Viking Cooking School, Greenwood, Miss. July 18, 2009

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Our tradition of a girls weekend emerged three years ago with a trip to New York City then Fayetteville and now Greenwood, Mississippi. We stayed at the fabulous Alluvian Hotel in downtown Greenwood. This southern style boutique hotel is really something. We had adjoining rooms on the fourth floor which was perfect since the breakfast buffet that comes with the room was on our floor. We all commented that it was like our sorority houses in college, we kept the door open the whole time and enjoyed late night talking and pizza eating, yes, they brought that tradition back as I got some much needed shut eye. Every morning we enjoyed the breakfast buffet that was blessed with grits, southern potatoes, fritata, eggs and bacon. I loved the homemade granola and fruit and especially those grits. We loved sitting outside on the terrace and enjoying the sunshine. We also used the terrace before going to the cooking school for some cheese and crackers brought from room 409 and a cocktail from the manager's reception in the lobby.

The Viking Cooking School is located across the street from the Alluvian and a new facility where our demonstration class was held was just a few short blocks away. Our culinary weekend was with Chef Ken Smith, of the Upperline restaurant in New Orleans, and Julia Reed, author of "Queen of the Turtle Derby". The Viking Store gives participants 10% off anything in the store so some of us shopped before the demonstration class. I bought Chloe a kids utensil set that had a rolling pin, whisk, spatula, measuring spoons and cups. Kara bought fabulous feather pillows and was thrilled with the $40 price for the king plus our discount. I also bought a new cutting board I'll report on soon and some Pistachio's for Jackie. Mary Margaret bought the Jack, which was served with this baked cheese dip with Frito's at the front desk, which we all were thrilled to partake. This dip is sharp cheddar, cream cheese, sour cream, topped with bacon (yes, makes me gag too) and green onions then top with the Jack syrup (I think you can leave this off). It was darn good if I don't say so myself. She also bought a scraper/cutter that Kara recommended. I was about to buy a butter kettle but wasn't sure about it and its $35 price tag and when the girl helping us said that I can leave my butter at room temperature for a week, I didn't get it. I learned something new and am going to try this technique. I've been tired of buying the lite spreadable stuff that has all the polyunsaturated chemicals that are bad for you. I'll report on this new idea soon.

Our demonstration class cost $85 each which included a four course meal and all the wine and champagne you wanted. It was about four blocks from the hotel and we all cringed when the bellman offered us a ride in the shuttle, we all agreed it should be a sin to ride instead of walk the easy four blocks. Plus we beat the shuttle there! The demonstration building was something else!! We were seated on the side on two top tables we could see the tv display and most of the kitchen. Our girl Swayze seated us there and said they were great seats but we preferred being in the middle so we could at least hear what Chef Ken was saying. Nevertheless, we shut up those comments when the champagne arrived. When we were getting seated, Swayze asked Beth who would like to do a demonstration and she said me and Alexis would. What a surprise when my name was called, I was just getting aclamated with the place. I got to help him make the Southern Pecan Pie which featured browned butter and a Bourbon Vanilla, both of which made that pie better than any pecan pie I'd ever had. He browned a whole stick of butter over high heat then slowed it down a bit, and it made a unique butter flavor in the air. When we got to the dessert, Kara and I thought that butter was the key to the sweet pie as was the thick Bourbon Vanilla, it was caramel in color and almost as thick.

Alexis got to help with Oysters St. Claude. She looked so good up there making it. Benton is a huge fan of Oysters and she loved facebooking a picture of the appetizer to him. Now that was really good and Beth found a pearl in her oyster, we couldn't believe it then she realized the next morning she left it on the plate!! Recipe:

Oysters St. Claude

4 lemons, thinly sliced, no seeds
1 C. garlic cloves, peeled
1 bunch parsley, chopped
3 T. Worcestershire sauce
4 T. paprika
2 T. Tabasco, no substitutions
1/2 t. white pepper
12 ounces unsalted butter, melted

Puree all ingredients except butter until smooth.

Add puree to butter in medium saucepan over medium heat. Cook and stir until garlic is softened. Don't burn, it should be dark red and thick.

Add salt, spoon on top of fried oysters. Keep at room temperature for 3-4 hours or store in refrigerator.

Lightly Fried Crispy Oysters

1 pint P&J oysters
2 C. corn flour, not corn meal
1/2 C. flour
1 T. salt
1 T. pepper

Drain oysters and check for shell bits, drain liquid.

Mix corn flour, flour, salt and pepper.

Dredge oysters in flour mixture, shake off excess flour.

Deep fry in hot oil 350 degrees until brown and crispy, DO NOT OVERCOOK, drain.

Serve 3-5 oysters per person, top each oyster with about 1 T. St. Claude Sauce. Serve with French Bread.

Can I say, it was divine? WOW, and the oysters were fabulous!

Mary-Margaret got to demonstrate the salad. She made Southern Ranch Dressing, which cracked us all up because Kara and I lectured the night before at the hotel restaurant that we never and I mean never, use bottled salad dressing, we always make our own vinaigrette. Then what? MM makes homemade ranch, we loved it. And it was very tasty over the iceberg wedge salad with tomatoes.

For dinner, we had Petite Filet with butter, garlic and parsley sauce. It was really good coming from someone who doesn't ever eat steak these days. I just ate a bite but it was good and the girls loved it.

You know my thoughts on the dessert, divine. Every one of us loved the class and the autographed books by Julia Reed. We all wished she had on a mic, we couldn't hear her very well but we all had a ton of fun and enjoyed our walk back to the hotel and Viking Store to get that discount.

The Alluvian and Viking Cooking School is a must. It's a hidden secret in Middle Mississippi, shops, food, spa and hotel accommodations. Divine, that's for sure.

Viking Cooking School, 325C Howard, Greenwood, Mississippi, 38930, 866-451-6750

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