Halibut Cooking Class @ Northwest Culinary Academy Vancouver (NWCAV)

Gravalax with Spring Herb Aioli - Chef Curtis prepared in advance for class, we prepared the aioli, pickled red onions and plated the dish.  We learn't the curing process and each took home a piece for next day's enjoyment.
Gravalax with Spring Herb Aioli – Chef Curtis prepared in advance for class, we prepared the aioli, pickled red onions and plated the dish. Chef taught us the curing process and we each took home a piece for next day’s enjoyment.

At last a Fish Course is being offered at Northwest Culinary Academy Vancouver (http://www.nwcav.com/)!  Halibut has always been somewhat a mystery to me; I usually order it when dining out…at home, we eat a lot of salmon and black cod, mainly prepared in Asian styles (sashimi, soups, steamed or oven baked); this was an excellent chance to get out of my own comfort zone.

Nestled between E.12th and E.11th Avenue on west side of Main Street, NWCAV is not noticeable unless you walk by or live in the Mount Pleasant neighbourhood; or if you are like me, an attentive passenger riding shotgun, I always look out of the window checking for food stores and restaurants; this is how I found this school four years ago, follow-up with a search through the internet (how did we ever get along before the web???).

This is my fourth time returning to this school;  these amateur classes are designed for passionate home cooks who make time out of their schedules to pursue their culinary interest; it is also a great way to meet fellow aspiring “food-geeks” to share an informative and fun-filled evening.  Going back into this classroom I had butterflies in my stomach, a hint of nervousness mixed with the excitement of anticipation: the idea of tackling a new and unfamiliar ingredient, learning from a new instructor, and partnering with “seasoned” classmates who are mostly returning students, many of whom have completed the famous intensive Serious Foodie course.

Grilled Halibut Steak with Organic Vegetable (Asparagus, Beets, Corn, Fava and Sprouts) - Chef's version as ours were "to go"
Grilled Halibut Steak with Organic Vegetable (Asparagus, Beets, Corn, Fava and Sprouts) – Chef’s version as ours were “to go” as we were so full by the end of the night..

Chef Curtis Webb, one of the full time instructors, included three recipes which showcased “in-season” ingredients and different cooking methods: Halibut gravalax (cured with sugar and salt and spices) with spring herbed aioli; Seared Halibut Cheeks with Seasonal Vegetable Puree and Grilled Halibut Steak with Organic Vegetable Saute.

Fresh Halibut!  Chef Curtis demonstrated how to cut up the fish: Tail for Gravelax, Filet Steak for Grilling, bones for making stock, nothing goes to waste!
Fresh Halibut (season: Mid-March to Mid-November)! Chef Curtis demonstrated how to cut up the fish: Tail for Gravalax, Steak for Grilling, bones for making stock, nothing goes to waste!

There were 9 of us in the class, split into groups of threes (and chores divided amongst ourselves) and worked along side the school’s professional program students (one assigned to each group – Thank you Matt!) who assisted with the preparation, cooking, cleaning (yay!) and providing us with helpful tips and a “glimpse” of their lives as culinary students.

Whisking away: making aioli
My team mate whisking away: making aioli (egg yolk, dijon mustard, vegetable oil, chopped cilantro leaves and lime juice)

I like their teaching approach: the class is broken down into segments  switching between Chef’s lecture/demonstration and  hands on cooking/preparation at our work stations,  chores and order of preparation are listed and explained – this teaches us how to plan and be organized; and in between, we sat down and enjoyed the fruits of labour with wines pre-selected for the evening. Besides the recipes (handouts were given), we also learned many useful tips on knifing skills, food and kitchen safety, plating, preparation, utilizing all ingredients (limiting food waste)..this is “REAL COOKING”…

We had a “surprise” that evening:  At round 08:30pm the power went out in the Main/Cambie area; Chef Curtis gave us an in-depth cooking theory class at the reception area (where there was light) so we could finish the dishes at home, the student assistants packed and portioned all our ingredients; and we were advised perhaps to return another night to complete the course. Just as we were about to leave an hour later, the power came back on and we had an extended class, finishing at 11pm!  The assistants were all great sports, unpacking our foods and set up the stations, and the next day we received a very nice follow-up email from Chef Curtis (http://vancouvercateringcompany.com/), I asked for permission to share his halibut cheek recipe (different posting), and he agreed without any hesitation (Thank you Chef!!).

I have been asked by many if I ever cook any of the recipes I’ve learned in classes?  Perhaps not everything…I do cook and share my favourites with family and friends! Will I continue to take classes?  DEFINITELY whenever time permits and program is suitable…It is a lot of fun and I enjoy every moment of it…even amidst chaos and confusion..haha…

Me at the stove preparing the red onion pickle (sliced red onions sweated, deglazed with vinegar and sugar, reduced to syrup consistence, cool down to room temperature for later use.
Me at the stove preparing the red onion pickle (sliced red onions sweated, deglazed with vinegar and sugar, reduced to syrup consistence, cool down to room temperature for later use.

Can’t wait to try one of the recipes for this Sunday Father’s Day Dinner…which one will it be????

Information:

Northwest Culinary Academy of Vancouver: http://www.nwcav.com

My comments: Environment is professional, friendly, clean and well equipped; different instructors for each amateur program/series, fees and duration of classes vary.  Tools to Bring: Chef’s knife, paring knife, apron (new students will get one from school), wear flat non-slip and non-scuff shoes.  Parking: Mostly metered (on Main Street), free parking might be available in the neighbourhood (as always, I found parking on East 11th Avenue just around the corner!)

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