Hi! Donna Monaco Olsen here, co-coordinator for theTaste 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/Owner: Alan Cohen (aka AJ)
Restaurant: AJ’s Burgers, New Rochelle
Tip: When crumb coating (flour, egg, bread crumbs) before pan or deep frying refrigerate the coated item for at least 20 minutes. This will cause the coating to set and not separate or fall off in the pan.
Remember to keep one hand wet and one hand dry so as not be a “gummy mess” slowing down the process. Our chef presses the raviolis into the crumbs to make them stick, then refrigerates them before pan frying them to a crisp.
Our finished dish consisted of deep fried raviolis with two sauces each made from the same tomato base flavored with bacon, prosciutto, onions, and wine.To some of the tomato sauce, the addition of vodka and cream along with a small amount of kneaded butter and flour both thickened and sweetened the sauce to give it a different mouth feel with the same flavor profiles.
At this hot spot, located across from City Hall, Chef Alan Cohen, a WCC graduate, and the former owner of the Original Wedge Inn, continues to serve creative and delicious food. He most recently was featured on the Food Network-Restaurant Stakeout-AJ’s Burgers episode.
The homemade “blue cheese” dipping sauce consisted of sour cream, mayonnaise, Gorgonzola (chef fav) and minced garlic for a tangy dip for the spicy wings. Be sure to let the sauce rest in the refrigerator for one hour to meld the flavors.
When making the spinach for the crab meat slider, the chef instructed us to add a bit of water so the spinach will shrink less. On a toasted potato roll for a bit of crunch, the spinach was a nice contrast to the delicious crab meat sauteed in garlic butter.A squeeze of lemon is all this crab needed to make for a tasty sandwich.Our dessert lesson was strawberry shortcake-utilizing the same type of biscuits from dinner service. Washing the berries in a large bowl of water lets the sediment sink to the bottom allowing a “cleaner” tasting berry. Showing us how to carve the white center out of the strawberries and cutting any unripe (yellow or green) spots off will make for a “sweeter” tasting berry-a bit of sugar always helps too! The chef had us taste both fresh whipped cream and that out of the aerosol can for comparison.Chef Alan made sure we did not leave hungry as that is his motto. Although not a part of the scheduled class we also tasted shrimp bisque with warm rolls, Tilapia fried to a crisp, and strawberry a la Ritz. He not only shared his food but also his knowledge on how to create many of his ever changing menu items and for that we are grateful!
New at AJ’s will be Chef’s table dinners-Saturday night reservations will begin soon with set menus and private tables. Chef Alan will present 5 star cuisine using the freshest market ingredients.
Chef AJ will be teaching another class in August. We hope you will join us.
Care to get tips first hand? Check out the current offerings at WCC Continuing Ed, Taste of Westchester. Classes are only $15+ a 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.
The new Summer mini-semester has just begun! 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.
There is still time to sign up for some great classes:
Butterfield 8 American Gastro Pub, White Plains ~ www.Butterfield8whiteplains.com
One of several restaurants owned and operated by the dynamic duo of Ralph Batistta and John Gazzola, this spot is where business professional meets social scene in this contemporary American gastro pub. Surrounded by warm wood-paneled walls and leather booths, this bi-level restaurant offers a unique dining experience. Chef Matt Safarowic (formerly from The Cookery) will teach us the techniques used in his winning dishes. Our lesson begins with creole shrimp and grits (rock shrimp, coarse ground grits, and smoked tasso). The makings of French quarter jambalaya (jumbo shrimp, roasted chicken, andouille sausage, creole rice, and beans) is next on the menu. The chef will share his secrets for a scrumptious PB&J bread pudding: brioche, chunky peanut butter, and strawberry jelly.
Mon., July 29, 5:30-7:30 pm, $15 (+ $20 sampling fee, payable to instructor). #6009
The Cupcake Kitchen and Luncheonette, Irvington ~ Follow them on Facebook.
HANDS ON: Let them eat cupcakes! This adorable breakfast and lunch spot is also known for the prettiest and most delicious cupcakes in town along with custom fondant cakes for every occasion. Located on historic Main Street in Irvington, owner Jennifer O’Connell will give a hands-on instructional demonstration on decorating patriotic cupcakes in a summertime theme. This will be an interactive class using decorating tips from a pro and the outcome will astonish you. You will use pastry bags outfitted with all the tools needed to create six fabulously decorated cupcakes to bring home in a gift box. You can translate the techniques to upcoming holiday or family functions. The luncheonette only uses fresh ingredients and will tell you how to make their fabulous butter cream icing. You will get to sample a cupcake along with the shop’s hot or iced coffee and tea. Come out and play with us!
Thurs., Aug. 1, 4:30-6:30 pm, $15 (+ $21 sampling fee, payable to instructor). #6010
AJ’s Burgers, New Rochelle ~ www.AJsburgers.com, Follow them on Facebook.
Chef Alan, aka AJ, is a graduate of our college and the former owner of the Original Wedge Inn. The sliders are still cooked on a flat grill with grilled onions like the original White Manna from the 1964 World’s Fair. Burgers are not the only focus at AJ’s, as they are known for the best thin crust pizza in Westchester. One of their special dishes just happens to be Mariano Rivera’s favorite, lobster and shrimp positano. Our demonstration will be a lesson on delicious hot tomato and ricotta cheese bread and spinach salad topped with hot bacon dressing, followed by shrimp francesse with grilled portobello mushrooms and red roasted peppers. He will create a seasonal dessert of strawberry shortcake. Come join us for a terrific demonstration and a delicious meal as AJ’s always promises to leave you satisfied but wanting more!
Tues., Aug. 6, 5:30-7:30 pm, $15 (+ $21 sampling fee, payable to instructor). #6011
Roasted Peppers, Mamaroneck ~ www.roastedpeppersny.com
This American bistro with strong Latin influences is the collaboration of Mexican born brothers Juan and Roberto Lepe. They have been 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 their techniques. We will start with their signature dish, a stuffed roasted picadillo pepper, followed by a lesson on chipotle-apricot glazed pork chops, served with summer squash and couscous with cranberries. We will end with a jalapeño brownie served with coconut ice cream for a very different dessert.
NEW DATE-Tues., Aug. 13, 5:30-7:30 pm, $15 (+ $25 sampling fee, payable to instructor). #6012
Don Coqui, New Rochelle ~ www.doncoqui.com
HANDS ON: Don Coqui is the latest and most exciting authentic Puerto Rican dining experience. The vast first floor is a gourmand’s dream and is the perfect place for our class. This restaurant features an interactive professional demonstration kitchen with all the latest cooking gadgets. Chef Jack D’Angelo will prepare our meal for the evening: we’ll start with mixed green salad with queso blanco sofrito vinaigrette, then a lesson on seafood paella with clams, mussels, shrimp, and chorizo. Sangria will be the beverage lesson for the evening, made with fresh fruit. To end our evening on a sweet note, we will make coconut flan with a deep caramel glaze and shaved toasted coconut.
Tues., Aug. 20, 6:00-8:00 pm, $15 (+ $25 sampling fee, payable to instructor). #6013
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.
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