April 3, 2013 10:07:00 AM
Jan Swoope - [email protected]
The kitchen of J. Broussard's Restaurant in downtown Columbus is most often bustling when guests fill its dining rooms, eager for the distinctive cuisine prepared by Chef Beth Broussard Rogers and her staff. But for the next four Monday nights -- and on 11 Saturdays between now and July 27 -- Chef Beth will share her expertise there with avid area cooks.
A series of classes will offer rare opportunities to learn from a professional chef how to make dishes ranging from New Orleans barbecue shrimp to choux pastry. The sessions will help home cooks raise the bar in their own kitchens.
"We always have people ask if they can get a recipe for this or that, and it's very hard to write down a recipe that's good enough that they could make it well without having made it with you," said Rogers, who carries on the culinary tradition begun when her father, the late Chef Joseph Broussard, and her mother, Mary, first opened their restaurant in Columbus in 2001.
Saturday classes begin April 6 with Strawberry Overload, from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Participants will use fresh, local strawberries from Mayhew Tomato Farm to make strawberry cheesecake, old-fashioned strawberry shortcake and tres leches cake with strawberries.
Other Saturday classes in April focus on a wow-worthy brunch -- with homemade grits and buttermilk fried chicken and bacon and cheddar waffles -- triple chocolate brownies and other goodies, including Boston cream pie, lemon cake and ice cream sandwiches.
On May 11 and May 18, the spotlight is on breads and more luscious cakes.
"We'll learn how to make braided challah loaf, traditional Southern buttermilk cornbread, honey butter and even homemade jam from fresh Farmer's Market fruit," explained Rogers of the May 11 class.
The Hitching Lot Farmers' Market figures prominently in her menu planning. Chef Beth is a strong proponent of using the freshest local ingredients whenever possible.
The sweet tooth reigns in June, with three Saturday classes revealing secrets of to-die-for desserts, including one of Broussard's all-time favorites, bread pudding with praline sauce.
On June 8, the topic is ice cream and sorbet.
"The best part of making homemade ice cream is making flavors you can't find in the store," the chef shared. "We'll use fresh Farmers' Market fruit and local eggs to create a myriad of flavors."
Choux pastry is in the syllabus for July 27.
"It's the basis for so many classic French creations; it's one of the first things I wanted to learn as a teenager," Rogers remarked. "We'll turn the pastry into cream puffs, chocolate eclairs and profiteroles.
Farm to table
Two special Saturday classes June 29 and July 20 will target the Hitching Lot Farmers' Market located at the corner of Second Street and Second Avenue North.
"I'll shop the market that morning, and we'll cook 'til we drop with fresh local ingredients," promised Rogers, noting that the first farm to table class will concentrate on a sweet palate, the other on savory.
Chef for a Night
Chef for a Night classes on Monday evenings are arranged in a different format than the Saturday cooking classes. Night sessions beginning at 6 p.m. focus on an appetizer, entrée and dessert, and all the eating is done in class. Most classes will last about two hours.
The first Chef for a Night session was held Monday evening. The entrée was pecan pane catfish with lemon butter.
"I learned so much," said class participant Kathy Goodwin of Columbus. "I cook a lot, and I read a lot of cookbooks, but there are so many little things I'd never even thought of that I learned watching her -- like how to bread the catfish so the breading doesn't fall off, even tips for dropping the fish into the oil.
Entrées featured on Mondays in April include shrimp and bacon orzo with Parmesan cheese, pork scallopini with fettuccini alfredo, brown sugar brined pork chop and pork dumplings.
"You get used to going back and forth between dishes," said Rogers about preparing a whole meal. "While one thing is cooking or is on the grill, you can be making something else."
How to participate
Saturday classes are $50 and meet from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the restaurant located at 210 Fifth St. S.
Chef for a Night classes are $70 and meet at 6 p.m. on specified Monday evenings. Rogers notes that there will be plenty of eating done in all classes.
"If the class is all sweets, be sure to eat something non-sugary before coming. Your blood sugar will thank you," she cautioned.
Rogers accepts students of all ages, but those under 14 should be accompanied by an adult. Payment may be made by check or cash on the date of class, but advance reservations to participate help in planning. Saturday classes are "buy three, get one free." For more information, or to register for a class, contact Rogers at [email protected]
"I enjoy getting to show people the things I make," remarked the busy chef. "People want to think it's so mysterious, but so much of it is about starting with good ingredients. I think we're going to have a lot of fun."
Jan Swoope is the Lifestyles Editor for The Commercial Dispatch.