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  • 5 Denver Cooking Schools to Help You Enliven Your Culinary Routine

    Find out how you can become a better home chef with the help of Denver's recreational cooking schools and try out some of their favorite recipes.

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    As you stare blankly into your pantry—again—wondering what you’ll whip up for dinner, you’re probably wishing you’d taken that Argentine favorites cooking class your friend invited you to this past fall or followed through on your idea of a sushi-making date night. Luckily, Denver’s recreational cooking schools are finding creative virtual ways to help you enliven your culinary routine through online classes, meal kits, and more. To get you started, they’ve even shared some of their most popular recipes—from spicy bison meatballs to cacio e pepe risotto—right here. What are you waiting for? Chop, chop!

    Create Cooking School

    Stanley Marketplace, Aurora
    Follow along with live videos on Create Cooking School’s Facebook page to make dishes like this grilled steak with papas fritas and herbs. Photo courtesy of Create Cooking School

    Regular Syllabus: Friendly, patient instructors are the heart of Create’s recreational classes—but the fact that you can order a drink and a snack at the school’s beautiful 12-seat bar doesn’t hurt, either. Let your offspring tackle Create’s kid-approved recipes in its youth culinary camps, or lead by example by enrolling in an adult class on rum-inspired cuisines or Korean barbecue.

    Social Distance Curriculum: Live videos on Create’s Facebook page let you simmer and sauté along with the instructors for a suggested $1 to $5 donation. (You can also watch and contribute after the fact.) You’ll produce the family-friendly likes of charred lemon broccoli with creamy buttered pasta or more complex Thai sticky rice with “tom yum goong,” a fragrant shrimp soup infused with lemongrass, chiles, and lime. Raise a glass in a virtual toast and ask questions via the comments section.

    Grilled Flank Steak with Chimichurri

    Chimichurri is a vibrant Argentine herb sauce that goes perfectly with juicy grilled meats. The chimichurri lasts for up to one week in the refrigerator, although the herbs will darken over time.

    Serves 2

    For the chimichurri:
    ½ cup fresh flat-leaf
    parsley, finely chopped
    ¼ small yellow onion, peeled and finely diced
    3 medium cloves garlic, minced
    1 tsp. crushed red pepper flakes
    ¼ cup red wine vinegar
    ½ cup extra-virgin olive oil
    Kosher salt and black pepper

    For the steak:
    12 oz. flank steak
    Kosher salt and black pepper
    Extra-virgin olive oil

    1. Make the chimichurri: Whisk all of the ingredients and salt and pepper to taste in a medium bowl. Marinate in the refrigerator for a couple of hours.
    2. Make the steak: Light the grill. Season the steak generously with olive oil, salt, and pepper. Grill each side for about 4 minutes for a perfect medium or until a meat thermometer registers an internal temperature of 130 degrees to 135 degrees. Let the steak rest for at least 10 minutes before thinly slicing against the grain. Serve with the chimichurri.

    Panqueques

    You can stuff these versatile Argentine crêpes with savory fillings like sautéed spinach and roasted butternut squash and serve for dinner with a salad, or fill them with sugar, fresh fruit, and/or dulce de leche for a sweet treat.

    Makes about 10 crêpes

    2 large eggs
    1¼ cups whole milk
    1 cup (4½ oz.) all-
    purpose flour
    Kosher salt
    Unsalted butter, for the pan

    1. Place the eggs, milk, flour, and a pinch of salt in a blender. Cover and blend on low until very smooth. Melt a small pat of butter in an 8-inch nonstick skillet over medium heat, swirling to coat the skillet. Pour 2 to 3 ounces. of the batter into the pan, swirling the pan to distribute the batter evenly. Cook for about 1 minute. Flip or turn using a rubber spatula and cook until set on both sides, another 30 seconds to 1 minute. Flip out onto a plate. Continue until all of the batter is used. Serve immediately with the filling of your choice.

    The Seasoned Chef

    Montclair

    Regular Syllabus: This is the place for beginner-level home cooks, as chef-owner Dan Witherspoon, who has been running the school for more than a decade, covers basics such as essential sauces and baking at elevation. After you and a partner prepare a dish with guidance from your instructor, everyone tucks into a buffet-style feast at the end of class.

    Social Distance Curriculum: Witherspoon and his crew of culinary gurus are offering $20 to $25 60-minute online courses that cover everything from how to make pasta and gnocchi to healthy, easy-to-reheat meals from Witherspoon’s 2018 cookbook, Mix Match Make Take. Enrollees receive shopping lists and recipes in advance of the virtual class, so they’re prepared to make dishes like crispy-skinned chicken breast with squash noodles and green olive tapenade.

