A little while back I announced that I would be teaching a cooking class at Williams-Sonoma in Beverly Hills on March 20th. I've had some people asking questions, so I thought I better write a little more about it.
When I was asked to write up a proposal to teach a class, I thought about what sorts of cooking classes I like to attend. Well, I'm always looking for ideas that I can use for entertaining. Much as it would be useful to take a class on learning one type of thing, like sauces, I think what a lot of us are looking for is a great meal that we can use for entertaining. We want a starter, a main course, a side dish, a salad and a dessert, all which go together nicely and can be reasonably put together without too much fuss.
When I was in high school I worked part time at a local newspaper. One day the publisher asked me if I would like to help her out with a dinner party. She paid me the same hourly rate I made at the newspaper, and it turned out to be quite as instructional. I think I mentioned before that my mother did not cook or entertain when I was growing up. Restaurant dining was the only epicurean skill I learned from my mother.
So, to help out at semi-formal dinner party was something completely unknown to me until this point. And luckily the publisher I worked for had it down to a science. She had perfected a single entree—stuffed chicken breasts, served with stuffed tomatoes and rice—and that's what she always served. The salad varied, but it was usually a composed salad and dessert was often different—sometimes a cake from a French bakery. She would have between 8 and 12 people for a sit down dinner and her dinner parties were, without fail, always elegant and successful. I'd like to think in part because of my help, but in actuality it was because she always cooked what she knew would work.
Now, I don't think you have to serve the same entree over and over again when you entertain, but I do think you have to cook and serve what you know will work. In putting together this meal and this class, I have chosen dishes that I think are not only delicious but are ideal for entertaining. They will work just as well as a buffet dinner as a sit down dinner. Parts of them can be made in advance.
Of course you can search for, and find, tons of great recipes on the Internet and in cookbooks. But the beauty of taking a cooking class is that someone has already found some great recipes and can show you exactly how to prepare them. And you get to taste the results to see if you think it really is fantastic enough to serve your own guests.
I know a lot of people who read this may not be close enough to the LA area to take my class, but I do promise to blog all about it and to post the recipes after the class. If you are nearby and would like to attend, here are the details:
A Williams-Sonoma Cooking Class
Easy Entertaining: An Italian Style Dinner Party
with Krista Harris
Thursday, March 20
The Williams-Sonoma cooking classes are held in a spacious kitchen demonstration area and are limited to 15 people. They are demonstration, not hands-on, but you are definitely included in eating the meal!
To register call (310) 274-9127 or visit the store at 339 North Beverly Drive, Beverly Hills. The cost of the class is $55 per person. Pre-payment is required to reserve class space. So far the class is a little over half full, so there are still plenty of spots left.