Hannah Kate Risser shares her experience with the Cooking with Booze cooking class held by the Fine Food & Dining Society on Wednesday, 12th March.
Cooking with booze. The name itself is enticing enough to many, even to those who would not normally frequent a cooking class. Indeed, the class itself was quite full, the chatter in the hall already filling the space when I arrived. Naturally, everyone was curious as to what this class held in store; how was the alcohol going to be incorporated into the dishes? The last Fine Food and Dining event I attended filled me up with six cocktails (at least). Would they, yet again, utilise copious amounts of alcohol, leading me to yet another tipsy night spent in the library? As I sat down I immediately began perusing the customary recipe book provided at each class.
As usual, several of the committee members busied themselves in the kitchen. Chopping vegetables, measuring out oil, and various jobs were peppered with occasional peeks into the oven or a bit of a stir for a pot on the stove. Contrary to the popular saying, too many cooks in the kitchen do NOT spoil the broth; instead, in this case at least, it made for a wonderful meal.
First on our menu was a vodka-based salsa. This recipe is extremely simple to make but just as effective as an appetizer from a nice restaurant (and I mean an actually nice restaurant, the kind your parents take you to when you are home, not the kind you and your friends go to in St Andrews when you have grown tired of meal deals.) The recipe is also versatile: you can easily swap out the vodka for tequila, which we tried. It was equally as delicious. Luckily, there was enough salsa made for leftovers to be taken home; I gladly helped myself to some.
Next up was a recipe that I have been eager to try: the Chugging Pumpkin Soup. Pumpkin soup may sound a bit dull to many, especially to the non-Americans who do not understand our fascination with the fruit (yes, it is a fruit. I checked with Google). However, this soup is one of the best I have ever had, and, let me tell you, I am not a soup person. The recipe incorporated coconut milk, molasses, and rum, which made for a very rich meal. I could have solely eaten this and been entirely sated. Nonetheless, I was forced to pace myself, as we still had quite a bit of food to get through.
Throughout the entire course of the evening, we were often invited to come up and participate in the creation of these wonderful dishes. Having the opportunity to help kept me interested and engaged, and I also felt less like a freeloader who was just mooching off of the food other people had made. (The Little Red Hen? Anyone?)
Third on our menu was an interesting combination: Apricot Tequila Glazed Drumsticks. Again, whilst this initially sounds complicated and a bit of a challenge, the recipe itself is extremely simple and to-the-point whilst providing a satisfying entrée. This, along with the Italian Beef Stew, were both extremely filling and slightly addictive. I had two servings of each.
Last on the savory list was a Bloody Mary Pasta Sauce. Again, the simplicity and excellent flavor of this recipe is enough reason alone to forgo the Tesco pre-made sauce cans and venture into the land of homemade sauces. Try it. I promise it is not as scary as you think.
On the sweeter side of things we sampled a deviously delicious Gingerbread. I was pleasantly surprised by the texture of it. While the hard, brick-like gingerbread that I am used to is excellent for building houses, this dessert had a cake-like consistency and reminded me of a dish near and dear to my heart: Sticky Toffee Pudding. I also love gin, so, naturally, I enjoyed the Gingerbread immensely.
Our second dessert was a Chocolate-Stout Cheesecake, which managed to be rich without being overpowering. The flavor of this was to die for, and the crust only further complemented the taste. The cheesecake was meant to have a Whisky Caramel Sauce; however, this came out stronger than intended. I sampled a (very) small portion of it, and I am pretty sure a full teaspoon would have knocked me out. Fortunately, the cheesecake was more than lovely on its own.
The Fine Food and Dining Society definitely outdid themselves on this one. This was the class I enjoyed the most food-wise, and the company and chat created a wonderfully pleasant atmosphere. I left the building full and content (and thankfully not too drunk). A night in the library never seems so bad after you’ve been to one of these…
The Fine Food & Dining Society hosts cooking classes on a variety of themes most every Wednesday in the St Andrews Episcopal Church. They also host a myriad of other food-related events. See what they’ve got going on via Facebook or their website.
Photo credits: Hannah Risser and Calder Hudson