Last night we had the pleasure of hosting Chef Jorel Pierce of Euclid Hall Bar & Kitchen (and soon to be Top Chef fame) as he taught our October cooking class at Café Options. If you have ever eaten at Euclid Hall, you know that Chef Jorel uses some non-traditional ingredients (side note: Andrew Zimmern of “Bizarre Foods” from the Food Network recently dined and filmed at Euclid Hall). As participants began to arrive, we began speculating what dishes we might be learning. There was mention of pig ear, cow intestines, and some kind of “foot”. None of these items ended up being used. We actually learned the art of all things chicken–from brines, to baking, to butchering. I, for one, was elated. Chicken is by far my favorite meat because of its versatility, which Chef Jorel so masterfully revealed to us.
We started with the butchering. Don’t worry; we did not kill live chickens in the Café Options kitchen! We did, however, learn how to properly cut a whole (dead, plucked, prepared) chicken. This is something I have wanted to learn for some time. Unfortunately I have spent years overpaying for chicken breasts when all along I could have saved money by purchasing the whole chicken…who knew!
Chef Jorel divided the participants up into 3 groups and had each group prepare their chicken in a different way. The first group was in charge of the roasted whole chicken. They prepared, seasoned, basted, and roasted the chicken to perfection in only 40 minutes! Then Chef Jorel instructed them on the proper way to cut the cooked chicken while giving them tips on how to ensure that the chicken is moist and flavorful.
Another group focused on preparing the fried chicken. Chef Jorel taught this group how to make the perfect brine out of buttermilk, hot sauce, and lemon juice. After soaking in this mixture, the chicken was dredged in seasoned flour and fried to perfection.
The final group mastered a grilled chicken-brined airline breast. Now before this class, I had never used brine and I didn’t understand how or why it worked so well. Chef Jorel explained the science behind it (took me back to that dreaded high school chemistry class) and (gasp!) it made sense! After grilling the chicken, it was topped with a flavorful mustard and gruyere cheese and baked for a few minutes in order to melt the cheese. Yum!
The most fascinating part about the class was how Chef Jorel used every single piece of the chicken. The parts left over after the “butchering” were used to make stock. The fat was used to toast and flavor walnuts for the salad. There was literally zero waste!
By the time we finished cooking the three types of chicken –Roasted Whole Chicken, Grilled Chicken-Brined Airline Breast, and Fried Chicken– Jorel had whipped up a salad and rice pilaf. Then we opened two bottles of wine that Chef Jorel brought from his restaurant and sat down for a family-style dinner. All of us had time to enjoy the delicious food we prepared while getting to know each other and Chef Jorel. It was such a wonderful dinner and I so enjoyed getting to hear Chef Jorel’s cooking tips. Unfortunately he was tight-lipped about Top Chef, but it just made us all that much more anxious to watch when it premieres on November 7th!
Click here to see pictures from last night’s class.