When my aunt and cousin told me they wanted to do a cooking class with “Cook in Milano” when they visited me in Milan, I wasn’t quite sure why… I mean, spending four hours of their 3.5 day visit in a stranger’s kitchen?? But they really wanted to do it and it was their vacation, so I sucked it up and joined them.
I’m so glad I did.
Clara, the owner and chef of “Cook in Milano”, welcomed us and three other guests into her lovely home at 9am. We had missed our tram connection and so were a little late, but Clara greeted us with a smile and handed us our recipe books and aprons.
Her kitchen is large for an apartment and perfectly sized for a small class. Her certificates and diplomas from Le Cordon Bleu, Sommelier programs and Italian cooking seminars line one wall but I was entranced by her incredible spice rack!
After a quick coffee, we got down to business prepping and chopping. Six stations were set up on an amazing strawberry vinyl tablecloth (which I quite unexpectedly loved!) and each person had a job.
The menu for the day was:
Panna Cotta with Raspberry Sauce
One thing Clara was very adamant about was that every chef should make their own broth. No boxed broth or cubes – heavens no! The broth makes all the difference, she said, and we’d be using this broth to make our “Risotto Milanese” (saffron risotto) in a couple hours. She put three types of meat and several chopped vegetables in a large pot of water and started it simmering. Italian grocery stores have pre-packaged meats and veggies for home cooks to easy make their own broth, she told us, and sure enough I saw them the next time I stopped by my local market. Perhaps this isn’t such an odd thing in Italy… I can’t imagine many people doing it in the States.
In addition to the Risotto Milanese we were making its traditional pairing, Ossobuco. She brought out the most amazing-looking veal shanks – bone-in! – and had us take the marrow out of one or two to add to the risotto later. Then we prepped the meat and started browning it in butter.
After it was browned on one side, it was my job to turn the veal before covering the pan and letting the meat simmer for an hour (turning it again 30 minutes in).
Every good meal needs an appetizer and ours was going to be savory croissants. Clara is very considerate of the recipes she chooses in that she wants us to feel comfortable duplicating them at home. To that end, instead of tediously making the dough by hand, she pulled out a roll of pasta sfoglia (pastry dough, not sweet) and had us cut it into triangles. We rolled small pieces of sausage inside of them, forming small crescents, then topped it with an egg wash and either sesame or poppy seeds.
(My cousin applying the egg wash to our savory appetizer)
And what is an Italian dinner without desert? Clara showed us how to make a very simple – and very tasty – panna cotta with raspberry sauce. After refrigerating them for a few hours to firm up (she had pre-made some for us and would use the not-yet-solid ones we had made for a family dinner that night), the trick to getting them cleaning out of their tins, Clara said, is to dunk them for a moment in very hot water.
(My aunt putting homemade raspberry sauce on her panna cotta)
By the time we were finished decorating our deserts, the croissants were ready! We made a quick (and delicious) snack of them with a glass of prosecco before starting on the risotto.
Right before we started the risotto, Clara showed us how to make her grandmother’s recipe for gramolata, a sort of sauce for the veal that was extremely simple. She put it onto the meat as it finished simmering and then proceeded to toast the rice for the risotto.
The most important thing when cooking risotto, Clara told us, is that it always “makes the wave”, meaning that when you shake it it has enough liquid in it to splash gently from side to side, like a wave. It should be this way till the very end – never dryer! This may seem like a bit too much liquid, especially when you go to serve it, but you’ll see that after a few minutes sitting the rice will soak up all of the seemingly “extra” liquid and if you haven’t “made the wave” it will be thicker, stickier, and simply not a proper risotto.
Ready to eat! Clara’s home is lovely and welcoming, the table set for the six students, Clara and her husband. As I mentioned, Clara is also a sommelier and paired our meal with a lovely red wine from a nearby region.
The cost of the class was extremely reasonable, particularly in comparison to other classes in the area and considering the size of the class. Having a limited number of students was valuable not only so that everyone got to be hands-on but because Clara was able to answer all of our questions and pay attention to what we were each doing. She was the most considerate host and my family and I had a wonderful time. Grazie mille, Clara!!
Find more information about Cook In Milano on their website: CookInMilano.com.