Hi! Donna Monaco Olsen here, co-coordinator for the Taste of Westchester Continuing Education program for Westchester Community College to share with you from a recent demonstration. All classes are held within Westchester restaurants, where local chefs share their talents and recipes with us in their own dining rooms. Over the years, I have attended hundreds of classes, and I always learn a new trick or two from our great chefs!
Chef: Armando Elisea
Restaurant: Don Coqui, New Rochelle
Tip: When making whipped cream, use a hand whisk instead of an electric mixer. Although the mixer is an often used short cut, Chef Armando professes that the high speed of the mixer creates a less delicate cream with a flavor that is excessively buttery tasting. When whipping by hand, there is no need to add any stabilizers such as cream of tartar. You will find the taste to be lightly airy and have a silky mouth feel. Another shared tip is to use your wrist and not your whole arm. Pretend to be a dinosaur with short arms stuck to your body to decrease fatigue! This treat was wonderful atop our Tres Leches (3 milks) cake dessert. My cooking companions always start by making dessert…
Chef Armando taught us a thing or two about Puerto Rican cooking. He hails from Bonsal, CA and started his career by helping make lunches to order on his sister’s food truck. He had to stand on a box to reach the counter but he persevered to become fast and efficient in the tiny kitchen. After serving our country in the military, he is now a chef at Don Coqui in New Rochelle. He believes in giving back to the community and helps to supply technology related hardware to one of the local schools in need. He also donates his mornings, M-F teaching New Rochelle HS Special Ed children how to cook.
This class was hands-on in a state of the art kitchen, where we actually, as a group of 21 “foodies”, got to prepare the entire meal from start to finish. Assistant to our chef, Cynthia Rojas started us off with a mini lesson on Mojitos. We watched her muddle the fresh mint leaves, lime slices, and sugar into a paste before adding the rum and seltzer. She informed us that any flavoring could be added for a special twist. Some of us were enjoying coconut flavor and others passion fruit for a refreshing beginning to our cooking adventure. Some empanadas with various fillings staved off the hunger while we began to prepare each component of our meal.
The recipes were handed out for us to follow while the chef directed us on each step. He informed us that for added flavor his ground meat was 35/65 (fat/meat) and comprised of the ends of the filet Mignon and skirt steak that could not be served as a portion. This made for great flavor in the finished “slider”. When adding dried herbs, rub or crush them in the palm of your hand to release the most flavor. The sliders were served with a “special sauce” similar to a tartar sauce (see recipe below).
The restaurant uses this quick marinade (see recipe below) on the shrimp and pineapple skewers for flavor and tenderness. The pineapple when grilled caramelizes from the honey. A great hint to avoid overcooking the shrimp was to quickly add grill marks to the skewered food (we used a cast iron grill pan on a high flame indoors) and then finish cooking them in the oven to ensure even heat and “doneness” throughout.
To make tostones, we started by slicing green plantains on the bias. They were fried twice, and after the first frying, we dipped them in water and then fried them again at a higher oil temperature. We enjoyed the mojo sauce (consisting of garlic, olive oil, lime juice, and salt which were ground in the blender), which became a garnish for our tostones. See a tip from Chef Jack D’Angelo from a previous Don Coqui class.
Our education included another tip from our chef (not necessarily pertaining to cooking). The chef informed us that if we wanted to “raise our body temperature” to play hookey from work, put crushed garlic cloves in each armpit and it will create a fever (and a lovely aroma). I think this is one tip I am not going to try. Thanks anyway chef!
Our lesson concluded with topping the milk soaked cake with the beautifully whipped cream. Using the tip above, it took several of us taking turns to get it whipped by hand. It takes a village even when making dessert!
Don Coqui will be teaching another class during WCC’s Summer Semester.
The new Summer mini semester has just been posted (Summer Semester)!
Care to get tips first hand? Check out the current offerings at WCC Continuing Ed, Taste of Westchester. Classes are only $15+ a CASH sampling fee. Sign up with a friend for one demonstration or a few by contacting WCC via online or by phone at 606-6830×1.
I look forward to meeting you there!
Below are a few of the classes offered in our current semester. Please check out the website for a complete listing.
Join us at several of Westchester’s most exciting restaurants for a culinary adventure that will tantalize your taste buds. Each chef will offer a private cooking demonstration, followed by a tasting of the prepared items. Fees include non-alcoholic beverages. New menu items are explored each semester. Menu substitutions may occur when necessary. Demonstrations will begin at the times designated. Sampling fees are payable in CASH only.
There is still time to sign up for some great classes:
Roasted Peppers, www.roastedpeppersny.com
This American bistro with strong Latin influences is the collaboration of Mexican born brothers Juan and Roberto Lepe, chefs in Westchester for over twenty years. The culinary experiences from their past have combined with their expertise and creativity to flourish into Roasted Peppers, their first restaurant venture. Chef Juan along with Chef Darrell Belcher, a 1987 CIA graduate, will show us the techniques used to create a few of their signature dishes. We will start with their stuffed roasted picadillo pepper two ways: ground beef, diced zucchini, carrots, onions, and green olives, versus a romesco and goat cheese stuffing. This will be followed by chipotle corn crusted salmon-roasted fish, cilantro mashed potatoes, and sautéed Swiss chard, with a chimichurri sauce. We will end with a jalapeño brownie served with coconut ice cream for a very different dessert.
