My husband and I were meeting close friends for a new take on date night when I first stepped in to Waterfront Kitchen to take a class called The Art of Baking Pies and Tarts. The expansive harbor views are a breathtaking backdrop and caught me a little off guard. I was expecting the class to take place in the kitchen; however, the Chef was set up to teach us right in the middle of the dining room so we would have full access to the bar and the beautiful view. We would learn how to make absolutely perfect pie dough (which is much easier than it seems), including Pate Brisee three ways, Pate Sable, Sweet potato pastry, and French pastry cream. To seal the deal, we ate all of it family style at the end of class. The only small grumble was a lack of salt in the finished dishes, but we only had ourselves to blame.
We had so much fun making pies that we went home and scoured the summer/fall class schedule to do it again. We signed up for the Molecular Gastronomy (or Modernist Cuisine) class. I wasn’t quite sure what we were getting ourselves in to, but I knew it would involve some chemical transformations and quite possibly, some amazing food. We were in for a treat! It turns out Chef Pellegrino’s past life was in the lab, so he was more than excited to teach us how to chemically transform some normal ingredients in to culinary treats.
We learned how to make deconstructed sangria, bloody mary espuma, carrot ‘caviar’, eggs sous vide, and Jerry got us comfortable with the idea of meat glue. I would recommend trying most of these techniques at home, especially the creamy soft boiled eggs kept at a perfect 146 degrees using the sous vide machine. However, I might seriously consider using the meat glue again. Although the Chef expertly prepared a bacon wrapped pork AND steak tenderloin by gluing it all together with something called transglutaminase, allowing it to sit for at least six hours to “glue” together, and broiling it off in a hot oven, I just can’t wrap my head around it. I also went to sleep that night with a bit of a sour stomach. I blame the meat glue (although it could have something to do with the ever-flowing wine as well).
Overall, the techniques I have learned at Waterfront Kitchen cooking classes with Chef Jerry Pellegrino have certainly come in handy in real life. One week after the pie making class, I went on to perfectly execute my own dough to make goat cheese empanadas for an event. They were tender, buttery, savory and sweet. I suggest you follow these directions carefully and try it for yourself!
Goat Cheese Empanadas
Short Crust Ingredients
(recipe by Chef Jerry Pellegrino)
- 3 cups all-purpose flour
- 16 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, cut in to small pieces and chilled
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 8 tablespoons ice water (give or take depending on the weather)
- 1 tablespoon of chopped fresh thyme leaves (my addition for this particular recipe)
- Combine flour, butter, salt, and thyme in a food processor. Process using the pulse for four or five short pulses (just until the butter is cut in to the flour, and no more)
- Turn the processor on and pour small amounts of ice water in to dough just until it begins to form. Stop processing immediately. *The biggest trick I learned in class: we have all been taught to process the dough until it forms a ball, but at that point you have gone too far! For flaky crust, take it out JUST as it begins to form, before it is a ball.
- Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and work it together in to a loose ball with your hands (don’t over work it).
- Place the dough onto a piece of plastic wrap and form it into a flat disc.
- Cover the dough completely and chill in the refrigerator for at least one hour, or up to two or three days
- 12 oz Goat Cheese (I used Cherry Glenn Chevre for its creamy texture)
- 2 tablespoons honey
- The zest of one lemon
- 1 tablespoon lemon juice
- 1 egg + 1 tablespoon water, for egg wash
- Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.
- Mix goat cheese, honey, lemon zest, and lemon juice until combine. Set aside.
- Remove the dough from the refrigerator.
- On a floured work surface, roll out the cold dough with a floured rolling pin in to a 1/8 thick layer.
- Using a 3 inch cookie cutter (or the top of a clean glass) cut out circles from the dough. You will have enough dough to make about 20 small empanadas.
- Place a heaping teaspoon of the goat cheese mixture in to the middle of each round, leaving rooms on the sides
- Fold the dough over the filling, and crimp the edges with a fork to seal.
- With a pastry brush, gently brush each empanada with the egg wash.
- Arrange empanadas on a baking sheet. Bake for 15 minutes until golden brown.