On Thursday, January 23rd, 2014, chef Jason Laurin of Essence Catering visited the Parkdale Food Centre to kick off our 2014 cooking workshop program. Jason had ambitious plans for the day with three recipes – Spicy Pork on Rice, Salisbury Steak and Onion Gravy and Meatballs with Tomato Sauce – planned out. The participants were ready, willing and hungry.
The first order of business was chopping, and lots of it. We all gained an understanding of why chefs have sous chefs. It’s all about the chopping! Onions, celery, garlic, ginger and tofu (no fingers though) were chopped up. Jason also had two teams prepare the Salisbury steaks (beef patties) and meatballs, combining ground beef and pork in a traditional recipe for the meatballs. The Salisbury steak patties were ground beef seasoned with a few spices including Worchestershire sauce. It’s really the onion gravy that provides the extra flavour.
Jason worked with another group preparing the tomato sauce for the meatballs, frying up the onions for the Salisbury steak gravy and sautéing the garlic for the spicy pork.
Amongst the all the cooking action, Jason took a few minutes to talk about chopping green onions and dividing them up, the whites to be cooked while the greens are used as an aromatic topping. It was a simple but valuable tip on how you take a simple ingredient like green onions and use it in a dish in a number of ways. He also highlighted the many uses of miso paste as an all-purpose seasoning.
Jason is a great fan of Ottawa’s Chinatown, visiting often for ingredients and seasonings like miso paste. Finally, he let us in on three tips for great tomato sauces – lots of oil, a good can of tomatoes and a long slow cook of at least two hours. It really did make a difference.
With the sauces and gravy under control, Jason and the team turned their attention to the meatballs and Salisbury steak patties. The meatballs went into the sauce while the patties were first fried and then put into the oven to finish cooking. Once the patties were in the oven, Jason turned his attention to finishing off the spicy pork, adding the ground pork to the sauce and cooking it.
It was not long before the three meals were ready and we had reached the most important and anticipated part of the workshop, the communal meal. The cooking workshops are more than just an educational experience – they’re a chance for the participants to sit down together and enjoy the food that they prepared. Everyone chatted, laughed and ate a great meal with new friends. As for the ultimate review on Jason’s choice of recipes that day – all the platters were empty by the time we finished.
The Parkdale Food Centre wishes to extend our thanks to Jason Laurin for his help leading the workshop, the participants who so enthusiastically joined in and of course, all our volunteers who helped make it happen (and helped clean up afterwards) . We hold the workshops every month and greatly welcome donations of new crock pots, money for the ingredients or sponsorship of a workshop. To learn more about our cooking workshops, visit our Cooking Workshops page and learn how you can help.