    Spicy Bison Meatballs with Tomato Piperade

    Photo courtesy of Jennifer Olson Photography

    Piperade is a Basque mixture of peppers, onions, and tomatoes traditionally flavored with piment d’Espelette; here, smoked paprika brings warm flavor, and when puréed, the piperade makes a great sauce for meatballs. You can make the sauce up to 2 days ahead. If you’d like to add more vegetables to the meal, serve it with cooked spiralized squash noodles instead of pasta. Polenta is also a great match if you want a heartier element. The meatballs can be shaped up to 1 day ahead and refrigerated until ready to cook.

    Serves 4

    For the meatballs:
    3 medium jalapeños
    2 lbs. ground bison
    2 tsp. smoked paprika
    2 tsp. onion powder
    Kosher salt and black pepper

    For the piperade:
    2 medium green bell peppers, stemmed, halved, and seeded
    2 medium red bell peppers,
    stemmed, halved, and seeded
    4–6 Tbs. extra-virgin olive oil
    4 medium tomatoes, cored and halved
    4 medium cloves garlic, minced
    ¼ cup minced fresh oregano
    1 tsp. crushed red pepper flakes
    2–4 Tbs. white wine vinegar
    Kosher salt and black pepper

    1. Make the meatballs: Arrange an oven rack in the upper third of the oven and heat the broiler on high. Arrange the jalapeños on a baking sheet and broil, turning halfway, until the skin is blackened all over. (You can broil the bell peppers and tomatoes for the piperade now, too, if you like, or continue with the meatballs.) Turn off the broiler and heat the oven to 350°. Let the chiles cool enough to handle, then remove and discard the skin and seeds. Chop the jalapeño flesh and transfer it to a medium bowl. Add the bison, spices, and large pinches of salt and pepper to the bowl. Mix gently to combine; shape the mixture into 12 meatballs. Cook the meatballs in a single layer on a foil- or parchment-lined baking sheet until the meat is springy to the touch, 10 to 12 minutes. Remove and keep warm.
    2. Make the piperade: Heat the broiler on high. Arrange the halved bell peppers skin-side up on a baking sheet and lightly brush the skins with some of the olive oil. Arrange the tomatoes skin-side up on the same sheet and lightly brush with olive oil. Broil until the skins blacken, removing each pepper and tomato as it’s done. Let cool enough to handle, then remove and discard the skins. Cut the peppers into thin strips and chop the tomatoes.
    3. Heat 2 Tbs. of oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the garlic and cook, stirring, until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add the pepper strips, tomatoes, oregano, and pepper flakes and cook, stirring often, until heated through, about 5 minutes. Season to taste with the vinegar, salt, and pepper. Transfer the piperade to a blender and carefully blend into a smooth purée. Return the sauce to the skillet over medium heat until hot, taste, and add more salt and pepper as needed. Add the meatballs, stir to coat, and serve.

    Cook Street School of Culinary Arts

    Golden Triangle

    Regular Syllabus: Calling all Top Chef wannabes: Cook Street (which moved to a spacious new location in late 2019) offers ambitious home cooks multiday courses on whole-animal butchery, French patisserie, and bread baking. In its popular date-night classes, most of the prep work is done for you, so you and your partner can focus on specific skills like flambéing and flawless plating.

    Social Distance Curriculum: Cook Street’s online courses ($30) cater to Colorado foodies of all levels. Follow along to expand your repertoire: Craft ramen from broth to bowl, make tricolored pasta from scratch, or impress your household with pork belly bao.

    Cacio e Pepe Risotto

    This bowl of comfort is like the popular pasta dish but made with rice instead.

    Serves 8

    5 Tbs. unsalted butter
    2 medium shallots, finely diced (the size of the rice, if you can)
    Kosher salt
    1 cup Arborio or carnaroli rice
    ¾ cup dry white wine
    4–6 cups hot chicken or vegetable stock
    ¼ cup finely grated Parmigiano
    Reggiano, plus more for the table
    ¼ cup finely grated Pecorino Romano
    Black pepper

