By Joe Lauria
WOODSTOCK—Eighteen home cooks gathered at The Apple Hill Inn on Feb. 27 to watch Lyda Lemire demonstrate her culinary talent. Lemire is the new executive chef at Prince & The Pauper Restaurant and was the first of two professional chefs to participate in The Learning Lab’s annual winter culinary class. Lemire has nearly 30 years experience in other fine restaurants in the area including the original Lincoln Inn, Kedron Valley Inn, Juniper Hill Inn, and The Common Man Restaurant.
Students followed along with their own copies of recipes as Lemire demonstrated the preparation of one of the P&P’s most popular dishes: Maine crab cakes with wild rice and maple baby carrots. She also demonstrated how to make a homemade mayonnaise, which was the base for a French Remoulade, and two other dipping sauces.
Students had an opportunity to ask questions during the process and learned helpful kitchen techniques in addition to the recipe being demonstrated. Best of all, following the class the students each dined on the dishes demonstrated.
Lemire also talked about the importance of kitchen sanitation and the recent challenge that all restaurants face with the growing number of food allergies. Substitutes or elimination of certain foods create difficulties, but are not insurmountable problems for a restaurant. She indicated that one helpful point would be to let the restaurant know if you have food allergies before you arrive to eliminate last minute surprises in a busy kitchen.
“The chef was a terrific instructor and took us step by step through the recipes. The bar has been set very high and I look forward to the next class,” commented participant Bob Wagner after the class.
“The class was great and the chef did a great job of covering the details and answering questions,” added participant Joe Rosenberger.
On March 6 the second and final culinary class was held. The Lincoln Inn’s Executive Chef Jevgenija Saromova and owner Mara Mehlman hosted the event.
Saromova, who is originally from Latvia, has trained in Michelin star restaurants in Italy, France and England. Her limitless passion for cooking and her inventive dishes have pushed the boundaries of food innovation. She is particularly skilled in creative plate presentation and follows her philosophy, “we eat with our eyes.”
As a participating chef in past culinary classes, Saromova decided to step out of the box and introduce the students to a new cooking method called, “sousvide.” This is a style of cooking that originated in France. Translated it means “under vacuum.” Using this technique, food is placed in a vacuum sealed plastic pouch and immersed in an agitated water bath at varying temperatures depending on what is being cooked; meat, fish, or vegetables. The agitation assures that the food is properly cooked inside without overcooking the outside. Flavors included in the pouch are totally infused with this technique. For the final step, the meat or fish is removed from the pouch and is finished in a sauté pan to add an attractive caramelized color.
The students enjoyed the dish with both meat and vegetables prepared with this method. It included Maple Farm duck breast with parsnip puree and a medley of vegetables such as confit potato, baby broccoli, asparagus, and baby carrots.
“It was a great evening,” said participant Tom Watson. “I’m looking forward to many visits to the Lincoln Inn.”
“I was very interested in the workings of the new equipment and brought up to date on this new method of cooking,” added participant Kathleen Ladd.
The Learning Lab is a nonprofit organization in Woodstock, Vt. On a modest budget derived entirely from course fees, the program offers five to seven classes in the fall, winter, and spring each year. Classes are usually held at the Norman Williams Public Library or Woodstock History Center, but specialty classes may be held at ArtisTree or at area restaurants or inns or at a private home. The Learning Lab aims to serve the entire community–people of all ages and interests.
For more information visit thelearninglabwoodstock.com.
Photo by Joe Louria
Chef Lyda Lemire converses with Learning Lab participants after a recent demonstration.