I’m a big fan of some of the cooking shows, especially the challenge ones like Chopped and Master Chef. I love the creativity some of these chefs bring, and I really enjoy finding products in the stores or farmers markets and trying out new recipes with them. I’ve taken a number of cooking classes here in Austin, with Central Market Cooking School and Thai Fresh.
So when I heard that Central Market was having a Chocolate Festival starting today, February 8, through Valentine’s Day – AND that some cooking classes that incorporate chocolate are part of it – I was in! I signed up for the Chocolate Sensation class, which I took Monday night, and next week’s Bittersweet with Wine.
The Chocolate Festival is billed as “Peace, Love and all Things Chocolate.” Sounds pretty good to me!
Flowers say “I’m sorry” – but chocolate says “I love you.”
From rich, decadent chocolate to innovative flavor combinations, samples are offered at Central Market during the festival, and many internationally recognized chocolatiers will be sharing their secrets. Which leads me to wonder, how does one get to be a professional chocolatier? Sounds like the best job in the world to me! But, I digress…
On Monday night I attended the hands-on Chocolate Sensation cooking class with Cindy Haenel, who has been a Central Market Cooking School instructor for 15 years. The innovative flavor combinations were definitely part of this class – we started off with a pork tenderloin coated with a chocolate & spice rub with the following ingredients:
- Ground unsweetened cocoa
- Espresso powder
- Coriander seeds
- Sea Salt
Just sounds pretty awesome hearing that list, doesn’t it? After coating the tenderloins, we seared the pork on the stovetop evenly on all sides, before placing it in the oven for about 10 minutes to finish cooking. A pan sauce with shallots and white wine went with the pork, along with an incredible mushroom savory bread pudding, and carrots in a cocoa/cinnamon glaze.
Did I say Mmmmmmmmm yet?
The whole thing was pretty fantastic. About the only thing that Cindy Haenel likes better than chocolate is bacon. In fact, I think chocolate covered bacon could just well be her dream food. But I digress again…
After eating our delicious dinner creation we finished up with, of course, a dessert plate. This consisted of the Valentine standby, chocolate-covered strawberries – but also, a very original and creative idea. Cindy taught us how to make a Key Lime Pie from scratch; but here was the kicker. After the pie is made, you freeze it. Then you cut the frozen pie into squares, and coat it with melted chocolate.
Taking cooking classes is one of my favorite things to do, and if you’re in Austin – or other Central Market locations like Houston, San Antonio, Dallas or Fort Worth – I highly suggest you check them out. From sauces and basic knife skills to sushi and intricate four-course Italian meals, there is something for everyone.
I had a great time and learned a lot – even simple kitchen tips and tricks that Cindy shared as we cooked were valuable. The Central Market cooking classes really build on one another too; I’ve taken several others, and I can see the applicable steps and how things all fit together, the more you learn.
Central Market Cooking School classes all come with wine served (except the children’s classes, of course) and many with other take-homes such as a cookbook or food items. All of the helpers in the classes are also community volunteers, who give their time to make the classes happen and deserve a very big thank-you.
I can’t wait for my next Central Market cooking class!