THE FOODIE FILES: Cooking Class Panache

By on January 26, 2016

Cooks, foodies enjoy delicious hands-on instruction at CWC.

Left: Pasta-making starts with a rich egg dough. Center: Sheets of pasta hang out before they are turned into agnolotti, capellini and tortellini. Right: Plating the fruits of cooking class labor–homemade capellini with marinara sauce. (Photo: Annie Fenn, MD)

Left: Pasta-making starts with a rich egg dough. Center: Sheets of pasta hang out before they are turned into agnolotti, capellini and tortellini. Right: Plating the fruits of cooking class labor–homemade capellini with marinara sauce. (Photo: Annie Fenn, MD)

Jackson, WY – The best part of teaching a cooking class for me is that moment when my students are proudly plating their dishes just before we sit down to eat. During the last class I taught for Central Wyoming College—a three-hour, hands-on crash course in Making Pasta By Hand—I was briefly worried that moment would never come. We were having so much fun making pasta (and drinking wine) that we got a bit behind schedule.

My twelve industrious students got to know each other while mixing and kneading several batches of pasta dough. Using a hand crank pasta machine, we rolled out golden sheets of fresh pasta and hung them up to rest. We uncorked a few bottles of wine and settled in to shape the agnolotti, a rustic hat-shaped pasta filled with ground mortadella and pork.

Having mastered agnolotti, the enthusiasm of my pasta-making students knew no boundaries. They decided to venture beyond the syllabus to create all sorts of pasta shapes: hand cut pappardelle, delicate “angel hair” capellini, and tortellini stuffed with ricotta and mozzarella. More wine was poured as we cut pasta into rectangles for the cannelloni and got a few large pots of water on to boil.

With one eye on the clock and another on the flurry of pasta-making activity, I feared we would not make my 8:30 deadline of sitting down to eat. My assistant and I shifted into high gear, our students following our lead. Soon the radicchio and ricotta stuffed cannelloni were happily bubbling away in the oven. Biscotti logs were brushed with an egg wash, sprinkled with coarse sugar, and placed in the oven for their first bake. Working together, students prepped the salad. While a pot of marinara sauce simmered on the back burner and another of Parmesan broth warmed on the front, our pasta creations were cooked in batches until perfectly “al dente.”

Thanks to that last burst of activity, we were back on schedule and it was time to plate our dishes. I was proud of how much my team had accomplished in a few short hours. Wine and water glasses were refilled as we toasted all around the table to our love of pasta and the joy of cooking together. We feasted on delicate meat agnolotti and cheese tortellini swimming in Parmesan broth, our homemade capellini with perfect marinara sauce, and crispy and creamy cannelloni al radicchio topped with sage and toasted walnuts. The students had taken a few extra minutes to make the fennel, blood orange, and olive salad as beautiful as can be. I snuck away to slice the biscotti and give them a second bake, so we would have warm chocolate cookies for dessert. (Soon I’ll have recipes from my pasta-making class up on jacksonholefoodie.com.)

My pasta-making class was part of Central Wyoming College’s program of community enrichment courses. The Jackson branch of CWC offers an associate degree in culinary arts, and hotel and restaurant management; I think of it as our hometown culinary school. But CWC also offers cooking classes for the community—CWC’s outreach coordinator Sue Heffron calls it the Jackson Hole Culinary Enthusiast Program. These are classes for people who love food, taught by local chefs and home cooks. In the past I have taught hands-on cooking classes in Moroccan, regional Mexican, and Sicilian cuisines. My Desperation Dinners class was for those who need to get dinner on the table fast. It doesn’t matter if you’ve never held a whisk; all levels of cooking experience are welcome.

There are also tasting and food appreciation classes on CWC’s Culinary Enthusiast roster. Earlier in the term, the staff of Snake River Roasting offered a series of coffee tasting and brewing classes, sharing their secrets to making great coffee. Chef Virginia King taught a chocolate appreciation class by first breaking chocolate down into its basic ingredients: cocoa powder, cocoa nibs, milk powder, sugar, cocoa butter, and soy lecithin. Then students tasted for themselves the differences between single origin chocolates from Venezuela and Madagascar, and those more mass-produced by Mars Chocolate.

Aspiring fermentos should check out the series of classes offered by Marija Nagy of Maya Organics. You may have met Nagy last summer at the Jackson Hole Farmers Market on the Town Square. I quickly became smitten with her entire line of fermented jams, vegetables, condiments, and nut butters. Now Nagy is excited to teach us how to put up fermented foods. “I want to change people’s view of health food,” she said, “and show how easy it is to make delicious, wonderful foods.”

Nagy, a pharmacist who grew up making fermented foods with her mother and grandmother in Serbia, believes in their potent health benefits. “I eat something fermented with every meal,” she says. Soon Nagy will be offering her Maya Organics products year-round with a home delivery service. In the meantime, Nagy’s upcoming classes will cover easy fermentation projects — sauerkraut, ginger carrots, and fermented vegetables — and students will get to take a jar of their work home.

There are lots more classes for food lovers coming up soon at CWC: More Coffee Cupping with Snake River Roasting; Making Gnocchi with Virginia King; Homemade Ravioli with Christine Goodman; Easy Hors d’Oeuvres with Virginia King and Homemade Ice Cream with Kim Fadiman. Aspiring home brewers will brew and bottle a batch of beer in a two-part class offered by Rocky Rabjohns, brewmaster at Snake River Brewing. I hope to make it to as many classes as possible. See you there. PJH

For more information and to sign up for a class, visit www.jackon.cwc.edu or call 733-7425.

After delivering babies and practicing gynecology for 20 years in Jackson, Annie Fenn traded her life as a doctor to pursue her other passion: writing about food, health, sustainability and the local food scene. Follow her snippets of mountain life, with recipes, at jacksonholefoodie.com and on Instagram @jacksonholefoodie.


About Annie Fenn, MD

After delivering babies and practicing gynecology for 20 years in Jackson, Annie traded her life as a doctor to pursue her other passion: writing about food, health, sustainability and the local food scene. Follow her snippets of mountain life, with recipes, at www.jacksonholefoodie.com and on Instagram @jacksonholefoodie.

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