    1. Melt 4 Tbs. of the butter in a 9- to 10-inch straight-sided skillet or medium saucepan over medium heat; don’t let the butter brown. Add the shallots and a pinch of salt and cook, stirring often, until soft, 1 to 2 minutes. Add the rice and cook, stirring, until the grains become opaque but not browned. Increase the heat to high, add the wine, and cook, stirring once or twice, until it evaporates completely. Reduce the heat to low. Add enough hot stock by the ladleful to cover the risotto; stir gently and occasionally with a fork until the stock evaporates by half. (Using a fork prevents the grains of rice from breaking and leaching too much starch.) Replenish the stock, stir a few times, and add a pinch of salt.
    2. Continue cooking the risotto in this way, replenishing stock as needed to the level of the rice. Stir only occasionally to ensure the risotto is not sticking to the pan. To season properly, coax the flavor along throughout the cooking by adding a small pinch of salt each time stock is added, and taste as you go. Do this until the rice is al dente, meaning that when you taste a single grain of rice, the outside is cooked and there is a bit of resistance at the very center. It is better to stop early, as the risotto will continue to cook while you finish adding the remaining ingredients and serve. The finished dish should have distinct grains of rice surrounded by a brothy sauce. There should be enough sauce so that the liquid is “ondolante,” meaning wavy.
    3. Add the cheeses and remaining butter and stir to combine. Serve the risotto in soup bowls garnished generously with Parmigiano Reggiano and lots of freshly ground pepper.

    Uncorked Kitchen & Wine Bar

    Centennial

    Regular Syllabus: At this chic wine bar meets cooking school, servers ply you with vino, beer, or cocktails while you cook up to five courses (grilled fare and sushi are popular options) in pairs or groups. Sweeping Front Range vistas delight via open garage doors in the teaching kitchens and on the breezy patio, where you can celebrate your achievements.

    Social Distance Curriculum: The experts at Uncorked Kitchen have cleverly combined virtual instruction with a meal-kit model, which means you can leave the food shopping to them. Preorder and then pick up your kit, which will include everything you need to make entrées like bacon-wrapped filet mignon with smashed potatoes and brandy cream sauce. The kits also contain a prepared appetizer and dessert (chocolate truffle cake!), so all you have to do is tune in to a one-hour cooking class on Uncorked’s website and follow along to cook your main course. Prices start at $25 per person for family-style meals, with the option to add a to-go bottle of wine (or two).

    New York Sour

    Photo courtesy of Uncorked Kitchen

    This take on a classic bourbon sour includes a flavorful black pepper simple syrup and
    a red wine float. You want to use a full- bodied, low-tannin red such as Zinfandel, Barossa Shiraz, South African Pinotage, or Argentine Malbec. The black pepper simple syrup can be covered and refrigerated for two to three weeks.

    Makes 1

    For the black pepper simple syrup:
    ¼ cup coarsely crushed black
    peppercorns
    1 cup granulated sugar
    1 cup water

    For the cocktail:
    2 oz. bourbon
    1 oz. fresh lemon juice
    1 oz. red wine

    1. Make the simple syrup: Put all of the ingredients into a small pot over medium heat. Simmer for 15 minutes. Cool and strain.
    2. Make the cocktail: Pour the bourbon, lemon juice, and 1 oz. of the simple syrup into a cocktail shaker filled halfway with ice. Cover the shaker and shake vigorously for 30 seconds. Strain the drink into a rocks glass with fresh ice. Gently pour the red wine into the glass over the rounded bottom of a spoon so it floats in a distinct layer on top. Serve.

    Rosemary and Sage Poached Chicken with Cucumber-Lime Couscous

    This versatile poached chicken also makes delicious chicken salad if you let the meat cool, shred it, and mix it with mayonnaise, sliced celery, fresh dill, and any of your other favorite add-ins.

    Serves 4

    For the chicken:
    4 cups chicken or vegetable stock
    4 medium cloves garlic, smashed
    2 sprigs fresh rosemary
    1 sprig fresh sage
    1 Tbs. black peppercorns
    1 Tbs. kosher salt
    1½ lbs. boneless, skinless chicken
    breasts, trimmed of excess fat

    For the couscous:
    3 cups chicken or vegetable stock
    2 Tbs. extra-virgin olive oil
    1½ cups Israeli couscous
    ½ medium cucumber, seeded and diced
    ¼ cup minced red onion, rinsed and
    patted dry
    ¼ cup slivered almonds
    1 medium lime, zested and juiced
    2 Tbs. chopped fresh parsley
    Pinch cayenne pepper
    Kosher salt and black pepper

