until they they have a nice char on them.  

2. Meanwhile, mix together ALL of the other ingredients EXCEPT the chocolate in a large pot.  

3. Once the veggies are nicely charred, remove them from the oven, cut off the tops of the peppers and tomatoes, and cut the onions into quarters.  Add all of them to the pot.

4. Simmer everything over medium heat, covered, for 20-25 minutes, stirring occasionally.  You can take it off the heat once everything is softened (for me, the onions took the longest- so once your onions are soft, you're good to go).

5. Next, throw everything in the food processor and process until smooth OR (like I did) use an immersion blender to blend the ingredients until smooth. *My food processor is small, and I didn't feel like putting the mixture into the food processor in multiple batches.  
6. Finally, add the chocolate chips and stir in.  They will melt quickly because the rest of the sauce is so hot.

7. Store sauce in refrigerator for up to 1 month or freezer for up to 6 months or so.  (These are guesses- Chef Bob said they should store very well in the fridge or freezer!)

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