Mon., Apr. 22, 6:00-8:00 pm, $15 (+ $25 sampling fee). #13198
Caffé Azzurri, www.caffeazzurri.com
Set in a lovely casual atmosphere, we will discover the authentic culinary flavors chef Jerry Colella has to offer. He has grown up in the restaurant business and uses his culinary skills to create a sumptuous dining experience. He will teach us to make a simple but delicious appetizer of ricotta crostini with fig balsamic glaze, followed by a spring vegetable risotto with asparagus and chorizo. For a sweet treat, a beautiful home-style Italian cheesecake from a family recipe. Join us for a delicious lesson with a fun and informative instructor!
Tues., Apr. 23, 6:00-8:00 pm, $15 (+ $25 sampling fee). #13277
Albano Appliance, www.AlbanoAppliance.com
Born and raised in France, Chef Jehan S. deNoüe has over 35 years of experience in the area. He is now Albano Appliance’s own resident chef, managing the company’s continuing education program, including cooking classes, manufacturer demonstrations, and personal and in-home instruction. He is a most approachable and informed instructor and will give out tips on a variety of methodologies for preparing a fabulous meal, all the while toasting us with wine. Surrounded by high tech, and modern appliances, we will discover the flavors of his pepper salad, baby romaine with edamame drizzled with jalapeno dressing and bell pepper piperade. We will learn to make a mussels mariniere with chorizo sausage. For dessert, Chef Jehan will show us how to make a fresh berry fool. Do not miss this class as it is always a favorite!
Thurs., Apr. 25, 6:00-8:00 pm, $15 (+ $25 sampling fee). #13200
AJ’s Burgers, www.AJsburgers.com 2013 WINNER BEST BURGER NY AND SEEN ON FOOD NETWORK Hands-on: At this hot spot, located across from City Hall, Chef AJ (a WCC graduate) continues to serve up some creative and delicious food. Come join us for a terrific interactive demonstration to hone your creative cooking skills. Our chef will teach us to make a beautiful sandwich the AJ way. Start with their famous smoked buffalo wings, followed by a toasted potato roll for crunch, topped with fresh baby spinach in extra virgin olive oil and fresh golden brown garlic, and piled high with delicious crab meat sautéed in garlic butter. The chef will show us his latest treat of fried raviolis with vodka sauce. A surprise dessert will end us on a sweet note!
Mon., Apr. 29, 5:30-7:30 pm, $15 (+ $20 sampling fee). #13201
MP Taverna, www.michaelpsilakis.com CLASS SOLD OUT WAIT LIST ONLY
Weekend Lunch & Kitchen Tour: Enjoy a Greek feast! Discover the importance of olive oil from chef Michael Psilakis, who has been lauded for both his traditional and reinterpreted Greek menus and is responsible for putting modern Greek cuisine on the culinary map. MP Taverna is a modern interpretation of a traditional Greek tavern situated along the Hudson River. Learn to make two delicious appetizers, grilled octopus (perhaps the most recognized Greek dish) served over a Mediterranean chickpea salad and a tomato, string bean, grilled onion, and feta salad. Our delicious lunch entrée will be a demonstration of crispy grilled branzino with fingerling potatoes, cherry tomatoes, and olives. For dessert, discover the secrets of making a spiced walnut and parsnip cake. Lunch will be served at noon. Note: at the request of the proprietor, all sampling fees will be donated to the college to support continuing education in the career of food preparation.
Sat., May 4, 10:00 am-12:00 pm, $15 (+ $25 sampling fee IN CASH). #13203
Thyme Restaurant, www.thymerestaurant.net
Hands-on: Located on the main street, on the border of Yorktown Heights and Cortland Manor, is a contemporary restaurant serving great American fare. This warm and inviting setting allows you to view owner and Chef Tom Costello on any given night working in this open kitchen. He will give us an interactive demonstration and we will help to create a delicious meal starting with a spring onion custard with fried sage and English pea puree. We will continue our lesson with trout two ways: a traditional almondine preparation and a modern dish with spring ramps, fava beans, and spiced almonds sauced with a brown butter hollandaise. Next we will help to prep seasonal berry clafoutis for a sweet end to our culinary experience.
Mon., May 6, 6:00-8:00 pm, $15 (+ $25 sampling fee). #13202
Come join in the fun and learn a thing or two!
If you are a chef or proprietor of a restaurant, and are interested in participating in this program please contact the college and leave your contact information. 606-6830×1
- 1/3 cup mayonnaise
- 1 Tablespoon honey
- 1 Tablespoon Dijon mustard
- 1 Large garlic dill pickle chopped fine
- Mix all ingredients together. Let flavors meld for at least 1 hour.
- 1/3 cup lime juice
- 1/3 cup honey
- 1 teaspoon soy sauce
- 1 teaspoon vegetable oil
- Dash hot pepper sauce
- Toss peeled shrimp with marinade and let stand in refrigerator one hour before skewering and grilling..