    1. Poach the chicken: Put the stock and the garlic, rosemary, sage, peppercorns, and salt into a large pot over medium-high heat. Bring to a boil, remove from the heat, and let the poaching liquid steep for 20 minutes. Add the chicken and return to medium-low heat to maintain a gentle simmer until the chicken is cooked through, about 10 minutes. Remove the chicken from the liquid, tent it with foil, and let the chicken rest for at least 5 minutes.
    2. Make the couscous: Bring the stock to a boil in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat. In a separate medium saucepan, heat the oil over medium heat. Add the couscous to the second saucepan and toast in the oil, stirring often, until golden brown, about 5 minutes. Add the hot stock to the couscous and simmer until tender, 10 to 12 minutes. Transfer the couscous to a large bowl. Add the cucumber, onion, almonds, lime zest and juice, parsley, and cayenne, and then season to taste with salt and pepper.
    3. Slice the chicken against the grain and serve with the couscous.

    Stir Cooking School

    Highland

    Regular Syllabus: Typical Stir classes include teams of up to six working together to cook four to five dishes—within themes such as vegetarian fare, Indian classics, brunch favorites (mimosas and Bloody Marys included), and fresh pasta—from start to finish. Students devour the fruits of their learning amid playful cardboard cutouts of culinary luminaries Julia Child and Jacques Pépin.

    Social Distance Curriculum: To encourage families to spend time together in the kitchen, chef-owner (and mom of two) Katy Foster offers virtual one-on-one home-cooking classes via your preferred platform (starting at $25 per person). Whether your crew wants to dive into the secrets behind tricky dishes such as Southern fried chicken and buttermilk waffles or classic techniques like stir-frying vegetables, Foster will tailor the culinary level to your family’s needs.

    Roast Chicken Pot Pie with Buttermilk Biscuit Crust

    To make the biscuits on their own, bake on a parchment-lined baking sheet until golden brown, about 20 minutes.

    Serves 6

    For the biscuits:
    10 Tbs. cold unsalted butter
    2½ cups (11½ oz.) all-purpose flour,
    plus more for rolling
    2 tsp. granulated sugar
    2 tsp. baking powder
    ¼ tsp. baking soda
    1 tsp. kosher salt
    ¾ cup cold buttermilk, plus more as needed

    Photo courtesy of Katy Foster

    For the pot pie filling:
    4 Tbs. unsalted butter
    1 large yellow onion, peeled and diced
    1 medium red bell pepper, stemmed, seeded, and diced
    2 medium cloves garlic, minced
    1 cup cremini mushrooms, stemmed and thinly sliced
    ½ cup green beans, cut crosswise into ½-inch pieces
    1 Tbs. fresh thyme
    Kosher salt and black pepper
    3 Tbs. all-purpose flour
    3 cups chicken stock
    1 cup whole milk
    2 cups pulled roasted chicken
    ½ cup frozen corn
    ½ cup frozen peas
    1 tsp. white wine vinegar

    1. Make the biscuits: Prepare the butter by quartering it lengthwise and then cutting each quarter crosswise into ½-inch pieces. Freeze the butter in a small bowl while you measure out the dry ingredients, combining them in a large bowl. Using your fingers, gradually smush the butter into the dry ingredients until the mixture resembles very coarse cornmeal with a few larger lumps of butter remaining.
    2. Add the buttermilk and stir until the dough gathers into moist clumps, adding up to 2 Tbs. additional buttermilk, 1 Tbs. at a time, if the dough is dry. Transfer the dough to a floured work surface and form into a rough ball. Roll out the dough until it is ½-inch thick. Using a round 2½-inch pastry cutter, stamp out 8 biscuits, taking care not to twist the cutter as you cut, which will seal the sides and prevent the biscuits from rising properly. Transfer the biscuits to a parchment-paper-lined baking sheet and refrigerate while you prepare the pot pie filling.
    3. Make the pot pie filling: Heat the oven to 400°. Melt the butter in a large cast-iron pot or Dutch oven over medium heat. Add the onion, bell pepper, and garlic and cook, stirring often, until soft, about 6 minutes. Add the mushrooms and green beans and cook, stirring often, until the mushrooms are tender, about 8 minutes. Add the thyme, and season generously with salt and pepper. Sprinkle the flour over the vegetables and cook, stirring for 2 minutes. Slowly and gradually whisk in the stock and then the milk. Bring to a boil, stirring occasionally, and add the chicken, corn, peas, and vinegar. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
    4. Arrange the biscuits over the filling and bake, covered with foil, for 20 minutes. Uncover and bake until the biscuits are golden brown, about 10 minutes more. Let cool for 10 minutes before serving.

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