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Ocean Deep, Mountain High: My First Experience at the Dirty Apron Cooking School

A friend of mine very generously gave me the gift of a Dirty Apron Cooking School course for my birthday. Neither of us had ever taken a course with them before, but we’d both heard very good things.

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Dirty Apron offers many different types of courses, including some focused on specific techniques like knife skills, grilling, or cooking seafood, and others focused on different ethnic cuisines like Italian, Spanish, Japanese or Indian. I scrolled through pages and pages of options on their website before finally settling on a truly west coast course called Sea to Sky: Ocean Deep, Mountain High. We would be making Bourbon Maple Roasted Quail with Herb Potato Rosti, Smoked Sablefish with Buttered Dungeness Crab, and finally Roasted Loin of Venison with Borlotti Beans and Truffle Ragout. To me, it sounded fantastic!

Having never been to Dirty Apron before, I wasn’t too sure what to expect. Would we be cooking separately, or in pairs? How much of the 4 hour time slot would we spend prepping? And would I be able to actually make these dishes or would this be over my head? My mind was bubbling with excited anticipation.

From the moment we arrived, the presentation was impressive. We were greeted at the door and given our own black aprons, embossed with their stylish logo, and a file folder that contained all the recipes we’d be cooking that night. The hostess then ushered us over to their elegant dining room to nibble on cheese and olives and sip crisp white wine, while we waited for the rest of our classmates to arrive. We were definitely off to a good start. Once all of us were gathered around the long wooden dining table, we were finally ready to begin.

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We moved over to the main classroom area and sat in modern red chairs, facing the instructor’s demo station at the front of the room. Individual cooking stations lined the other three walls, all uniformly organized and inviting. Our instructor for the evening was chef Takashi Mizukami and he got down to business right away. We would each have our own cooking station and create our own version of each dish, and all the prep work had already been done for us.  Once we were done cooking each dish we were to go back to the dining room and enjoy it, all the while sipping on some more of their complimentary wine.

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Chef Mizukami effortlessly demonstrated the Smoked Sablefish with Buttered Dungeness Crab dish first. I had never poached fish before but after watching him do it I realized it was quite simple. I won’t go into all the details of each recipe (after all, that’s part of the fun of taking the course) but I will say that the quality of the ingredients they provided was excellent and it was lovely to not have to do any prep work at all. Being given a tray with all the ingredients in the correct proportions certainly made it easy.

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The next dish we made was the Bourbon Maple Roasted Quail with Herb Potato Rosti. We learned the proper technique to make a perfect rosti (the secret is to use lots of oil) and also how to season and sear the quail to perfection and finish it off in the oven. Before this course, searing was not a technique I did at home very often, but it really locked a lot of flavour into the meat and it wasn’t very hard to accomplish. All I need is a small cast iron skillet and I’ll be set.

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We saved the most complex dish for last, the Roasted Loin of Venison with Borlotti Beans and Truffle Ragout. This dish was a bit more complicated because we were bascically cooking three dishes at once: the venison, the ragout, and a tasty morel mushroom sauce to tie it all together. Despite the long list of steps to follow, we successfully pulled it off.

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Overall, my first experience cooking at Dirty Apron was fantastic and I will definitely go back and take more courses with them in the future. The hardest part will be picking which course to do next!