Monday, October 6, 2014

Florence Cooking School

Master Chef Antonio
Who is Cracco?
To break up the time of constantly walking and viewing old buildings, masterpieces and people watching, JoAnn made me make a reservation at a cooking school.  Little did she know that after we had trekked 85 miles in the last 10 days that the cooking school required quite a bit of walking and for this day in the rain.  We met of all places in the front of the Hard Rock Cafe so initially I was a little worried.  There were eight of us a couple from Boston, a mother and daughter from Canada, guy from Brazil and our Master Chef Antonio.
Antonio took us to the Central Market and walked us around to introduce us to the different vendors.  We got a demonstration on different Truffle products and aged Balsamic and Antonio introduced us to his favorite vendors.  After our excursion to the Market we trekked through the drizzle to the school which was located on the 3rd floor of a building east of Ponte Vecchio with a terrific view.
Truffle Demo
Now the fun begins, Antonio is a graduate of the Le Cordon Bleu got us started by peeling carrots, dicing tomatoes, chopping onions and Chile and celery to make the Ragu.  We put those in a Cuisinart and then added the mix to hot olive oil in a pot.  We then added 1/3 ground pork and 2/3's ground Beef with a little red wine and started the Ragu.  I learned that you have to add the meat to a scalding pan so it sears rather than boils.  I also learned that you should add water to elongate the cooking time, the water evaporates and leaves you with a fine Ragu.
Antonio Teaching
We then prepared the Bruschetta by chopping Tomato, Basil and Garlic for one of the toppings of the toasted bread.  The other topping was Chicken Liver and Heart Pate.  We started with fresh Chicken Livers and Hearts and cleaned and prepared them.  After they are prepared you combine them with diced onion and throw them in a scolding pan to cook them thoroughly before they are Cuisinart-ed into the Pate.
We then prepared the Tiramisu by taking lady fingers soaking them in a emulsified Coffee and Brandy broth and started to layer.  Meanwhile we made a batter of Egg Yolks and Sugar and vigorously beat them till they were silky.  We took the egg whites and made a meringue.  All these ingredients were layered into our final product.
Almost time to eat

Liver Prep
Last on the recipe is the Pasta, this is a first time effort for all of us making pasta.  We started with a soft wheat flour and egg yolks from chickens that were fed only corn so their yolks were very golden. We mixed with water till the dough became this soft solid ball that was quickly covered in saran wrap to be kneaded later and then hand made into the final Fettuccine.  Now I know why you buy Pasta rather than making it, the amount of work to get to you final product is a lot of work.

Hopefully not the Last Supper
After 4 hours of learning and cooking we finally got to the eating part.  The food was delicious, we learned a lot and Antonio was a great teacher and was very patient.  this is a tour I highly recommend if you are in Florence.  I hope you get Antonio as your teacher because it would not have been the same.
Florentine Steak
By the way Antonio introduced us to Chianina Florentine Steak and got a great suggestion to try it for dinner.