“Fa cosi caldo qui o e la tua presenza?”
For those of you who don’t know, I’ll be entering a full-time culinary diploma program starting in April. I’m using my remaining months to continue to eat at great restaurants, travel, and take all the short-term cooking courses I can find. One of the more exciting courses I found while searching for classes in Singapore was offered out of Basilico’s at the Regent Hotel, Singapore. Each month they are focusing on a different Italian food region and teaching signature plates from said region. Having previously gorged ourselves enjoyed the sprawling Italian brunch, I knew that the chefs knew their regional foods and had the fresh ingredients required to pull something like this off. For February they went with a theme instead of a region… teaching a 3-course romantic meal that was every bit as indulgent as it was sensual. And as you prepare for your Valentine’s Day, you might consider cooking this rich, romance inspiring meal at home, rather than going out.
We were greeted upon arrival to Basilico’s with a refreshing drink (in appropriate Valentine’s Day color ).
As soon as our full group had arrived (classes are usually more intimate… only 5 in our class) Chef Angelo came out to make introductions and usher us into the cooking area. Chef Angelo is a bit more reserved than some other Italian chefs I’ve met in the past… quiet at first, but he quickly opened up and revealed a subtle sense of humor and dash of Italian flair.
The courses run in my favorite room at Basilico’s: The foie gras and cheese room from the Sunday brunch . The students surround the chef’s demo table and work at individual burners. These are the common kinds you’ve more than likely worked on if you’ve taken any kind of cooking class in the past.
With a brief introduction to our work environment, we were quickly started our first dish: Il Risotto Crab e Prosecco. This was a Southern Italian style risotto where pasta and risotto with fresh seafood is a must, we’re told. Mine turned out like soup a touch on the runny side… but it sure packed great flavors. I think if I had let it reduce a few minutes longer it would have been perfect.
A classic risotto starts with browning the onion in oil and adding the rice, toasting it. A stock is used and stirred in slowly and bit by bit so that the rice and other ingredients absorb the stock. In this case the recipe was made special with the inclusion of Prosecco and Crab and homemade fish stock. But really you can do any kind of risotto with this basic approach. Normally something like a Risotto would leave a lot of dead time in a cooking class due to the long preparation time. Chef Angelo took the time to teach us a handful of useful Italian “love phrases”. The subtitle above translates roughly to: “Is it hot in here or is it just me?”
The next dish on the menu was the Angus Beef Tenderloin. The description just doesn’t do this one justice however. For instance there’s no mention of the steak-sized portion of foie gras we cooked with the steak in red wine and a dab of truffle paste (mostly used for the potatoes underneath the steak, but I let mine mingle in the sauce a bit to bump the flavor). This was a hearty, soul-satisfying meal. If you can’t win a girl over cooking her a dish like this… she’s too fussy, find someone else It was also quite simple – both the steak and the foie gras were sauteed in a pan and the sauce was made with a reduction of red wine and premade demi glace. Very nearly a one-pot meal, except for the potato, asparagus and tomato which were oven roasted. Chef Angelo showed us a trick when oven roasting – he put the tomatos and onions over a bed of rock salt. This infused both items with a lovely, savoury aroma and took them to the next level. He also said to try it at home with red onions in the skins.
For dessert was a surprisingly light tasting Zabaione Con Frutti Di Bosco. This dessert is historically served to give the one consuming more ” erotic power”… certainly another bonus to this Valentines meal. This was the most labor intensive part of the meal – we whipped 4 egg yolks, 2 spponfulls of sugar and a dash of Amaretto for what seemed like 15 – 20 minutes in a metal bowl held over a boiling water bath. I could actually see myself studying pastry full time if not for the treat of spending my life hurriedly whisking away. In reality it wasn’t that hard and the resulting dessert was well worth the efforts.
The class was great. It took just 2 hours to prepare and consume the 3-courses. Ingredients were top notch and while a lot of it was “dump and stir” (meaning the ingredients were pre-portioned and pre-cut)… there were elements left up to us. I like that instead of giving us perfectly measured amounts of salt and olive oil Chef Angelo had us instead pinch or pour out an amount that felt right to us… tasting as we went along. Little touches like that empower those who take the class, in my opinion, to have the courage to try them again at home.
Also I loved the rustic nature of the dishes. These were elegant meals in taste, but simple in preparation. I can easily see myself making these dishes at home (maybe sans the foie gras). I’m already planning a pumpkin risotto with crushed black pepper as an adaptation of Angelo’s recipe. I’ll attend the classes in the coming months as well. According to Chef Angelo next month they’ll be covering Gnocchi… something I’ve been dying to make myself.
In the meantime, I can highly recommend the recipes above to you so you can make your special someone this fantastic 3-course Italian meal on Valentine’s Day.
The Regent Hotel, 2nd floor
1 Cuscaden Road
Telephone: +65 6725 3232