Cooking 101

Although I had heard good things about the Greenwood, MS Viking Cooking School, I had my doubts. And although I like to cook, why would I drive two hours, then pay someone to let me make my own dinner? So with a hopeful, yet somewhat skeptical attitude, we set off for Greenwood to meet six of our friends for our culinary experience.
After checking in at the Alluvian Hotel, we walked across the street to the cooking school. The kitchen was a sparkling clean, large rectangular room full of shiny stainless steel and gleaming white tile. A large island was front and center with fourteen workstations equipped with knives, recipe ingredients, cooking utensils and cutting boards.  Four Viking ranges were set around the perimeter of the room and a table for fourteen was set in the back.

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Becky Thompson, our instructor and manager of the Viking facility in Greenwood, greeted everyone and explained how we would proceed with the evening’s activities. The fourteen couples would be divided into three teams – two teams of four and one team of six.  Each team would be responsible for preparing a meal for their members.  
After a brief overview of the menu, we got down to business. Becky gave a short demonstration of how to make glazed prosciutto-wrapped shrimp and each team set to work.  We skewered shrimp and made an apricot and chive glaze. Becky, along with her sous chef, walked around to each group, making sure things were proceeding smoothly.
Next, we began preparing broccoli boursin gratins. I had never had boursin cheese before, and I must say that it was quite delicious. As she went through the steps of each recipe, Becky offered helpful hints on technique and equipment. Some in the class were more challenged than others. And while I did not need to know how to chop an onion, I did learn how to make clarified butter, so I would say there was definitely something for everyone, whether beginner or old pro.
I guess it was somewhere around this time that everyone loosened up, the conversations around the room got a little livelier and it was evident that all were enjoying themselves. The sous chef brought out bottles of wine and the merriment continued.
When the gratins were finished, we got to work on what turned out to be my favorite dish of the night – mixed salad greens with candied apple slices, roasted pistachios and mini grilled brie sandwiches. I usually don’t like things that are too sweet, but all the ingredients balanced each other out really well and the end result was mouthwatering. I will definitely be making that again.
Our final dish and main entrée was chateaubriand with béarnaise sauce. The tenderloin was straightforward and easy enough to cook. But the béarnaise, that definitely took some technique. With the shrimp on the grill, the steak in the oven, and the cheese bubbling in the gratin, the kitchen smelled really delectable.
It was finally time to eat and everyone took a seat at the table. I’m not sure if the jovial atmosphere could be attributed to the holiday season, the quality of our companions, or the satisfaction of sitting down eat the product of our hard work, but we all had a great time. Good food and great company. It was the perfect note on which to end the year. Not to mention the chocolate crème brulee we had for dessert…..

Rebecca Allison and her team prepared several dishes at the Viking Cooking School, including mixed salad greens with candied apple slices, roasted pistachios, and mini grilled brie sandwiches.

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